Spinach and noodles on a plate

A simple way to get healthy greens into your diet is with baby spinach. Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Pasta from "Sara Foster's Casual Cooking,", shown in this June 21, 2007 photo, is quick to make.

Whether you buy it bagged or bunched, baby spinach is a simple and speedy way to add greens to your meal. Beyond the obvious use in salad, baby spinach works in a number of preparations, from baked pasta to stir-fry. Especially in the latter, the prep is easy (bagged spinach usually is washed and ready to eat) and the cooking is fast (just long enough to wilt).

For a wonderful side, sauté several cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes in olive oil for a minute. Add a large bag of spinach and continue cooking until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Zest a lemon into the pan and stir well. Grate Parmesan cheese over the greens, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the greens to a serving platter, then drizzle the juice of half of the lemon over it.

Or consider these recipes for simple, savory uses for spinach.



Start to finish: 15 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

8 ounces penne or ziti pasta

12-ounce bag baby spinach

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente.

Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the spinach, ricotta and just enough of the water to create a smooth sauce. Toss until the spinach wilts. Season with salt and pepper.

(Recipe from Sara Foster's "Sara Foster's Casual Cooking," Clarkson Potter, 2007, $35)

This easy Indian dish makes a great dip with triangles of toasted pita bread. Cumin seeds are widely available at natural foods stores or any grocer with a large spice section.

About 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin could be substituted.



Start to finish: 1 hour

Servings: 4

4 ounces baby spinach

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cup plain whole- or low-fat yogurt

2 tablespoons minced red onion

3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

Rinse the spinach, but do not dry it. Place it in a small saucepan, cover and set over medium heat. Steam the spinach until tender, but still bright green, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small, dry skillet toast the cumin seeds until they turn dark and fragrant. Set aside to cool, then grind them in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, onion, salt, ginger and cumin.

Squeeze the cooled spinach to remove any excess water, then finely chop it. Add this to the yogurt mixture and stir well. Chill until reader to serve.

(Recipe from Ruta Kahate's "5 Spices, 50 Dishes," Chronicle Books, 2007, $19.95)

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