Conscious Cook: Savor the flavors of spring

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?” “It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine.” —Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden.

Spring renews the spirit and makes every ambition and opportunity seem possible. 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 begin to bud and the flowers begin to bloom, the sweet trilling of birds welcomes this new season with a blissful concerto.

By recognizing our harmonious relationship with nature and preparing recipes from fresh, seasonal ingredients, we can achieve a cleaner, healthier balance within ourselves.

Bring a lively lusciousness to your spring table with delectably delicate baby lettuces, spinach, bok choy, watercress and fresh herbs. Creating recipes with these tender and tasty ingredients makes 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, 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 delectable spinach risotto would be a welcome entrée for a spring soirée.

Fresh, raw spinach leaves are just lovely layered into a veggie lasagna, or added to an omelet with goat cheese and sun-dried tomato. Or stuff chicken breasts or butterflied leg of lamb with a sumptuous stuffing of spinach, goat or cream cheese, and plenty of minced fresh herbs. A delectable spinach risotto would be a welcome entrée for a spring dinner.

Jade-green spinach soup is perfect for a nippy spring evening, or add spinach to smoothies in the morning for a burst of brightness. Lightly steam spinach leaves and add one or two 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 this stimulating season as you prepare your delicious life!

Spring Garden Spinach Risotto

Serves 4

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

½ tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup minced shallots

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup arborio rice (available in most supermarkets)

½ cup dry white wine

4-6 cups organic chicken or vegetable broth

½ pound fresh baby spinach leaves, well-washed and dried

½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped basil

¼ 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 two minutes. Add rice and stir for several minutes, until it turns translucent. Add wine and stir until wine is absorbed. Add one cup of broth at a time, stirring until each cup is incorporated. Taste after adding the fourth 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.

For more information on Robin Glowa HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” go to www.theconsciouscook.net.