If Popeye Went To India…

indian-creamed-spinach-cultured-cookI always liked creamed spinach when I was a kid: it was rich and soft and vaguely nutmeggy, and it seemed to be just as good with chicken as it was with lamb or beef or veggies or whatever you wanted to serve it with.  What I didn’t realize back then was how incredibly easy (and inexpensive) creamed spinach is to make.  Or, for that matter, how easy it is to completely change the character of creamed spinach by adding a shake or two of spice.  Add chili powder, and poof! You have Latin-themed greens.  Add five-spice powder, and poof! You’ve got Chinese-themed greens.

Likewise, you can play around with the “creamed” part of the dish.  Traditionally, the recipe calls for actual cream, but you could go the tangy route and use buttermilk instead, or go the tropical route and use coconut milk.  (That was my pick!)  Or accentuate the traditional nutmeggy-ness by adding almond milk with a shot of nutmeg.  In short, creamed spinach can be whatever you want it to be.  And seeing as cooked hearty greens are pretty much interchangeable, if you don’t have curly spinach on hand, you can use collard greens or turnip greens or kale.

Nutritional side note: curly spinach contains high amounts of oxalic acid, the same component that renders rhubarb leaves inedible. (Rhubarb leaves have a much, much higher amount than spinach leaves do, however.) Oxalic acid blocks absorption of iron and calcium, which spinach leaves also offer. The solution? Heat deactivates the oxalic acid in the spinach and allows us to take full advantage of the iron and calcium in the leaves. Turns out that creamed spinach is a great nutritional idea! Just don’t try creamed rhubarb leaves – they have so much oxalic acid that cooking won’t be enough to make them fit for your plate.

Indian Creamed Spinach

Several large handfuls of curly spinach
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil OR unrefined peanut oil
A few cloves of garlic, chopped
Sprinkling of curry powder
Sprinkling of ground ginger
Coconut milk (unless you have loads and loads of spinach, you’ll probably only need 1/2 cup or less of the coconut milk)

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Drop in the spinach and boil the leaves for 2 minutes, then promptly drain and set aside. If you like, you can squeeze the spinach dry and run it through a food processor to mince the leaves. (I like my leaves more chewable, so I just drain them.)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat for 1 minute, then add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes or until the garlic is softening and turning translucent. Add the spices – I prefer a 1:1 ratio of curry to ginger – and cook for another minute, stirring frequently. Add drained spinach and enough coconut milk to lightly coat the leaves. If you’d like to use the creamed spinach as more of a sauce or topping, add extra milk so that you have some creaminess leftover.

Serve immediately, tossing with brown rice or whole-grain pasta if you like. Leftover creamed spinach makes a delightful breakfast when topped with an egg, whether you hard-boil the egg, scramble it, or poach it. Or serve the spinach with pan-fried potatoes as I’ve done here, or toss it with chickpeas and/or tomatoes. The possibilities are endless!


Courtesy of The Cultured Cook.

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