Photo: Davies + Starr

When it comes to leafy greens, spinach has always lacked broccoli rabe’s sex appeal. Blame that on the way it’s typically (over-)cooked. With the right light touch, spinach surprises—even as a cold side dish like Japanese oshitashi. In the spirit of that sushi-bar staple, Lupa’s Mark Ladner makes a hot-and-cold spinach that gets its heat from chili peppers and its refreshing cool from a stint in the deep freeze. Dress it with a smooth Italian lemon oil or, in a nod to oshitashi’s bonito flakes, garnish it with bottarga. Either way, Popeye would approve.

Mark Ladner’s Hot-and-Cold Spinach
2 bunches fresh young spinach
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed red-pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
large pinch sea-salt flakes
1 fresh medium-size finger chili, chopped
zest of 1 lemon, chopped
1/2 cup lemon Agrumato (available at Bellavitae and Eli’s Vinegar Factory)

Illustrations by John Burgoyne.

Remove roots from spinach.
(1) Soak the leaves, then rinse and dry them well. Place in large bowl and season with pepper flakes. Heat olive oil in a pot or pan until the surface starts to develop a shimmery sheen (but before it starts to smoke). Add salt and then
(2) pour hot oil over spinach. Stir vigorously with a fork, coating the spinach until partially wilted. Place bowl in warmest part of freezer for about an hour and a half. Remove from freezer and
(3) stir in fresh chili, lemon zest, and Agrumato. Adjust seasoning. Return to freezer for three quarters of an hour (or less, if the spinach starts to freeze). Remove from freezer, mix well, and serve immediately on a cold platter, or transfer to refrigerator. If desired, garnish with shaved bottarga di muggine (dried gray-mullet roe), available at BuonItalia.