Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm strong to the finish, 'cause I eats me Spinach!

I couldn't resist the quote, because tonight's supper was called Popeye Pasta. And, yes, it had spinach in it.

Popeye Pasta

Olive oil
One onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 cans (I used 15 oz. each) crushed tomatoes
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. basil
1# pasta (I used whole wheat spirals)
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach

Cook pasta according to directions. Saute in oil the onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, oregano, basil and spinach. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Drain pasta, top with sauce, serve!

The original recipe called for 1/2 t. marjoram, but I realized too late I didn't have any. It also called for 1/3 c. of red or white wine. Well, I discovered a wine bottle with, I am not kidding, one teaspoon of wine left. Who leaves a teaspoon of wine in the bottle, and then puts that bottle in the refrigerator?! Argh! However, even without the suggested ingredients, the dish came out delish.

You can use fresh spinach instead of frozen, if you want. Just add it after simmering and when it wilts, pour over pasta.

Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia, from the word aspanakh (roughly "green hand"). Arab traders carried spinach into India, and then the plant was introduced into ancient China, where it was known as "Persian vegetable". The earliest available record of the spinach plant was recorded in Chinese, stating that it was introduced into China via Nepal (probably in 647 AD). In AD 827, the Saracens introduced spinach to Sicily. Spinach invariably made its way into England, where it is mentioned in the first known English cookbook, The Forme of Cury (1390). In 1533, Catherine de'Medici became queen of France; she so fancied spinach that she insisted it be served at every meal. To this day, dishes made with spinach are known as "Florentine," reflecting Catherine's birth in Florence. During the 18th and 19th centuries, spinach water was used as touchpaper for fireworks since paper soaked in it would smolder well.

Extraordinarily high in vitamin C and rich in riboflavin, one cup of cooked spinach also contains a very high level of vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium, as well as vitamins E, B6, K and thiamin. Folate, a mineral found in high amounts in spinach, has been shown to reduce high blood pressure and inflammation of blood vessels. The chemical version of folate, folic acid, has long been associated with lower rates of birth defects when taken orally during pregnancy. This leafy green is also an excellent source of manganese, iron, calcium, vitamin B2 and potassium. It’s a very good source of protein, phosphorus, vitamin E, zinc, dietary fiber, and copper. Plus, it’s a good source of selenium, niacin, and omega-3 fatty acids.

A lot of people aren't fond of cooked spinach, describing it as a blob of green stuff. I like to eat it raw, as well as cooked, especially in a salad. Eating raw spinach is a popular choice but not the best choice for everyone. Spinach is high in oxalic acid when ingested raw. Oxalic acids can produce damage to blood vessels. Some people may produce symptoms such as gout, arthritis, and rheumatism after eating large quantities of raw spinach. These acids can cause kidney stones and gallstones in people with lower renal functions.

However, oxalic acid can be lowered in spinach by boiling. Frequently change the water the spinach cooks in by boiling, draining the cooking water, boiling again, and then rinsing before consumption. This will greatly lower the oxalic acids present. The nutritional value of spinach does reduce with cooking, yet it still remains one of the most excellent sources for bountiful natural nutrients available. One pound of leaves can be reduced to about one cup of the cooked product. Since the iron in spinach is in soluble form, the water left from cooking will contain that element, as well as other water-soluble nutrients that should be used instead of thrown away.

Studies have shown that consumption of green leafy vegetables such as spinach may slow the age-related decline in brain function. So, eat your greens and keep working those crossword puzzles to keep your brain young and agile!

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