This morning I sautéed spinach in olive oil and ate it with a poached egg. It got me thinking about a “voice” from my past: Popeye the Sailorman! He was “strong to the finish ‘cause he ate his spinach!” Remember his girlfriend Olive Oyl? What a fabulous pair! Spinach is a beautiful, flowering plant native to Central and Southwest Asia. Supposedly, back in the 16th century when the famous, spinach-loving Catherine de Medici left her home in Florence, Italy to marry the king of France, she brought along her own personal cooks who knew exactly how to prepare spinach the way she loved it. Since then, popular spinach dishes are often referred to as “a la Florentine,” such as Eggs Florentine, Lasagna Florentine, etc. It took Popeye just one can of spinach to quickly provide his “musckles” with supernatural powers. While I can’t promise it can do for you what it did for Popeye, I can promise you this: Spinach is a no-brainer when it comes to good nutrition, simple preparation, versatility and delicious, delicate flavor. In fact, I’d say spinach is the most popular of all the “it’s not lettuce” leafy greens! It gets high marks on the nutritional scoreboard, packing a punch with vitamins A, C, K and folic acid. Remember that spinach, especially the large, mature leaves contain oxalic acid, which can interfere with the absorption of calcium and other minerals. When cooked, the oxalic acid is broken down and decreased. When cooking spinach, be sure to steam or sauté. Boiling is never a good idea as you lose too many nutrients. Here are some of my favorite ways to use fresh spinach leaves:
- Sauté and use as a bed for brown rice or quinoa.
- Slice or chop and stir into hot cooked pasta – great with Parmesan cheese.
- Add to hot soups or stews just before serving. Try Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup
- Try a spinach quiche, like this Spinach Quiche with Pine Nuts.
- Sauté with eggs, or serve eggs over a bed of sautéed spinach.
- Make a spinach salad with baby spinach leaves. Top with hummus and feta cheese. Here’s a favorite recipe for Spinach Salad with Figs and Feta Cheese.
- Spinach with berries? You bet! Here’s a Spinach and Strawberry Salad.
- Try a vegetarian quiche with mashed tofu and sautéed spinach; great in a whole wheat crust!
- Steam or sauté and serve topped with grilled chicken or salmon.
- Toss with your favorite salad dressing and scoop it into hot pita bread. Add tomatoes and Baba Ghanouj (roasted eggplant salad available prepared at our stores).
- Make twice-baked potatoes and add sautéed spinach to the mashed up potatoes and cheddar cheese.
- Add cooked spinach to lasagna. Here’s a recipe for Spinach and Cheese Lasagna.
- Use the baby leaves in place of lettuce in sandwiches and wraps.
- Mix hot cooked spinach with ricotta cheese, diced tomatoes, penne pasta and slivered sundried tomatoes. Bake until bubbly.
- Make a spinach omelet with red peppers and avocado slices.
- Mix any cooked whole grain or whole grain breadcrumbs with sautéed spinach, diced herbs or veggies and stuff into mushroom caps. Top with a little cheese and bake. Or try this recipe for Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms.