Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A la Catalana: Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Catalans are inordinately fond of pine nuts and raisins. They pair them with everything. Often they find their way into the segundo plato...Chicken, pork, or even fish, adorned with fruit and nuts. However, they often show up in the primero plato, along with greens. Whether locally harvested specialties or typical grocery store spinach, this is definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The crunch of the nuts contrasts perfectly with the tenderness of the greens, while the sweetness of the raisins balances their earthiness.
On another note, this is as good a time as any to mention a major difference between Spanish eating habits and American: the Spanish eat their biggest meal of the day at lunch. When dining out, one is often confronted with a daily 3-course menu. Generally, one chooses a (supposedly) light course, often a vegetable, soup, or rice dish. Next, you select a second heavier course that might be fish, chicken, meatballs, or some kind of stew. This might sound like a lot of food already, but don't forget the bread and dessert! Many Americans might feel strange chomping down on a giant plate full of green beans with no "main course" protein to accompany it. Fear not, because that giant plate of first course vegetables is more often than not topped with chopped jamon!

Espinacas a la Catalana (Catalan-style Spinach)
Serves: 2 as a Spanish-style primero plato or 4 as an American-style side dish
Cost: $2.74

1 small handful raisins
1 small handful pine nuts
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (I used leftovers from my tortilla)
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. spinach, thoroughly washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
salt & pepper, to taste

1) Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and toast, stirring gently, until golden brown. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the raisins in a bowl and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain and reserve.

2) Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 8-10 minutes, until fully translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

3) Next, add the spinach. It will look like it doesn't fit but keep stirring. You'll be amazed how much a pound of spinach reduces after a few minutes on the heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Be especially careful to scoop up the onion and garlic to ensure an even mix.

4) Add the toasted pine nuts and reserved raisins. Continue cooking and stirring for about 2 more minutes or until most of the liquid is evaporated. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serving: Espinacas a la Catalana works well as either a Spanish-style first course or a side. In fact, if you are careful to cook off all the liquid, it makes a great filling for empanadas. Or untraditionally, leave the spinach saucy and toss with a chunky pasta (like penne or corkscrews) along with an extra 2 tablespoons of fresh extra virgin olive oil. In my case, I had tons of leftover tortilla along with some Palacios Hot Chorizo and Vella Cheese Company Toma. Along with the spinach, this made a nice meal of small plates.

1 comment:

  1. That looks like a tasty way to dress up some spinach. I like the raisin and pine nut combo.