Esparregado de Espinafres


Esparregado is a classic Portuguese side dish, typically made with spinach in a cream sauce. This is a heartier version, adding eggs and potatoes to transform it into a full meal.  It’s a unique recipe that was created on a farm in Central Portgual, incorporating all of the vegetables they’d harvested. The recipe now lives on in Toronto, passed onto me from Palmira, the daughter of our original, resourceful farmer.

The vibrant and fresh sauteed green vegetable combination gets an extra kick with white wine vinegar. The eggs also add protein,  ensuring a well rounded meal.

Substitute any green, seasonal vegetable and you’ll make our resourceful farmer proud.  Adjust the cooking time to suit the greens you are using.  Prepare the greens, potatoes, and eggs earlier in the day and toss together a satisfying one-dish meal closer to dinnertime in a matter of minutes.

Sometimes I serve Esparregado with a can of tuna or a few slices of smoked salmon.


Esparregado de Espinafres

  • Servings: 2 to 4
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  • 8 cups (2L) water
  • 1 tsp (5mL) salt
  • 1 large head broccoli rabe, rough ends trimmed
    about 1/2  inch (1 cm) from base
  • 1 large potato
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fine salt and coarsely ground
  • pepper, to taste
  • 4 to 6 Tbsp (60 to 90 mL) white wine
  • vinegar or cider vinegar


  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine the water and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and add the broccoli rabe.  Return the water to a boil and simmer for about 4 minutes, just until the rabe is bright green and tender. Drain and set aside to cool slightly.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as possible from the greens and dry on kitchen towels to remove any excess water  Using a sharp knife, chop finely.  Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, cover the potato with water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 5 to 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.  When cool, roughly dice and place in the bowl with the greens.
  3. In a large deep saucepan, place the eggs in a single layer.  Pour in enough cold water to come at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the eggs.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat.  Let stand, covered, for 20 minutes.  Drain under cold running water for 2  minutes.  Peel the eggs.  Chop and add to the potato and broccoli rabe.
  4. Using a fork, mix all of the chopped ingredients together — the mixture should not be mashed (it should be retain some rough texture).
  5. In a large frying pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-low heat.  Saute the garlic until golden, softened, and aromatic, 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir frequently.  Add the broccoli rabe mixture and toss to coat evenly; cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the heat and add vinegar, to taste.  Serve warm over cornbread toast.





I know it doesn’t feel like it, but winter is around the corner. What better way to warm up a cold evening than a dish of freshly roasted chestnuts? Roasting season officially begins around the beginning of November and fresh chestnuts are available at your local grocery store now until Christmas.

Roasted or boiled, chestnuts are served as a Petisco, appetizers or snack-type meal similar to Spanish tapas.  The chestnuts are typically enjoyed in the company of friends and family, at around the same time that homemade wine is ready for a first taste. What better pairing?


Traditionally, the chestnut feast and celebration of the wine falls on November 11 which is St Martin’s Day, known as the patron saint of the harvest.  This informal harvest festival,  is celebrated by Portuguese descendants in North America, as was as in Portugal.  Sao Martinho, as he is known in Portugal, provides a great excuse to bring wine and chestnuts together.

Their nutty taste can provide a compelling substitution for potatoes with pork, or with other desserts. They’re also nutritious, with protein as well as vitamins and minerals.

Pick firm, smooth, blemish-free chestnuts. Keep the fresh chestnuts in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Cook them in advance, and keep warm, until just before serving.  Using a small paring knife, peel back the outer shell that should come off easily after cooking, and the thin layer of brown membrane that covers the cream colored chestnut meat.

Half the fun of eating the chestnuts is sharing the chore of peeling the treat with friends over conversation and wine.



  • Servings: 4
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  • 1 lb (500 g) fresh chestnuts
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) coarse salt (or to taste)


Using a sharp knife, score a cross on the flat side of each chestnut.  In a large saucepan, add the chestnuts and enough water to cover them.  Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender.  (Alternatively, place the chestnuts on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400F/200C oven, shaking the sheet occasionally, for 30 minutes, until tender.)

Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.


Sauteed onion sauce


With this batch of Cebolada, I poured some over grilled tuna steaks and chicken dinners.  I also added a healthy helping to lunches that included leftover beef and avocado on fresh, split papo-secos, Portuguese crusty buns. You’ve got a tasty vegetarian option if served with chickpeas and topped with a fried egg.

This sauce is delicious prepared one or two days beforehand. When you get home from work, or whenever you are ready to prepare a meal, the cebolada is ready to use. Simply reheat  just before using.

The most labour intensive part of this recipe is slicing the onions.  To make this job easier, and tear free, remember to keep your onions in the refrigerator and use a sharp knife.

Sauteed onion sauce

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
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  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
  • 5 onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) water
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) tomato paste
  • Fine salt, to taste
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) chopped fresh parsley
  • Pinch paprika


In a large saucepan or deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat.  Cook the onions, stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender but not browned.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly golden.  Stir in the vinegar, water, tomato paste, and salt.  Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened.  Sprinkle in the parsley and paprika and immediately pour the sauce over the prepared protein or vegetable.  Cover and let stand for about 30 minutes before serving.