I'm sure it was just subliminal brainwashing that I love spinach because of watching Popeye cartoons as a kid because it certainly wasn't because of the first way I learned to eat it. My mother used to serve very well cooked leaf spinach from a frozen block. It was sprinkled with vinegar and garnished with hard-cooked eggs. I liked it okay, but that was the only way I knew it.
"It's full of iron," she'd say. It's good for you." My first super-food, because Mom said so and because it performed miracles for Popeye. (My mom even managed to find Popeye shaped spinach noodles at the store!)
If you think Popeye is just the name for a restaurant chain, let me give you the real lowdown:
Popeye was a skinny, seemingly hapless sailor with a corn cob pipe who was in love with an also skinny girl named Olive Oyl. The object of his affection was relentlessly pursued by Bluto, a burly bully of a villain. When put into all kinds of fanciful situations, our hopeless hero becomes magnificent -- smart, strong and fast -- after downing a can of spinach! His biceps tripled in size, his chest puffed out and he sped away like a locomotive to save Olive Oyl from some traumatic fate, usually involving the conniving Bluto. Popeye could do anything, overcome any obstacle, all because he was empowered by that spinach.
Since my Popeye days, I've had spinach a hundred or more different ways. My first spinach salad, a wilted salad with bacon dressing, was a real eye opener. Then there were quiches, and lasagne filling and souffles, frittata, omelets, pizzas. That's one versatile green!
I wish I could say I had the same love for rice. Rice has to pretty well dressed up for me. Naked won't do. Rice is just a bed for something else.
But when I marry rice and spinach? Now that's something. And when you add coconut milk, well that's almost risotto! Creamy and nutty and speckled with green punches of power!
Spinach and rice sounds prettier in Spanish -- Arroz Verde -- and usually is jazzed up with cilantro and onion, among a few other additions. But I liked my coconut milk addition; I used a light version so still got the richness without too many extra calories.
I thought I was clever by not adding too much moisture to the pan as the rice cooked, thinking that the frozen spinach would add what was needed besides the milk, but it needed a little more moisture and I wrote up the recipe to reflect that.
And if you do decide to make some kind of green rice you just might join me in singing the Popeye refrain:
I'm strong to the finich,
cuz I eats me spinach,
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man!
makes 6 to 8 servings
1 cup basmati rice
1 (14 ounce) can light coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or 4-5 scrapes of a nutmeg with a grater
Place rice, coconut milk, water and salt in a pan with the frozen block of spinach. Bring to a boil. Break up the spinach with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Add the nutmeg, stir again, and serve.