If I share an affinity with any cartoon character, it would have to be Popeye. No, I am not a crook-eyed sailor with a scary voice and monster muscles. But boy, do I love spinach! And like Popeye, enjoy the magical benefits of this green leafy wonder. It is one of the best plant based sources of iron; loaded with antioxidants; and got slapped with the super “nutrient-rich” stick.
Being a vegetarian, I eat a lot of leafy greens, and spinach is my favourite. But, we all know that spinach loses some of its nutritional density when overcooked and canned (sorry Popeye), so I try to eat it raw wherever possible. Baby spinach is my favorite variety, cause it is so easy to wash and prepare, and is perfect for salads. It also contains less oxalic acid than other spinach varieties, which is good news for those of you with sensitivities. There is also the taste and aesthetic considerations. The baby leaves have a delicious sweetness that blend so beautifully with a myriad of juicy fresh toppings; and the vibrant green leaves give any salad a burst of colour. Spinach is a plant that is particularly susceptible to holding pesticide residue, so try to source organic wherever possible.
There are tons of delicious spinach salad recipes out there. But this red kidney bean salad holds a special place in my heart. We have been eating this salad in my family for years. My mum belongs to a charity organization made of ex Qantas flight attendants called “Wings Away”. One of their most successful fundraising efforts was a Wings Away Cookbook that was published back in the 80’s. My auntie contributed this salad to the book, and we have all been sucking in the spinach with gratitude ever since.
The original recipe contained fried bacon pieces. I substituted this for kidney beans, which is a fantastic alternative for vegetarians. You still get the protein, and also the splash of red colour. For me, the mark of a good vegetarian spinach salad is one where there is a great mix of flavours and colours; a good dose of nutrients; and you are able to grab a perfect bite with every lift of the fork. This spinach and red kidney bean salad is gluten free, dairy free, nut free, soy free, and checks all the boxes for me. It is packed with protein and iron; is easy on the eyes; and can be prepared in a jiffy!
Popeye would be proud.