My husband has told me many times that when he was a kid, he suddenly wanted to eat spinach all the time because of Popeye. I didn’t ask him if he only wanted spinach out of a can – I can only hope not. But really, spinach has to be the vegetable most easily marketed to children, or at least it was when we were kids. I’m guessing the average modern kid doesn’t have any interest in Popeye and Olive Oyl.
But I digress. Spinach is a pretty unassuming green. I wanted to feature it next after arugula, because even though they look somewhat similar, they are so completely different. Spinach tastes like earth. I don’t know a better way to put it, honestly. It tastes green and earthy. It tastes like something your body really wants you to eat. And there are many good reasons for that. It is generally considered the most nutrient-rich vegetable there is. It is loaded with Vitamins K, C, and A. It has more folate and iron in it than you would believe. It’s been proven to be effective against even aggressive prostate cancer. This is a serious vegetable, people. Serious.
But there are only so many spinach salads and creamed spinach side dishes you can take before you start wanting something more interesting. Enter pesto, the easiest and most variable sauce on earth. This pesto is quite rich, so I decided to cut that richness with some diced Roma tomatoes.
Roma tomatoes are not the most beloved of tomatoes – they are the ones most people buy out of season at the grocery store, when they are mealy and wooly on the tongue. Not pleasant. Well right now Romas are in season, and they are crisp, tart, and sweet. They are bold little guys and they stand up nicely to this rich spinach and almond pesto. Incidentally, tomatoes are also associated with prostate health, so this pesto is a very prostate-friendly one. Tomatoes are also good for your colon.
The obvious thing to do with pesto is to thin it with a little pasta cooking water and then toss it with your pasta. That certainly works here, but I would encourage you to think outside the box. It could be an appetizer served on toasted baguette slices. It could be a pizza sauce alternative. It could be a dipper for garlic bread or grissini. Or even a sandwich spread. The recipe below will make more than you’ll be able to eat in one sitting if you are feeding two people. This is a good thing.
Spinach Almond Pesto with Tomatoes (makes about 2 cups)
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 4 cups (loosely packed) spinach leaves, thoroughly washed and dried
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or more if preferred)
- 5 medium sized Roma tomatoes, diced
1. Place the almonds in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Toast, stirring often, until just becoming golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Turn off the heat and place them in the bowl of a food processor or blender.
2. Add the spinach, garlic, parmesan, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper to the processor. Process until the spinach is finely ground and a cohesive paste is just starting to form, then stream in the olive oil until a more saucy paste begins to form. Use your judgment and be careful not to add too much oil. Stop the processor occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary. When everything is well combined, transfer to a bowl.
3. Stir in the diced tomatoes. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve or refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to two days (or freeze for up to a few months).