When thrifty Italian, Greek, and Turkish cooks clean spinach, they rarely discard the stems, as they can be served as a room-temperature salad dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice. This recipe, which comes from Salonika, a Family Cookbook, has a Turkish name, but the nut sauce is Hispano-Arabic. (If it had a few minced cloves of garlic, the sauce would be a Greek skordalia.) In Moorish Spain, nut sauces were widely used, and almonds were the predominant thickener. Walnuts are more common to the Sephardic cooking of Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans, however. You could prepare this dish with Swiss chard stems as well, and the sauce also would be good on cooked zucchini, green beans, beets, or cauliflower.
Put the spinach stems, onion, and olive oil in a saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until stems are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Lift out and discard the onion. Pour the contents of the pan into a sieve or colander and let drain for 15 minutes.
To make the walnut sauce, combine the ground nuts, soaked bread, vinegar, olive oil, and
Place the well-drained spinach stems in a serving bowl and pour the sauce over them. Allow to marinate for a few hours or as long as overnight. Serve at room temperature.
© 2000 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.