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Last Chance Foods: Spinach

Saturday, October 17, 2009

As the seasons change, so does the fresh local produce. Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, and gives you a heads up on what’s still fresh and local at the farmers market.

Since 1929, Popeye the Sailor has arguably done more for spinach than any ad campaign. While the canned variety favored by Popeye is available year-round, the fresh version in the New York area is best in late October, making it one of the last leafy greens to be in season each year.

Annie NovakAnnie Novak

WNYC talked to Annie Novak, a farmer for the 6,000-square-foot Rooftop Farms on Eagle Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, about growing, harvesting and enjoying spinach.

 

With all the plants that I do at the farm, my genuine hope is that people who don't have access to space like I do are be able to do container gardening of their own. Ultimately, to me, the most important thing is that people should connect to their food through growing their own food. It's the best, best way to get in touch with the environmental purpose of growing locally.

The twentysomething Novak is also the program director for Growing Chefs, an organization that promotes food education. She explained that baby spinach is grown in bunches close together, whereas regular spinach is spaced about six to 10 inches apart. The vegetable gets sweeter when the temperature drops below 40 degrees.

Last week, Novak's boyfriend layered sharp cheddar, lightly wilted spinach and the season’s last pineapple tomato on toast to create a simple dish that highlighted the changing seasons.

 

The fall is the best season to start buying brassicas again — broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts. All of these are plants that are at their sweetest right now. It’s now through Thanksgiving is really when you get them.

White House chef Cristeta Comerford makes "no cream" creamed spinach for health-conscious First Lady Michelle Obama, who also praises locally grown produce.

. . .

"No Cream" Creamed Spinach
by Cristeta Comerford
(from the New York Times)

  • Serves 6
  • 2 pounds baby spinach, washed and cleaned
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Blanch half a pound of spinach in salted, boiling water. Immediately, "shock" the blanched spinach in a bowl of iced water. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Puree in a blender. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, sweat the shallots and garlic until translucent. Add the rest of the spinach leaves. Toss and sauté until wilted. Fold in the spinach puree. Season with salt and pepper.


Give us your take: What are your best spinach recipes? How do you get your kids to eat the much-maligned green?

Next week, Last Chance Foods focuses on lettuce. What’s your favorite unusual lettuce dish? Drop a recipe in the comments section.

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About Last Chance Foods

Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, gives you a heads up on what’s still available at the farmers market and tells you how to keep it fresh through the winter.

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