Mark Bittman on Spinach

spinach The piles of glorious fresh spinach at the Co-op this weekend would have made Popeye proud, but the bounty of greens had us wondering what we could do with them besides the ubiquitous spinach salad. Put away the walnuts and the vinaigrette, this Mark Bittman write-up about how to make the leafy green superfood shine is right on time:

Spinach Is a Dish Best Served Cooked Mark Bittman, NYT 4/5/2012

If spinach has the reputation of being the homework of vegetables, it was not helped by its ’70s “revival” in the form of raw spinach salads. Spinach has many charms — truly singular flavor, the ability to be transformed by cooking in myriad ways, its famous health benefits — but salad is probably the least convincing.

Here, spinach undergoes four completely distinct treatments: superfast wilting in a pan; not-much- slower steaming in a pot; braised and almost a full meal; and superslow, a technique I really love, and one that results in astonishingly fine creamed spinach and the like. (These are generally so high-fat that they effectively neutralize spinach’s supposed health benefits, an interesting paradox.)

A few pointers: fresh spinach is a given, but really fresh spinach — dirty spinach, in bundles rather than bags — is preferable, especially if it comes in bunches, still attached to the little pink “crowns” that attach leaves to root. (Eat those; they’re good.) Two pounds is not too much for four people; less than a pound is not enough. (These recipes were tested with one and a half pounds.) Do not forget salt.

In these groups, the wilted and the braised are more likely to make satisfying main dishes; the other two, steamed and superslow, produce dishes that feel like sides, although they’re hardy enough, especially those in the last group. The differences among them are quite stark.

I have left out other options: you can flash-fry spinach, tossing it into a hot wok or pan with a bit of oil and some chilies and garlic; it’s done in seconds. You can also plunge it into boiling water, cool it, squeeze it dry and top with lemon and olive oil or soy sauce and sesame oil.

In short, this isn’t the end of the options. Only when you reach that end should you start messing around with the salads.

For recipes and further instruction check out the rest of the article here.