Spinach Stems and Ironing

Have you ever met anyone who told you they enjoyed ironing? If so, you’ve heard words like rhythmic, relaxing, simple, or methodical. I’ve also hear ironing described as a way to show someone how much you love them. In the 70’s, teen girls used to iron their hair straight (and the heated styling market has boomed ever since).

We don’t like ironing in my house but I do occasionally assign a similar chore to my husband. I ask him to remove the stems from spinach leaves, a totally unnecessary and tedious task that I do not recommend you get hooked on. I just don’t like the spiny, stringy, crunchy appendages that accompany the beautiful green nutritious leaves. We’ll call this a 1st world preference. It does not require technique, so don’t bother going to YouTube to see it done, just pull the stem off with your hands.

In any case, Bart doesn’t mind it. Almost enjoys it, as long as we can put football on the kitchen TV while I do other prep work. I try to time this ‘stem separating ritual’ just as I am prepping his weekday lunches – so as to impart some type of cooking bartering system in our kitchen. Regardless, now he too is hooked on stem free spinach.

Now what to do with these stems? There are two easy options, but I consider it an excuse to make cacio e pepe pasta. This is the simplest Italian dish you’ll ever make.

For about 2-3 people as a main course:

Boil 5-6 oz. spaghetti until almost al dente (I use whole wheat pasta)

Save 1 cup of the drained pasta water*

Melt 2 Tbsp of butter, the spinach stems, and a generous amount of pepper, and cook on medium until butter is brown and stems have softened.

Add in ½ cup of the pasta water, then the pasta.

Incorporate butter, stems, and pasta. Add more pasta water if the sauce is too tight.

Add ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (probably not the kind from a green can)

Stir together in the warm pot.

Serve immediately.

*The first time you’ll forget to put a bowl under the strainer to catch the pasta water. You’ll remember the 2nd time…

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