Recipe: Creamed Spinach
Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out this year.
One of my favorite parts about working for Indian Line Farm at the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market is talking about recipes. Conversations about vegetables at the market are really what got me started in food writing, and the thrill of it hasn’t calmed down yet. Usually, the advice goes in the direction you might expect. Someone will hold up a kohlrabi, inspect its wiry UFO tendrils, and ask what they should do with it. I give them a recipe (Kohlrabi fries! Cut them thin and bake in a hot oven), and then they’re off. But sometimes I get to be on the receiving end, and this can be even better. All I have to do is perk my ears up and pay attention to customers’ conversations with each other.
This is what happened this past weekend. We had an excess of sweet and tender spinach, and I knew I might be able to grab a bag to take home with me. I was already imagining what I would do with it (Quiche? Red Lentil Dal?) when a couple came by and stood in front of the table taking it all in.
“Spinach!” She grabbed two bags, and looked at her shopping (and eating) partner.
“I want creamed spinach,” she told him, and as soon as she said it, I had the taste of creamed spinach in my mouth too: the shadow of nutmeg, the silkiness of the leaves cooked down in cream — I even had cream in my fridge!
He pulled out his money and paid for the spinach, and they both thanked me before moving on to the next table.
“No,” I said as they turned go. “Thank you!” And with that, my dinner was decided.
(adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced small
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 lb. spinach (washed, dried and, if the leaves are big, roughly chopped
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon white pepper (or black)
Splash of red wine vinegar
1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft and clear, about 10 minutes. Add the nutmeg and salt, stirring to combine.
2. Add the spinach to the pot and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain any liquid that has gathered in the pot. Add the cream, turn up the heat to medium high, and cook uncovered, stirring often, until the cream thickens slightly and coats the spinach. There will still be quite a bit of liquid in the pot, but this makes a wonderful creamy broth that will make anything else on the plate better. Remove from heat and add the pepper and vinegar. Taste, and add additional salt if necessary.