Tasting Friday, 4/07, 5:00 -6:30pm
Spinach—A Nutritional Powerhouse
Spinach is one of the most versatile greens around. You can mix it in a soup, replace boring lettuce in a sandwich, cook it down and put it in pasta, have it with fish, chicken, beef, pork, or just plain raw mixed in a salad. It goes with Italian, Indian, Asian, South American, and any other cultural flavors you can think of! On top of being an adaptable green, spinach is also a nutritional powerhouse. While most of the benefits Popeye saw might have been exaggerated, spinach definitely ranks up there in antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients for your brain. Some of the brain boosting nutrients in spinach currently being studied are: alpha lipoic acid, folate, and vitamin E.
Alpha lipoic acid has been implicated in helping with Alzheimer’s Disease in animal studies and in small human trials.
Folate and/or folic acid is essential for brain function and not having enough can lead to depression and cognitive impairment.
It is also a good source of Vitamin E which has been shown to reduce cognitive decay in the elderly, most likely by protecting synaptic membranes from oxidation by free radicals.
Incorporating more spinach and leafy greens in general into your diet can have great health effects. One way to increase the nutritional value of spinach is to cook it. Cooking can unlock vitamins and minerals such as calcium that would otherwise be unavailable in raw spinach. Try some cooked spinach in these spinach rice balls, which is a great appetizer or healthy snack that the whole family will like! You can even make them into little patties instead of balls, top with a creamy white bean, mushroom, or cheesy sauce, and a protein to make it a quick, gourmet looking meal!
References: Gomez-Pinilla, F. Brain foods: The effects of nutrients on brain function. (2008). Nature Reviews: Neuroscience. Vol 9. www.nature.com/reviews/neuro
Spinach Arancini (Spinach Rice Balls)
Makes approximately 2 dozen
Adapted from cookingwithmykid.com
2 cups cooked rice (works best with day old, stickier rice)
2 egg whites
10 oz fresh spinach chopped (or frozen)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper
olive oil cooking spray
feta or mozzarella cheese (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or prepare it with a Silpat.
- Sauté shallots in olive oil in a pan over medium heat until translucent. Add spinach and garlic and continue to sauté until most of the moisture is cooked off. Set aside and let cool.
- In a medium bowl mix together rice, egg whites, bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix in spinach and use hands to form golf ball sized rice balls. Place each rice ball on the prepared baking sheet.
- Spray tops of rice balls with cooking spray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned and slightly crispy.
Pear & Balsamic Vinegar—Quite The Pair
The Pear, the peculiar and less popular sister to the apple can be the perfect treat for a warm day or a large disappointment that will leave you throwing out the fruit after one bite. When pears are perfectly ripe, biting into one and letting the sweet juices drip off your hands can be a perfectly satisfying snack, but if you happen to bite into one that isn’t quite ripe yet and it still has that tough mealy texture—it’s enough to deter you from trying one again anytime soon.
Luckily it is pretty easy to tell when a pear is ready to eat, much like an avocado or a mango, the fruit should have a slight give when you pick it up. Squeeze it lightly and if your fingers leave a slight indent then you are good to go! If it is still hard as a rock, put it back in the fruit basket for a day or two and let it ripen up.
Now say you forgot to check the pear and you take a bite and it is that less than appetizing texture, don’t throw out that vitamin, mineral and antioxidant filled fruit! Instead, you can try chopping it up into this easy-to-make sweet and tangy dressing!
Pear Balsamic Dressing
Adapted from Clai Lasher-Sommers of New Dawn Farm
1 medium pear
2/3 cup olive oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup water
lemon peel, to taste
- Chop pear into half-inch cubes, discard core.
- In a food processor, process pear cubes until it has turned into a paste like substance.
- Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and mix with processor on low.
- Dilute dressing lightly with water and add lemon peel to taste (lemons should balance the vinegar flavor).
- Pour over salad or roasted vegetables and enjoy!