Smooth Leaf Variety (L) Savoy Leaf Variety (R)
Popeye food! Spinach loves slightly cool weather, which is interesting since it originated in the Middle East. Spinach was introduced into Spain in the 11th century, then became popular throughout Europe. It's still called "the Spanish vegetable" in many places.
There are several varieties of spinach; most common are smooth leaved, the savoy varieties have crinkly leaves. Smooth leaved varieties cook down about twice as much as the crinkly ones.
Wrap spinach loosely with a paper or cloth towel, put into an open plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator. Don't wash until ready to use. Good for about 3-5 days.
Spinach leaves and stems can sometimes collect sand and dirt in crevices. Place the spinach in a bowl of ice -or very cold- water, and swoosh around with your hands to dislodge. If you find grit at the bottom of the bowl when you take out the spinach, repeat the process once more in clean water. Use a salad spinner to remove excess water, or drain in a sieve, then dry with paper or cloth towels.
You can trim larger stems if you wish; chop them and store in a separate bag for later to toss into a salad or stir fry.
Tips for using Spinach
Spinach can be eaten raw or cooked. It is versatile for salads- equally good with light citrus and tart fruit and a sweet vinaigrette, or with hearty ingredients, like bacon, and a warm dressing. Excellent when wilted and added to a pasta or grain salad.
Spinach cooks really quickly, so always add at the very end of the cooking time. It's delicious simply wilted- for instance, place it on top of a just-from-the-oven pizza, or folded into a stir fry right before removing the pan from the stove.
For easy, steamed spinach, place in a steam basket or sieve over boiling water, cover, and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Allow to drain a few minutes, then toss with a drizzle of olive oil or a little butter, and season with salt and pepper.
Other seasonings that pair well with spinach are red pepper flakes, curry, and nutmeg. A yummy variation is to use sesame oil (toasted is extra yummy), then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
We like it added to lentil dishes, sauteed with garlic and mild onion, sprinkled with Parmesan or feta, and/or toasted almonds or pine nuts.
Spinach is known as one of the "super foods"! It is very rich in iron, vitamins C, A & K, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. It also is an excellent source of B-complex vitamins and minerals.
Liz Talley, Urban Graze
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