Fresh spinach is frequently on my grocery list. I like to buy the one-pound container of organic baby spinach as it's much more economical than half that size. However, with just two of us in the house, it is challenging to finish the whole pound before it wilts. My strategy is to eat it raw for a few days, and then cook the remaining leaves into Spinach Cakes as the "Use By" date approaches.
Spinach is a powerhouse vegetable because the dark green leaves are packed with nutrients. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, and magnesium. It is one of the richest dietary sources of lutein, which is beneficial in keeping eyes healthy. In fact, spinach is frequently recommended as a natural aid in the prevention of macular degeneration.
Purchase organic spinach whenever possible. The Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce, published by the Environmental Working Group, currently lists spinach as one of its Dirty Dozen (foodnews.org). This means that spinach is typically grown with high amounts of pesticides.
To prepare fresh spinach, wash the leaves and spin or towel dry. Do this even when the packaging declares it to be pre-washed. To create a delightfully filling spinach salad, place baby spinach on a plate and cover with chopped hard-boiled egg, avocado slices, cherry tomatoes and sunflower seeds. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and drizzle with Balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
There are several other ways to serve spinach raw. Chopped fresh spinach can be served under a stir fry as a substitute for rice. Create your own Swimming Rama by placing chopped baby spinach in the center of a serving platter. Top the spinach with slices of just cooked chicken breast and hot peanut sauce (recipe in my Oct. 8 column). The heat from the chicken and sauce will wilt the spinach.
Once everyone has had their fill of fresh spinach, it's time to make up the Spinach and Cheese Cakes.
Spinach and Cheese Cakes
6 ounces fresh spinach (4-5 cups)
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta or low fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Pulse spinach in the food processor until finely chopped. In a medium bowl, combine spinach with all the remaining ingredients.
Coat 4 muffin cups with cooking spray. Scoop 1/3 cup mixture into each of the 4 muffin cups. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes, loosen the edges with a knife and serve. Sprinkle with more parmesan cheese, if desired.
The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. The cakes freeze well and can be reheated from frozen in a hot oven or in the microwave.
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