Wednesday, August 29, 2012

38 Power Foods, Week 11 -- Spinach -- B"L"T Risotto

Bacon, Spinach (the "L"), and Cherry Tomato Risotto
As a kid, spinach was not my thing.  It was that slimy stuff Popeye ate.  I didn't care if he was strong.  If I had to eat spinach, I didn't want to be strong.  I wanted nothing that slid whole cloth out of any can.

My own first child adored spinach.  By then, we'd reached the American culinary stage of  gorgeous gooey-cheesy baked spinach casseroles with crispy crumbled crackers on top.  Enabled by grocery store freezers filled with vegetables year-round, we chopped, mixed, added soup or cheese, and threw stuff into ovens to our heart's content.  We were eating vegetables, weren't we?  And we liked anything with cheese or sour cream or dried onion soup mix.

Fast forward to our awakening to spinach as a cold-weather vegetable.  To Fed-Ex produce departments continually full of the dirty stuff.  (Spinach was filthy then and still is if you grow it yourself or buy it at the farmer's market.)  Press again and see the last few years of  clean "baby" spinach in plastic boxes we don't know what to do with.  (Whole Foods recycles them, by the way; our own recyclers don't.) 

However we've had spinach, it's been pretty good for and to us.  Full of iron, vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene and vitamin K, this dark leafy, inexpensive and accessible green is beautiful!

Here spinach is mixed with baby kale for a powerful side.
I eat spinach nearly daily:

Herb-Spinach Egg White Omelet
If I don't make an egg white omelet, I make salad or have spinach instead of lettuce on a sandwich or..

Alyce's Tomatoed Cod on Fennel with Sauteed Spinach

 I might pair it with fennel as a side for my fish.

Yesterday, my tomatoes (volunteers left on their own for the summer) were picked by a neighbor and deposited on my back step.  She knew I'd been away; she's a gardener.

These were volunteers from the yard and driveway.  I left them to see what'd happen over the summer. They took over the side bed.

Hybrids ready to eat; they were pretty tasty!
 Hot on the back porch, the tomato scent wafted dizzily through me when I reached down and picked up the container.  What to do with them besides pop one (ok, three) in my mouth as is?

My larder isn't full yet; we've only been home from Colorado for a couple of days.  I did, however, have bacon in small packages in the freezer (one of my mainstays), rice in the pantry, and spinach (which serves as the L in BLT) in the frig.  Way back in the corner was an old chunk of Parmesan our house sitter hadn't eaten.  B"L"T Risotto was born.  Need I tell you this was the risotto from heaven? (Neighbor got a bowl, too.) Try it today:

b "l" t risotto

2-3 pieces bacon, chopped into 1" pieces
1T butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
Pinch crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 cup white wine
4-5 cups chicken stock, low sodium
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 - 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves

Set table before you begin.

  1. In a heavy 4 qt saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until nearly crisp and remove to a paper-towel lined plate leaving bacon fat in pot.  Set aside.   Add butter and onion to the saucepan.  Cook 4-5 minutes until onion is softened; add garlic and rice.  Stir in crushed red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper.  Stir well to coat rice.  Cook 1 minute or so. 
  2. Add white wine; raise heat a bit.  Cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until wine is absorbed. 
  3.  Add 2 cups warm chicken stock and cook about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until broth is absorbed.   Repeat.  Add last cup of broth (if rice is still too hard to eat--you want it between al dente and fall-apart tender.) Please relax about constantly stirring the risotto.  Pour a glass of wine, turn on the music, and stir only as necessary.
  4.  Stir in tomatoes, Parmesan, spinach, and reserved bacon. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  
  5. Serve hot with steamed green beans or asparagus. (See below.)   Pass black pepper at table. 
I liked a crisp grassy Sancerre with this, but I like a crisp grassy Sancerre with almost anything.  Chardonnay, which is lovely with creamy dishes, would also drink.

Note re seasonings:  The heat of the crushed red pepper is one that will build in your mouth as you eat the risotto; be careful not to add too much black pepper at the end.

Cook's Note:  For ease of preparation, here's how I do the asparagus or beans in the microwave while the last cup of broth is cooking away in the risotto pan:

Just 2 minutes for rinsed (no more water) asparagus on high:

Beans will take a couple of extra minutes unless they're haricots verts.  Add a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of pepper.

Sing a new song; eat risotto, too,


  1. Oh I wish I had a garden to get beautiful tomatoes like those. I didn't know that spinach grew in cold weather. I will give it a try! And btw, that risotto is making me hungry and it's only 9:45 am.

  2. Mireya! Come share our tomatoes. Hope you try the risotto; it was lovely and is my new go-to fast meal.


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