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Lemony Spinach (a la TMJ)

My family is part Lebanese, and my parents are two of the best cooks on the planet. Every few weeks when I was growing up, we’d make a Lebanese feast together: lamb kebabs, hummus, homemade pita bread, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush… and with the leftover dough from pitas, my dad would make spinach pies: golden brown triangles of tender, homemade dough stuffed with spinach and onion that had a light, lemony zing.

These days, I’m not eating that lovely doughy crust, but when I found two giant bunches of fresh spinach in my fridge, I decided to re-visit the spinach filling.

I have a confession to make: I’m not spinach’s number one fan.

In fact, on my list of favorite greens — doesn’t everyone keep timely documentation of favorite greens? – spinach is my number two. But thanks to this recipe, inspired by my dad, it’s become a solid competitor for the top spot. Simple Lemon Spinach is a change of pace for a few reasons: It relies on onions instead of garlic. There’s no cumin, a.k.a., my favorite spice. It requires minimal ingredients, but delivers an abundance of flavor. Simple is beautiful.

Mel’s Favorite Greens
1. Collards
2. Spinach
3. Kale
4. Bok Choy
5. Turnip Greens
6. Beet Tops
7. Chard
And around 1,000,000. Mustard Greens

I’ve eaten this spinach for three days in a row, and I can’t get enough: alongside mini lamb burgers, scrambled with eggs and shrimp, sauteed with chopped tomatoes and grilled chicken. I think it tastes best with fresh spinach, but frozen will do, too. It’s not fussy!

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Lemony Spinach a la TMJ (Thomas Michael Joulwan, a.k.a., my dad)

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh spinach (or 16-ounce package frozen)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted (optional)
salt and ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons)

Directions:
1. If using fresh spinach, rinse well (very well! no grit here!) and dry the leaves. If the leaves are large, you should probably coarsely chop them. If using frozen spinach, defrost the package, then squeeze out all excess water; fluff the leaves before cooking.

2. In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil on low heat. VERY low heat, just enough heat to warm it up. Add the onion and pine nuts and cook, stirring only occasionally, until the onions are translucent, soft, and beginning to get brown bits. This can take 10-12 minutes at low heat. (This is a nice time to meditate: For three minutes, breathe in through your nose for 4 beats, then out through your nose for 4 beats. Stir the onions, then repeat for another three minutes. Stir the onions, repeat. Done!)

3. Add the spinach to the pan, stirring gently to allow the leaves to wilt. When they’re beginning to get soft, add the lemon juice and stir with a little more fervor. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then eat immediately.

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Make A Meal

Top a pile of this spinach with browned ground lamb, beef, or chicken, then drizzle with Tahini Dressing. A fried egg on top (and/or a diced, juicy tomato) finishes it off perfectly.

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13 Responses to “Lemony Spinach (a la TMJ)”

  1. jlautry says:

    yum!! made almost exact same thing today except I added sliced black olives. Yum, yum!

  2. Lori says:

    I just bought your book on Kindle. Can't wait to read it!

  3. Amy says:

    This looks crazy-good! I LOVE Lebanese food!

  4. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    I ate the last of my stash for breakfast this morning — the spinach, steamed broccoli, and cubes of grilled chicken sauteed in coconut oil — and now I'm sad it's over. BUT I got a head of spinach in my CSA delivery yesterday… yay!

  5. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Lori –> I'm so excited you're going to read my book! Be sure to let me know how you like it (or don't ;-)

    XO.

  6. morten_g says:

    God this was good!

    Looked nice with red onion.

  7. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, Morten! Glad you liked it — and red onion is a great mod to the recipe!

  8. Catherine says:

    I eat spinach several times a week. This was one of the best ways I have ever eaten it! Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Oh, how lovely! Thanks for letting me know. My dad is a wizard in the kitchen, and I’m so glad a little of his skills and magic passed down to me.

  9. jj says:

    This is totally crazy, but when I was in high school I had a Lebanese friend and his mom used to make this exact spinach. I remember pestering her to teach me the recipe, but after a few years I forgot all about it. I’m so delighted to find it again!

  10. TMJ says:

    Hi Mel; OK, so I read this and saw the reference to the book someone made above. This combined with the amazing image of the spinach (which I now see it not yours!!lol!) has gotten me hooked. I’m off to Amazon now to give the book a shot!

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