Vegetables never terrified me as a child, and I happily consumed Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and, yes, even spinach. Even now it remains my favourite green, second only to watercress. Our daughter, Catherine, however, loathes the stuff.
She knows it’s healthy and understands it is full of iron, thanks to a conversation she had with her new pediatrician. But Catherine has never developed a liking for this leafy vegetable, which is blessed additionally with a stunning colour that reminds me of deepest, darkest jade. But we recently discovered that she will at least down one substantial forkful if the spinach is prepared simply, in the manner suggested in La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion Press, 1961).
Epinards au beurre, or buttered spinach, is arguably the most most basic of preparations in Toulouse-Lautrec’s book. But it does have one significant refinement—after the spinach has been boiled, it is drained and transferred to a cutting board, where it is chopped, an action that adds a note of sophistication as well as reduces the slimy appearance that seems to offend our only child the most. Then the spinach is placed in a skillet and cooked with a bit of butter. Voila! As Catherine said before placing her fork down, “It doesn’t taste awful.” Admittedly this was not the most ringing endorsement but surely it was better than outright disdain.
EPINARDS AU BEURRE (BUTTERED SPINACH)
SOURCE: Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Cuisine de France (Orion, 1961)
SERVES 4 PERSONS
3 pounds spinach
6 tablespoons butter [use much less if you prefer]
Salt and pepper
Wash the spinach thoroughly, using only the leaves and smaller stems. Boil 15 minutes in a large kettle of boiling salted water. Drain in a colander. Spinach that stays in hot water once it is cooked becomes brown and ugly.
Drain well and chop finely. Reheat in a saucepan with butter, salt, and pepper. Add heavy cream with you wish, but do not let the cream boil. Serve immediately.