Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Comfort Food

Salade Aux Épinards

It was a dark and stormy night. Clouds dipping low, loud rumbles of thunder. Then came the rain, pounding on the rooftops, cascading over the parked cars, quickly flooding the low lying land. But inside it was cozy. The cold salad, originally planned, ended up taking a back seat to a quick dish that combined wilted baby spinach leaves, shallots, and sliced boiled potato flecked with melting cubes of rich, nutty Havarti cheese.

I've been browsing the Elizabeth David Classics again. Love the simple instructions for taking a few ingredients; always whole foods, frequently fresh from the garden, and presenting them full of flavor, with the simplest preparations.
She may often mince ingredients but never her words. Simple, straightforward instructions, written with the assumption that the reader has some culinary capabilities. I love being given the benefit of the doubt.

The dish above is an adaptation of one of her salad instructions from A Book of Mediterranean Food. As written, the salad is intended to be served cold or at least at room temperature. I prepared it as a hot dish and found it every bit as good as a cold salad would be. Given the nasty weather outside the window, a warm bowl of comfort food hit the spot.

Elizabeth David's instructions read: "Plunge some cleaned spinach into boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain it, mix with some sliced cold potatoes and thin slices of Gruyère cheese. Dress with a spoonful of cream and the juice of a lemon."

That's it. No long list of ingredients. No fancy equipment. No particular talent needed. Just simple, easy to follow instructions for a tasty dish with three main ingredients.
I find it interesting that other than instructions for macerating vegetables, salt is never mentioned. I boiled the sliced potato in salted water. Rather than boil the spinach, I prefer to sauté it in a little olive oil with sliced shallots and garlic cloves. With no Swiss type cheese in the fridge, I debated between a mellow Italian Fontina or the nuttier Havarti. Either would have been fine, yet neither lent the same piquant layer that Ms. David achieved with the Gruyère. I compromised by adding a sprinkling of dried red chili flakes to the spinach preparation.
Substitutions are a matter of personal taste as well as working with what's on hand. Note: I skipped the spoonful of cream, as well. The generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice with some freshly ground tellicherry pepper brought out the slightly earthy flavor of the mild baby greens.

A lovely dish comprised of a boiled potato and a half a bag of baby spinach. Imagine something so simple, yet so good. Fast and easy, too.

1 comment:

Asha said...

What a joy to see the Potato and Spinach combo, looks delicious!:)