Spring and spinach

Happy first day of spring! I am more excited than usual for its arrival this year. I am excited for spring every year, who isn’t? But this year the winter seems to have been longer, darker, more wearing. I’m sure this is all in my mind, but regardless, I am brimming now that spring has finally decided to show up.

spring flowers

One of the things that starts to happen in my kitchen when spring comes, and is fully ensconced as a policy by summer, is that the meals get simpler. The best spring and summer recipes involve less prep time, less cooking time, just less fuss all around. This suits my spring mood perfectly, since all of a sudden there are a million other things I’d rather be doing than standing over a hot stove (the opposite of how I feel in the winter, for the record!).

I want to plant an herb garden, for instance, and to ride my bike along that path by the river that I kept meaning to check out last summer. David and I are planning to hike and camp and swim in as many of the spots that new friends and acquaintances have described as the “best places” for such things around here as we can.

I’m looking to sit on patios – as many as I can find/get myself invited to – with a cold drink and a book, feeling the sun warm the back of my neck. It is my goal to have a picnic at every park in town and watch the dogs that will surely be at said parks run and play. I want to pick blueberries at one of the many fields that I pass on my drive to work, when the rows and rows of bushes that have been red and bare all winter become green and laden with fruit.

With all these plans, who has time to cook? Spring and summer produce is so glorious though, that I certainly wouldn’t want to forgo home-cooked meals during this time. That is where recipes like this Spiced Coconut Spinach come in. During this time of year I return again and again to old standbys like this one: recipes that I know by heart, that are quick, simple, consistently delicious, and that show off the season’s best fruits and vegetables.

mise en place

This spinach comes together in no time (seriously, 15 minutes from start to finish) and its flavors are dazzling – much more intense than you might expect. You can pair it with other spring and summer vegetables to your heart’s content. The original recipe pairs it with asparagus, which is lovely, and I imagine it would also meld well with zucchini, summer squash, corn, fresh peas, even green beans. 

It is also an ideal accompaniment for almost any starch or protein that you might be using to round out your meal. We generally eat it with brown rice, but it also tucks nicely into a pita and sits well atop a baked potato or a pile of pasta. The original recipe suggests folding it into an omelet, which is how I plan to eat it next.

Here’s to spring!

spiced spinach

Spiced Coconut Spinach

Adapted from 101cookbooks
Serves 2 as part of an entree, 3-4 as a side

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 6 1/2 cups spinach (~7 oz.), washed and chopped (no need to chop if using baby spinach, but I’d recommend lovely, full, spring spinach!)
  • 1 cup summer vegetables, chopped (optional)
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and toast them until they start to pop. Then, add the red pepper flakes and cook for one more minute.

Add the shallot, garlic, and salt and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and any other summer vegetables (i.e. quick cooking vegetables) you’re using. Stir frequently and cook for just a few minutes – until the spinach cooks down and any other vegetables are fork-tender.

Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and top with the toasted coconut.

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Filed under Food, Main Course, Sides

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