The first thing we learn is that spinach is fat free; saturated fat free; cholesterol free; low calorie; high in dietary fiber; high in vitamin A; high in vitamin C; high in iron, high in Folate; and a good source of magnesium. So we know that it has a high nutrition content, is rich in antioxidants and is an excellent source for our diet. It’s unfortunate that many people avoid spinach, for it truly is a super food and is one of the best vegetables we can eat.
Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia. It is not known by whom, or when, spinach was introduced but the plant was subsequently introduced to ancient China, where it was known as the "Persian vegetable" The earliest available record of the spinach plant was recorded in Chinese, stating it was introduced into China via Nepal probably in 647 AD. In 827 AD, the Saracens introduced spinach to Sicily. Spinach became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean and arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century. Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century, probably via Spain, and it gained quick popularity.
Some interesting facts on spinach: in 1533, Catherine de' Medici became queen of France; she loved spinach, she insisted it be served at every meal. To this day, dishes made with spinach are known as "Florentine," reflecting Catherine's birth in Florence, Italy. During World War I, wine fortified with spinach juice was given to French soldiers weakened by hemorrhage. The cartoon character “Popeye the Sailor Man” is portrayed as having a strong affinity for spinach, becoming physically stronger after consuming it.
The United States is the world’s second-largest producer of spinach, with 3% of world output, following China which accounts for 85% of output, then California 73% output, Arizona 12%, and New Jersey 3% are the top producing states, with 12 other states reporting production of at least 100 acres (2002 census).
Spinach comes in many different varieties. Fresh spinach, especially baby spinach, is delicious in salads. Either mixed with other greens and vegetables, or served alone, spinach salad is a favorite in my house. Spinach is delicious added to pizza, vegetable dips, and pasta. Do you have a favorite spinach recipe to share? I’d love to add it to my collection!
I have two recipes for you this week; one is a delicious “Spinach-Mushroom Stuffed Chicken.” The other is a hot and cozy soup called, “Pastina & Egg Soup with Spinach.” These two great recipes emphasize spinach and are perfect for this time of year…enjoy!
“Spinach-Mushroom Stuffed Chicken”
Prep: 35 min. Bake: 50 min.
Makes: 8 servings
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed dry
1/4 cup Julienne sweet red pepper (2-in. pieces)
1/2 cup finely shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 bone-in chicken breast halves with skin
2 cups white wine or low sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
In a large skillet, sauté the mushrooms, onion and garlic in butter until tender. Stir in the spinach and red pepper; cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the Swiss cheese, bread crumbs, lemon peel, salt and pepper. Carefully loosen chicken skin on one side of each chicken breast half to form a pocket; stuff with spinach mixture. Place in a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 50-60 minutes or until juices run clear. In a small saucepan, bring wine or broth to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until reduced to 1 cup. Slowly whisk in cream and mustard. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 2 minutes. Spoon over chicken. A baked potato would be a delicious addition to your stuffed chicken or some soup.
***Originally published as Spinach-Mushroom Stuffed Chicken in Taste of Home's Holiday & Celebrations Cookbook Annual 2004, p45
“Pastina & Egg Soup with Spinach” or "Zuppa di Pastina all'Uova e Spinaci"
Pastina, those tiny beads of hard semolina pasta, always have a place in chicken soup, and children especially seem to love scooping them up. This version takes minutes to prepare with canned low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth. But if you want to make it using homemade broth, you can. This recipe can easily be cut in half.
2 quarts prepared low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup Pastina
4 cups washed spinach leaves, torn into small pieces, ***
or 2 packages frozen spinach, defrosted and well drained
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Bring the broth to a boil in a soup pot, stir in the pastina, cover the pot, and cook for 5 minutes over medium high heat. Lower the heat to medium, stir in the fresh or frozen and defrosted spinach, and cook for 1 minute. Whisk the eggs and cheese together in a soup tureen or deep bowl. Slowly ladle the hot soup into the soup tureen; stir the soup as you ladle. The heat will cook the egg. Serve immediately.
**** Save time by purchasing cleaned, packaged spinach in the produce section of the grocery store.
****Adapted from “Ciao Italia” Mary Ann Esposito
Till Next Time………………………………......
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