Monday, March 7, 2011

Savory Spinach Sides

I debated on posting tonight’s blog and tomorrow’s as two separate meals.  Then I thought – there are two common themes here; incredible spinach side dishes and two grilled meats with two delicious dry rubs.   I decided to post the sides tonight, while giving you a preview of tomorrow’s blog.  Tomorrow I will post the recipes for a great Jerk dry rub (which I used on beer can chicken), and a Garlic and Coriander rub which I used on T-bone steak.    So, you are getting a "Two-for" tonight and a "Two-for" tomorrow. 

The first dish I want to share with you tonight is --

Creamy Spinach with Crispy Leeks and Onions
I absolutely love creamed spinach!  Before I wrote this recipe, I did some research.  A well-know fast food chicken restaurant's version has 280 calories per serving and 580 grams of Sodium.  The frozen creamed spinach you find in your supermarket has approximately 338 calories per serving and anywhere from 500 - 670 grams of Sodium.  Even "Skinny" recipes I found online have, on average, 148 calories.  

Mine:  Approximately 115 calories per serving, and only 120 grams of Sodium.   

The other recipes have as many as 26 grams of fat.  Mine has maybe 8.

Here is what I did --  
1 Leek, chopped and washed
1 small Red Onion, sliced wafer thin
Sea Salt, to taste
10 oz. Baby Spinach, trimmed and washed
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon Freshly Ground Nutmeg
2 ounces KRAFT Philadelphia® brand Italian Cheese & Herb Cooking Creme*

*Not a paid endorsement.

I like to prepare this step on the side burner on my grill, especially when I am grilling steaks.  It saves time, but you can also do it on the stove. 

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to pan and melt in butter.  Add leek and onion.  Reduce heat and cook until onions are “almost” burned.*

*What you are going for here is somewhere between caramelized and crispy, but not quite “burned…” although a few “burned” bits here and there actually give this side dish a little more “rustic” complexity.  Don’t get too stressed out over it!  Just cook the leeks and onions the way that you like them!

In a non-stick skillet, add remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  Wilt in spinach in batches, adding salt, pepper and nutmeg to each batch.  When spinach is almost completely wilted, stir in leeks and onions.  Add cooking creme and stir. 

The second dish I want to share with you tonight is --

Herbed Greek Pasta Salad with Spinach 
½ lb. Multi-grain Rotini Pasta, cooked per package directions
Sea Salt, to taste
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/3 cup Oil-based Greek Dressing, plus a little extra for drizzling
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
¼ cup Canola Oil Mayonnaise
¼ cup diced Red Onion
½ medium Red Bell Pepper, Julienned and halved
½ large Cucumber, diced
8 Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped
¼ cup crumbled Feta Cheese
1 teaspoon fresh Oregano, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh Mint, chopped, plus more for garnish (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
2 cups fresh Spinach, washed and stemmed
1 small vine ripened Tomato, diced
6 – 8 Pickled Greek Peppers for garnish (optional)

Cook pasta per package directions in salted cooking water.  While pasta is warm, add Greek salad dressing and black ground pepper. Mix well.  Chill in a covered bowl in the refrigerator at least two hours, so the pasta soaks up the dressing.

Once chilled, add mayonnaise, red onion, pepper, cucumber, olives and cheese.  Return to refrigerator and chill, at least one hour. 

Before serving, add chopped herbs.  Fold in spinach, until “wilted.”  Tear larger spinach pieces as needed.   Add tomato on top and Greek Peppers, if using.  Garnish with mint.

Note, you can drizzle a little extra Greek Dressing on and mix before adding tomato and peppers if you like.

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Want THE best baked potato recipe ever?  Well, I might not sound too humble here tonight, but friends come in from out of town and ask me to make these.  If you are on Facebook, please go to our community page, also called "Just for Cooking."  I'll have that recipe waiting for you right on the wall!

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