Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Although I certainly ate spinach when I was young, I don't recall either liking or disliking it. Now I love it. Whether that's due to changing taste buds, different cooking methods, or different types of spinach I'm not sure, but this leafy green is now a staple in my house. I know that leafy kale is all the rage right now, but I prefer the taste of spinach. (It also contains more iron, calcium, and potassium than kale, but that's not why I like it.)

I eat baby spinach raw in salads. It pairs well with strawberries, orange segments, and other juicy fruits. I usually dress the salad with a light oil and vinegar mixture and sprinkle on something crunchy, such as chopped nuts or toasted sunflower seeds.

Cooked spinach is one of my favorite dishes. For this, I use fresh stem spinach. I make it one of two ways. The simplest is to wash the leaves, tear off any heavy stems, and then steam the leaves for just 3 or 4 minutes. This maintains the bright green color and keeps a bit of the texture. The other way I cook it is by braising: heat a few teaspoons of olive oil, add chopped garlic, and throw in spinach leaves that have been washed but not drained. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring once. This dish is darker than the steamed, with a much stronger flavor. Both dishes benefit from quick cooking.

Spinach pairs well with creamy bland foods, such as creamed chicken or beef stroganoff. I usually cook up a large batch and first serve it as a side dish. Then I use the leftovers in various ways. I put a few spoonsful atop baked potatoes and top that with cottage cheese; I put it under poached eggs; I add a layer of chopped spinach to lasagna; I spread it on pizza; I press it into a cheese-mushroom-tomato panini.

Spinach is available year round and is a wonderful source of nutrients. However, its best virtue I think is its versatility, mild taste, and color. Overcook it at your peril, but cook it briefly and you will be rewarded.

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