Spinach Stem Salad Recipes – Ispanak Kökü Salatası

Let’s keep things simple: Most traditional Turkish food is as food should be – you take your ingredients, you make your dish. And if there is anything you have discarded while making your dish, you don’t discard it; you make another dish from it. Well, it makes sense. Life should be simple like that, shouldn’t it?

If we’ve got a chicken carcass, we make a stock to make a good Turkish rice pilaf or bulgur pilaf – or whatever else we can think of. The carcass is never discarded without first utilising it for culinary purposes. And  the same is also true of vegetable carcasses. We’re talking spinach stems for this article. Spinach stem salad to be precise.

Spinach Stem Recipes

First things first, if you are wandering around Fethiye market or other markets around Turkey, the type of spinach  you will see is not the delicate, flimsy leaves you get in the cellophane packets in British supermarkets – those airy leaves that sit aloof atop a salad.

Winter Vegetables

Spinach piled high on Fethiye Market

Turkish spinach is rock hard! It means business. It’s dark green; hardy, with large, thick crunchy leaves…and it’s muddy, too. It needs a good wash so as not to be crunching grit along with your greenery. It’s got roots and te spinach stems are hefty with 10 or so sprouting leaves.

No, there’s nothing delicate about Turkish spinach stems. But once you’ve given your batch a good wash and chopped the leaves up to make your ispankalı yumurta or your ispanaklı börek, it will convince you to like it (we were never big spinach fans until we came to Turkey).

Washed And Trimmed Spinach

Keep hold of those spinach stems

And so what do you do with the rooty bit at the bottom of your leaves – all those spinach stems you chopped off? Well it could go into a vegetable stock, of course.  

But the beauty of spinach is, it’s like having two ingredients in one. The leaves and the stems. Remember a while back when we did a recipe using wild radish leaves; turp otu salatası? Well, we can use our spinach stems to make spinach stem salad. In Turkish, it translates as spinach root salad.

We’ve got two versions of spinach stem salad for you. One is typically Turkish – the same dressing as the wild radish leaf salad and the Turkish broccoli meze. So full of flavour and your dark winter greens are all of a sudden, bright and sunny. The next one is based on Turkish ingredients and flavours, bursting with colour – a favourite for us.

Spinach stems are not second best. Try these tasty salads and we’re sure you’ll agree!

Spinach Stem Salad Recipes

Let’s first of all make our Turkish meze of spinach stem salad. This is just a celebration of the spinach stems; their flavours brough out with a basic salad dressing.

Spinach Stem Salad
 
Author:
Recipe type: Meze
Cuisine: Turkish
Serves: 2
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
This is a basic meze dish that is both healthy and a celebration of the spinach stems that you might normally throw away.
Ingredients
  • 250g spinach - stems removed, washed and trimmed
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • Drizzle of nar ekşisi (optional)
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper
Instructions
  1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil
  2. Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer and add the spinach stems
  3. Meanwhile, prepare your dressing by mixing the olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper
  4. After 5 minutes, remove the stems and drain
  5. Arrange your spinach stems on a plate and drizzle your dressing over the top
Notes
The weight of your spinach stems and amount of dressing you use for your salad is not a hard and fast rule.
Make sure you wash your spinach stems thoroughly to get rid of any muddy residue. Also trim off any roots from the bottom.
If you can get nar ekşisi (pomegranate molasses), we love to drizzle a little over the top of ou spinach stems after dressing them.

A tasty and healthy meze that’s made from the bits you might otherwise throw away without thinking. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, we also enjoy a drizzle of nar ekşisi (pomegranate syrup) over these types of meze dishes, too.

Spinach Stem Salad

A tasty serving of spinach stem salad

A lot of the time, for your spinach stem salad, the stems will be much longer than these shown in the photo. They make a good addition to your meze table and are always a talking point.

