Creamed spinach is not the place my mind jumps to when thinking about modern cooking. Most iterations of the dish are stodgy, cream-leaden bowls of green mush. But Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot's version in their new cookbook, Maximum Flavor, is far from old-fashioned. Seasoned with potent homemade citrus kosho (a blend of zest, chiles, lemongrass, and salt) and a puréed mixture of onion and garlic, their creamed spinach is bright and spicy. The final dollop of dairy—in this case, crème fraîche—balances instead of deadens the flavor.
Why I picked this recipe: I wanted to see how well the Japanese profile of the kosho would work with such an American side dish.
What worked: This is creamed spinach like I'd never had before—tangy and spicy with just a gentle touch of richness.
What didn't: No problems here.
Suggested tweaks: If you don't want to make the citrus kosho yourself, you can use store-bought yuzo kosho—it'll cut the cooking time down to mere minutes. This recipe would work well with any leafy green.
Reprinted with permission from Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot. Copyright 2013. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:Serves 6
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes, plus 48 hours resting time for the kosho
- Citrus Kosho
- 12 limes
- 2 grapefruits
- 2 oranges
- 18 lemons
- 2 serrano chiles
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 2 tablespoons (36 grams) fine sea salt
- 3 drops (0.25 gram) Boyajian lemon oil or lemon essential oil (optional)
- 3 drops (0.25 gram) Boyajian lime oil or lime essential oil (optional)
- 3 drops (0.25 gram) Boyajian orange oil or orange essential oil (optional)
- Creamed Spinach
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) Citrus Kosho (above) or store-bought yuzu kosho
- 4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (38 grams) fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 pounds (680) grams baby spinach
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) crème fraîche
For the kosho: Zest the limes, grapefruits, oranges, and lemons into a small bowl. Thinly slice the chiles. Remove the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass to expose the tender hearts. Slice the heart of the lemongrass. Put the citrus zest, chiles, lemongrass, and salt into a mortar. Use the pestle to pulverize the ingredients to a uniform paste.
Juice and strain 1 lime and 1 lemon and add them to the mortar and stir to combine. Add the lemon, lime, and orange oils if using to the mortar and stir to combine. Put the citrus kosho into a small jar and refrigerate for at least 2 days to let the flavors develop. Citrus kosho can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
For the spinach: Put the onion, garlic, and citrus kosho in a blender and purée until smooth.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion purée, salt, and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly and lost its sharp, raw flavor. Add the spinach a handful at a time, wilting each new addition before adding the next, seasoning the mixture very lightly with salt after every few additions. Add the crème fraîche and bring the mixture to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.