spinach early in the season with its first and second leaves

spinach early in the season with its first and second leaves

After a cool, slow spring, your kitchen gardens are now producing food you can enjoy. All are leafy, tender greens that enjoy the cooler weather of spring. This, the first in a series about what’s up in your kitchen gardens and what to do with it, is about spinach.

Spinach is best when the leaves are small but is always flavorful. Pick leaves that are broad, spade-shaped and deep green, and include the stem. If you pinch off only the leaves, the plant will produce more spinach. Spinach is ideal as a salad green or can be cooked. It is a superfood, one of the vegetables especially nutritious. When you’re ready to prepare it, wash it thoroughly in a salad spinner, being careful not to bruise the leaves. You can store spinach for 2-3 days after it’s washed and longer if you don’t wash it immediately. It’s best, however, when picked and eaten immediately: hyperlocal, hyperfresh!

Here are two basic spinach recipes: spinach salad and creamed spinach. Both delicious!

Basic Spinach Salad adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian (2007) by Mark Bittman

1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 oz feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound approximately of fresh spinach leaves (with stems if you like them)
salt, optional
1/2 cup greek yogurt

1. Put the vinegar/lemon juice in a bowl with the feta and mash with a fork.  Add nutmeg, pepper and salt. Stir while you slowly pour in the olive oil to form a salad dressing.

2. Chop the spinach into small pieces, add to bowl and toss with the dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Serve in salad bowls with a dollop of yogurt and dash of nutmeg.

Creamed Spinach adapted from At the Table by Alice Waters (2007)

1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy pan over medium heat.

2. Add 1 small red onion, diced small. Cook until tender.

3. Add 1 pound of spinach and cook until just wilted. If liquid in the pan, bunch the spinach to one side of the pan and pour off as much liquid as possible.

4. Return the pan to the stove. Add 1/3 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream. Boil until the cream is reduced and thickens, coating the spinach. Add salt to taste. Add fresh-ground pepper.

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