Meatless Monday Featured Vegetable: Spinach

This Meatless Monday, we feature spinach, with growing, storage and prep tips, as well as recipes for Spinach and Artichoke Dip and Garlicky Spinach from Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.

Meatless Monday Spinach

Photo courtesy of High Mowing Seeds

Growing Tips

Spinach is a very hardy green, making it a popular greenhouse crop in New England in colder months. As with most non-heading greens, spinach is not recommended for transplanting. Direct seed into fertile soil as soon as it can be worked in the spring and sow a crop every 2 weeks until early summer for a steady supply. Seeds germinate best in cooler temperatures, so crops sown in the height of summer may fail to produce well. Another crop (or maybe two) can be planted in late summer (once the temperatures are cooling again) for a fall crop. Keep plants well-watered. Harvest when leaves are large but still tender and before the plant begins to bolt (for baby spinach, harvest when leaves are smaller). Most varieties of spinach will continue to produce for several weeks if leaves are harvested individually and not clear-cut.

Storage

Fresh spinach is quite delicate and does not store very well. Leaves will last the longest if they are relatively dry when stored, so either postpone washing until just before use or spin dry. Wrap loosely in plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to several days, using as soon as possible for best quality. For long-term storage, spinach can be blanched very briefly, drained, packed into bags, and frozen.

Nutritional Benefits

Spinach is rich in many vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, vitamins A, E, C, and K, manganese, and folate. Many of the nutrients found in spinach are more readily absorbed by the body if the leaves are lightly cooked. Spinach also delivers fiber and even some protein.

Preparation

Most spinach leaves need nothing more than a good wash. If any larger leaves have tough stems, simply chop them off and discard. Spinach is extremely versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked in a wide variety of ways. Be careful not to overcook spinach, however, as it will result in loss of both flavor and texture as well as diminishing nutritional value.

Meatless Monday Recipe: Spinach Artichoke Dip

Janice Santiago, a volunteer baking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook tried out this recipe.  Her comments and adjustments are in italics below the recipe.

Serves 6
(adapted from www.spinachrecipes.org)

Ingredients

  • 1 14-ounce jar of artichoke hearts
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 4 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 splash olive oil
  • ½  cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½  cup mayonnaise, sour cream, or plain yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½  cup grated jack cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray, oil or butter.
  2. Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add spinach and garlic powder and sauté until tender.
  3. Drain and chop artichoke hearts.
  4. Combine artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan, mayo (or yogurt or sour cream), salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Mix together.
  5. Scrape mixture into casserole dish.  Top with cheese and bake 3o minutes or until cheese is bubbling and slightly browned.
  6. Serve warm with bread, bagel chips, or hearty crackers.

“I made this up last night – it is very, very good and addicting!! Again, about 45 minutes (15 for prep and the rest baking).  Very easy to make, but there are some parts of the recipe that could use clarifying.  Ohhh, I also used mayonnaise in it – the recipe suggested mayo, sour cream, or plain yogurt.

“Here are recipe thoughts/comments:

“1.  14 ounce jar of artichoke hearts – okay…should clarify NOT marinated (there are a bunch of jars of marinated artichokes out there) I figured not wanting the extra seasoning so opted for the CAN of artichoke hearts. I could only find one brand of artichokes that came 14-oz…and that was a jar.  

“2.  4 cups chopped spinach – recipe needs to clarify 4 cups of FRESH spinach, chopped because you can buy chopped spinach in the freezer section.  Interesting price notice (shopped at Hannaford)…the store brand was only 5 oz for @ 2.99 and I got 9 oz for the same, but national brand so makes sense to look around and compare cost/quantity. Also, I went into healthy living and the spinach was 9.99 lb!!! It might have been fresher, but no way!  Also..would the frozen chopped spinach work?  You may need to packages of it, thawed, and squeeze out liquid, but might be easier for some to find and more affordable??

“3.  Splash of Olive oil – again, for new cooks etc, you should put some measurement to it…couple of TBSP or something.  I did a “splash”, but added more.

“4.  “casserole dish” – need to specify kind/size etc.  The deeper the dish, the longer it would have to be in the oven to heat through.  I chose a pie plate because it wasn’t too deep and had more surface area for the jack cheese to cover – cooking time could vary a lot depending on what kind of dish the cook uses.

“This was a wonderful recipe with easy ingredients to find – This will be made and served at my next dinner party or just when the girls come over to “dish” and relax.  A great recipe for beginner chefs to master.

Meatless Monday Recipe: Garlicky Spinach

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • ½  tablespoon butter
  • 1 spoonful crushed, powdered, or minced garlic
  • 4 large handfuls spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat butter in heavy skillet over low-medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and sauté briefly, until fragrant.
  3. Add spinach and sauté, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Note: try serving atop fried eggs, in breakfast sandwiches, alongside rice and beans, or as an accompaniment to almost any meal!

To receive more recipes and tips on your favorite fruits and vegetables, download Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.    Vermont Foodbank fresh food initiatives would not be possible without your support.  Please consider giving to the Vermont Foodbank today!

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