From Spinach with love

April 2021

Spinach is perhaps the first greens, which we find on the open markets, a sweet reminder that Spring is here to stay. I love it not only for its vibrant green shades, rich taste, but also because it makes a generous bridge with Winter. Its wholesome flavours, luscious texture and warmth which we gather on the plate, and in our heart too. To serve bountiful dishes full of diversity and richness.

Spinach is a wonderful green-leaved veggie to energize our day and meals. It is rich in vitamin K, Folic acid (vit. B9), vitamin C and Manganese, and a good source of Iron, Magnesium, Riboflavin (vit. B2) and vitamin B6, so precious for important processes and flows in our body and mind. Nurturing our immune and gut strength. Spinach contains high level of oxalates, preventing the absorption of Iron and Calcium in the stomach and small intestines, and some nutritionists recommend consuming it cooked in several changes of water, for its more wholesome acceptance. I always recommend a balance and diversity in the basket of veggies and products, which we include in our weekly diet, in order to bring variety and rotation, and avoid the concentration of specific nutrients in our body. Similarly for spinach not to overdo it! This has been my philosophy for years ~ moderation and variety, the heart of the Mediterranean diet wisdom?

I found amazing spinach varieties at a farmers’ market in Sofia and will share 4 delightful recipes to diversify your mornings and lunches. 

Spinach mini pancakes (2 serves)

For the batter:

beat 2 eggs with a pinch of sea salt, add 6 t.s. Whey (from buffalo mozzarella/ yogurt) & a pinch of baking soda, add 1 handful of finely chopped spinach leaves (washed & dried), add 4-5 generous t.s. of Spelt flour/grits for a thick batter

For the pan: 

heat a pan with some drops of simple EVOO (a blend does well), form mini pancakes with a large tablespoon, cook at medium heat until golden on both sides, turning them several times to avoid burning

For the final plate:

serve with fresh ricotta, drizzled with some drops of EVOO with intensive green Fruitiness & Pungency

I love Early harvests as they radiate the fresh, green, luscious mood of Spring. A Casaliva from Garda lake, Picual from Andalusia (from younger trees), a Makri from north-east Greece and a Trilye from Aegean Turkey do a wonderful pairing.

Spinach makes a great omelette, for brunch or lunch, and for this occasion I chop it finely too. You know my passion for EVOO, and it’s not a surprise that I use this noble fat for my omelettes. I apply the step by step and rolled technique, which I know from Asia. Pouring a thin layer of the batter and rolling it with the help of chop sticks or a wooden spatula. Pouring the rest of the batter and keeping the pan slightly inclined, for the egg mix to spread under the 1st roll too. And when slightly solid, start rolling the egg layer again. It tastes wonderful with soft cheeses, like cream cheese, or Gorgonzola dolce. Paired with a pungent peppery EVOO, like a Coratina from Puglia, rich in green almond, chicory, and rosemary sensations? or a standard harvest Picual from Andalusia, with some deeper notes of dried sunny herbs, ripe fruit and leaves, is magical. 

I would love to hear some of your comments how you prepared the omelette!

Here comes the right moment to make a small reminder about EVOO goodness when preparing our food daily, using various heat techniques in the kitchen (sautéing, braising, frying, baking, simmering, etc.). It is a blessing to bring purity, naturality and a clean taste to our meals, a privilege a few vegetable fats offer us in today’s industrial and “refined” reality. EVOO is a 100% natural juice from the olive fruit, extracted at low temperature below 27 °C, and with mechanical means only, without any additives in the process of its production.

It is safe to cook with EVOO because of: 1st its prevailing content of the monounsaturated Oleic acid (av. 75% and up to 85%), stable by nature to oxidative activity, 2nd unparalleled content of phenolic compounds with powerful antioxidant activity, 3rd high smoke point of 190-210 °C and high oxidative stability when exposed to prolonged heat treatment (in average 34 hours), a prerequisite for its high stability to decomposition and releasing harmful components. 

Soufflé with spinach & Camembert (3 serves)

For the soufflé mix:

beat 4 eggs with a pinch of sea salt & white pepper, add 2 t.s. fresh ricotta for a creamier texture, join with care 3 t.s. yogurt aerated with a generous pinch of baking soda

For the baking pot:

cover the walls & bottom of the pot with a layer of butter, pour 2/3 of the soufflé mix & arrange ½ of 125g of Camembert cut in pieces, sprinkle 3 handfuls of chopped spinach leaves (washed & dried), pour the remaining soufflé mix & arrange the other half of the cheese

For the oven:

bake in a preheated oven, at 180 °C for 25 min., covered with a lid (I use lower heat + ventilator & place the pot at second level in the oven),  take out the pot from the oven with attention, remove the lid & place it back at an upper level, switch the oven to grill, for the soufflé to get golden roasted, for another max 10 min.

For the final plate:

serve with a large spoon to preserve the creamy texture of the soufflé, pair with a sprinkle of a pungent & robust  EVOO. Here both vibrant green Early harvests do great, as well as EVOOs with riper & sweeter notes, yet with high pungency do amazing too. In the 1st case to excite the dish with some freshness and green vibes, in the 2nd to bring depth, new layers and complexity for the palate. For the 2nd route some high quality Koroneiki, or a Picual, or a Coratina pair nice with the baked flavours of the dish.

The soufflé combines well with spinach salad with pickled Jerusalem artichoke and fresh loquat fruit. The rich and thick flavours of the spinach leaves pair great with the tenderly fermented earthy flavours of JA, and the mildly sweet and delicately acid rich texture of this Mediterranean fruit. It comes for us in late winter/ spring, much before all of the fruit, and awakens us for the radiant colours of the new sunnier season. 

I make a vinaigrette with mature apple vinegar and a herbaceous EVOO, some white pepper and sea salt to taste. Depending on the number of people and our personal preference, we need to adjust the quantities, yet the proportion I love is 1 t.s. EVOO + ½ t.s. vinegar per person. The secret is to beat all together with a whisk to emulsify the vinaigrette and give it a smooth, luscious texture.

I wish you an ultimate delight for the senses!

~ we are what we live ~ we are what we eat ~ food for change ~