Versatile spinach is packed with options
July 9, 2012 4:58PM
Updated: August 12, 2012 6:02AM
Spinach is believed to be of Persian origin and introduced into Europe in the 15th century. Since the early 19th century, spinach has been a versatile and commonly used vegetable in the United States.
Eating and preparing spinach is simple and easy, since it tastes good raw or cooked. Spinach can be found fresh, frozen or canned. It can be easily incorporated into many dishes. Its versatility makes it easy to serve raw in salads or sandwiches or as a complement to soups, meat, fish or other vegetable dishes.
In addition to being tasty, spinach’s popularity stems from its high nutritional value. Not only is spinach low in calories, it is also a good source of essential nutrients such as vitamins A and C.
At the supermarket, you can find spinach packaged fresh, canned or frozen. Fresh spinach is usually found loose or bagged. For the best quality, select leaves that are green and crisp, with a nice fresh fragrance. Avoid leaves that are limp, damaged or spotted.
Fresh spinach should be dried and packed loosely in a cellophane or plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator crisper. If stored properly, it should last three or four days.
Spinach grows in sandy soil, so wash it thoroughly to get rid of the grainy, sandy particles. Make sure to tear off the stem. Separate the leaves, and place them in a large bowl of water. Gently wash leaves, and let the sand drift to the bottom of the bowl. Remove leaves from the water, and repeat the process with fresh water until the leaves are clean. If spinach is to be eaten raw, dry it completely by using a salad spinner or by blotting it with paper towels. Slightly damp spinach can be steamed or microwaved without adding any additional water.
Blanching: Drop leaves into a large pot of boiling water. Once the leaves slightly wilt, drain and squeeze out excess moisture. This method is used to quick-cook spinach or to prepare it for sautéing, braising or stuffing, and usually takes 2 to 5 minutes.
Microwave: This method can be used instead of blanching. Place washed, slightly wet spinach in a microwavable dish, loosely cover and cook until tender (4 to 7 minutes for ½ pound of spinach).
Sautéing: Blanched spinach can be sautéed quickly with a quick spray of oil. If cooked in a non-stick pan, only a spray is needed for several cups of chopped spinach. Try adding some garlic for flavor.
Steaming: If you plan to steam the spinach, do not dry leaves after washing. Steamed spinach makes a great side dish and usually takes only 5 to 10 minutes.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 14-ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 ounces light cream cheese or light tofu, at room temperature
½ cup plain yogurt
Dash of hot sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large skillet over moderate heat, warm olive oil. Add chopped onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes, or until onion and garlic soften.
Add artichokes and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add lemon and cook another minute. Add spinach and cook, stirring until well combined, 1 minute more.
Add cream cheese/tofu and yogurt and season with hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Heat gently for a few minutes. Transfer to a bowl and serve warm.