This dish is nothing more than lightly boiled spinach seasoned with sesame oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. But once you taste it, you”ll think it’s manna from heaven. The recipe is from my second cookbook, The Pharaoh’s Feast (Four Walls Eight Windows). Published in the UK under the title, Feasting with the Ancestors. The title says it all. It’s a compendium of cooking throughout the ages and how it changed our world view. 110 simple recipes starting from the dawn of time to the present. The Arabic section of the book is particularly interesting. While in medieval times, western man was dining on rancid mutton and half cooked vegetables, in the Persian Empire they were dining on truffles from the Arabian Desert, cakes from Egypt, steamed couscous from Baghdad, and savories cooked with spices from India and China
Throughout this time, one gourmet reigns supreme, al-Baghdadi (the whole name is Muhammad ibn al-Hassan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Karim al-Katib al-Baghdadi). His cookbook, dating from the 13th century, defined Persian cooking. The problem with al-Baghdadi is that his recipes are, by and large, highly complex in terms of the spices used. There are recipes which include sumac, taro, murri, and coriander juice. So, it was great to come across this offering which doesn’t go to town with numerous ingredients and cooking techniques. al-Baghdadi put this dish under the heading of “relishes.” It’s simple and delicious. For a vegetarian, this is the best dish you’ll have. And if you’re not a vegetarian, you”ll savor it just as much.
My friends, eat like your a sultan tonight. The accompaniment to this dish is rice or couscous. I served it with pilaf rice. But whatever side dish you use, this simple spinach dish will be unforgettable.
2 to 2½ pounds spinach, stems removed, washed, drained, and chopped
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Parboil the spinach for 1 to 2 minutes in a large pan of boiling salted water. Drain and squeeze dry.
- Stir in the sesame oil, add the garlic, and mix.
- Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the cumin, coriander, and stir to mix.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.