Creamy Spinach, Peas, and Fresh Mint

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  6 servings
Prep Time:  15 minutes Cook Time:  10 minutes

Creamy Spinach, Peas, and Fresh Mint

Peas and mint are a lovely match; spinach or lettuce and peas are a lovely match; cream and spinach, yet another match. Consider this a syllogistic recipe that really works. Great side dish for fried or baked fish, quiches, frittatas, or serve with fresh bread and smoked fish (trout is great) as a quick supper.

Ingredients

¾ cup milk

½ cup light cream or half and half

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground white pepper

¼ teaspoon (about 12 scrapes) grated fresh nutmeg (see Kitchen Tips)

Leaves of 1 bunch fresh mint, cut into chiffonade (see Kitchen Tips), divided

¼ cup cultured butter, unsalted

6 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour

2 pounds spinach, any thick stems removed (see Kitchen Tips)

1½ pounds fresh peas (about 3 cups)

Leaves of 1 small bunch fresh tarragon

 

Instructions

  1. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-low heat, combine the milk, cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and half the mint and cook, stirring, until warm but not boiling or scorched (see Kitchen Tips). Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Make a roux: In a large saucepan set over high heat, melt the butter and cook until it has foamed and the foam  has receded. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until thoroughly blended. While still whisking, add the warm milk mixture and cook just until  it comes to a rapid boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the spinach, a handful at a time, stirring with a large spoon, and making sure to coat it with the hot sauce. Work in batches; the spinach will wilt considerably, but you will find that it is easiest to manage if your batches are smaller than the depth of the pot.  
  4. After all the spinach is completely wilted and has released its liquid, the sauce will thin out. At this point, add the peas, the remaining mint, and the tarragon, stir well, and cook until just heated through. The peas should be al dente. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Tips

  1. Nutmeg is available ground, but if you buy the whole nutmeg and grate it or scrape it with a sharp knife yourself, the flavor and fragrance will be much stronger. Look for it in specialty spice stores, good supermarket spice sections, or online.
  2. Chiffonade simply means that leafy greens or herbs are cut into thin strips. To make a chiffonade of basil or mint, stack the leaves on top of one another on a work surface. Roll tightly from stem to tip and then cut the roll crosswise in ⅛-inch slices with a sharp knife. Unroll and you will have lovely, thin slivers.
  3. An easy way to remove the spines from green leafy vegetables is told fold the leaf in half down the spine (as if you were closing a book). Place the folded leaf on a work surface and, with a sharp knife, slice as close to the spine as you can and discard. Prepare the leaves as directed in the recipe.
  4. Milk can scorch easily when heated too much, and when it does, it tends to overflow the sides of pot and make a giant mess. To avoid scorching, use a deeper, heavy-bottomed pot and watch carefully as you heat the milk. If it boils, it’s all over, so remove from the heat at the first sign of a few tiny bubbles on the surface of the milk.  

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