I never liked spinach as a kid. I tried, really I did. But I could never get excited by a wilted mound of greens on my plate. It was stringy and tasted like dirt. This was not an effective means to get kids to eat their vegetables. Now let's come back to today. I love spinach. Spinach salads with strawberries and goat cheese. Spinach sauted in a bit of bacon fat and tossed with slivered almonds and garlic. So good. Not wilty. Not soggy.
I had a spinach kind of day recently, where it turned out to be a major player in both lunch and dinner. Lunch was kitchen sink cooking: a peek in the fridge to see what was available and gathered together to great effect. Spinach chopped and tossed with pesto, chopped black pepper deli turkey, heaped on wheat toast with cottage cheese.
Dinner was more involved. I found a recipe in the May 2011 issue of Sunset Magazine. In the 'Healthy Living' section of the issue, there's an article called Crossover Cuisine. Chef Sean Baker from Gather Restaurant in Berkeley showcases his Chickpea Cake with Fava Leaves and Arugula Salad recipe. The accompanying photos looked amazing and I've been wondering what to do with the chickpea flour in my pantry other than in a bread recipe. I made a few changes based upon what I didn't vs what I did have on hand. Happily, substituting spinach for the greens I didn't have was a big reason I tried the recipe. While it wasn't totally vegetarian (as Baker's recipe is), it was delicious. I'm thinking of making the chickpea cakes again and adapting them to an appetizer use, perhaps cut into cubes and topped with marinated grape tomatoes or something.
Chickpea Cakes with Spinach Salad
(adapted from Sean Baker's recipe)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup chickpea flour
1 tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp thyme
2 cups chopped baby spinach
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Cook onion in olive oil until translucent. Add broth and heat until simmering. Gradually add chickpea flour and mozzarella, whisking until brought together and smooth. In a food processor or blender, puree chickpea mixture until it reaches baby food consistency. Add some of the chopped spinach and puree with chickpeas. Stir in thyme, remaining spinach, and salt. Lightly grease an 8x8 baking dish and spread chickpea mixture in it. Cover with plastic wrap and level mixture with hand. Chill until cold, at least an hour and a half.
Heat olive oil in frying pan. Chickpea mixture should have solidified to point where you can easily cut it and lift out pan. Cut into triangles and brown lightly, roughly 4 minutes for each side.
I topped mine with a salad of spinach, shredded carrots, red grapes and marcona almonds in a light lemon vinaigrette.