Vail Simply Seasonal: Popeye had the right idea |

Vail Simply Seasonal: Popeye had the right idea

Sue Barham Simply SeasonalVail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail Daily/Nelson KunkelVail Simply Seasonal: Fresh spinach salad delivers a wealth of nutritional benefits and tastes great, too.

VAIL, Colorado -From our youth, we are trained that eating spinach makes you strong. The message was subliminal, delivered through a cartoon character known as Popeye the Sailor Man. When he needed an energy boost – no Clif Bar, no Gatorade, but a can of spinach. He’d down the whole can and his muscles ripped.Cartoon hero or not, you couldn’t pay me to eat spinach as a kid.As I grew older and wiser, I discovered a modern convenience – the availability of triple washed, cello-bagged fresh spinach. I wasn’t the only one. The popularity of spinach grew substantially along with other bag o’ salad varieties.Rich in iron, calcium, antioxidants, Vitamin A and a plethora of other vitamins and minerals, spinach is best eaten fresh or lightly steamed for maximum nutritional value. Spinach is a classic ingredient for salads. Its slightly bitter taste and sturdy texture stands up equally well to delicate or full-flavored accompaniments.As a side dish, spinach complements everything from fish to red meats. Armando Navarro, Larkspur’s executive chef, suggests a quick saute. “Heat olive oil, add chopped onions and garlic, and stir till fragrant,” he says. “Toss in fresh spinach, salt and pepper and stir till wilted, about one minute. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Use about one cup spinach per serving.”Create your own spinach salad – the possibilities are endless. Start with a cup of spinach per person and place in a large bowl. Select from the suggestions below, or add whatever is at hand. Toss with vinaigrette.Fruit: clementines, strawberries, pears, apples, dried cranberries, avocadoNuts: pine nuts, sliced or slivered almonds, cashews, toasted pecansCrunchy veggies: radishes, cucumber, red onionsSoft veggies: sauteed onions, steamed red potatoes, steamed green beans, mushroomsProtein: hard boiled eggs, crisp bacon, leftover turkey, feta cheese, blue cheeseVinaigrette:1 cup extra virgin olive oil1/3 cup red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons sugar1 tablespoon minced onion1/2 teaspoon paprika1/2 teaspoon dry mustardPlace all ingredients in blender and blend 6-8 minutes. Can be stored in fridge for 3 days.

1/2 pound baby spinach, washed, dried, and stems removed2 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced8 slices bacon, chopped3 tablespoons red wine vinegar1 teaspoon sugar1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustardsalt and pepper4 white mushrooms, sliced1 small red onion, thinly sliced Add the bacon to a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon pieces are crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel. Pour the bacon grease into a large bowl. Whisk in the vinegar, sugar and mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the spinach, bacon pieces, mushrooms, and red onion to another large bowl. Pour the bacon dressing on top and toss until well coated. Add eggs to the salad and serve. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

5 artichokes, tough outer leaves removed, stems and tops of leaves trimmed5 lemons2 cups tightly packed baby spinach2 tablespoons mayonnaise1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot1 garlic clove, finely chopped3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese1/4 teaspoon coarse salt1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepperFreshly ground pepper1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded part-skim mozzarella1 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese1 baguette, cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices and toastedPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Place artichokes in a large stockpot; cover with water by 3 inches. Halve 4 lemons; squeeze juice into water, and add rinds. Bring to a boil. Cover; cook 20 minutes. Drain artichokes upside down on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Let cool completely. Remove leaves, reserving 3 cups. For each artichoke, trim inner part to the heart; scrape out fuzzy choke, and discard, reserving heart. Put spinach into a steamer basket set over boiling water. Cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Squeeze out water, and coarsely chop spinach. Pulse artichoke hearts, the finely grated zest and juice of remaining lemon, mayonnaise, shallot, garlic, ricotta, salt, and cayenne in a food processor until combined; season with pepper. Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Stir in spinach and 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon mozzarella. Sprinkle with Parmesan and the remaining tablespoon mozzarella. Heat dip in oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Preheat broiler. Broil dip until edges are bubbling and top is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve dip with artichoke leaves and toasted baguette. Makes 2 cups.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale and Larkspur Restaurant. Avondale recently opened in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. The restaurant features a West Coast inspired, seasonal menu and the chefs use time-honored cooking methods, such as slow roasting and braising, to create simple dishes rich in flavor. The wine program focuses on small production wines to compliment the straightforward cuisine. For more information visit

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