Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What do you do when your spinach bolts?

A while back Cynthia posted this about our cold frame. Well, the weather is changing here in Northern Virginia and the cold weather greens are very near the end of their cycle. In fact, the Red Cardinal spinach was on its way to bolting and we needed to do something with it before it sent all its energy to seed production. The spindly red stalks still had plenty of tender green leaves on them -- we just needed to come up with the a good way to use them.  (Many thanks to the mighty Margaret Roach of the uber garden blog A Way to Garden for suggesting Red Cardinal spinach.  It's easy to grow, beautiful, and doesn't turn bitter when bolting.)   

So, where does a creative cook go for Meatless Monday inspiration, when the cook actually has a little time to ponder such on a Monday? In Cyn's case it is often to one of her favorite cookbooks devoted to vegetables, the aptly titled Vegetables, by Charlie Trotter. What she found was a recipe that included, polenta, greens, and portobello mushrooms as the main components. It also contained pomegranate seeds and a pomegranate vinaigrette made from the fruit's juice. Since pomegranates are not in season here, it got Cynthia thinking about how she might modify the recipe both to our tastes and to use what was seasonably available to us. In the end, the recipe she created was certainly inspired by Chef Trotter but is, in fact, her own.

Ingredients (the polenta) 
  • 2 cups water
  • 12 oz can of 2% evaporated milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tso Better than Bouillion No Chicken base (can sub water)
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1/2 cup whole kernel corn, frozen works better than canned
  • handful (to your taste) of cheese, grated (we used sharp cheddar)
  • chopped chives to taste (optional)
Preparation (the polenta)
  • Add water, evaporated milk and bay leaf to a sauce pan and bring to a boil
  • Whisk in polenta, cook for 10 minutes stirring regularly
  • Add corn, cook until polenta is done (taste it!)
  • Add cheese and chives
  • Turn out mixture onto a plastic wrap lined 1/4 sheet pan and shake to level, smooth with spatula if necessary
  • Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour  
  • When fully chilled, cut circles from the polenta sheet
  • Fry on each side in a light coat of butter until golden brown, med high heat

Ingredients (the vinaigrette)

  • 1/2 cup POM Wonderful juice
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ~1/4 c Extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
Preparation (the vinaigrette)

  • Combine POM juice and vinegar in a sauce pan and reduce on high heat to 1/3 original volume
  • Whisk in about 1/4 c olive oil a little at a time to emulsify, salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients (the greens)

  • 4 good handfuls of spinach leaves (you can certainly use other greens if you like), Chef Trotter uses mizuna and tatsoi
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt

Preparation (the greens)

  • Add water to a saute pan and bring to a boil
  • Add butter and spinach
  • Reduce heat to medium high
  • Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes (this will depend on how wilted you like the greens)
  • Salt to taste

Ingredients (the portobellos)

  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, gills removed and washed clean
  • 1 ttbsp butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup-ish port wine (sub any tasty wine or omit this step)
Preparation (the portobellos)

  • Cut potobellos into 1/4 - 1/3 inch strips
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Butter grill pan and heat with medium high heat
  • Grill about 1 minute on each side
  • Deglaze pan with port wine

Ingredients (something a little extra)

  • 3 shallots quarterd
  • salt/pepper
  • EVOO
Preparation (the shallots)

  • Toss ingredients together in shallow roasting pan
  • Roast at 350 degrees until wilted, tender and slightly golden, about 15 minutes

Assembly (the final dish)

  • Plate greens first
  • Layer on polenta cakes
  • Top with portobellos 
  • Drizzle vinaigrette around greens
  • Add shallots as garnish (Cyn also hit the dish with chive and thyme blossoms)
  • Serve hot

Just as a frame of reference, here is the picture from Charlie Trotter's cookbook.  Clearly we were much hungrier!


  1. Mmmm, this recipes includes all the foods that I love. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think I can even get Hussyband to eat this one....we tried Meatless Mondays for a while but he said it made life predicatble...so now there is just a meatless Day once a week, when he least expects it!

  3. Interesting, because we think it's the opposite. We eat meatless several days a week anyway, but by focusing on Monday as special it kind of forces us to consider doing something a little different each week. Know what I mean?

  4. I don't mind eating spinach right before or right after it bolts... Just not raw


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