Editor's note: On Thursdays, Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma checks in with Seriously Italian. After a stint in Rome, she's back in the States, channeling her inner Italian spirit via recipes and intel on delicious Italian eats. Take it away, Gina!
Any serious student of Italian cuisine understands the relationship that Italians have with leafy greens. I can’t remember an evening meal, with my family or when I lived in Italy, without a pile of garlicky greens on the side; it could be dandelion, swiss chard, escarole, chicory, or my very favorite, spinach.
Spinach in Italy is beautiful: deep green, with an almost velvety appearance, and a distinctive, mineral-rich flavor. It only needs a minimalist approach to make it completely delicious. I could eat that fresh spinach of my dreams, sautéed with garlic in a bit of butter and olive oil, every single day of my life and never tire of it.
I miss that spinach. I’m finding it harder and harder to find really great, “adult” spinach in the produce section of our neighborhood supermarket. All I ever see now is baby spinach, picked way too young for my taste, bagged and crammed into the ever-expanding shelves of pre-washed, non-threatening, and overpriced salad stuff. Where is the real spinach of yesteryear, that tastes like the dirt it was grown in?
Bagged baby spinach is such a turn-off in comparison. It may be tender, but it’s tasteless, and practically dissolves on contact with a hot pan. Even in a salad it seems nondescript and unexciting. Mature spinach, on the other hand, has true dimension of flavor, more color and nutrients; plus, it’s usually cheaper. Washing it does require a bit more attention than ripping open a polyethylene bag, but the taste payoff is significant.