Steamed, Blanched or Fried
Cooking spinach is very simple especially with the availability of pre-washed leaves and baby spinach. These days there are no excuses for not enjoying this super nutritious vegetable.
Spinach is one vegetable you should probably buy organic. It has been singled out as one of the more pesticide ridden vegetables by the Environmental Working Group in the United States. Fortunately, finding organic isn't too difficult these days.
If you can, buy baby spinach for your recipes. It is easier to fix because you won't have to remove the stems and blanching may be unnecessary, like in the very simple recipe below. It is also the best spinach to use in recipes calling for raw leaves.
This is a good alternative if you can't find fresh. When using frozen spinach, keep in mind that it has already been blanched. You may be able to find spinach that has been frozen in portions or nuggets. This makes it easier to thaw and use only the amount needed. If you can't find it available like this, defrost the block of spinach partly, then use a sharp knife to slice it into manageable blocks.
If your spinach doesn't come cleaned, you will need to wash it well. Remember dirt is a good sign, it means your food came directly from the earth - you just don't want to eat it.
Remove stems and ribs. Begin by removing the stems from the spinach leaves. If the leaves are large, the stem extends into the leaf forming a rib. Fold the spinach leaf in half and strip out the rib and the stem at the same time.
Rinse. To wash, draw a large basin of cold water and put all the leaves in there. If you think bugs may be an issue, add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the wash water. Stir the leaves around a bit in the water, them remove them to a colander.
Repeat. Dump out the water and the grit and repeat the operation two more times. Finish by drying the leaves by gently rolling them in a clean dish towel.
Cooking spinach is a quick process. Place a steamer basket in a large pot with about an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and steam the spinach for about 2 minutes.
You can also try cooking spinach in the microwave but you will need to have a rather large microwave proof dish to hold it all if you are preparing dinner for several people. Place a small amount of water in the bottom of the dish, cover and microwave for a few minutes.
Many recipes that include fresh spinach call for blanching it. This is particularly recommended if you're not working with baby spinach. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the spinach leaves. Boil for two minutes, then drain the leaves through a colander. Rinse the leaves with cold water which will help preserve their color. Squeeze the spinach gently to eliminate excess water. You can then chop the spinach and it is ready to use.
Stir Fried Spinach
Spinach cooks quickly in a large skillet with a little olive oil or butter. Stir frying in a wok is a convenient method of cooking spinach as well.
Here is a very basic spinach recipe. For a little extra, you can top this with homemade croutons and/or chopped hard boiled eggs. (Learn how to make croutons.)
Epinards au beurre
Makes 4 servings
- 2 pounds fresh cleaned baby spinach
- 3 tablespoons butter
- salt and pepper
- optional garnish: croutons
- Melt the butter in a large skillet on medium heat. When the butter has melted, start adding handfuls of spinach. You may need to let some of it cook down just a bit before you can fit the rest of the spinach in. Just keep adding.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for three to five minutes, occasionally turning the wilted spinach on the bottom of the pan onto the top.
- In the meantime, heat a serving plate. Spinach should be served (and eaten) piping hot. Top with croutons if you wish.
Older Spinach - You can make this recipe with larger spinach leaves, but it is a little more work. Begin by cleaning and removing the ribs as described above. You must then blanch the leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain the spinach in a colander, then rinse with cold water. You can then chop the spinach if you wish before sauteeing in butter for just a few minutes.
Garlic and Olive Oil - Heat two tablespoons olive oil on medium heat. Add 2 cloves of crushed garlic and cook just until fragrant - about 30 seconds. Immediately add spinach and follow the rest of the recipe directions.
Other Greens - This method of cooking spinach also works well with tetragon (New Zealand spinach), sorrel, chicory, watercress and escarole.
Spinach goes will with eggs (hard boiled, poached, omelette), veal, turkey, pork, ham, chicken, and baked fish.
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