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July, 2011

Melissa's July Super Spinach

By Cheryl Forberg

Super foods – we hear this term over and over. It refers to a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains and some nuts and seeds that have “super” nutritional properties
.

Spinach

How do we know this? Sometimes, not always (as in the case of nuts, seeds and whole grains) the “super” foods are highly pigmented. Why? Because the high concentration of vitamins and antioxidants they contain are found in the pigment component of these foods. Case in point – blueberries, tomatoes, pomegranates, watermelon, and today’s focus food – spinach – they’re all loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Spinach is a popular and versatile green and an easy way to add crunch to a salad or a tasty and quick way to enjoy a green vegetable. But flavor and texture aren’t the only reasons to keep it on your weekly shopping list. Spinach is loaded with Vitamin C, B vitamins, and beta-carotene. It’s also a powerful source of antioxidants. Spinach boasts the highest quercetin levels of any vegetable or fruit. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant and a flavonoid. In addition to fighting cancer-promoting invaders, quercetin also interferes with the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (which promotes artery blockage), thus promoting cardiovascular health.

Spinach has also shown remarkable promise in reversing nerve and behavioral deficits related to aging of the brain. Among a variety of high antioxidant fruits and vegetables, spinach was the most potent in protecting certain types of nerve cells in the brain against the effects of aging. This month’s recipe also features tangy and tart dried cherries. The sweet side of these chewy sweet gems includes their excellent supply of powerful antioxidants. Antioxidant strength is measured in Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) units. The higher the ORAC score, the stronger a food’s ability to help our bodies fight heart disease and cancer. Medical experts recommend we consume 4,000 to 5,000 ORAC units a day to have an impact on their health. Ten cherries deliver about 1400 ORAC units or about 25% or our daily needs. Here is a recipe for a super salad that delivers as much flavor as it does health benefits.

Baby Spinach and Tart Cherry Salad with Roast Red Onion Dressing

Baby Spinach and Tart Cherry Salad with Roast Red Onion Dressing

Try it with different nuts and berries, too. Extra dressing keeps well in the refrigerator for up to one week. Add roasted chicken and this salad can be served as an entrée for four.

Yield: 8 servings

Roast Red Onion Dressing:
6 ounces red onion (about 1 medium), peeled and halved lengthwise
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Spinach and Tart Cherry Salad:
1 medium red apple
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
4 cups baby spinach leaves
1 3-ounce package Melissa’s dried tart cherries
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

Prepare dressing:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel onion and cut into eighths lengthwise. Place onion wedges on baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn onion over and bake until brown and caramelized, about 10 minutes longer. Set aside to cool. Place roast onions in bowl of a food processor; add lime juice, mustard, and vinegar. Puree until smooth and thick. (Add 1 tablespoon of water if mixture is too thick to process). Add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. There will be about 1cup of dressing.

Prepare salad:
Cut apple in half vertically, and remove core. Cut halves crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Stack the slices and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-wide slices, forming thin matchsticks. Toss apple sticks in 1 teaspoon of lime juice in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. Add spinach, cherries and pecans to the apple sticks. Add enough dressing to coat greens, about 1/4 cup; toss well. Divide salad evenly among 8 plates. Serve immediately. Pass extra dressing separately.

Nutrient Analysis: per serving
Calories 122 Prot 2 grams Carb 20 grams Total fat 4 grams Sat fat 0 grams Poly fat 2 grams Mono fat 2 grams Choles 0 mg Fiber 3 grams (Sol 0.4 grams) Sodium 16 mgs