Illustration by Daniel Bivins
Spinach: Popeye's favorite food loves the cool, damp days of March. It's an excellent source of iron, but it's an even better source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate. Spinach is good for the eyes, skin and bones. Unfortunately, the oxalic acid contained in spinach binds to vitamins and makes it hard for your body to absorb them. Cooking, as well as pairing spinach with foods high in vitamin C, helps to make the greens' nutrients more bioavailable.
Choose spinach that's deep green and free of wilt and yellowing leaves. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It's best used within two to three days and must be washed thoroughly, because spinach is often sandy.
The first variety of spinach originated in Asia. It spread to Europe via Persia (Iran) and was cultivated, unsurprisingly, by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Besides Popeye's super-strength, prosperity and vitality are other mystical properties that the plant is supposed to bestow upon diners. You can find varieties of spinach all over the world, from the curly-leaved to the shiny and smooth.
Chris Farnwalt of Patrick Henry's Pub & Grille shared this easy recipe to help you get some greens into your meal.
Basic Pizza Dough
2 (1/4-ounce) packets of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 1/4 cups of warm water
6 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons of cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
Marinara sauce (optional)
Combine the yeast, sugar, water and oil in a large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve. Leave the mixture in a warm spot in the kitchen until it is frothy. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the dry mix to the wet and work with your hands until they are combined. Knead the dough so it becomes smooth and elastic. Dust with more flour if it is sticky. Place in a large bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for an hour. Once the dough has risen, punch it down.
For the calzone:
Basic pizza dough (see recipe above)
5 ounces of baby spinach, rinsed and squeezed of excess water
1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Cornmeal (for dusting the baking sheet)
Marinara sauce (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a medium sauté pan and add the spinach. Sauté until wilted and drain off any extra liquid. Mix the spinach, ricotta and mozzarella, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Dust a rolling pin and your work surface with flour. Roll the dough into a 9-by-12-inch oval. Place the filling on one half of the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border. Fold the rest of the dough over the filling and crimp the edges together. Roll the crimped edges to make a rim. Place the calzone on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal and brush the top with olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking, until the top is golden-brown and the middle is hot and melted. Serve with (optional) marinara sauce.