1 December 2008


My latter-day habit is this: I splurge and binge. Not to worry. I splurge on spinach (and I talk kilos of spinach here); I binge on that same spinach. What else you want to know, Dear Reader?

All right, I used to binge on apples – massively. But then it occurred to me, for no particular reason, it was not so fashionable any longer, so I switched.

In other words, it dawned on me I am pretty much imperfect. What’s more, I kind of like it. Strongly.

To go on, every so often I talk to…myself. My friend Vijay says this is fine; it is just one of the ways, he goes on, I express my creativity (stifled in my childhood). But then Vijay studies philosophy and can rationalize almost anything; and his is my good friend, so I’m not sure he is purely objective.

I like to call myself a simpleton, although I am not. Ok, I heard you: I think I am not. And in the moments of enlightenment, when, with a start, I realize that my dear mind has run rampant and dares repeatedly flail my innocent nature with all those witty rotten remarks, I gently ask my mind to stop doing it and then call myself quite simply – dear genius.

My saucepans are a way too more expensive than my shoes. Mostly.

I start my days with what’s- for-breakfast thought, and round them off with that same thought, too (‘what’s for breakfast tomorrow?’). In between, my major point of focus is – what’s for lunch and then, for dinner. And I really, really like it. Very much.

I also digress when I talk. Just like now.

So let me gently bring your attention back to spinach. Since I re-visited the virtues of this sort of green vegetation lately, I’m having a difficulty to pay my attention to anything else but spinach: its nuttiness, its lushness, its meatiness, its deep taste, its natural creaminess.

In addition, I can’t help but smiling a Cheshire-cat smile about how the greenness of the spinach goes well with all things orange: from my orange colander to fresh, tart, fragrant mandarin oranges.

Now, Dear Reader let me take you – for a brief moment - to the country which does not exist anymore in real but only in people’s memories (and in state archives), the USSR. What with then governmental restrictions on imported goods, and – ahem – foods, we the USSR-ians ate locally and seasonally indeed. As I was growing up, citrus fruits – namely, mandarins galore – found themselves on my plate, or rather directly in my mouth mostly toward the new year’s holiday season: sometime around mid-December. It was this time of year when market stalls moaned under heavy boxes filled to the brims with mandarins. Tart, fragrant, soaked with the sun of neighbouring Georgia, unwilling to quickly yield to occasional pokes by impatient children (me), they were the tokens of approaching holidays. When my mother brought those boisterous orange fruits from the market, I knew it’d come time to be looking forward to more treats and to numerous presents, no less. The mandarin fragrance and the aroma of a pine tree, these were (and always will be) the quintessentials of holidays season to me.

So, when a few days back I spotted plump, voluptuous, boastful mandarins (still bearing green leaves on their tops) at the market, I was so on a ballpark. Those Proustian flashbacks, no less.

Spinach salad with cranberries and mandarins

The salad is that easy to make. It is essential that you use fresh organic ingredients; otherwise you’ll find yourself saying meh continuously.

Serves 2 (this is, of course, ideally).

For the salad:

200gr fresh green spinach
a generous handful fresh cranberries
2 mandarins (oranges, or a combination of both, will do too)
Pine nuts for decoration

For the dressing:

1 Tsp lemon juice (you can use white wine vinegar instead)
3 Tsp extra-virgin olive oil
a small pinch of fine cane sugar
a small pinch of sea salt
1/8 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
1 tsp mandarin (orange) zest

This is what you do:
Wash, drain and stem the spinach leaves; cut them into rather thick strips.

Wash mandarins; grate mandarin zest; peel and divide them in segments. Pick out any white pith.

Cut cranberries in halves.

Arrange the spinach, mandarins and cranberries on two salad plates (or, as I did, on one), sprinkle the pine nuts over and pour the dressing on top.

This is how you make dressing:

In a small bowl, dissolve salt and sugar in lemon juice. Taste and adjust, if needed. Salt and acid substances have such harmonious relationship in which the former (salt) brings the latter (lemon juice, vinegar) into a balance. Add the fresh-ground pepper.

Using a fork or small whisk, beat in olive oil (a little at a time).

Stir the mandarin zest into the finished mixture.

(You may want to add 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard before you start adding the olive oil)

I also think fresh-ground coriander will add interesting notes to the overall flavor combination.

In fact, this salad is a testimony to autumn and the gifts it bestows upon us: cranberries, spinach, mandarins – each contribute to the zestiness of the other.

P.S. My Gentle Reader, as I was writing this post, Vijay – my friend the philosopher – gave me a call and told me about something that made me clutch my head in despair. I think I shall better stop binge-ing at all. And you know, just in case, I really hope you will hear from me soon again.


white on rice couple said...

Bing-ing on spinach is a good thing. I should binge on spinach instead of....french fries!!

I never knew mandarins were so plentiful in USSR! How lucky you are to be able to eat glorious local mandarins! the salad is so bright with all the flavors and colors too!

Astra Libris said...

Anya, it is so wonderful to feel school winding down for the season and hence to be able to read your blog again! I have truly missed my regular dose of your beautiful words!

Spinach is the best, isn't it? In fact, I'm about to go make a batch of spinach soup... Mmmm... and then I think I shall make your beautiful spinach salad! Your recipe sounds absolutely heavenly!!

P.S. I talk to myself too - I think it's a great way to process creative thoughts, or to remind myself that I need to pause occasionally amidst the creativity and do the laundry! :-)

Cinnamonda said...

To be perfect would be boring, Anya!
My spinach of the moment, so to speak :), is bananas! Bananas and Turkish yoghurt to be more exact. I eat an unmentionable amount of bananas in a week!
Your salad recipe is just perfect! Unfortunately I think that here in the country that used to be next-door neighbours with the country that no longer exists, fresh cranberries are a little difficult to find (or very pricy if you do find them) this time of the year. I'll have to return to this recipe later.


Cookiemouse said...

Salads with fruit and veggie combinations are cool.

Anna said...

Hi Anya! Thank you for viewing my blog. I love your pictures and your writing. I've been wanting something to make with fresh cranberries in them. I will keep visiting and I hope you stop in on me too :)

jesse said...

Bingeing on spinach? I can think of a lot worse than that! Like umm, pumpkin pie filling, for one. ;)

That salad looks so fresh and summery... I am craving it right now!