Here’s a variation on a recipe I found in Food & Wine, January 2015. It didn’t make it out of the pile until after CSA spinach was done (which I still prefer to use raw in smoothies and salads). There was a lovely giant bunch of Chard in the box this week, so instead of another round of the green meatlessballs with which I am absolutely obsessed, I tried this:
Sautéed Spinach with Lemon-and-Garlic Olive Oil
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 10 garlic cloves, thickly sliced lengthwise
- 2 dried chiles de árbol, broken in half
- Kosher salt
- Thick strips of zest from 1 lemon
- 2 1/2 pounds spinach, cleaned, thick stems discarded
- Freshly ground pepper
- In a small saucepan, stir together the olive oil, garlic, chiles and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the lemon zest. Bring the oil to a gentle simmer over low heat and cook until the garlic begins to brown slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the oil infuse for 1 hour. Discard the chiles and lemon zest and reserve the garlic.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spinach until bright green, 15 seconds. Using tongs, transfer the spinach to a bowl of ice water and let cool for 10 seconds. Drain the spinach in a colander, pressing down to remove all the water. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Heat a large skillet. Add the spinach and cook over moderately high heat until beginning to sizzle. Add the garlic oil and toss until the spinach is hot, about 2 minutes. Transfer the spinach and reserved garlic to a colander set over a bowl to drain. Mound the spinach on a platter, season with salt and pepper and serve.
I didn’t have any dried chiles in the house, but I do have a hot chili-infused oil from one of those oil-and-vinegar specialty shops. I used 1/4 cup of chili oil and 1/2 cup of olive oil. I infused the garlic and lemon in a skillet instead of a saucepan– I pushed everything to one side of the skillet so the pieces were submerged. Why a skillet? I wasn’t going to dirty another pot– I used the same skillet to sauté the chard in step 3. (A head of garlic is approximately 12 cloves, in case you were wondering.) It took a little longer than 15 minutes for my garlic to brown, and I set about taking care of the chard blanching and shocking. I weighed my chard bunch after I set up the oil, and it was just over a pound. So I planned to only use half of the oil infusion from step one and reserve the other half for another time.
Blanching and shocking is such a pain to me, but I was extremely pleased with the tough ends of the chard going from light green to a eggplanty purple and the dark green leaves holding fast.
Verdict: possible keeper with modifications. The stems of the chard remained a little too stringy, so I would blanch those for a longer time to get them more tender. The chili oil gave a pleasant heat, and red pepper flake could make a nice additional seasoning with the salt and pepper. The lemon flavor was non-existent, so I would probably double the amount of lemon peel and use 2 lemon’s worth. I thought the texture was too oily– I only used 1/4 cup of the oil in step 3 (I was going to use 3/8, half of the recipe amount, bur it seemed really excessive so I cut back). Even after draining the oil as directed, I thought the mouthfeel was still oily. Part of my issue is that I like a crispy sauté, and the blanching left these leaves a bit soggy. I think I was missing the browned edges. I’m not sure I’d feel differently if I’d used spinach. Personally, I might rather just sauté everything in the oil from the outset (skipping the blanch/shock), but I’d be willing to give this one another try. Eat your veggies!