A quick (as in less than 10 minutes) and easy spinach side dish that’s perfect for any occasion but in my house its an everyday side.
Sometimes I just go all out Popeye and eat a big ass bowl of spinach and nothing else. Ironically as a kid, “Popeye” was one of my many nicknames, but not one of the flattering ones. Before corrective surgery, I had what’s considered a lazy eye and resembled a one eye squinting Popeye. I may have been one of the youngest and smallest in the neighborhood, but if you called me “Popeye” alarms bells start ringing, cause odds were pretty high we were going to knuckle up.
Nothing like taking a plain jane ingredient and turning it into a super dope dish. The beauty of this recipe is its combination of simple ingredients list yet complex taste. Despite only utilizing a few ingredients great flavor is achieved by employing basic techniques. “Sigeumchi-namul” is a spinach based Korean side dish made by blanching the spinach and then seasoning it with a sauce made with soy, garlic, and sesame oil. For my recipe, I used the same technique but changed the flavor profile to give it a more Afrocentric vibe by using the spice fenugreek. Fenugreek is a relatively unknown spice but adds character and depth to any dish.
What is blanching?
If you’ve never blanched vegetables, you should familiarize yourself with the technique. Though this recipe calls on spinach, blanching works with most vegetables and involves simply and quickly boiling vegetables for a few seconds and then plunging them into ice water. This results in cooked vegetables that are bright, soft and a little crispy with the nutrients minimally disturbed. After blanching the vegetables they are ready to be used in many different ways immediately or later use.
What is fenugreek?
Like a lot of other Korean sides, sigeumchi-namul is custom-friendly and I took liberty in changing up the flavor. Fenugreek, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic are the sauce ingredients and primary flavoring to the spinach. Blanching is great in a steaming kind of way, i.e. you get great technique and color, but it also nets very bland results. The tangy aromatic sauce solves the bland issues and then some! Fenugreek is actually a plant whose seeds are ground and used as a spice for flavoring. It’s a common ingredient in Indian curries. In northern African countries like Egypt and Ethiopia, they are used in bread recipes as traditional Berbere spice. Flavor-wise it’s a cross between maple and celery, i.e. somewhat sweet with nutty notes. If you can’t find fenugreek, the closest substitute would be to combine mustard seeds with maple syrup or just use a good honey-dijon mustard.
Do I have to use spinach?
This recipe works with other leafy green vegetables that have similar characteristics to spinach. Kale, bok choy, and Swiss chard all are good substitutes.
Cooking this spinach side dish
- Buy whole fenugreek seeds, toast them and then grind them in a coffee grinder for maximum flavor
- Fenugreek is strong, so a little goes a long way
- Squeeze as much water from the spinach as possible. This will improve both taste and texture
- To cut out even more time, use pre-packaged baby spinach. You wonâ€™t need to spend as much time cleaning.
making blanched spinach salad
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- 1 lb spinach
- 2 greens onions chopped white parts
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tsp ground fenugreek
- Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 30 seconds¨Remove the spinach quickly, place in a colander and rinse with cold water via the faucet. Squeeze the spinach by hand to remove excess water. Mix the green onions, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and fenugreek in a mixing bowl
- Cut spinach into smaller pieces then slowly mix all of these ingredients into the sections of spinach. Serve