running the spinach marathon

by Jasper on May 8, 2009

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DAY 0: a full bag of spinach!

DAY 0: a full bag of spinach!

When we first moved to San Francisco from New York , we joined Costco in a rush of excitement. This is a store that requires a car, something that we didn’t have (or really want) in Queens. Plus the fact of membership helped us during that delicate transition period from one city to another when you don’t quite know enough people in the new town to feel yourselves and you’re still comparing everything to the place left behind. It was comforting to wander the Costco aisles; a place where people are friendly and there’s a carnival like atmosphere that lifts the mood. All the psychological mumbo jumbo aside, Costco just seemed like a good idea at the time.

Since then, we’ve driven by the San Francisco location just before 9:30AM on Saturdays to see huge lines of people, all standing behind those gigantic Costco-style shopping carts, waiting with an agitated sense of anticipation for that magical moment when the doors open. The shop, if you can call such a monstrous semi-public place such a mild name, is remarkable. Aside from the largeness of the warehouse and shopping carts, I’m always struck by the strange lighting, the noise, the long lines and the shoving of the customer/members. And of course, there’s the products themselves to consider.

DAY 1: spinach with pasta

DAY 1: spinach with pasta

They tend to be a bit….oversized, I think, at least for just two people. Maybe if you have a lot of kids, you’re running a restaurant or perhaps feeding a small militia corps, it makes more sense. For just two though, big doesn’t always work out. I’ve found that I can safely buy “dry goods” like tissue paper and cases of Italian sparkling water. I once bought a container of dried shitake mushrooms there and ended up only using a few. The container was physically so large that I couldn’t store it in our smallish kitchen. I found room in the hall closet and promptly forgot about it. When I discovered it a couple years later, it had expired. When we used to eat meat, we’d occasionally buy a platter of pork loin and freeze most of it.That seemed o.k. too.

I’ve struggled most with produce. Those large boxes, crates and bags of fresh fruit and vegetables look so enticing! I have trouble really appreciating their size when I ‘m standing in the middle of the store because everything is so hugely out of proportion. This inevitably leads me to underestimate how much of a given item is in the oversized container. So in the past, we’d buy the stuff, then have way too much at home and it would rot. We didn’t renew our membership because all of this waste began to make us think that it just wasn’t economical for the two of us.

DAY 2: spinach with lemon

DAY 2: spinach with lemon

Recently though, we went with our friend, Jasmine Turner and her husband. We needed more tissue paper and the place is fun to go to occasionally, so why not? On impulse, I bought a bag of spinach that was about the size of the pillow that I sleep on at night. It was pretty cheap, only $3.79. But could we eat it before the deadly rot set in? Here’s how it went:

DAY 1: Sunday

We spent the day celebrating cinco de mayo with Kevin and Kristen. We got home late, still a bit tipsy. Hegui was hungry so while I crashed in front of the TV he made pasta with shaved carrot and spinach, sautéed in olive oil with garlic.

DAY 2: Monday

I was tired from work, so wanted something simple. I sautéed some spinach in garlic and olive oil then added salt and lemon juice. This was served with great northern beans that I cooked with oil, more garlic and salt; rice; canned sardines in chili oil and canned pickled jalapeno peppers. Yummy and spicy, a great combo!

DAY 3: spinach rice

DAY 3: spinach rice

DAY 3: Tuesday

The spinach still looked good! Today I was blogging all afternoon so I wasn’t that creative in the kitchen. I made spinach rice and served it with black beans and oven roasted broccoli with garlic, pepper flakes, olive oil and salt. We tried the 2007 Côtes du Rhône, Domaine de Cristia. Loved the wine! (more about the wine)

DAY 4: Wednesday

This was the end of the spinach marathon. Finally! David came over after his recent trip to Hawaii with Carlos. We caught up over spinach salad dressed with warm olive oil,  lemon juice, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper along with a side of green beans that I blanched then tossed in walnut oil, shallots, and red wine vinegar with a sprinkle of kalamata olives. This was followed by basil pesto pasta with a chocolate treat at the end. The spinach held up well. Only a few leaves needed to be discarded.

DAY 4: spinach salad

DAY 4: spinach salad

It turns out you actually can find good values at warehouse super stores in the produce isle, just so long as you’re willing to eat it every day, relentlessly. Spinach is healthy and tasty, which makes it worth it.

empty spinach bag

empty spinach bag

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Juanita May 8, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Wow, you are truly amazing and creative to have changed the spinach up so much and make it work over two days! I agree the big boxes, crates, and bags of produce are tempting, but when you bring them home they tend to rot unless you are a smart like you and can make different dishes and recipes out of the same ingredient!
Items are hugely out of proportion at Costco though, it’s like for families, armies or businesses that sell food! I like they way you said the bag of greens was about the size of a pillow;that totally cracks me up! You made the best out of the good values of the super warehouse store for sure! Spinach is healthy and tasty and you made it work beautifully! Thanks for sharing the lovely photos, it made me want to eat at your house every night! And Grrrrr David and Carlos came back from Hawaii! I am jealous! Okay I’m over it! I lived there for like 7-8 years so I guess I got my share.

They got to go to Hawaii and have that salad with warm olive oil….bitches!

Tammy May 12, 2009 at 9:47 pm

I can surely relate to this, hehehe. Good story! And pictures!

Rita Tower May 19, 2009 at 8:31 pm

I sautéed some spinach in garlic and olive oil then added salt and lemon juice and it’s really good. I used organic from Costco! I am going to run the spinach marathon this week!

Jasper May 20, 2009 at 1:52 pm


I’me really excited that you’re giving the spinach marathon a go! Can’t wait to hear more about how it works out. I haven’t been back to Costco in a whiile but I’m hoping to hook up with Jasmine and Prof. T soon and go check it out again.

Rita Tower May 21, 2009 at 11:18 am

Last night I made the same spinach saute again! It was delicious and I added more garlic and more lemon juice for tang! I still have a bunch more spinach to eat so I need to try some more of your recipes in the post! Cheers to Green Leaves!

Rita Tower June 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Okay, so I tried the spinach Marathon but I admit to throwing out a meals worth at the end cause it was starting to go bad, but I took the time to pick out the good pieces for one last saute.
You have to be really determined to finish it all. Go for the Gusto if you try it! I like spinach as a part of my meals so much, now I bought a much smaller size at TJ’s to have a couple side dishes of spinach! My favorite is the saute with Garlic Lemon and Salt and Olive oil!

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