Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Kilo of Spinach

Shopping overseas can be a tricky business.  You’re never quite sure if what you’re asking for makes sense, and you don’t really understand the responses you get.  This has happened to me a few times.  In visiting Mexico once with some friends, I had been prepped for some simple questions in Spanish.  Wanting to try out my newly acquired knowledge, I proudly asked our cab driver ¿Cuanto cuesta? And then stood there staring at him when he answered me in rapid fire Spanish.  My friends agreed I should work on understanding the answers to those questions.
Another time, when I was in Germany I went to get my hair cut and colored.  I had an idea for what I wanted but surprisingly, “A trip to the Hair Salon” was not one of the vocabulary units we studied.  After muddling through what I wanted, the hair stylist nodded and said no problem.  Many highlight foils and a good hour and a half later, she took out everything from my hair and called another stylist over for consultation.  I had not yet seen my hair in the mirror.  After some whispers – they both told me it looked awesome.  I was dubious.  I wound up with three very distinct highlight chunks on my head – white, brown and copper.  It was pretty shocking.  However, I did not, for the life of me, know how to tell her anything besides how awesome it was.  I finally determined that my hair was pretty cool; cooler than me, so I would just have to pretend.
And the other time shopping in a foreign language has left me with deleterious results was also in Germany.  I was walking past the gypsy farm stands behind my dorm and saw a very good price for fresh spinach.  I figured, why not.  Now, the price for spinach was by the kilogram.  When asked how much spinach I wanted, I froze. Extreme panic set in as I scrambled to try and remember what the other delineations of metric weight were.  There are milligrams, centigrams, decigrams, grams, something, something, kilograms.   I had literally no idea how much spinach I wanted nor did I know what measure I should use in the purchase.  So I told the gypsy ‘Ein Kilo’ – one kilo.  That is a lot of spinach.  After cramming a plastic shopping bag full of spinach he looked at me and told me it wasn’t quite a kilo, and did I want it anyways.  I nodded yes. (Similar to my tomato experience this summer).  I completely forgot that I could order the spinach the EXACT SAME way I do here – half a kilo, a quarter kilo, all would have worked just as well.  And if I had managed to remember hectogram I’m sure the gypsy would have thought I was even more crazy. 
So in honor of accidentally ordering way too much spinach, I would like to share the following recipe with you.

A friend of mine made this last winter, and I have been mildly obsessed with it ever since.  The original recipe is a bit different and calls for more ingredients.  Personally, I like this simple version and I don’t think you miss out on any flavor.
Green Quinoa
As adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times

1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 ¾ c water, divided
1 small onion, diced
1 Tb olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c quinoa, rinsed if necessary

In a blender or food processor, combine spinach and ¾ cup water and puree.  There will still be some chunks of spinach, but as long as it is mostly liquefied, it will be fine.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Next add garlic, quinoa and a pinch of salt.  Sauté about 3 more minutes, stirring constantly to toast the quinoa.  Add in remaining one cup of water, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.  Next add in the spinach puree, and another pinch of salt.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked and the liquid is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork , check for seasonings and serve.

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