Oh, Spinach!

April 1st, 2008

Spring greens have the edge, that sharpness so complimentary to mild meats such as chicken or rabbit. Tidy little bundles of sorrel (oseille) are to be found in markets this month, and mounds of tender spinach, along with the ever-present white-ribbed (blette) swiss chard. It occurred to me that spinach might add some punch to a pot of herbed Le Puy lentils - after reading about a Spanish dish of chickpeas with spinach strips stirred in at the last moment. So, after a good wash/rinse and dry, two generous cups of destemmed spinach were cut into chiffonade strips and wilted, stirred for four minutes in a hot skillet, then drained before tossing into lentils that were still a tad al dente.  Occasionally a nostalgic flash comes to this cook’s rescue for a final touch, this time I recalled many wonderfully fresh spinach salads with hot-bacon dressing - from college days in southeastern Wisconsin. To adapt this idea, trimmed smoked bacon slivers or slices of pancetta did the trick: seared-crisped in a hot skillet, arranged on each serving of lentils, then the pan juices deglazed with sherry vinegar (and a pinch of sugar) to drizzle over all. Try variations on this some rainy spring evening, scoop up lentils and spinach to serve as a side with almond-crumb-crusted chicken legs - or as a bed for roast rabbit. And a little culinary nostalgia adds to the pleasure.

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