Calorie for calorie, leafy green vegetables like spinach provide more nutrients than any other food. Although spinach is available throughout the year, its peak season runs from September through October when it is the freshest, has the best flavor, and is most readily available.
In a recent study on the relationship between the risk of various cancers and vegetables, only spinach showed evidence of significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive cancer.
Fresh spinach has a delicate texture and green color that is refreshing in salads, but its flavor becomes more acidic and robust when it is cooked. Choose spinach that has vibrant deep green leaves and stems with no signs of yellowing. The leaves should look fresh and tender, and not be wilted or bruised. Do not wash spinach before storing. Keep spinach in the plastic bag or box you purchased it in. Place it in the refrigerator where it will keep fresh for up to five days.
Spinach was the favorite vegetable of Catherine de Medici, a historical gourmand in the 16th century. When she left her home of Florence, Italy, to marry the king of France, she introduced the French people to many culinary delicacies that are now claimed to be of French origin. Her cooks prepared spinach according to her taste and since then dishes prepared on a bed of spinach are referred to as “à la Florentine.”
Sautéed Spinach and Garlic
1 1/2 pounds baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons light olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (6 cloves)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine
In a very large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic over medium heat for about 1 minute, but not until it’s browned. Add all the spinach, the salt, and the pepper to the pot, toss it with the garlic and oil, cover the pot, and cook it for 2 minutes. Uncover the pot, turn the heat on high, and cook the spinach for another minute, stirring with a wooden spoon, until all the spinach is wilted. Using a slotted spoon, place the spinach in a serving bowl and top with the butter, a squeeze of lemon, and a sprinkling of sea or kosher salt. Serve hot.
Mini Spinach Quiches
12 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
2 large eggs, beaten
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Pulse spinach in three batches in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add cottage cheese, Parmesan, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper; stir to combine.
Coat 10–12 cups of a muffin pan with cooking spray. Divide the spinach mixture among the cups.
Bake the spinach cakes until set, about 20 minutes. Let stand in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn out onto a clean cutting board or large plate. Serve warm, sprinkled with more Parmesan, if desired.
Spinach Craisin Salad
8 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest, optional
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Tear spinach into bite-size pieces and place in a serving bowl. Add half of the feta or goat cheese and onion; toss to combine.
Place dressing ingredients in a small container. Shake or whisk to combine. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Top with craisins and almonds. Serve immediately.