The only way I've really enjoyed cooked spinach is when I boiled it to death and drowned it in cream. But all that changed when I discovered Linda Carucci's stellar recipe in her cookbook, Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks. This is the most straight forward spinach recipe imaginable. It has only 6 ingredients and takes less than 15 minutes to cook, but something about the technique puts spinach over the top.
The secret to its success is that the spinach is never boiled. The leaves are cooked with some water clinging to them until they are evenly wilted. Technically, they are steamed. They are then briefly sauteed in olive oil with garlic, currants and pine nuts. The best part is that the leaves never get to that soggy, limp stage.
Instead of using fresh garlic, Linda substitutes granulated garlic powder, ensuring there are no bits of undercooked garlic to worry about. Before serving, she stirs in a couple of tablespoons of Pecorino, which sometimes I add, depending on what I am serving with the spinach. For my husband Karl's birthday, my entree was polenta lasagna, so I didn't want to add any more cheese to the spinach. If you are lactos intolerant, It really doesn't need it.
Another great bonus to this recipe, is how easy it is to multiply. Just pack as much spinach as you can into the pan, cook until wilted enough to pack in some more and continue with the recipe. I have doubled the recipe and cooked 40 ounces of spinach to serve 10 people with great success.
Whenever I serve this, I find myself hoping there will be spinach leftover to enjoy the next day. So far I've never been that lucky. But I'm happy to admit that my days of creaming spinach are over.
Spinach with Garlic, Currants and Pine Nuts
2 Tbs. dried currants
20 oz. pre-washed baby spinach
2 Tbs. bold-tasting extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp, granulated garlic powder
2 Tbs. pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
1. In a small bowl, combine the currants with hot water to cover. Let stand for 15 minutes to plump. Drain and set aside.
2. Rinse the spinach in a large bowl of cool water or in a colander. Transfer the spinach with the rinsing water clinging to the leaves to a Dutch oven or large wide saucepan. It’s okay to pack it in tightly. Place the pot over medium high heat, cover and steam the spinach, stirring occasionally and scraping down the sides of the pot, just until the leaves are evenly wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir with a long-handled meat fork. The leaves don’t stick to it as much as they do to tongs or a spoon.
3. Drain the spinach in a colander. Don't press every drop of water out of it. Just shake the colander a few times to remove the excess liquid. Rinse out the pot.
To Make Ahead: The spinach can be kept in the colander placed over a bowl to catch excess liquid for up to 3 hours. Cover lightly with foil or a lid.
4. Before serving, add the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and garlic powder to the clean pot and warm over low heat, swirling to combine. Add the drained spinach and toss to combine. The spinach should glisten with oil. If necessary drizzle in a bit more. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese and toss well, allowing the cheese to melt. Add the currants and pine nuts and toss well. Sprinkle lightly with pepper. Taste and add more salt, pepper and or garlic powder if necessary. Serve immediately.
To make Ahead: Spinach can be set aside covered for up to 20 minutes before serving.
Makes 3 to 4 servings.