Cook with spinach, but understand your nutritional needs

Spinach is rich in riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B6, folate, vitamins C & K, magnesium, manganese and iron. It is also rich in beta carotenoids, necessary for healthy eyes and important in the prevention of macular degeneration.

Is spinach healthier cooked or raw? That really depends on which nutrient and how long the cooking time and amount of water used. Some nutrients, like the water-soluble vitamins C and B can be leached out in the cooking water.

Oxalic acid, on the other hand, blocks the absorption of calcium and iron. So a light steaming will reduce the oxalic acid in spinach. Oxalic acid can be irritating to the mouth and digestive system and it can contribute to kidney stones.

So if you are looking to get iron from spinach salads and spinach in your smoothies, it isn’t going to happen.

Spinach artichoke dip

  • 5 tbsp. olive oil, divided 75 mL
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided 30 mL
  • 10 oz. baby spinach 300 g
  • 1 – 14 fl. oz. can of artichoke hearts 450 mL
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 c. grated parmesan, divided 250 mL
  • 2⁄3 c. grated mozzarella 150 mL
  • 1⁄3 c. cream cheese 75 mL
  • 1⁄4 c. mayonnaise 60 mL
  • 1⁄4 c. sour cream 60 mL
  • 1⁄4 tsp. grated lemon zest 1 mL
  • 1⁄4 tsp. dried mustard powder 1 mL
  • 1⁄4 tsp. Tabasco sauce 1 mL
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Toasted pita wedges

Heat oven to 375 F (190 C). Heat one tablespoon (15 mL) of the oil and one tablespoon (15 mL) of the butter in a 12-inch (30 cm) skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about three minutes.
Transfer spinach to a colander. Let cool briefly. Squeeze excess liquid from spinach and roughly chop.
Transfer to a bowl.

Return skillet to medium-high heat and heat three tablespoons (45 mL) of oil. Roughly chop artichoke hearts and cook, stirring, until browned, about 12 minutes.
Transfer to bowl of spinach.
Wipe out skillet and place over medium heat. Add remaining one tablespoon (15 mL) of oil and remaining one tablespoon (15 mL) of butter and heat.
Add onions.
Cook until soft, about eight minutes. Add garlic and cook for two more minutes.
Transfer onion mixture to a food processor along with 3⁄4 cup (175 mL) of parmesan, mozzarella, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest, mustard powder and Tabasco sauce.
Process until smooth.
Fold cheese mixture into spinach and artichokes, season with salt and pepper to taste, and transfer to a greased two-quart (2 L) oval baking dish.
Sprinkle with remaining 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) of parmesan.
Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve with toasted pita wedges.

Spinach egg drop soup

  • 6 c. chicken stock, preferably homemade 1.5 L
  • 1 tbsp. finely grated ginger 15 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste 7 mL
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch 22 mL
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil 15 mL
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. baby spinach 500 mL
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

Bring stock, ginger, and one teaspoon (5 mL) salt to a boil in a four-quart (4 L) saucepan.
Stir cornstarch and soy sauce in a bowl until smooth.
Whisk into stock, cook until slightly thickened, one to two minutes, and remove from heat.
Whisk remaining salt, the sesame oil and eggs in a bowl.
While gently whisking broth, slowly add egg mixture to scatter eggs as they cook.
Stir in spinach until it is wilted, about one minute. Season with salt.
Divide soup between four bowls.
Top with green onions.

Creamy garlic chicken spanakopita in a skillet

Be careful not to over salt this recipe. Using the same pan throughout means an accumulation of flavours. And also, the feta is quite salty.

  • 1 lb. fresh baby spinach leaves, washed 500 g
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided 90 mL
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, chopped into 1-inch chunks 700 g
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour 30 mL
  • 1/2 c. homemade chicken stock or low-sodium broth, plus more as needed 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. half-and-half cream 125 mL
  • 6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled 170 g
  • 3 green onions, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 1 small bunch dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 6 to 8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed and covered with a towel

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add spinach, a handful at a time, until the pan is full.
Turn the spinach often until just wilted, then transfer to a colander, let cool and press out as much water as you can. Continue until all of the spinach is wilted and pressed.
Pour off excess water in the skillet and place back over medium heat.
Melt two tablespoons (30 mL) butter in the pan and add chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning once, until the edges are lightly golden, about four minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C). Melt two tablespoons (30 mL) butter in same skillet and add garlic.
Cook until fragrant, about one minute, then mix in flour.
Stir together until the mixture forms a golden paste.
Whisk in 1/2 cup (125 mL) chicken stock. Cook, stirring often, until mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in half-and-half cream.
Add feta cheese, green onions and dill and stir, allowing the feta to melt.
Remove from heat. Return chicken and spinach to skillet, mixing well. If the sauce has thickened too much, add more chicken stock to reach the desired consistency.
Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Melt the remaining two tablespoons (30 mL) butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Lay a sheet of phyllo on a work surface. Brush with melted butter, then scrunch up the sheet and set it on top of the spinach mixture in the skillet. Repeat with remaining phyllo until the skillet is completely covered.
Bake until phyllo is golden and crisp on top, about 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, garnish with additional dill, and serve warm.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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