The weather is hot and my desire for fresh light cool vegetables is, once again, running face-first into local reality. Tomatoes are approximately one million years away and even spring lettuces are still about three inches tall. And leafy green salads are all very well and good, anyway, but sometimes I just don't want one. (Here you can imagine me stamping my foot petulantly.)
This cold spinach fills roughly the same niche as a green salad but is not one. It's fresh, it's cool, it's green, it's even leafy. It makes a nice contrast to a hot entree or a hot day, or both. It's incidentally even quicker to put together than salad, at least if you follow my habit of washing and parboiling or steaming your spinach as soon as you bring it home from the store. Even if you don't cook the spinach until you're getting dinner ready, it's just not all that time consuming.
Super simple, delicious enough to eat multiple days in a row, suitable to the weather, novel yet not weird: what more could you ask?
Well, you might conceivably ask for it not to include preserved lemons, which I recognize are not the staple of everyone's cupboard that they are of ours, and no one is going to make or buy them just for the sake of putting a tablespoon's worth into a plate of spinach. I don't know that I can really advocate a substitute in this case, either--the soft briny lemon is what brings out the fruit in the olive oil, the vinegar, and even the onions, making the whole thing so well balanced and delicious. Maybe if you had Meyer lemons, you could get a similar effect with their juice in place of the vinegar, and plenty of grated zest?
If you're looking for inspiration for things to do with the preserved lemons you already have, though, or for an excuse to get some or make some, this is just the thing.
COLD SPINACH WITH PRESERVED LEMON
1 pound spinach, washed and de-stemmed
About 1/4 small white or red onion, sliced VERY thin
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T good fruity olive oil
1 T minced preserved lemon
Salt to taste, if needed
Steam or parboil the spinach just until wilted. Drain and press out all the excess moisture you can, then transfer to the refrigerator to cool. You can either use it as soon as it's cooled or keep it, covered, for up to three days.
Slice the onion as thin as you can manage, roughly chop the resulting thin slices, and place in the bottom of a mixing bowl with the vinegar. Set aside to pickle lightly while you do something else, for at least ten minutes.
Roughly chop the spinach and add it to the bowl, along with the olive oil and minced lemon. Toss together thoroughly and taste for salt. You may well not need any -- preserved lemon is very salty, after all.
This makes four smallish servings. We have no trouble whatsoever eating it all between the two of us, and frankly if I were alone I wouldn't bother making any less.