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Baby Spinach Salad And Spinach Roots With Lentils

Mar 29, 2011

Spinach Salad
What makes me happier than the coming of the spring is the ending of the cats' love-making season. It matters a big deal to us because our life is intertwined with that of cats. Although living on the entrance floor is conveniently pleasant, it's not without its drawbacks: each of our windows is occupied by a stray cat. Literally. Behind the kitchen window, the most privileged spot around the house, lives Panda, a well-built, black and white cat with slanting eyes. Other cats compete throughout the day for that spot but Panda is its permanent tenant.

Competition gets fiercer towards dinner time, when I'm in the kitchen the longest and cats have a better chance to make themselves noticed and be fed. From the other side of the glass, they watch my every move and Panda who is always on the frontline leaps towards the window glass with her humongous body and bounces back, each time I approach the window. I try avoiding their glances as long as I can, but eventually I surrender for I can't resist their pitiful eyes. I open the window to their excitement and feed them all.

Just a couple of weeks before our own house-cat Bebek passed away, we opened our balcony space to the service of Karman Çorman (messy and mixed) and her five newborns. I prepared them a nice wooden box, wrapped it with plastic paper and lined the inside with one of my awkwardly hand-knitted sweaters, the first piece I made when I took up knitting. There they spent the winter but Messy dissappeared as soon as her offsprings were done with breast-feeding.

As unfriendly and undomesticated as she was unfortunately she passed her character onto her babies too and they have grown to be very timid and jumpy. Although we feed them and let them freely wander inside the house they still haven't come around to thrusting us. It is quiet depressing for cat lovers like us, not being able to pet kittens as cute as they are. Recently, while Tavsancik was sleeping in her reserved corner in our living room, I sneaked from her back to pet her a little and she jerked in shock as if electrified when the tip of my finger barely touched her back hair!

The inevitable tragic end of most street cats in Istanbul claimed the life of one of the babies, Sarman who was run over by a car couple of weeks ago. I couldn't sleep for days thinking I could have saved him if we had kept him inside the house. The remaining four are clueless and hanging around: Zoro, Tavsancik, and the twins. The rest of the cat population are: the well mannered Big Head, Godzilla who is the shrew of the hood and rather delicate as opposed to her looks as well as her name, and one little tiny loner who looks like the Skeletor from He-man.

Cats of the Hood
cats of the hood: the tip of the iceberg

With the coupling season, suddenly new cats from other neighborhoods poured in and we've been seeing numerous well-built, gangster-like male cats not only chasing and terrorising our baby cats but also eating all the food we leave for them. And in their spare times, they shamelessly sun-bath in our balcony as if they are most welcome. The worst of all is that I get exposed to some quiet disturbing scenes I rather not reveal here, too. Not to mention the ear-splitting shrieks behind our bedroom window that wake us up at nights. All in all, it would be a safe assumption to say that all our cats are pregnant by now. A quick math gives me an estimation of 8x4=32 babies might be on board. On top of that, Messy appeared a week ago as pregnant as a cat can get and was surveilling our balcony for a spot to deliver and ditch her babies.

 

Spinach Roots with Lentils
Spinach Salad
Enough of gossiping about cats' love lives and off to the topic of the day. Here, I present you the best and conveniently the easiest spinach salad dressing I know of. Inner baby leaves of the spinach bouquet are, no need to say, best for salad purposes. The soy sauce may deceive you into thinking it might be an Asian dish but it's not. On the contrary it makes a prefect accompaniment to meat dishes like Beef Bourguignon and Beef Stroganoff as well as pastas with heavy cream sauces.

Spinach Roots with Lentils

Making spinach salad is nothing new but I bet you've never thought of cooking the roots before. I know in most homes the roots go to trash but after you learn to cook this one I promise you will go for the spinach more for its roots than its leaves. An unconventional recipe from Adana, the southern Mediterranean city in Turkey, where mom spent her childhood. Garlicy and sour, very Adana-like. Although I grew up eating this I am surprised nobody around me knows about this which made it a perfect blog subject.

So with the roots, make the lentil stew, with the baby leaves make the salad. And with the rest of the leaves - well I can't tell you everything, can I?

Spinach Salad

Spinach Salad

Ingredients:

  • 300 gr baby spinach leaves, washed and drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce, "with less salt" if you can find
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • a handful of walnuts, crushed
  • some shaved Parmesan

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine garlic, soy sauce, olive oil and walnuts. If there is time, let it rest for 1-2 hours.
  2. In a salad bowl, combine spinach leaves with the sauce. Toss to coat the leaves evenly with the sauce. Serve with shaved parmesan.

Spinach Roots with Lentils

Ingredients:

  • 2 inch /4 cm long roots of 1 kg spinach
  • 1/2 cup black lentils, washed and drained
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper paste
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dry and crumbled mint leaves

Directions:

  1. Boil lentils in 1.5 cup of water for 15 minutes. Leave them aside with the water you boiled them in.
  2. Discard outer branches and trim the woody ends of spinach roots. Soak them in a bowl of water for 5 minutes then drain. Repeat this until no soil can be seen at the bottom of the bowl.
  3. In a stainless steal pot melt butter over medium heat and sauté the onions for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the tomato and pepper pastes and continue sautéing for another minute. Add and sauté spinach roots for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add lentils and the water you boiled them in, the lemon juice and garlic. Increase the heat and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce heat to minimum and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes until roots become darker green. Add dried mint and salt to taste. Serve and eat while hot.
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