I made a tomato-florentine soup last night for dinner. And in doing so, I was reminded of the importance of eating a little Vitamin C rich food, along with leafy green veggies.
Leafy greens, like spinach, are a fair source of iron. However, the iron in spinach is non-heme (as opposed to heme iron in meat). And non-heme iron is difficult to absorb on it's own. However, if you consume a little Vitamin C along with the non-heme iron food (in this case spinach), your body can more readily absorb the iron in the spinach.
There are many recipes which combine a Vitamin C food with spinach.
In many Mediterranean countries, cooked spinach is served dressed with olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. The lemon juice provides enough Vitamin C to help with the non-heme iron absorption.
There's a popular spinach salad, currently, that uses a dressing of olive oil, vinegar and pureed fresh strawberries. The strawberries are a good source of Vitamin C and aid in iron-absorption from the spinach in the salad.
I recently tasted a pasta salad that had fresh baby spinach and fresh cherry tomatoes in with the pasta and dressing. The cherry tomatoes (and all tomatoes) are a source of Vitamin C.
Italian cooking often times includes some spinach along with a tomato-based sauce. Florentine, or a la Florentine, is often synonymous with spinach-added (although not always, as in florentine cookies -- spinach in those would just be gross). Fresh or cooked tomatoes are often served in, or along side, Florentine dishes, such as whole tomatoes, stuffed with a mixture of spinach, bread crumbs, onions and cheese, known as Florentine Tomatoes.
The soup I made last night, Tomato-Florentine soup combined some leaves of fresh baby spinach, with the tomato puree from canned tomatoes. Canned tomatoes hold on to a good amount of their Vitamin C, even after the canning process. 1 cup of canned, stewed, red tomatoes contains 34% of the US RDA of Vitamin C.
If you're interested in making a pot of Tomato-Florentine Soup, here's what I use:
- canned or fresh tomato puree, the liquid from canned tomatoes, tomato paste along with water or stock, or chunks of tomatoes blended in the soup with an immersion blender, or any combination of these tomato products to make a soup consistency
- chicken or vegetable stock (or just water if that's all I've got)
- onions or onion powder
- minced celery or celery seed
- a bit of garlic powder or minced fresh garlic
- dried oregano
- olive oil
- fresh or frozen spinach
- salt and pepper to taste
- *optional* at the last minute, I add some cooked garbanzo beans for added protein, and cooked penne pasta, and top with grated Parmesan
If the soup tastes "flat" try adding a bit more onion powder, garlic powder, oregano and a pinch of salt.
While fresh tomatoes are still months away, in my garden. From mid-May through June, I usually have a lot of baby spinach. Fortunately, canned tomato products are very affordable, even on a tight budget.
When I was little, Popeye cartoons were very popular. My mom would cajole us into eating our spinach by singing the "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man" song. She'd remind us of how Popeye would squeeze open a can of spinach and gulp it down. Of course, with what I know now, Popeye really should have been chasing his cans of spinach with a glass of tomato juice.