Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spinach and Radicchio ~

What's your first memory that comes to mind when you hear the word spinach? For me, it's the immediate picture of Popeye the Sailor man, from the cartoon with those metal cans of spinach being consumed whole by Popeye in moments of peril, when he needed instantaneous strength to ward off any evil-doers. It brings a smile to my face just remembering him gulp-ing down those cans of spinach, which always and miraculously migrated directly and immediately to his biceps, suddenly bulging to life with strength...if only the spinach I eat would offer me those same dynamic effects!

All kidding aside, I do love spinach (and kale) and try to cook it often and incorporate it into my diet through a variety of recipes. Spinach has quite a robust history for such an unassuming, flowering plant. Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (modern Iran). In AD 827, the Saracens introduced spinach to Sicily. The first written evidence of spinach in the Mediterranean are in three tenth-century works...but here's my favorite tid-bit... after it arrived in Spain, by the latter part of the twelfth century it was nick-named the "captain of leafy greens," by the great Arab agronomist Ibn al-'Awwam. Isn't that the truth, though it's going to have to duke it out with Kale first, for that title.

My most favorite way to cook and eat spinach is finding it fresh from someone's garden - No store-bought brand can really compare unless it's truly organic. Recently, I cooked up some spinach and mixed it in with some gluten-free pasta and sun-dried tomatoes for a tasty and nutritious meal.

Spinach & Sun dried tomato pasta ~
Serves 4

- 2 Heads of fresh spinach, washed, sliced and stems removed

- 3 Cloves of fresh garlic

- 1/2 Cup sliced or chopped sun-dried tomatoes

- 1 Bag of gluten-free pasta (I used Penne)

- 4 Tbsp. olive oil

- Salt and pepper to taste

- 2 Tbsp. fresh, grated Parmigiano

Sauté the sliced garlic in olive oil until soft then add the sun-dried tomatoes and cook until both are tender. Add spinach and some salt and pepper. Cover with lid after mixing together and let simmer until spinach is wilted and cooked down. Continue mixing ingredients while sautéing as to not stick to pan. When cooked, set aside with lid on.

After the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain, and add a dash of olive oil with salt. Then in one large bowl add pasta and the sautéed spinach mixture from the pan. Mix together and add fresh parmigiano. Serves four.

Another beautiful and nutritious veggie that I'm beginning to become more fond of is Radicchio. Its gorgeous purple leaves are so enticing and can be cooked and used in such a variety of ways, many of which I haven't a clue yet. I know it's great in risotto's and tossed in different salads to add a bit of that chicory flavor and color. It's also wonderful grilled with olive oil, which is how I like to prepare it; simple and can be served alone or serve with a roasted sausage or milder meat.

Grilled Radicchio~
Serves 4

- 1 Head of Radicchio, leaves washed and stems trimmed

- 2 Tbsp. of olive oil

- Refined Sea Salt to taste

Place washed leaves onto a heated grill, BBQ or sauté pan (med-high heat). Allow leaves to wilt and brown but NOT burn. Quickly remove, drizzle with olive oil and a dash of sea salt. Serve.

The more years that pass living life as a Celiac, the more I realize the value, nourishment and safety in cooking and eating a multitude of fresh vegetables. Bust out of your cooking comfort zone and try some new and "strange" veggies that you don't normally cook. There are truly so many colors, shapes and amazing flavors of veggies in your produce department just waiting to be picked and brought home for dinner.

Bon appétit, gluten-free style!

No comments: