Puréed spinach with potatoes

Spinach & potatoes

Puréed spinach is a tricky thing. On the one hand, it can conjure pictures of creamed spinach from a can, featured in remarkably unflattering photos in 50s magazines. On the other, it can be a flavorful and comforting dish, prettily bright green and good for you, too. I’ve always loved saag aloo, the Indian combination of spinach and potatoes, in which the texture is pleasing, not drably mushy. This is inspired by that dish. It’s flavored with basil, rosemary and smoked paprika – some of my favorite flavors, and all really lovely with the spinach. The spinach is quickly boiled, and then pureed and returned to the heat, but not cooked to sogginess. It emerges bright green, and still in possession of the full force of its delightful spinachiness. The cornmeal makes this substantial without being stodgy, like a tiny touch of polenta. And the potatoes – boiled simply in their skins – are surprisingly good. You can actually taste them, they’re not just a starchy background element. We ate this with some curried white beans and my ootoes, or yeasted semolina pancakes. Simple and satisfying.

Here’s Belle and Sebastian’s Simple Things

About 8 oz of spinach. Maybe 4 cups. It’s hard to measure! Washed well.
3 smallish potatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. rosemary
1 t. basil
1/2 t. smoked paprika
2 T butter
2 T corn meal (polenta)
salt & pepper

Boil a pot of salted water. Add the potatoes in their skins, and cook till they’re just soft when you poke them with a knife. You don’t want them too mushy. Lift them out of the water and set them aside to cool.

Drop the spinach into the water you just removed the potatoes from. Cook for a few minutes, till wilted but still bright green. Drain and purée – not till it’s completely smooth, though, a little texture is nice.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/2 inch cubes.

Warm the butter in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and the herbs. When it starts to brown, add the paprika and spinach. Stir well to combine. Add the cornmeal, and a few tablespoons of spinach cooking water or broth, or just plain old water. Cook till the pan is dry and things start to thicken. You can add more water and cook it down again, if you like. It will make it a little thicker and more substantial.

Add the potatoes, stir to mix well. Cook till everything is warmed through. Add more liquid if you want it a little thinner.

Season well with salt and pepper.

Dust with a bit of paprika for prettiness, and serve.

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