Monday, July 31, 2006

Seizing success...

... from the jaws of failure.

Tonight I made one fo the recipes I perused in the August issue of Food and Wine magazine. I don't usually read Food and Wine (too many meaty recipes, or so I thought), but this issue caught my eye in the airport newstand with a title heralding "healthy recipes". I was even more pleased when I picked it up and flipped through to see that the healthy options included several vegetarian dishes. So I gave it a whirl, and am actually considering a subscription. I enjoyed it thoroughly and saw several dishes I'd like to make. This pasta is the first of several soon to make an appearance from the August Food and Wine issue.

Spaghetti with Lemon, Chile and Creamy Spinach as a whole was pretty easy to prepare. A little fiddly (mincing garlic, chopping the chile, zesting two lemons) but overall the prep was minimal and definitely quick enough for weeknight consideration. My changes to the recipe were only using the zest of one lemon (as it was what I had), using fat free instead of low fat yogurt and using one pound of spinach.

Despite the challenges I had in making this dish, M. and I both enjoyed the results thoroughly. I had some issues with the spinach. I washed it just before adding it to the sauce, and it made it very runny. I think this recipe would work best with washed and dried spinach, or even bagged. But I was in a hurry, and so skipped the spinning/drying step. The runniness was "fixed" with a tablespoon of flour and cornstarch added to the sauce, but there was a tense moment as I looked at my pasta "soup". I'm also not crazy about the fat-free yogurt (which I happened to have on hand). I think the dish would benefit from the low-fat yogurt called for in the recipe in terms of texture. The sauce was delicious, but I couldn't help but think that a slightly richer yogurt would have made the dish seem a bit more decadent instead of a bit thin. I wished I'd had more lemon zest, and would add two chilis next time as the one I added disappeared into the dish with little enhancement to the overall melding of the three flavors.

In the end, I will make this dish again as I think it had great potential. The errors I've identified were a factor in our enjoyment of the dish, however the result was still tasty even with these errors so trying again seems worth it. I think this dish might end up in my "weekday repetoire" - one of those dishes you memorize the ingredients for, can decide to make while at the grocery store, and can whip up pretty easily to great appreciation from the eating audience.

This is my attempt at making the dish.

This is Food and Wine's attempt.

Spaghetti with Lemon, Chile and Creamy Spinach
Food and Wine Magazine - August 2006

Food and Wine's notes - Instead of using heavy cream, this tangy, spicy dish calls for low-fat yogurt, which is packed with protein and calcium. Stirring a little flour into the yogurt prevents curdling as it simmers and creates a thick, rich and satisfying sauce for all kinds of pasta and vegetables.

My notes - Be careful of how much water is clinging to your spinach leaves. I washed mine right before adding them to the sauce, and it made the sauce way too runny. Adding a touch more yogurt as well as a tablespoon of flour and cornstarch saved the texture. The total dish was tasty, but I'd definitely like to try it again with drier spinach.
  • 1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red Thai chile, minced
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and return to the saucepan.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the yogurt with the flour until smooth. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and chile and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the yogurt and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring. Add the spinach by the handful and cook until wilted, stirring. When all of the spinach has been added, stir in the lemon zest and juice and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the sauce to the spaghetti and toss well to coat. Mound in bowls, sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve right away.

NOTES One Serving 329 Calories, 7 gm Total Fat, 2.8 gm Saturated Fat, 49 gm Carbohydrates, 9 gm Fiber.

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Tanna said...

Yeah, I love spinach but you simply can not ignore it is mostly liquid. This sounds really excellent. I'm always looking for new way to use spinach. And I usually use more than the recipe calls for.

helios said...

Tanna, I definitely was reminded of that fact with this dish. But I'd definitely recommend trying it... with drier spinach. And I used a full pound - so I used more then the recipe called for as well. :)