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Monday, May 12, 2014

Spinach


 Spinach:

About:

Spinach is an edible flowering plant in the family Amaranthaceae.  It is native to central  and southwest Asia.  It is an annual plant.  Spinach is sold loose, bunched, packaged fresh in bags, canned, and frozen.  While spinach is available year round, fresh spinaach is most plentiful in the spring and fall. 

History:

Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (modern Iran & neighboring countries).  Arab traders carried spinach into India and then the planat was introduced to ancient China (known as "Persian vegetable").  In A.D. 827 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.  In 1533 Catherine of Medici became queen of France.  She like spinach so much she insisted it be served at every meal.  Today dishes made with spinach are known as "Florentine" reflecting Catherine's birth in Florence.

Types of Spinach:

  • Savoy:  has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves.  It is the type sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets in the U.S.
  • Flat (or smooth-leaf) spinach has broad, smooth leaves that are easier to clean than Savoy.  This type is often grown for canned and frozen spinach , as well as soups, baby foods, and processed foods.
  • Semi-savoy is a hybird variety with lightly crinkled leaves.  It has the same texture as Savoy, but is not as difficult to clean.

Nutrition:

Spinach has one of the highest nutritional values of all vegetable.  Here's a list of its nutrients:

Vitamin A                     magnesium                    Vitamin B2                 folic acid                 zinc
Vitamin C                     manganese                     calcium                      copper                   niacin
Vitamin K                     folate                             potassium                  protein                    selenium
Vitamin E                      betain                            Vitamin B6                phosphorus        Omega 3 fatty acids


Health Benefits:

Spinaach is extremely rich in anti oxidants especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled.  Researchers have identified more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents.  Decreased risk of aggressive prostate canacer is one health benefit of spinach.  Most of the flavonoid and carotenoid nutrients found in spinach that provide anti-inflammatory benefits provide anti-oxidant benefits as well.

Selection and storage:

Choose spinach with deep green leaves and stems with no signs of yellowing.  The leaves should look fresh and tender and not be wilted or bruised.  Avoid leaves that have a slimy coating.   
Do not wash spinach before storing.  Place spinach in a plastic bag and squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing.  Wrapped spinach in the refrigerator will keep up to 5 days.  
It is important to wash spinach thoroughly before using, as in can be sandy.  Float the spinach in a sink of water, then remove, drain athe water and repeat the process.  That should get the sand out.  

Spinach is used raw in salads, as a hot vegetable, to make creamed soups, in souffle's and casseroles, and stuffed into ravioli.

So..........Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good:

Spinach with Sesame

3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 lb. fresh spinach
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Salt to taste

Toast sesame seeds by adding seeds to a medium hot stick-free skillet and stir until brown and fragrent.  Soak spinach in water, then drain, and squeeze out excess water.

Heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in skillet.  Add garlic and cook until it sizzles, then add spinach and cook stirring occasionally until the spinach is completely wilted.  Turn heat to low.

Stir in the sugar and soy sauce.  Remove from heat.  Add salt to taste.  Serve hot, warm, room temperature, or cold drizzled with the remaining sesame oil and sprinkled with the sesame seeds. 





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