Oh, my brothers AND my sisters. I tell you, the other week I was having a rough time!
Nothing very specifically terrible (or terribly specific), but you know how sometimes you just are in a shit-mood for a few days because everything is annoying and your job sucks and you’re hot and sweaty and you get stung by a wasp and then your car won’t start? I know you know what I talk about.
Well, I had one of those recently. And, you know… yuck! BUT. It did lead me to perhaps one of the greatest things I have ever put into my mouth. At least as far as spinach goes.
So I was making dinner. I didn’t have a lot in the pantry/refrigerator area so I was improvising. I had some tofu and some spinach. I was thinking I would try some kind of Indian-inspired tofu/saag paneer/stirfry thing with some kind of mustard/fruit chutney. I don’t know. It still could be awesome. But the point is, I started cooking and I was just NOT FEELING IT. I was doing stuff and I had the tofu frying and the spinach steaming and then something happened in my brain, like a switch clicked, and I got really disinterested, turned off the stove, and went and got crispy tacos and a Bud Light instead.
I came home and threw everything in the fridge, figuring I’d deal with it the next day. Well, I put everything in the fridge except for the small bowl of ground mustard seeds and vinegar (my chutney precursor) I’d mixed up before caving in to my taco desires.
ANYWAYS, the next day when I came home for lunch, I was desperate and still in a crummy mood so I just pulled that cold steamed spinach out of there and started eating it from the tupperware. But THEN. Then I spied the tiny bowl of pre-chutney from the night before. What the hell, thought I, today sucks anyway; how could it get worse? I poured it over my cold spinach and Good God Almighty, was it delicious! It cheered me the hell up and I’d like some more right now. It’s truly fabulous and easy and here’s what I did (approximately, anyway).
- 1 bunch spinach, washed well and coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon crushed mustard seeds (I used brown mustard seeds; you could also use maybe ½ teaspoon of pre-ground Colman's-type dry mustard)
- ½ teaspoon rice vinegar (I'm sure any kind of vinegar would work here)
- Put the wet spinach leaves in a large pot and cover with a lid. Turn the stove to medium and steam the spinach for about a minute. Stir it around, cover again, and steam another minute. Put it in a wide bowl or plate and place in the fridge to cool.
- Combine the mustard and vinegar and let it sit while the spinach cools. The longer it sits, the more the mustard flavors develop and the more yummier it gets.
- Pour the mustard sauce over the spinach and eat it.
- This would be great along side some pork chops or lamb curry or just by itself out of a tupperware.
SPECIAL TIP: How To Wash Spinach
Spinach (and arugula) are lovely vegetables that are great raw or cooked. But the deal is, they are also very dirty. They need sandy, well-drained soil to grow well and as a result, when you buy them in bunches, stems and all, they are absolutely filthy with dirt. So you need to wash them REALLY well or you’ll end up with unpleasant grit in your teeth. But how to best wash while using the least amount of water possible? (We are in a drought, after all!) Here’s how:
- Cut the stems off of each bunch with a big knife. No need to be terribly careful about it. Removing the stems makes it easier to get the leaves thoroughly cleansed. You can still eat the stems (I usually do) or you can toss them in your compost.
- Fill your largest bowl with lukewarm water. Warmer water is better than cold water at loosening the mud.
- Put all the leaves in the water and swish around with your hands. Swish it around a lot and rub any extra-wrinkly leaves with your fingertips.
- Remove the leaves to a colander and put the stems in the water now. Rinse them around, too, and remove.
- Pour the dirt-water onto a potted plant or on your grass. Anywhere is better than right down the drain!
- Repeat steps 2 through 5.
- By now, the leaves and stems should be pretty clean. You can repeat steps 2-5 again if there is still some grit.
- If you’re steaming the spinach, just put the wet stems and leaves in a large pot or skillet, cover with a lid, and turn on medium-high heat. Sprinkle with a little salt first if you want. Within a minute or two the spinach should be perfectly steamed in its own wetness!