Stuck in my head was a verse:
“So, you want to be a super hero?” (to the tune of, SuperHero by Jane’s Addiction); you might notice I had the lyrics wrong? I’m always doing that; getting lyrics wrong and getting tunes stuck in my head. Somehow this got me to thinking about spinach, superheroes being strong and all.
Spinach was overrated in my book. In my whole set of encyclopedias, in fact. I did like Popeye and all, and particularly thought it was cool that he slurped down the green stuff (without a can opener) and became strong. Believe it or not, Popeye was not actually considered a superhero (I checked), but he did get superpowers from the spinach. I was okay with being weak; no spinach for me. For a little weakling though, I was actually pretty strong.
Ironically, as I began writing this post, I overheard two co-workers talking about Popeye and debating different theories concerning the characters. It seemed quite ironic as I hadn’t thought or heard about Popeye in many, many years, yet on my iPad sat a paragraph, beginning a post with Popeye’s mention. I couldn’t help but listen in on the debate.
A very quick synopsis of what I overheard:
Wimpy was the name of one of the characters (was this my character, I thought? Was I Wimpy?).
Olive Oyl was always getting Popeye into trouble (but spinach was always pulling him out).
Was the name of Popeye’s rival character named Bluto or Pluto (they settled on the wrong name, Pluto was their choice).
The conflict between Pluto and Popeye came from Olive Oyl (what, Olive Oyl was the antagonist? So is olive oyl good or bad for spinach?).
The whole spinach power thing was “wicked cool“ (dude).
I mentioned this to Tom on the drive home, who immediately said, “Bluto, not Pluto! Pluto was Mickey Mouse’s dog!”. That’s my Tom, vault of useless (+ useful) information (especially concerning cartoons, movie quotes, 80’s music, well, all things 80’s actually), much to my chagrin. He does make me laugh.
It wasn’t until one day while lunching with my former boss, that I discovered I had been missing out all along. When she ordered us a big plate of spinach sautéed with garlic and lemon to split as an appetizer, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. She could be, um, slightly judgmental, and I didn’t want to tell her I hated spinach, when she was so certain that this is what we needed to have. I knew I would need to eat it, what I did not know was that I would actually like it so much.
It has been some number of years since then and I have been happily munching on spinach ever since. Perhaps the difference between my like and dislike of the green stuff was all in the presentation. Wadded up and popped out of a can (the visual I gleamed from Popeye growing up) along with the frozen block out of a waxed box, soggy and slimy on the plate (the actuality of how mine was delivered growing up), versus freshly-sautéed in a bath of olive oil and lemon with aromatic bits of spicy garlic.
I love the latter of the above and cook mine by first putting a few pinches sea salt and fresh ground pepper into a pan and heating it until fragrant. I then drizzle in the olive oil, followed momentarily by the garlic and then finally the spinach. My spinach is always bone dry (as bone dry as spinach goes) as it hits the pan and must be tended to quickly, flipping, tossing and thrusting about. Within minutes, the whole process is complete, producing a wilted, yet perky result.
This soup is über-healthy, delivering an extra helping of “strong” while satisfying even the most skeptical spinach naysayer.
1 celery stalk, chopped coarsely
2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
1/2 jalapeño, seeded, chopped
1 1/2 cups freshly cooked chickpeas, see how I cook mine here (or canned, rinsed, and drained)
2 cups chickpea cooking liquid (or vegetable stock if using canned beans)
1 tsp cumin
1 can lite coconut milk
1/2 cup vermouth
Juice of 1 lemon (approximately 3 TB)
1/2 lb fresh baby spinach, cleaned and dried
Fresh ground pepper
Sprouted pumpkin seeds and fresh Buffalo mozzarella for garnish
In a stockpot, sauté the celery, leek, garlic and jalapeño in a little olive oil until soft (approximately 5-7 minutes). Add the chickpeas/liquid, cumin, vermouth and lemon. Bring to a simmer. Continue cooking for a further 10-15 minutes, until the flavors have combined nicely.
Add the spinach and continue cooking until it begins to wilt; season with salt and pepper.
Purée in a food processor or by using an immersion blender.
Divide among bowls and garnish with the sprouted pumpkin seeds and fresh mozzarella (soft creamy piece torn off and plopped in). Paired with a salad makes for a fine lunch. Look out Popeye, I’ve got some olive oil too!
And head on over to Fiesta Friday for a dose of fun!