As I recall, all pictures of Popeye eating spinach had him slurping it out of a can. Yuck. I would imagine that canned spinach, black, soggy, and bitter, accounts for the bad rap this veggie has collected over the years. With the recent recall of fresh spinach, I've been a bit reluctant to buy any. Prior to the e.coli outbreak at the end of 2006, I purchased and ate a package of fresh spinach weekly. Like broccoli, I ate half of it cooked and half of it raw, trying to cover all bases for getting the most nutrients from the veggie and the best flavors, too.
When one considers the number of people who die in automobiles annually (43,000) or the number of folks who innocently took prescription medications prescribed by their trusted physicians and have died from the drugs (565,047, since 9/11/01) and then look at the latest count of deaths from spinach related e.coli -- three, eating bagged spinach doesn't seem much of a risk, does it? We think nothing of getting in our cars or popping a pill our physician prescribed, so why not have some spinach?
Spinach salad is a versatile dish that can incorporate various fruit, such as strawberries or mandarin oranges, and reaps a great taste treat by adding red onions, various cheeses, nuts and seeds. Spinach salad with a warm bacon dressing is luscious, too. For those who can't take the straight hit of all spinach, it's great mixed with other greens like red leaf lettuce or romaine. The salad pictured is a straightforward rendition of spinach salad. Red onions, stawberries, pine nuts and crumbled goat cheese. The salad is dressed simply with a balsamic vinagrette. Using the standard proportions of one part vinegar to three parts oil, I mixed 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard, a dash of salt, a couple of grinds of fresh pepper, and a teaspoon of Penzey's Raspberry Enlightenment. I put all the ingredients in a small glass jar with a tight fitting lid and gave it a hearty shake. Dress the washed and dried spinach with a couple of tablespoons of the vinagrette, just enough to moisten each leaf lightly then add some thin slices of red onion, a few sliced strawberries and a sprinkling a toasted pine nuts and top it off with the crumbled goat cheese. Divide onto two individual plates for a salad course, or use one big plate for an individual luncheon course.
One of the secrets to healthy eating is to make each meal as colorful as an artist's palette. Veggies with deep, rich tones are the ones that provide the most nutritional value.
This veggie plate includes edamame in a light vinaigrette, citrus flavored roasted sweet potato, green beans with roasted red pepper in a citrus/mustard sauce and some cranberry relish. The veggie plate was complemented with a small whole wheat pita bread and a cold crisp glass of Reisling. Even with all those veggies in the luncheon salad and the dinner plate, it only adds up to 8 servings, one short of the recommended daily 9 servings of fruit and vegetables. Though I will admit, the spinach serving was large enough to count as 2 or even 3 servings - might it be pushing it to count the grapes in the wine?
Green Beans Moutarde with Grilled Red Peppers
Any green bean preparation is made simpler by having the beans ready ahead of time. If possible, removed the ends from the beans, wash them well and blanch them with a sliced onion for 3 - 5 minutes depending on the size of the beans. You want them bright green and barely tender. Drain, refresh and store them in a ziplock bag in the fridge. Then, when you're ready to proceed, they're ready, too.
Melt one teaspoon of butter and one teaspoon of olive olive oil in a large skillet. Add the green beans (approximately one pound) and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add slices of a roasted red pepper, and sauté for another minute or so. Add a couple of tablespoons of water and cover and steam for 3 or 4 minutes. While the beans and peppers are steaming. Grate the zest from about half a piece of citrus (use what you have on hand: orange; lemon or lime) Place the zest in a small bowl, juice the fruit and measure two teaspoons into the bowl with the zest. Add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard a pinch of dried tarragon or a tablespoon of fresh and a little salt and pepper and mix well. Add the mustard mixture to the skillet with the beans and peppers, toss well to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little more citrus juice if necessary. Another delicious veggie preparation courtesy of The Passionate Vegetarian. For you carnivores, these green beans would be a great side with a thick juicy pork chop.
Till next time . . . keep on cooking!