Cooking With Spinach
By Karen Olson, Experience Life
In the dark-leafy-greens department, spinach can sometimes come off as a lightweight. After all, spinach is not as robust in flavor as mustard greens and broccoli rabe or as sturdy in texture as kale and collards. But don’t let this mild-mannered vegetable fool you. Its mellow flavor and delicate texture make spinach wildly adaptable in the kitchen. And, spinach is no slouch in the nutritional department either: Studies identifying the plentiful and unique phytonutrients in spinach have led some researchers to call it one of our most nutrient-rich vegetables. Read on for simple spinach recipes and creative ways to enjoy more of this nutritional powerhouse.
Quick and Easy Spinach Cooking Tips
Six quick cooking tips to prepare this nutrition powerhouse.
- Chopped: Add a handful of coarsely chopped spinach to sandwiches, eggs, pasta, grain dishes or your favorite soup — especially lentil, chicken noodle or minestrone.
- Steamed: Heat spinach in a steamer basket just until wilted, then plunge into ice water. Press out excess moisture and chop. Mix spinach with Greek yogurt, garlic, green onions and dill to make a quick dip for crudités and whole-grain crackers.
- Wilted: Top spinach greens with hot grilled vegetables and a little vinaigrette. Toss to wilt spinach.
- Creamed: Sauté some onion or leeks until softened, add spinach, and cover for a few minutes; stir in a dash of cream and season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.
- Sautéed: Sauté chopped shallots or garlic in extra-virgin olive oil, add 4 to 5 ounces of spinach and continue sautéing for a few minutes until cooked down, then finish with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.
- Blended: Throw a handful of spinach into your morning smoothie for an extra helping of phytonutrients and fiber.
Spinach Nutrition Know-How
- Spinach contains more than a dozen flavonoids, which fight inflammation and cancer.
- In addition to flavonoids and carotenoids, spinach provides vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium, making it an excellent antioxidant.
- Researchers are beginning to discover links between the health of our nervous system and the unique phytonutrients in the chenopod plant family, which includes spinach, beets and chard.
- Cooking spinach releases lutein — a carotenoid that helps prevent macular degeneration — making the nutrient more available to the body.
- The high level of vitamin K in spinach helps maintain strong bones.
Kitchen Cooking Tricks
- In general, use larger, thicker leaves for cooking and smaller, more tender leaves for salads.
- The stems of small, young spinach are tender enough to eat, so there’s no need to remove them.
- Spinach reduces in volume by about three-quarters when cooked, so for every cup of cooked spinach you want to serve you’ll need about a pound of fresh.
Grocery Shopping and Storage Tips
- Crisp, dark-colored spinach — either the smooth variety or the thicker, crinkly Savoy — has the highest nutrient value. Avoid purchasing spinach that is limp, yellowed or slimy.
- Do not wash spinach before storing it. Keep it refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to five days.
- Wash spinach thoroughly, but do not soak it too long. Its water-soluble nutrients will leach into the water.
- Frozen spinach is a convenient option. Most frozen spinach has been boiled before freezing, which actually improves its carotenoid bioavailability (although it reduces other nutrients). Some spinach is frozen with stems on, some without.
See more delicious spinach recipes and further tips at Experience Life.