Seasonal Cooking: Spinach with Walnuts and Feta

Deep dark spinach is seasonal to the cold weather months. It’s vitamin-rich leaves are like a promise of spring to me. Slightly bitter, heartier than lettuce, and a good compliment to the rich, strong flavors of hearty food.

When I was a kid, I hated spinach. Until adulthood the only way I ever ate spinach was nose-plugged little bites of frozen spinach out of a box. It was so squishy and bitter, we used to squeeze all the icky green water out of it to make it as small as possible before swallowing our requisite three bites without even chewing.

Then one day, when I was maybe 20, a friend made me a spinach salad. I know. I know that it’s silly that a girl from California never really enjoyed spinach salads until then. But it had bacon, and egg, and a lovely homemade dressing, and it changed my mind about spinach.

If I’d been served spinach the way I make it for my kids when I was a child, I don’t think I’d have wasted 20 years hating it. This spinach is melt-in-your mouth tender, and not at all bitter. The cheese and nuts make it special. I almost always add dried cranberries as well, but I didn’t have any when I made it this week. This is another great base recipe that you can change up to suit your tastes. Pecans would be good, instead of walnuts. Blue cheese instead of feta. Raisins instead of cranberries. Or go wild. I’ve made it with mandarin oranges and almonds. I think the key is to add something with crunch, and something chewy. And cheese.

Spinach with Walnuts and Feta

  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1 cup of walnuts (or whatever nuts strike your fancy)
  • 1 cup of crumbled feta (or…well you know…choose your cheese)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper (I use lemon pepper sometimes. Yum.)
  • (I didn’t use them in the dish I took pictures of, but some kind of dried fruit is really, really good in this recipe. I love cranberries especially.)

When you get started on this recipe, you need to have everything all set up and ready to go. Because once it gets going, it gets going fast. So measure out the cheese and walnuts while a couple of tablespoons of olive oil are heating up over medium-high heat in your biggest frying pan.

When the oil is hot, add about half the spinach. The whole bag won’t fit in your pan. Toss it around in the oil and wait a minute or two until the spinach is wilted. Add the rest of the spinach and toss around again until all the spinach is wilted. It always shocks me how much the spinach reduces. And how quickly.

See that? That’s an entire big bag of spinach about 2 minutes after I started cooking it. See all that steam? That’s because spinach is almost all water. Don’t let it over cook. When it looks about like this, tender and wilted, then it’s time to add the walnuts. Just dump them in and toss, let them heat up while you season the dish with salt and pepper. I love to use lemon pepper. If you’re using cranberries or other dried fruit, add it with the nuts.

Take the pot off the heat and add the feta.  Mix it up and let the cheese start to melt a little.

I usually serve this with chicken or fish. Mmm…or steak. But it can also stand alone as a light vegetarian meal.

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