Ten things to make with spinach

Ten things to make with spinach

I feel so darn good when I eat spinach. Those emerald green leaves elevate my energy level and brighten my mood.

So when producers started packaging clean, ready-to-use baby leaves in cellophane bags a few years ago, I made a vow to eat at least a generous handful every day.

There are loads of good things in spinach, so I'm not sure which of its many attributes give me such a boost. It could be its abundance of antioxidants (beta carotene and lutein). Or perhaps it's the folic acid and vitamins (C, K and thiamine). Maybe the minerals are magic: iron, calcium, potassium and zinc.

Gail Frank, a professor of nutrition at California State University, Long Beach, describes spinach as "nutrient dense" because of its array of nutrients, adding that it is also high in fiber and low in calories. She says that its appeal doesn't stop there. Parts of the appeal, she says, are its texture and its taste.

"Spinach is crisp, and its chewing factor is very appealing," Frank says. "And the taste is light and clean. The chlorophyll is refreshing."

And I agree. Spinach is a perfect package. So I eat it raw in salads and sandwiches, substituting it for less-interesting lettuce. Or, I cook up the contents of an entire 10-ounce bag of those spade-shaped baby leaves, then toss with a little extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. It can be eaten as is, or used as a bed underneath grilled fish, pork or chicken. Cooking it is quick and easy, once you get over the somewhat disappointing fact that you start out with a mountain and end up with a hill.

And that cooking can reduce vitamin content. According to Frank, water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and B's) are reduced and can be destroyed by water, heat or light.

"The more intense any of these are, the more the loss. So, cook it quick and store it in dark containers. And eat it as soon after purchase as possible," she says.

So, quickly saute it in a little olive oil in a deep skillet, stir-fried on medium-high heat until limp (but still bright green). Or microwave it: Place it in a large, microwave-safe bowl (if leaves are dry, sprinkle with a tiny bit of water); cover with plastic wrap (leaving a small portion on one side open a smidgen); microwave on high power until just barely limp (usually about two to three minutes, depending on volume).

There are loads of good things in spinach, including an abundance of antioxidants, folic acid, vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and zinc. -Cooking it is quick and easy, once you get over the somewhat disappointing fact that you start out with a mountain and end up with a hill.

According to Patty Yu, surveillance epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a 24 percent increase of reported outbreaks of food-borne illnesses from 1970 to 1997. Although most packages of baby spinach are labeled "triple washed," the government still warns consumers to wash all produce in cold water. After washing spinach, make sure it is as dry as possible before sauteing. Pat dry with paper towels.

Here are 10 delectable things to make with fresh baby spinach:

POPEYE PASTA: Cook 8 ounces fusilli pasta or gemelli pasta according to package directions; drain. In large, deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil on medium heat. Add 2 cloves garlic (minced) and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Cook, stirring frequently, about 1 minute (do not brown).

Increase heat to medium high. Add 1 (10-ounce) bag baby spinach; stir-fry about 2-3 minutes or until limp. Remove from heat.

In medium bowl combine 1-1/2 tablespoons each of extra-virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice; stir in 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and 1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes (halved). Add olive oil-lemon juice mixture and pasta to spinach. Toss and season with salt and pepper as needed.

TIPTOP OMELETS: Finely diced ham combined with sauteed spinach is an irresistible filling for omelets. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in large, deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add 1 (10-ounce) bag baby spinach. Cook, stirring frequently, until just barely wilted.

Drain in colander placed in sink, pressing lightly with back of spoon. Return skillet to heat and add 1/2 cup finely diced ham. Lightly brown, tossing frequently, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in spinach and, if desired, { cup grated Parmesan cheese. Use to fill 4 to 5 omelets.

WORLD'S EASIEST SALAD: This may sound too good to be true. Toss chilled fresh baby spinach with enough really good extra-virgin olive oil to lightly coat leaves. Season to taste with coarse salt, such as kosher salt. Serve as is, or top with shavings of Parmesan cheese and accompany each serving with a wedge of fresh lemon or lime for optional squeezing (to provide a sour edge). For variety, use half baby spinach leaves and half arugula, then top salad with apple slices and shavings of Parmesan.

GREEN THINGS IN SPUDS: Spinach tastes incredible in mashed potatoes. Cook 2 pounds peeled potatoes (either Yukon gold or russet) in boiling water until fork tender. Meanwhile heat 1/2 cup whipping cream or milk and 2 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan to simmer; cover and set aside. Drain potatoes. Add 4 cups (about 4 ounces) baby spinach to milk mixture; toss, cover and let sit 1 minute; add to potatoes; mash with potato masher. Add salt and pepper to taste.

ASIAN-STYLE STIR-FRY: Heat wok on high heat; add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil (or canola oil) and heat until near smoking. Add 16 ounces baby spinach, 2 tablespoons rice wine, sake or dry sherry, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger and } teaspoon salt. Toss until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes.

CHEZ SPINACH SOUP: Alice Waters, the mother of California cuisine, makes this mouthwatering soup.

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat. Add 1 thinly sliced onion; 1 large, thinly sliced garlic clove; and 1 small carrot (peeled, finely diced). Cover and reduce heat to low; slowly cook until onion is translucent and soft.

Add 4 cups chicken broth and increase heat to high. Bring to boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 15 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves and 18 ounces fresh baby spinach. Stir and push spinach down into broth. Turn off heat, cover and let soup sit 5 minutes. Puree in small batches in food processor fitted with metal blade or in blender (use caution with blender - hold lid in place with potholder). In small bowl, stir 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon with 2 tablespoons creme fra蟃he or sour cream. Ladle soup into 6 bowls. Garnish each with teaspoon of creme fra蟃he mixture.

BRAISED AND BEANED: Garlicky spinach and creamy cannellini beans are great piled on toasted country bread.

Start by heating 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in large, deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add 1/2 medium onion (chopped); cook until onion starts to soften, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 2 large cloves garlic (minced) and cook about 45 seconds. Add 1 (10-ounce) bag baby spinach. Cook until wilted, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add 1 (15- or 16-ounce) can cannellini beans (with juice). Heat, stirring occasionally. You want it a little juicy, so add 1-2 tablespoons water (or chicken broth or vegetable broth) if necessary - canned beans vary in the amount of liquid they contain. Taste and add salt and/or pepper as needed. Toast 4 thick slices of country bread (such as ciabatta); place each on dinner plate. Cut large peeled garlic clove in half and rub cut edge on toast. Top with spinach-bean mixture. Sprinkle with a little chopped Italian parsley. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and top with shaved Parmesan cheese.

DECADENT STARTER: A spinach gratin topped with four cheeses makes an impressive side dish with salmon or grilled chicken, but I also like to serve it as an appetizer. Guests scoop a spoonful onto a thinly sliced baguette.

To make it, start by preheating oven to 350 degrees and lightly greasing a 12-inch oval gratin pan or an 11-by-7 inch baking dish with butter. In medium bowl, combine 1 medium onion (finely chopped), 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, 1/2 cup grated Edam cheese, 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Toss. Add 2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs and 1 egg yolk; toss and set aside. In large pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 (10-ounce) bags fresh baby spinach and saute until wilted and juices evaporate, about 3 minutes. Transfer to colander in sink and drain, pushing out excess liquid with back of spoon. Place spinach in prepared pan (it will make a thin layer) and top with onion mixture. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Heat broiler and broil about 8 inches from broiler element until cheese is golden brown on top, about 2 minutes; watch closely to prevent burning.

Updated : 2021-03-08 21:43 GMT+08:00