Not Just for Popeye Anymore
THERE ARE FOODS you eat once in a while, for pleasure or duty, and there are foods you can live on. For me, spinach fits the latter category.
Any time I can get my hands on reasonably priced fresh spinach, or have it available in the garden, I craft meals around the curly, dark green leaves: spinach salads, spinach-basil omelets, cheese & spinach squares, spinach lasagna, Greek stew (a thick casserole of potatoes, onions, bacon, spinach, and cheese), popovers, creamy spinach soup, and—of course—plain steamed spinach. I put the prettiest leaves whole on sandwiches, and munch the pink-tinged stems while cleaning the leaves for cooking.
Food historians tell us spinach was first cultivated in Persia in the fourth century. From there it has spread to many countries and cuisines. Add the word Florentine (a tradition that has come to us from Italy via France) when naming any spinach dish and it will sound like you have spent hours in the kitchen!
But, on the contrary, spinach dishes are not time consuming. Like most vegetables, spinach should be cooked minimally in order to preserve its many vitamins and minerals (A, C, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium). A brief steaming to wilt the stiffness out of the leaves is all that is necessary to prepare it for eating plain or in a spinach-based recipe.
The most time-consuming task with spinach is washing out the grit, which can be a formidable job requiring two or three washings. Try using lukewarm water with a little salt, a tip I learned just recently.