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Sautéed Baby Spinach with Lemon Zest and Cream

The zest of citrus contains the fruit’s essential oil and is packed with bold flavor. Used first in strips to infuse into the cream sauce, then finely grated and mixed with the cooked spinach, the layers of lemon brighten this otherwise rich, creamy dish with their vibrance.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 lb. baby spinach, stemmed and rinsed well
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Pour the cream into a saucepan. Using a vegetable peeler, peel 2 strips of lemon zest, each 2 inches long, from the lemon. Set the lemon aside. Add the zest strips to the cream and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook the cream, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 8 minutes; watch that the cream does not boil too vigorously. Remove the zest strips and discard.

Heat a large fry pan over medium heat. Add the spinach, with the rinsing water still clinging to the leaves. Sprinkle with the sugar and toss well. Cover the pan and cook the spinach for 3 minutes. Uncover and toss the leaves well. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the spinach is wilted and tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

Place the spinach in a colander and, using a wooden spoon, press on it firmly to remove all the excess liquid. Chop the drained spinach coarsely and add it to the pan with the reduced cream. Finely grate the remaining lemon zest and add to the spinach (reserve the fruit for another use). Season the spinach with the salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the spinach to a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Vegetables, by Jodi Liano (Oxmoor House, 2008).