Friday, October 23, 2009

What's this green stuff?

I think that we can agree...getting someone to eat spinach can be very much like getting them to willingly eat dirt. Actually, with kids, it can be much harder. Many a kid will cheerfully munch his own handmade mud pies but wouldn't touch a plate of creamed spinach if there was a large cash prize involved.

Which is why it's important to introduce things early, often, in a variety of ways, and in forms a kid might like overall. Like, oh,

Spinach is great on pizza. Any pizza. A little fresh spinach sliced in ribbons and stirred into pizza sauce ups the iron and vitamin C, increases fiber, and gives a delicious, rich background flavor. A scattering of whole baby spinach leaves under the cheese gives texture and color, particularly on a garlicky white pizza.

But for my money, the best way to introduce spinach is with something creamy. A little spinach in a ricotta cheese topping, spread on a crust, with a light tomato topping becomes a gigantic version of florentine ravioli that can be sliced in wedges.

1 pizza crust
1 T. olive oil
½ c. ricotta cheese
¼ c. grated parmesan
1 c. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
¼ t. nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c. tomato sauce
1 c. shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.

In a bowl, combine ricotta and parmesan. Fold in spinach. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Spread over crust. Top with tomato sauce, just covering the cheese. (Save any remaining sauce to serve with pizza.) Top with mozzarella.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes to allow ricotta to set. If you don’t let it set, the ricotta layer will be too melted to cut and you won’t be able to eat your pizza without a fork. Or maybe a spoon. It will still be delicious though.

Extra Extra!!!

Gotta love those Italians - Even Popeye hasn’t been able to counteract the bad rap that spinach has with most kids and more than a few adults. But when it’s done right, spinach can be sublime, as the residents of Florence, Italy, can tell you. Their city doesn’t just have a dish named for it. They have a whole style of cooking, all built around the addition of one of Americans’ least favorite veggies.

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