Ingredient SpotLight

It's time to join Popeye in giving praise to spinach. This cold weather crop is at the peak of its season now, although it is readily available all year in both fresh and frozen varieties.

Speaking of frozen, spinach was the first vegetable to be sold in its frozen form. Today, it's used in everything from creamy dips to quiche to casseroles. The fresh variety is perfect for salads and tucking into sandwiches for a great nutritional boost. Consumption of spinach has been linked to reduction in risk of age-related macular degeneration, cancer and heart disease. Some studies have even suggested that the compounds found in spinach may improve memory!

With so many reasons to enjoy spinach, it's a shame that more people don't eat it. Perhaps it’s the stigma that it tends to gain with youngsters being told to eat it at the dinner table after it's been cooked past its prime. Fresh spinach should always be handled gently and cooked with only a minimal application of heat -- if at all. Its best applications have it starring in salads and the like. Frozen spinach is best used mixed into casseroles, dips and fillings. To get you started with your spinach adventure, I'm offering two recipes -- one featuring fresh spinach and the other frozen. Enjoy!

Spinach & Strawberry Salad

It's hard to go wrong with a seasonal salad like this. Since baby spinach and strawberries are both in season, find the finest available and dress it lightly. In fact, I like to serve the dressing on the side and simply dip my fork in it before snatching a bit of salad.
  • 1 (10 oz.) pkg. baby spinach leaves
  • 8 oz. fresh strawberries
  • 2 oz. sliced toasted almonds
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt

Divide the baby spinach among four salad plates. Wash, hull and slice the strawberries and divide evenly among the plates. Sprinkle each salad with some sliced almonds.

In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the remaining ingredients and shake vigorously to combine. Drizzle the dressing over the salads or serve on the side.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Spanakopita

Spanakopita is a delightful Greek spinach pie that features onions, feta and spinach wrapped in phyllo dough. It's absolutely wonderful and a must-try ethnic dish.
  • 1 medium onion -- finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach -- thawed and drained
  • 1/2 lb. feta cheese
  • 6 oz. cottage cheese
  • 3 eggs -- beaten
  • 1/4 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/2 lb. phyllo pastry sheets
  • 1/2 c. butter -- melted

Sauté the onion in the oil for 5 minutes in a medium skillet. Add the spinach. Simmer the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until most of moisture is evaporated.

Crumble the feta cheese into small pieces. Add the cottage cheese and eggs; mix well. Toss the bread crumbs into the spinach mixture and add to the cheese mixture. Stir until blended.

Carefully cut the phyllo sheets into thirds. Refrigerate two of the three segments until needed and cover the remaining sheets with a slightly damp towel. Remove 1 sheet of phyllo pastry and fold in half lengthwise. Brush the pastry with the melted butter. Place 1 tablespoon of the spinach filling near the end. Fold the pastry over in a triangle shape.

Continue folding the pastry like a flag, keeping the triangular shape. Lightly butter the top. Repeat the process with remaining pastry and filling. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

  • Yields: 8-10 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

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