Eat your spinach!

You'll love it, really, in these deliciously green dishes

Published: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 8:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 8:32 p.m.

Looking for a way to go green? How about spinach? Good raw or cooked, it can add color to dips, flavor to soups, bulk to your salad and nutrients to your diet.

And locally, the time for spinach is now. In season during Florida's cooler months, there are three varieties of spinach – smooth leaf, savoy, with a crinkled rough leaf, and semi-savoy, lightly crinkled with a rough surface.

Cooked spinach stars in the Spinach Veggie Rollups, an elegant dish full of flavor that's perfect to make ahead and reheat. The Nuts About Spinach Soup is a tasty way to try vegan cooking and the Orange Spinach Salad is perfect for potlucks – layer it onto a pretty platter and serve the dressing on the side. However you enjoy it, spinach is a great way to go green — a balanced package of nutrition containing very few calories.

Before you prepare your dish, remember that washing spinach is important. Start with a big bowl of water, then submerge the leaves, swish, remove, change the water and repeat until all the leaves are clean. It may take an extra washing for the crinkled types.

Spinach Veggie Rollups

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 leek or garlic leek, sliced

8 ounces mushrooms, chopped

1 large carrot, shredded

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup fresh thyme, chopped

8 cups (6 ounces) fresh spinach, loosely packed

2 cups ricotta cheese

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

12 lasagna noodles, fully cooked, rinsed in cold water

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

3 cups milk

1/8 teaspoon each nutmeg and cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup cheese, shredded, divided

In a large pan, sauté leek, mushrooms and carrot in olive oil. Stir in garlic, basil, thyme and spinach, cooking until spinach is wilted but not completely soft. Remove veggies to a separate bowl, then mix in ricotta and parsley. Set aside.

In a sauce pan, melt butter, stir in flour and cook 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil one minute, then simmer until sauce is thickened. Stir in nutmeg, cayenne and salt. Remove from heat. Ladle 1 1/2 cups of sauce into a 9x13 baking dish. Set aside.

On a flat surface, lay out a cooked lasagna noodle and pat dry. Spread 1/3 cup veggie mixture over almost entire noodle, except for 1/2 inch at one end. Roll filled noodle toward the bare end and place seam side down in prepared baking dish, on top of white sauce. Repeat with all noodles. Pour remaining white sauce over filled rollups and top with 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Cover and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Uncover, top with remaining cheese, and bake an additional 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4-6. Refrigerate leftovers.

Nuts aboutSpinach Soup

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 leek, sliced

12 cups (9 ounces) fresh spinach, loosely packed

4 cups veggie broth

1 cup cashew butter, freshly ground

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Dash each of nutmeg and cayenne pepper

Sauté leek and spinach in olive oil in a large pan, stirring until spinach is completely wilted. Puree cooked veggies with veggie broth and cashew butter. Pour into sauce pan on low heat, stir in lemon juice and seasonings. Serve hot. Serves 4-6.

Orange Spinach Salad with Ginger Dressing

8 cups fresh baby spinach, stems removed

3 oranges, sectioned

3 ounces chevre (soft goat cheese), crumbled

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup pecans, chopped and toasted

1/4 cup olive oil

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 orange, juiced and zested

1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated

1 tablespoon green onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon sugar

In a large bowl or platter, layer spinach with oranges. Top with crumbled cheese, dried cranberries and pecans. Whisk together remaining ingredients to create dressing. Serve salad with dressing on the side. Serves 4-6.

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