You’re One of the Few that Know
As a kid growing up in Southern California, I was a guest on the local Popeye Show featuring Tom Hatten and original Popeye cartoons. Kids from all over the greater Los Angeles area sent in a post card with their name and phone number. The post cards went into a huge treasure chest. One card was chosen at the end of each show. One Thursday evening they read the post card with my name on it! That wast about the most exciting day of my life! I remember my sister jumping so high with excitement that she “almost touched the ceiling!”
Two weeks later during the playing of the first Popeye cartoon (there were always three during each half hour show), I was ushered into the brightly lit and very small studio wearing my best dress and black patent leather Mary Janes. With my heart pounding dramatically, the show went live. And the rest is history. (Wow! Was I a celebrity on the playground the next morning?)
Yet, I can’t say that my love of spinach can be traced to my early love of Popeye cartoons, in fact, one probably had little to do with the other considering that Popeye ate canned spinach. However, a recipe for spinach seems an appropriate time to share my story.
Zest that lemon
Use a citrus zester to remove long thin “needle threads” of zest. Pull the citrus zester’s five tiny cutting holes across the fruit’s surface to easily remove only the colored portion of the peel. The resulting intensely flavored and curled zest makes a great garnish (see how they are used to garnish Spiced Oranges).
A healthy tip
Besides taste, the lemon juice and zest in these recipes enhances our body’s absorption of the iron in spinach by counteracting spinach’s oxalic acid.
Two to Go
The major drawback for years with spinach was all the sand. Now that it comes prewashed, oh my it’s easy. And, lightly cooking spinach just till it wilts makes it meltingly tender and very tasty. Both baby and mature spinach work well in these recipes. You may prefer to remove the stems from the mature spinach—though aesthetically more pleasing, not otherwise necessary.
- Sautéed Spinach with Garlic & Lemon provides the basic technique. The same method also works for Swiss chard (start by sautéing the diced stems along with the garlic) though it will take a couple more minutes to cook chard leaves than spinach. Serve these greens anytime as a side vegetable or as a colorful bed for a lentil salad, grilled or sautéed polenta, tofu, chicken or wild salmon.
- Sautéed Spinach w/ Garlic, Almonds, Raisins & Lemon is dressed to the nines. The addition of raisins adds a bit of sweetness, toasted almonds for crunch and lemon for taste and extra nutrients. An appealing combination of flavors and colors that may coax all of us to eat more spinach.
Sautéed Spinach w/ Garlic & Lemon
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic; when fragrant, add the spinach all at once. Sprinkle the spinach with the sea salt and pepper. Use a pair of tongs to toss and turn the spinach. Do this continuously for a few minutes until the spinach is just wilted. Remove the pan from the heat. Squeeze the optional juice of half a lemon over the spinach. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
Sautéed Spinach w/ Garlic, Almonds, Raisins & Lemon
Inspired/adapted from a recipe in Saveur Magazine
2 tablespoons raisins
¼ cup slivered almonds
1½ tablespoons olive oil
½ cup thinly sliced shallot or leek (white and light green parts only)
½ pound baby or mature spinach
¼ teaspoon sea salt
5 twists freshly ground black pepper
Zest from half a lemon—use a zester to remove long, thin needle threads
Juice of half a lemon
Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water to rehydrate them. Drain them after 10 minutes.
Toast the slivered almonds in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes until golden.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the shallot or leek and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Use a couple of wooden spoons to toss and turn the spinach and scrape the bottom of the pan to keep the shallots or leeks and garlic from sticking.
When the spinach is just wilted, stir in the drained raisins, toasted almonds, lemon zest and juice. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Serve with additional lemon wedges if desired.
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