This dish is incredibly versatile. It can be a quick breakfast, an elegant brunch, a colorful lunch, or even a simple starter at dinner time.
Spinach is the star ingredient here and it's a nutritional powerhouse, full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and disease-fighting compounds like carotenoids and flavonoids. Eaten regularly, spinach can help protect you from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and eye problems including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Unfortunately, spinach is #5 on the Shoppers' Guide to Pesticides Dirty Dozen list, which means that it's one of most contaminated produce items (also among the top five are apples, celery, strawberries, and peaches, in descending order). So choose organic spinach whenever you can. If you can't find organic spinach, substitute another organic leafy green vegetable like chard, kale, or beet greens.
I was inspired to make this meal while watching someone prepare filling for Spanakopita, the Greek dish layered with phyllo dough.
I wanted to use the same flavors - spinach, feta, pine nuts, and lemon - in a gluten-free and grain-free dish. So here is my whole foods version, served with eggs instead of pastry.
Unintentionally, the feta never made it to the finished dish (I forgot to add it), so this recipe is dairy-free. If you have feta cheese, crumble it into the hot spinach just before you serve it.
I poached my eggs but you can cook them any way you like: fried, soft-boiled, or even scrambled. (If you're in a rush to get breakfast on the table, take a short-cut by cracking your eggs into the skillet with the spinach when it's almost finished cooking.) Serve 1 egg per person as a starter and two eggs per person for main courses.
1 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp grass-fed or organic butter or substitute another tablespoon of olive oil
2 pounds of fresh organic spinach
Freshly ground peppercorn
1/2 cup raw pine nuts (not toasted)
1 organic lemon
To poach the eggs:
Fill a large, shallow pan with 2 or 3 inches of filtered water and bring it to a slow simmer. Some people add a splash of vinegar (white wine vinegar or other) to the water to prevent the egg whites from spreading too far and too thin but I find it doesn't make a difference. Use it if you like.
Once small bubbles start to rise to the surface, add a pinch of sea salt and crack an egg into a tea cup. Hold the cup as close to the surface of the water as possible and gently slide the egg into the water. Repeat with the other eggs.
If you use egg-poaching cups, choose ones that are non-reactive and heat-safe. Ceramic or stainless steel cups would be ideal but they are hard to find. Silicone cups may be the best an alternative. Do NOT use plastic egg-poaching cups.
Once the whites start to set, slide a slotted spoon underneath them to make sure they don't stick to the pan. Cook the eggs until the whites solidify and turn white, 3 or 4 minutes if you like your yolks runny, 6 or more if you like them cooked through.
Use the slotted spoon to gently lift them out to check their doneness and once they're perfectly cooked, transfer them to a clean kitchen towel to drain. Sprinkle a few grains of sea salt on each one if desired.
To finish the dish:
Warm the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, just a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season the spinach with sea salt and ground peppercorn. Zest the lemon into the skillet and reserve some for garnish. Add the pine nuts and crumble in the feta if you're using it. Toss everything together, then taste for seasoning and make any necessary adjustments. Cover the spinach to keep it warm if the eggs haven't finished cooking yet.
To serve, transfer the spinach mixture to a serving dish and squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the top. Gently place the eggs on top and garnish with fresh lemon zest.