Foreword: This blog is a finalist in SAVEUR Blog Awards in Best Special Interest category and I would be very honored if you supported me and cast a vote for Lab Noon. All it takes is a few seconds and a basic registration. Thank you! Voting is open through April 30th.
I can’t hide it. It’s always been like this. Through the years some of its aspects have changed but the bases have remained the same. Spring is my freaking favorite time of the year! And it’s not because it’s my birthday! It’s as if I start to shed my old skin right at the end of February and by the time we’re in April the simple smell of the air makes me happy. Actually until few years ago, I used to get quite depressed at the end of the summer and in the beginning of Autumn. But thankfully, Rome’s September and October are so spectacular that I don’t suffer that very much ever since I live here. And the Springs of Rome? Oh, the blue of the sky and light green of the new buds, the smell of the blossoms, and that light breeze! Does Spring have a similar effect on you too? What’s your favorite activity in these beautiful days?
I take a lot of pictures. I took the photos you see here in Garbatella neighborhood, one of the most authentic parts of the city. It looks like a small village right inside the city. Take a look all of these photos on my Flickr account.
And most importantly, the fruit and the produce of Spring is just amazing. After the confusion and scarceness of March, April arrives with real strawberries, fava beans, asparagus, sweet peas and artichokes. And in a short while there will come apricots and lots and lots more! This year I want to be more courageous and try new dishes with some produce that I never usually use. Like artichokes! I am somehow scared of cooking artichokes. I love them, but I think since I haven’t grown up seeing/eating artichokes I am scared of cleaning and cooking them well! But this year, before it’s too late, I want to try and make Valeria’s Carciofi alla Romana (Roman style artichokes).
Sherrie —who’s a fellow Saveur Blog Awards finalist I have just discovered— has a beautiful fried rice with Spring veggies on her blog. If you want more Italian-inspired recipes with Spring produce make sure you read Valentina’s post about what’s in season in April where she has a gorgeous frittata that’s so green it looks like Persian Kuku.
What are your favorite recipes with Spring produce? Feel free to link them to me for inspiration in the comments.
As for me, I have just discovered that unlike what what I thought, spinach is actually a Spring produce! Actually spinach is around right since winter, but it’s during spring that it’s at its best. Who would’ve thought? I think we’re all so used to buying frozen spinach that we no longer remember when is its real season. Mind you, frozen raw vegetable is the next best thing after fresh ones since they’re frozen when they’re in season and by freezing they conserve about 98% of their nutritional values, and they’re very convenient.
This Persian spinach and eggs dish is incredibly simple, and yet it’s more than just two eggs with tossed veggies. Mainly thanks to the aromas of garlic and onion and the unmistakable taste of turmeric, merged together with lemon and orange juice that refreshes the palate. (It’s a great way to use those last oranges of the season with little juice and flavor.) In Iran we use only the juice of bitter orange, which is a hybrid between mandarin and another citrus called pomelo. It’s tangy, not as sweet as orange/mandarin and nor as sour as lemons. This acidity combined with the sweetness of onions creates a soft, balanced flavor.
Turmeric, is truly a magic spice, that not only brings wonderful aroma and color to your dishes, but it’s also a very potent anti-infiammatory. So try to add it regularly to your cooking and you’ll get sick less often!
I don’t boil and drain the spinach. Spinach and other (leafy) vegetables are so tender that would over cook quickly and release all their goodness (minerals and nutritional substances) in the boiling water that is often discarded. If you do boil your vegetables, do not throw the water away! Drink it (some lemon juice and seasoning help) or conserve it for cooking pasta, rice or legumes. After sautéing garlic and onions with turmeric and lemon/orange juice, I simply add the spinach and cover the pan with a lid and let it sweat. Even if the pile of spinach is much taller than the pan, don’t worry, just place the lid and once the leaves are heated they shrink.
Now it’s time for flowers to bloom in our lawn, so we break the eggs in the spinach and let them cook with the flavors of onions, garlic and turmeric. The finishing touch, the one that brings the aroma to these flowers, is a drop of saffron infusion on each egg. There, your bouquet of Narcissus is ready. It’s a very romantic name for such a rustic, simple dish. Nargessi — the Persian word for Narcissus— gets its name from eggs looking like white and yellow daffodils in the middle of green spinach. It would make a healthy and filling savory breakfast or brunch full of protein and iron. And it’s so rich yet simple that you can have it for a quick lunch, and why not, even a week night dinner.
There are many ways you can cook spinach and eggs. What is your favorite? Tell me about your creative spinach recipes in the comments!
- 1 large (or 2 medium) onion, sliced
- 1 large (or 2 medium) garlic clove, crushed and minced very finely
- 1 heap tbsp of turmeric
- 500-750g/1-1.5lb raw spinach leaves, trimmed, washed and dried
- 4 organic free range eggs
- juice of 1 lemon
- juice of ½ orange
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 tsp saffron, melted in 1 tbsp hot water
- 1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil in a large non stick pan. First add the minced garlic and stir. Once you start to smell it (after some seconds) add the onions. Sauté on medium-high flame until the onion is golden. Then turn down the heat and let the onions soften throughly. If necessary add a splash of water.
- Add the turmeric to the sauté and stir well to combine.
- Add the spinach to the pan. Don't worry if the pile of spinach is much higher than the pan. Make sure the flame is low. Place the lid, pushing the spinach leaves inside, and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Now that the lower spinach leaves are soften and cooked, turn the leaves so that the ones on top that are still raw can cook. Place back the lid for another 5 minutes.
- When the leaves are almost cooked, add half of the salt and the juices, stirring well to combine the onions and garlic with spinach leaves.
- With a wooden spoon make four small holes in the spinach and carefully break each egg into a hole. Turn up the heat and place the lid for a couple of minutes. (depends on how cooked you prefer your eggs).
- Pour a drop of saffron infusion on each egg, add the rest of salt and pepper and serve hot with wholegrain bread.
Coming from Iran, she mostly develops her recipes by combining the aromas of the middle east with the flavors of the Mediterranean, specially Italy, where she has found her second home.