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Spinach, Feta, and Reenacting James Bond

Imitating Ina--Day Eight.

Becky Graebner


February 24, 2014 - 8:30 am


You win some. You lose some. This will be the unfortunate theme for today’s recipe.  (Don’t worry, I didn’t burn the house down.)

This week, I elected to make Ina Garten’s spinach with feta and pine nuts. 

2 ½ tablespoons good olive oil

1 ½ cups yellow onion (chopped)

1 pound fresh baby spinach

1 ½ tablespoons toasted pine nuts

½ cup feta (diced)

 1 lemon (1 ½ tablespoons juice)

kosher salt (1 ½ teaspoons)

black pepper (1 teaspoon)

I chose to halve the recipe because a) this type of dish doesn’t keep well and b) I didn’t want to eat 1 lb. of spinach by myself.

First, I heated the olive oil in a sauté pan and added the onion. I cooked the onion over medium heat until it was tender (about 8 to 10 minutes).  Next, I added the lemon juice (about 1 ½ tablespoons if you are making the full recipe) and the spinach.  I used tongs to turn the spinach in the pan until it was slightly wilted.  Then, I topped the spinach with a bit of lemon zest and removed the pan from the heat.

Now, here is where the problem started.  “Frailty, thy name is Salt.”

Ina says to mix in 1 ½ teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, the Feta cheese, and pine nuts after the pan has been removed from the heat.   I halved these amounts because I was making half the recipe.  Unfortunately, even with half the salt, the dish was too salty.  When I attempted to choke down the final result, I felt like I was reenacting James Bond in Casino Royale after Le Chiffre poisons him and he is forced to drink salt to vomit…  It was that bad.  Way too much salt!!

This recipe is good in theory—it is very simple to make and the lemon is a nice touch–however, the proportions for the ingredients are a bit off. I suggest starting out with ½ teaspoon of salt in your dish and going from there.  Don’t forget that Feta in itself is quite salty!

I hope you all have better luck than I did with this recipe. If you manage to get the proportions correct, let me know!  I will try to make this one again in the future—but with less salt.

Love you, Ina. This time, it just didn’t work out.

Becky Graebner moved to the east coast from Wisconsin in 2011. She is still a rabid Badger and Packer fan, although she does support the Caps in hockey. She enjoys Formula 1 and Indycar. She likes the eastern seaboard but does miss track days with friends and family at Elkhart Lake and the Milwaukee Mile. Her favorite drivers are Kenny Brack and Robby Gordon.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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Spinach is tricky! I don't care for it sautéed at all, not even with the addition of toasted pine nuts and maybe some raisins!

I have 5 stand-bys: creamed; raw in a salad, sandwich, or wrap (must be tender, young); in Spinach-Cheese Manicotti or Spanakopita; or in a nifty little Spinach Feta Turnover combined with feta, onion, garlic, beaten egg, and dill, wrapped in refrigerated pizza crust or crescent roll dough. My preference is the sweet-savory combo you get with the latter. (And oh yes, I also add a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds to the tops before baking.)

These freeze really well, and for a working stiff, or somebody who just needs something to grab on the way out the door to a meeting or lecture over the lunch hour, are hard to beat. I often make a big batch, wrap each one, then toss them all in a big freezer bag. By the time you get to your destination, it’s ready to eat (or you can “wave” it).

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Way before salt, I think the first mistake was attempting to cook spinach. Ick. :P
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

I was so taken by your first article in this Imitating Ina series (a roast in the oven, in combination with a crackling fire being one of my favorite ways of taming winter blues, so right off the bat I succumbed to the high simpatico factor) that I eventually bought this cookbook, though not without adhering to my new rule about books: borrow a copy before making a purchase decision--particularly heroic in this instance since I’ve never made a Garten recipe I wasn’t mad about.

I’ve only made 3 recipes so far among the many I’ve tabbed, but can report the same problem with salt in the second one, “Easy Tomato Soup.” (I skipped the croutons because of the orzo.) A divine dish but Holy Cow!! way too much salt. And I love and have a high tolerance for salt, frequently adding it or upping the quantity if I make something a second time (except in the case of sweets, where I’ve learned to add it automatically the first time if none is listed).

In any case thanks for this very enjoyable series!

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you very much for the kind comment, MayberryyLady! Like you, I love salt and also have a high tolerance for it, but I've learned to be wary of Ina's salt suggestions. :)

Any suggestions for "Easy Tomato Soup" before I get to it in the book??

Thank you for reading!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You are welcome! How kind of you to respond.

I think you will like this soup very much! It's a perfect winter soup. Next time, I plan to make it exactly as given, except for lowering the salt content.

The recipe calls for 1 Tbl of salt in the soup itself, and 2 tsp in the water in which you boil the orzo. Next time, I plan to eliminate all the salt from the orzo water, and add just 1 tsp of salt in the soup itself to start. I will be surprised if it will need more than that.

Even as salty as it was, this soup was so good that I froze the balance. I do plan to eventually eat all of it, but just a cup at a time instead of the large bowl I'd prefer.

It will be fun to hear what you think of it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks for the tips! I will be sure to refer back to your comment! :)

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You wrote: "Now, here is where the problem started. “Frailty, thy name is Salt.”
First of all, all salt tis not equal. Use kosher salt, nicht table salt ...better control Second, ALL cheffies over season.. jaded palate syndrome.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, FlockmasterM I did use kosher salt. :/ You're right though--Kosher salt is a different animal than "salt."

Thanks for reading!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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