Spinach. It's green and leafy. You know it's good for you, but maybe you don't eat enough of it. Yet I know by the popularity of the Poppyseed dressing at the Cafe that lots of you are eating it, in the form of Spinach Salad. Add some Bacon, a few slivers of Red Onion, some Tomato and Sliced Egg, and you're in business. We've usually been able to find a local source of spinach by late March or April, which makes it the first fresh local vegetable in spring. We've been buying beautiful spinach from Katrina Fairn at the Berwick Farmer's Market and Taproot Farms, and I've gotten lovely stuff in previous years from Goldfinch Farm (just look for Dora at the Wolfville Farmer's Market). And while one can certainly consume plenty in raw form, cooking it reduces its volume so much you can easily eat half your daily vegetable requirement in a few luscious bites.
In fact, it's cooked Spinach that I now adore, in many different forms. Just try adding a large chopped bunch to a hot pan with Olive Oil and Garlic and turning it until it's cooked (sprinkle in some salt to taste). Or make a simple pizza and top with chopped Spinach, Tomato and minced Garlic. Mix cooked Spinach into your scrambled Eggs, add a big handful to any pasta dish, stir lots into curries and soups and use a bed of chopped spinach under just about anything. Spinach adds great flavour, and virtually calorie free volume (there may be more to come on this subject, since I love to pig out but don't like the side effects). Here's the latest favourite staff meal at Union Street:
Spinach and Veggie Skillet with Broiled Cheese
For 2 Veggie Lovers
1 T. Olive Oil
½ C. Red Onion, sliced
1 C. Mushrooms, sliced (we like Valley Mushrooms)
2 C. Red or Green Peppers, sliced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 enormous handfuls Spinach, chopped
1 C. Decent Tomato Sauce, or 1 large Tomato, chopped
1 C. Cooked Chicken, chopped
½ C. Feta cheese or Mozzarella
Preheat your oven's broiler and move the rack to the top position. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over medium high heat. Add the onions, mushrooms and peppers and saute until onions have softened and mushrooms are beginning to brown. Stir in the garlic, spinach and a pinch of salt and cook for another minute, until the spinach has wilted. Add the tomato sauce or tomatoes and the chicken if you're using it. Top evenly with the cheese. Place the pan under the broiler for a few minutes, watching intently, until the cheese has melted and is bubbling and browned. Divide between two bowls and serve with crusty bread.
We have experimented with about a hundred different Poppyseed Dressing recipes, but we feel this is the best. It comes in a roundabout way from the old Broadstreet Cafe in Kentville, NS via my dear friend and fellow food lover Terry Thornhill. It has a shocking amount of sugar, but it does make Spinach tempting to even the most vegetable-wary.
Poppyseed Dressing makes lots, and keeps at least 1 month in the fridge
1 T. Dry Mustard
1/2 C. Sugar
1/3 C. Vinegar
1 C. Canola Oil
1 t. Poppyseeds
1/2 t. Salt
1/8 t. Pepper
1/2 t. (yes) Garlic Salt
Put all the ingredients except the poppyseeds in a blender and blend until thick. Pour into a jar and add the poppyseeds, shaking to distribute. My oh my.