Why make a spinach stem salad, you ask?
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.
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 has got roots and the 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 ıspanaklı yumurta or your ıspanaklı börek, it will convince you to like it (we were never big spinach fans until we came to Turkey).
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 or 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 brought out with a basic salad dressing.
Spinach Stem Salad
- 250 g spinach stems washed & trimmed
- 1 clove garlic peeled & grated
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 drizzle pomegranate molasses optional
- 1 pinch salt & pepper
- Bring a saucepan of water to the boil.
- Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer and add the spinach stems.
- Meanwhile, prepare your dressing by mixing the olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt & pepper.
- After 5 minutes, remove the stems and drain.
- Arrange your spinach stems on a plate and drizzle your dressing over the top.
- 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 our 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.
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
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
- 250 g spinach stems removed, washed & trimmed into 1 inch pieces
- ½ coffee mug fine bulgur wheat approx 100g
- 1 onion peeled, halved & sliced into half moons
- 1 red pepper deseeded & roughly chopped
- 2 chillies finely sliced
- 1 clove garlic peeled & thinly sliced
- 2 dessert spoons tomato paste 1 for the spinach stems, 1 for the bulgur
- 2 dessert spoons olive oil 1 for the spinach stems, 1 for the bulgur
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 1 wedge lemon juiced
- salt & pepper to season
- Add your bulgur wheat to a large bowl and boil the kettle.
- Using the same mug you used to measure your bulgur wheat, add 1 dessert spoonful of salça (tomato paste).
- Once your water has boiled in the kettle, fill your mug with the hot water and stir until the salça mixes in.
- Pour this over your bulgur wheat and cover with a lid or clean cloth.
- Place to one side.
- Now add 1 dessert spoonful olive oil to a frying pan and gently heat.
- Add your onion, peppers, chilli and garlic and stir around for 5 minutes.
- Now add your spices - not the mint - and continue to stir.
- The idea is to just soften the vegetables and allow them to take on the flavours of the spices.
- Add your spinach stems to the pan and continue to stir and gently sauté for 3-4 minutes.
- Now add the rest of your tomato paste along with ¼ cup of water (use the same mug).
- Mix everything together and simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Remove the cloth from your bulgur wheat and add the rest of your olive oil, mint and salt & pepper.
- Fluff up the bulgur by forking through it and then add your spinach stem mixture.
- Mix everything together well and your salad is ready to serve.
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice over your spinach stem salad when you serve.
- Calories are approximate
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.
This spicy spinach stem salad tastes great served with barbecued 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.
For now, though, revel in the vibrant green goodness of the spinach stems in these two tasty salads…