A Spinach That Pleases


Spinach cooked, drained, chopped, and ready to sauté in butter.

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

INGREDIENTS

3 pounds spinach

6 tablespoons butter [use much less if you prefer]

Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

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.

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15 comments on “A Spinach That Pleases

  1. Suzy says:

    It’s also great sauteed with garlic, briefly, with a sprinkle of fleur de sel afterwards.

  2. It’s a better response than I have ever received. My eldest was picking it out of meatloaf just last night.

  3. I believe this famous Karl Rose cartoon with caption by E.B. White depicts the Aesthete and daughter at dinner?

    http://www.postbourgie.com/2008/10/24/i-say-its-spinach-and-i-say-the-hell-with-it/

  4. home before dark says:

    She might prefer spinach uncooked as a salad. That was my trick. My son preferred it with garlic honey-dijon mayonaise with lots of chopped eggs and bacon and sunflower seeds. Later, we added mushrooms when he got over his dislike of those. It is still his favorite salad…and he now a chef. Go figure.

    • Actually that is true. I had forgotten that. She does actually like spinach salad but it’s really all about the dressing for her.

      • Elizabeth Forshaw says:

        Yummy! Speaking of jade, I sometimes sautee a little finely grated garlic and reheat the cooked and drained spinach in it along with a splash of oyster sauce, a teeny pinch of sugar and some butter. We call this “Jade Spinach” in our house!

      • Nice to know! I shall try this.

  5. teresa says:

    I love it. Baked Spinach: it’s not awful. She cracks me up.

  6. french girl cooking says:

    Spinach? Try it like in Venezia in the Cipriani : one or two spoons of butter into a very big and warm kettle, then, when butter just foames, you put spinach inside without water. And you turn and turn with a woodspoon still spinach lost its water and will be cooked (between 6′ or 8 for me). If you boiled spinach, it loses a part of its taste. And the draining into the colander is a hard, hard work…
    I know, Mapie’s spinach is the french way, but for vegetables, the italian way —which doesn’t add water (it’s always grilled or “sauté”)— is always the best way.
    Never enough spinach in my plate!

    • Dear Marie Odile, I must have been very lazy then with the colander! I just pressed down as best I could and that was that! I shall try the Cipriani method this week-end!

  7. balsamfir says:

    No kids, but I never get tired of spinach now that its available fresh all winter. Remember frozen creamed? Or were you never subjected to that horror.

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