Conscious Cook: Swing into spring with spinach risotto

Springtime spinach is marvelously mild, and a wonderfully versatile ingredient.

Springtime spinach is marvelously mild, and a wonderfully versatile ingredient.

Metro Creative Connection / Contributed photo

“The hum of bees is the voice of the garden.” —Elizabeth Lawrence

In May, the sun reaches deep into the earth and into our souls, reviving our bodies and bringing a new splendor to our days. As the trees and flowers burst into full bloom, the sweet trilling of birds and the buzzing of bees celebrates this gorgeous month with a blissful concerto.

Garden fresh greens bring a lively lusciousness to your May table. Delectable, delicate, baby lettuces, spinach, bok choy, watercress and fresh herbs are tender and tasty ingredients that make for inspired spring eating.

Spinach is a mighty source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Consuming more spinach may possibly protect against osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, prostate cancer and arthritis. Spinach provides vitamin K1, which may support bone health, as well as being a super source of non-dairy calcium. Also rich in vitamins C and A, eating spinach may effectively reduce free radicals in the body. Loaded with lutein (a carotenoid that may combat eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration), spinach will help you sparkle inside and out.

Springtime spinach is marvelously mild, and a wonderfully versatile ingredient. Perk up your palate with a nourishing spinach salad. Place well-washed fresh spinach leaves in a bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a spritz or two of fresh lemon juice. Embellish your salad with chopped hard-boiled egg, sliced mushrooms, grape tomatoes, thinly-sliced sweet or red onion slivers and a bit of bracing gorgonzola cheese. A delicious spinach risotto would be an elegant entrée for any spring soiree.

Fresh, raw, spinach leaves are divine in veggie lasagna, or added to an omelet with goat cheese and sun-dried tomato. Stuff chicken breasts or butterflied leg of lamb with a sumptuous stuffing of spinach, goat or cream cheese and plenty of minced fresh herbs.

Jade-green spinach soup is perfect for nippy spring evenings, or add spinach to smoothies in the morning for a burst of brightness. Lightly steam spinach leaves and add 1 or 2 finely minced cloves of garlic, a liberal squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for a superb side dish. Top with toasted walnuts or pignoli nuts and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese if desired.

Look for deeply colored green leaves with no sign of yellow wilt when purchasing spinach. Store unwashed spinach in a plastic baggie in the refrigerator until ready to use. Wash well in cool water, swishing leaves around and changing water until no dirt remains in the bottom of the bowl.

Savor the glory of early garden crops as you prepare your delicious life!

Spring Garden Spinach Risotto

Serves 4

4-6 cups organic chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup minced shallots

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup arborio rice (available in most supermarkets)

1/2 cup of dry white wine

1/2 pound of fresh, baby spinach leaves, well washed and dried

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped basil

1/4 cup chopped chives

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Add garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Add rice and stir for several minutes, until turning translucent. Add wine and stir until wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup of broth at a time, stirring until each cup is incorporated. Taste after adding the 4th cup of broth. The finished risotto should be tender and creamy, but with a slight toothiness, so continue adding broth until desired texture is achieved. Start adding spinach leaves in several batches, letting spinach wilt each time. When all the spinach has been added, mix in the parmesan cheese and herbs. Taste and season with sea salt and black pepper. Serve in shallow bowls with additional parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.