Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Power of Spinach

The queen of France, Catherine de'Medici, adored spinach so much she insisted it be served with every meal. Even today, dishes made with spinach are referred to as "Florentine" as Catherine was from Florence, Italy. Originating in ancient Persia, spinach was an item used in trade, eventually making its way to China and across Europe.

But it was a sailor who put spinach on the American radar—Popeye the Sailor, to be precise. Remember those disproportionate forearms, anchor tattoos, and his corn cob pipe? He gulped spinach into popularity. The spinach-growing community of Crystal City, Texas went so far as to erect a statue to recognize Popeye’s positive influence on the spinach industry.

Thanks to Popeye, spinach has a reputation of being the anabolic steroid of vegetables. That’s a bit unrealistic, but spinach does contain great nutritional value. Especially when eaten fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled, spinach is full of antioxidants, iron, and Vitamins A, C, E, and K.

Looking for a way to add some panache to a meal? Just add spinach. This leafy green has been capturing the appetites of many for centuries. Nutritional and delicious, spinach is an ingredient found in dishes for every meal. Omelets at breakfast, salad at lunch, and in pasta at dinner. Of course it's never a bad idea to enjoy a spinach snack like Popeye.

Spinach and Red-Pepper Calzones


1 1/2 tablespoons of cornmeal

1 large onion, halved and sliced lengthwise

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

5 ounces baby spinach (8 packed cups)

4 bottled roasted red-peppers, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 1-inch pieces (1 cup)

12 oil-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped (about 3 Tbsp)

1 pound Roseli pizza dough, thawed if frozen

1/2 pound smoked mozzarella, cut into 16 pieces


Preheat oven to 500 degrees F with the rack in the lowest position. Sprinkle cornmeal on a large baking sheet.

Cook onion with 1/4 tsp salt in 2 Tbsp of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in red peppers, olives, and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14-inch round, then cut into quarters. Roll out 1 quarter into an 8-inch square (keep remaining pieces covered) and arrange with corner nearest you. Put one-fourth of filling on lower half, leaving a 1-inch border, and top with 4 pieces of cheese. Fold dough over to enclose filling. Seal edges. Beginning in 1 corner, stretch sealed edge outward, pinching and rolling dough up over edge to resemble a rope, working your way around. Transfer to baking sheet. Make 3 more calzones in same manner. Cut 3 steam vents in top of each and brush with remaining olive oil.

Bake until golden-brown, 13-15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

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