by Engrid Winslow
There are two types of spinach available for eating: flat leaf spinach is a smooth-leaved variety that is usually canned or frozen. Most of what gardeners grow is the sweeter savoy or curly leafed spinach. The leaves are wrinkled and are the ones used in pre-packaged spinach at the grocery store. It is easy to start from seed, prefers cool temperatures and can be harvested as baby spinach or left to grow larger. There are hybrids that can tolerate more heat and combine the smooth and savoy-type leaf.
Does Spinach have other things going for it? Yes and YES! Spinach is high in carotenoids, which the body can turn into vitamin A. It packs a powerful punch of other vitamins and minerals including vitamins C, B6, B9, K1 and E, folic acid, calcium, potassium and magnesium. It is also an excellent source of fiber and contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are beneficial for eye health. Not to mention that spinach contains high amounts of nitrates, which may help regulate blood pressure levels. There are even studies showing that the antioxidants and other compounds in Spinach may suppress the growth of human cancer cells.
Best of all, Spinach is good raw and cooked. There are so many ways to use it that it is almost miraculous. If someone says they don’t like Spinach, try sneaking it into meatloaf. In fact, Spinach can be “hidden” in soups, stews, scrambled eggs, quiche, lasagna, dips and smoothies. It can stand alone when creamed, sautéed or made into a salad or swapped out for half of the basil to make a delicious pesto. It plays well with pasta, fruit such as strawberries, and cheese. Endless possibilities. Here are two recipes – one for the Spinach “lovers” and one for the (think they are) “haters”.
Puglia Sautéed Spinach
This recipe hails from Southern Italy where all manner of greens are very popular. You can substitute Swiss Chard, Kale, Collards or even Chicory. You can pile it on top of polenta, sip some Italian White wine, close your eyes and practice your Italian accent.
4 TBL olive oil 1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic 14 oz. sliced Cremini mushrooms
10 oz. Spinach ½ cup Pinot Grigio or other Italian White wine *
Salt and pepper 2 TBL Balsamic Vinegar
Fresh Italian parsley, Chopped
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in the oil until they soften and caramelize. Add the mushrooms, and fry for about 3 to 4 minutes. Toss in the spinach, and sauté stirring constantly until spinach is wilted.
Add the vinegar, stirring constantly until it is absorbed, then stir in the white wine. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until the wine has almost completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with fresh parsley.
*(or substitute vegetable or chicken stock, if desired)
¼ cup olive oil 1 lb. potatoes*, cooked and sliced
1 small onion, very thinly sliced 1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 clove minced garlic 2 cups baby spinach
½ tsp. Salt 8 eggs, beaten
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper 3 TBL cubed butter
2 TBL thinly sliced basil
Turn on broiler. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, pepper, and onion until soft, 3–4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in sliced potatoes, the butter, salt, and pepper. Stir in half the basil and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes. Broil until set and golden on top, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil.
*use any small, waxy fleshed potato – not baking potatoes