Popeye was wrong about spinach. Sort of.

It always seemed odd to me that Popeye tried so hard to get kids to eat spinach. I love spinach. Always did. And so did everyone else I knew.

Years later I realized that when Popeye flexed his tattooed biceps to down some spinach before going into the fray with a bunch of bad guys, it was canned spinach he ate. 

A gruesome prospect.

Fresh spinach is another thing entirely. It’s got everything going for it in terms of taste and nutrition. I prefer the flat leaf variety to the curly, but either will do. You just need to wash it carefully to make sure all the sand is off the leaves. I soak it a couple of times, then run the leaves under cold water before using it for all sorts of dishes.

Most of the time I stir fry fresh spinach in olive oil (heated first with a sliced garlic clove). It takes less than two minutes. Occasionally I add an ingredient or two, like orange peel and chili peppers or soy sauce and fresh ginger. But one of my favorites is this recipe for Stir Fried Spinach with Raisins and Pignoli Nuts. It sounds fancy, and can be, depending on what else you are serving.

But it needn’t be. I am making this tonight as a side dish. It takes just a few minutes. It’s National Fresh Spinach Day, so it seems like a good time for this dish. But any old time would be good too.

Stir Fried Spinach with Raisins and Pignoli Nuts

1/3 cup raisins

hot water

2 bunches fresh spinach

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1/4 cup pignoli nuts

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the raisins in a small bowl, cover with hot water and let them rest for 10-15 minutes or until they soften and “plump.” Drain the raisins and set them aside. Wash the spinach carefully to remove all the sand, then dry in a salad spinner or kitchen towel. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a stirfry pan or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so or until the garlic slices are browned. Remove and discard the garlic slices. Add the shallot and pignoli nuts and cook, stirring occasionally, for a minute or until the nuts brown lightly. Add the raisins and spinach, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and stir fry for 2-3 minutes or until the spinach has wilted and the pan juices have evaporated (if there is an excess of liquid, place the cooked spinach in a strainer and press to get rid of the liquid). Makes 4 servings