This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no country club, either. This is Chez Néné.
Apologies to Sheryl Crow. I just need to make the point that I refuse to make this blog look so shiny that you think my kitchen never gets messy, or that my cooking never ends in disaster. Maybe someday I’ll use a fancy camera in the kitchen and take twee shots of a single turnip, writing precious things like, “Sauté crisp, translucent slices of this ephemeral delight in the finest Irish butter you can find. Add a kiss of kosher salt. Mm. Nom nom.” When that day comes, smack me, okay? End rant. That was inspired by some of the food blogs and food mags I read; needless to say, that list is being trimmed ferociously. Okay, now really: ending rant. Done.
Right: so back to how this ain’t no disco and this ain’t no country club either. Sometimes you just need a quick recipe that will round out whatever you’re eating, or even be whatever you’re eating. If it can provide leftovers for breakfast, why, even better. This is one of those recipes: nothing fancy, no clever spices, just a few ingredients, nothing more fancy than stirring things about in a single, not-so-shiny pan.
Next up: mushrooms. I quartered them and bunged them in. Without ceremony. Shocking, I know. I stirred it all and let it cook a bit before adding an “ice cube” of homemade chicken stock and a couple of pinches of salt; the liquid kept the mushrooms from sticking.
Once the mushrooms were getting close to done, I stirred in spinach, a couple of handfuls at a time, plus a pinch or two of salt, and cooked the greens down.
While waiting for the mushrooms to cook, I made a chiffonade of basil. It’s not fancy, relax. I mean, it can be, but it’s super-easy. Three steps. One: lay basil leaves on top of each other, making a stack of 4 or 5.
Now roll them along the vertical axis (lengthwise) to make a cylinder. Hold it down with your non-dominant hand.
Now, with a sharp knife (otherwise the basil will dull), cut thin slices crosswise. The result: ribbons of greens that you can stir into a salad or whatever dish. It looks pretty, and functionally it means that you’ll get a more localized, concentrated hit of basil rather than the general “overall basil-y” flavor you’d get if you minced it instead.
Once the spinach cooked down and the mushrooms were done too, I stirred in the basil and took it off the heat.
My mother, who was visiting, ate it over whole wheat couscous. I’m experimenting with “no gluten, no grains,” so I ate it with a small piece of steak on the side. It was yummy and we both felt virtuous for getting greens and veggies in our meal.
But our story doesn’t end there! The next morning, I made thin omelets for breakfast. I warmed the leftover mushroom-spinach-basil in the microwave, and then used them as filling in the omelets. It looked quite fancy. I wasn’t awake enough to try to garnish the omelet, alas, but we can pretend that there are a couple of snipped chive tops arranged artistically on the omelet.
As usual, you can make lots of substitutions; I’ll list them at the end of the post.
Butter 1 -2T (or other fat–coconut oil, bacon, olive oil; whatever makes you happy)
1 – 2T ginger, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 lb mushrooms (crimini or similar), cleaned of dirt and quartered
3T of liquid: water, or stock (chicken or vegetable)
2 – 4 handfuls of spinach
4 – 5 large leaves of basil, cut into a chiffonade, as shown above
salt and pepper
- In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium. Stir in the ginger; it should start gently browning in 30 seconds. Then stir in the onions. Walk away. Let them soften and start to color a bit–several minutes, depending on the heat of the pan. If you’re in a hurry, just let them soften.
- Stir in the mushrooms. Sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt. After a couple of minutes, add 2 – 3T liquid (water or stock) and scrape up any burnt bits. If you need to, add a touch more liquid–only just enough to keep things from sticking to the pan.
- Add 2 – 3 handfuls of spinach when the mushrooms are a bit more than halfway done. Sprinkle a pinch of salt, and maybe black pepper if you like it. Stir gently and let the spinach wilt. Add more spinach if you want to, letting it wilt.
- Turn off the heat. Gently stir in the basil and transfer to a serving dish.
- Serve it with any of these: couscous or pasta; rice, quinoa or other grain; a portion of steak, seared simply; a hearty fish like salmon, poached or baked; as a filling in an omelet or an addition to scrambled eggs. Or just stand at the stove and eat it out of the pot; I won’t tell.
Substitutions and such
- Vegetables: instead of mushrooms, or in addition, you can use another veggie that you think would work with spinach and basil. Red peppers or cauliflowers would be great. Brussels sprouts or carrots might be a bit odd.
- Spinach: if you skipped the spinach here, that would be fine. You can substitute another leafy green, say kale or chard, if you like.
- Basil: You can switch it out for another fresh herb like cilantro or parsley. Use thyme and oregano with caution–the flavor can overwhelm. The usual herbs will work here; I would avoid mint. (Mint and mushroom? Er… no thanks.)
- Spices: you could add a couple of pinches of a spice mix you like. For example, both berbere and vadouvan (separately, I mean!) work well with this dish. If you use a spice mix, stir it into the onions just before Step 2, and let it cook for a minute or so before proceeding.
- Other additions: You could toast almonds and toss them with the finished dish just before serving. I suppose you could grate a little Parmesan over the dish (also or instead).