Cooking Spinach

WASHING: Spinach may look clean, but it must be thoroughly washed to remove ever-present dirt and grit. After trimming, plunge spinach into a large bowl or sink full of cold water, swish it around (grit will sink to the bottom), then lift it out into a colander. Rinse bowl and repeat process with fresh water several times until no grit remains.

BLANCHING: For most vegetables, blanching intensifies color and sets flavor. In the case of spinach, it's also a way to remove some of the vegetable's moisture before cooking. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add washed spinach and cook about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

SQUEEZING: A salad spinner isn't the most efficient way to dry blanched spInach. Instead, drain it in a colander and squeeze a small quantity of spinach at a time between the palms of your hands. When spinach must be completely dry (for such dishes as ravioli nudi), drain, then wring out a small amount at a time in a clean tea towel.

STEAMING: This quick cooking method works best with young spinach. Place washed spinach in a saute pan. Add a pat of butter or a little olive oil, or nothing at all (there is enough moisture clinging to the leaves to steam spinach). Cover and cook over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

SAUTÉING: A quick way to cook spinach is to rub the bottom of a large skillet with 1 peeled garlic clove, pour in some extra-virgin olive oil, and place over medium heat. When oil is hot, add 1 lb. washed and thoroughly dried spinach. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.

WILTING: Spinach is softened and slightly sweetened when briefly cooked with a very hot dressing. For 1/2 lb. dried, washed spinach, heat about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a sauce pan until hot but not smoking. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar. Pour dressing over spinach and toss so that hot oil coats and wilts as many leaves as possible.

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