Seasonal Chef: Eat your Spinach!


I was recently in Burlington, Vermont for my step-daughter Elinor’s college graduation and made  a trip to the Burlington Farmers Market. It’s a fabulous market with loads of vendors ranging from vegetables and proteins to plants, soap and objects d’art. I got a couple of bags of just-picked spinach and decided to write about it for you.

What is it about spinach? We all know it’s good for us. Chock full of Iron, Calcium and Vitamins A & C. No fat, no cholesterol and the teeniest amount of carbs. Yet it draws the widest range of opinions from people from love to hate to indifference. Of course I would venture a guess that it’s all about the preparation.

Spinach ranks up there as one of the most versatile ingredients to cook with: you can eat it raw in salads, sautéed or creamed as a side dish, or added to just about any kind of burger, to name just a few. This week I have a few easy ideas for you.

First up, I decided to make the ubiquitous Spinach Salad – but with my twist. After a quick ‘fridge check I found a couple of things to mix things up: leftover roasted peppers, a little bacon and some hard boiled eggs. Add a little garlic, oil and some toast and you have a perfect lunch dish that won’t weigh you down!

I saved some leftover grilled some bell peppers the night before, thinking I would used them in scrambled eggs for breakfast. (My husband Larry loves grilled peppers in just about any dish.) We both ended up skipping breakfast and moved right on to brunch, so my salad idea was born!

 I took the grilled peppers and gave them a little boost with some additional olive oil and a crushed garlic clove. I also wanted to get them warmed up a bit. You’re not looking to cook them anymore, just take the chill off from the ‘fridge. After about 2 minutes I tossed in the spinach and let it wilt slightly. Here is an important note: the spinach was mature and had some body. Baby spinach in this case will completely wilt down and while still tasty, won’t hold up in a pretty warm salad.

My finished product! I simply added a little leftover bacon crumbled up, a few are boiled eggs and tossed with a red wine vinaigrette.

For my second take on spinach I used it as a filling for some lovely Grey Sole filets I picked up a few days ago at my favorite go-to fishmonger Port Chester Seafood. This filling could not be simpler and you can use any fish filet of your choice, just look for one that can easily be rolled up.

I first sautéed a little shiitake mushroom and garlic.

After they got a little golden, about 5 minutes, I pushed them to the sides of the pan and added the spinach and seasoned with salt and pepper. You just want to wilt the spinach a bit here – it will continue to cook in the completed dish. I drained the the pan a little to remove the water that came out of the spinach, then tossed it all with the zest and juice of one lemon.

I did a simple seasoning of olive oil, salt and pepper to the filets and started rolling! Just for good measure I added a little chopped parsley and fresh breadcrumbs.

I placed my fish rolls over a medium hot grill and cooked for about 5 minutes. I can’t believe I’m saying this – but I don’t have a finished picture! I pulled them off the grill and we ate them right away. It was only after that I realized I forgot to snap a picture for you. The filet was moist and full of flavor from this wonderful filling.

I hope this encourages you to give this tasty vegetable a try. Spinach really is good, and so good for you too!

Buon Appetito!


Red Wine Vinaigrette
Makes 1 ½ cups

¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil

Place the vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in glass jar and shake to blend. Add olive oil and shake well until emulsified. Store in ‘fridge tightly sealed.


Spinach and Mushroom Fish Filet Rolls
Serves 4

4 thin fish filets, grey sole or flounder work well
3 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
1 garlic clove, chopped fine
4 cups mature spinach, roughly chopped
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

In a pan over medium heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the mushrooms, garlic and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Push the mushrooms to the sides of the pan and add the spinach with another pinch of salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and allow to cook for another 3-4 minutes tossing in the hot pan, until the spinach wilts slightly. Drain out the water and add the lemon zest and juice and toss well. Set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, prepare your filets by seasoning with olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley. Divide the spinach-mushroom mixture between the 4 filets and top with 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs over each. Roll and place seam side down on an oiled grill pan or cookie sheet. Top each with remaining breadcrumbs and parsley.

Grill over medium heat for about 5 -10 minutes, until filets are cooked through, but not dry. If cooking in oven, place in a preheated 375° oven for 5-10 minutes. (Check after 5 minutes to see if they are done.)

Serve immediately.


Maria Reina is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Port Chester, NY. In her free time she loves hanging out at local Farmers Markets in Westchester County doing cooking demos with seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog you can follow her  on Facebook and Twitter.


About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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