Pacific Palate – Spinach

Spinach (to find out about the Oxfam fundraising dinner I’m MC’ing, click here.)

This week on Pacific Palate, a review of the e coli outbreak in the United States caused by contaminated fresh spinach products grown in California.  For the latest news on American cases, check out the FDA website, and to see what our government is advising, go the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.

The distressing part of this outbreak is that officials may never be able to pinpoint the exact cause of the contamination.  All we do know is that this dangerous strain of e coli comes from the intestinal tracks of humans and cattle, which means the source could have been the water supply, improperly composted manure, or even passed along by workers handling the spinach, although considering the widespread nature of the outbreak, it seems likely the e coli may have already been in the spinach when it was harvested and bagged.

The Canadian-grown supply of fresh spinach is safe, however, and you can still find some at farmers markets and stores like Capers, which has sourced it from two Fraser Valley organic farmers.

But for a change, you might want to try cooking with some chard or kale, also in ready supply this time of year.  The following uses were inspired by recipes from Deborah Madison’s ‘Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone’.

Chard, Catalan Style


1 large bunch chard, stems removed, leaves blanched

2 tbsps. olive oil

1 large garlic clove, sliced

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup pine nuts or chopped almonds

1 tbsp. lemon juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Coarsely chop the cooked chard.  Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a wide skillet.  Add the sliced garlic and remove from the oil when browned.  Don’t let it burn!  Then add the raisins and pine nuts or almonds.  Stir and fry until the nuts have turned a golden brown and the raisins have plumped up.  Add the chopped chard and stir until warmed through.  Sprinkle on the lemon juice and add salf and pepper to taste.  Serves 4.

Kale with Beans


1 to 2 pounds kale, stems and ribs removed (you can save them to use in soups)

2 tbsps. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

a pinch of red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons chopped rosemary

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup cooked white navy or cannellini beans, rinsed well if canned

salt and pepper to taste

freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Put the kale in a pot of boiling, salted water, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about ten minutes.  Drain the kale, reserving the cooking water, and  chop the leaves.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent, then add the garlic, rosemary and red pepper flakes, frying until fragrant.  Add the wine and cook until the liquid reduces and the mixture becomes syrupy.  Add the beans, kale, and enough of the cooking liquid to keep the mixture moist and not gummy.  Serves 2 to 4 people.

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