Spinach can have either flat or slightly crinkled leaves. It is often available as baby spinach, which is especially useful for salads. Spinach can be purchased fresh, frozen, or canned. Fresh spinach is sold in bunches or already washed and sealed in plastic bags. A number of other greens that are similar to spinach are often sold in specialty stores. These include New Zealand spinach, which comes from a different plant family.
Preparation, Uses, & Tips
Spinach is usually very sandy and needs thorough washing. Trim the roots and then swish the leaves in a large bowl of water. Place the spinach in a colander, change the water in the bowl, and repeat. Do this several times until the water remains clear. If the spinach is being used in a salad or is being sautéed, pat the leaves dry with paper towel or dry them in a salad spinner.
Spinach cooks very quickly, and doesn’t need added water. Just place it in a pan, cover, and simmer for two to four minutes until it wilts; spinach is also excellent when steamed, or it can be sautéed in olive oil with garlic for three or four minutes.
Spinach is a good addition to stews and to soups that contain beans, pasta, or potatoes, or to any kind of curry dish. Spinach can also be creamed. Cook the spinach, then purée in a food processor, adding your choice of ricotta cheese, cream sauce, or soft tofu. Add herbs, salt, and pepper, and use as a stuffing for lasagna or pasta shells, or toss with pasta or rice. Creamed spinach can also be thinned with broth or milk to make soup.
To store, wrap unwashed spinach in a paper towel and then place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. If buying bagged spinach, open and sort out the rotting leaves before putting the package in the refrigerator. Depending on how fresh it is at purchase, spinach should be used within two to four days.