Spicy Bulgur Wheat & Spinach Stem Salad

And now onto our second spinach stem salad. This is one of those salads that came about just from looking in the fridge and trying to decide what to eat, one day. We had a bagful of spinach stems that were sat next to some crimson red peppers. The colours looked great together so it started from there.

Very quick and simple – as a salad should be – but more substantial than the one above. And there’s a bit more cooking involved, too.

All In The Pan

Sauteed Spinach Stems

Saute your spinach stems in spices

As you can see in the photo above we cut the base of the stems from the spinach in this recipe. If you have long stems on your spinach, cut them into pieces about 1 inch in length.

The spinach stems are sauteed with onion, peppers, garlic and spices and then mixed into fine bulgur wheat. You can make this as hot or as mild as you like. We’re using fresh chillies so you can either omit them altogether, use them but remove the seeds, or just go for it and add the seeds too.

Let’s make spicy bulgur wheat and spinach stem salad.

Bulgur Wheat & Spinach Stem Salad
 
Author:
Recipe type: Meze
Cuisine: Turkish
Serves: 2
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
This healthy spinach stem salad is great on your meze table and also works well as a side dish for grilled meats or roast chicken.
Ingredients
  • 250g spinach, stems removed, washed and trimmed into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ coffee mug fine bulgur wheat (approx 100g)
  • 1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced into half moons
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 chillies, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 dessert spoonfuls salça (tomato paste), 1 for the spinach stems and 1 for the bulgur
  • 2 dessert spoonfuls olive oil, 1 for the spinach and one for the bulgur
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • Juice from a wedge of lemon
  • Salt and pepper to season
Instructions
  1. Add your bulgur wheat to a large bowl and boil the kettle.
  2. Using the same mug you used to measure your bulgur wheat, add 1 dessert spoonful of salça.
  3. Once your water has boiled in the kettle, fill your mug with the hot water and stir until the salça mixes in.
  4. Pour this over your bulgur wheat and cover with a lid or clean cloth.
  5. Place to one side.
  6. Now add 1 dessert spoonful olive oil to a frying pan and gently heat.
  7. Add your onion, peppers, chilli and garlic and stir around for 5 minutes.
  8. Now add your spices - not the mint - and continue to stir.
  9. The idea is to just soften the vegetables and allow them to take on the flavours of the spices.
  10. Add your spinach stems to the pan and continue to stir and gently saute for 3-4 minutes.
  11. Now add the rest of your salça along with ¼ cup of water (use the same mug).
  12. Mix everything together and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  13. Remove the cloth from your bulgur wheat and add the rest of your olive oil, mint and salt and pepper.
  14. Fluff up the bulgur by forking through it and then add your spinach stem mixture.
  15. Mix everything together well and your salad is ready to serve.
  16. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over your spinach stem salad when your serve.

Because we’re in Turkey, dried foods are just a part of our kitchen. Lots of Turkish recipes are based around them. So for us, this spinach stem salad is just a really tasty meal that we can make from odds and ends of fridge staples. We don’t need to go out and buy any special ingredients to make it.

Spinach Stem Salad Serving

A healthy salad of spinach stems and bulgur

This spicy spinach stem salad tastes great served with barbecue chicken. We also add some whatever Turkish yoghurt meze we’ve made on the side.

As far as we know, the type of spinach that is mainly grown in Turkey is Semi Savoy. This is why you get the crunchy stems. As for the fine bulgur, if you need to buy it specially and you are wondering what else you can use it for, traditional kısır and lentil köfte will make a good dent in the packet.

For now, though, revel in the vibrant green goodness of the spinach stems in these two tasty salads.

Afiyet Olsun!

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Comments

  1. So simple, yet delicious, as in the best things in life, looks wonderful!:)

  2. For years I threw away my spinach roots – I still feel the guilt. I use mine now to make spinachy rice.

  3. They have big spinach in Australia too and I’m learning how to cook with it. 🙂 I’ve been cutting the stems off but you’ve inspired me to use them. 🙂

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