Sunday - Apr 18, 2021

Forget Popeye’s canned stuff: fresh spinach is the chieftain of leafy greens  

These decadent dishes will make you forget your childhood prejudices


by Janet Blaser


Spinach is one of my favorite vegetables, at least as an adult. If we ate it when I was a kid, chances are it was canned (yuck) or frozen, which didn’t score points in my childhood calculations.

Nowadays, packaged baby spinach leaves can be found year-round in big grocery stores, and while they’ll do in a pinch, there’s nothing like a bunch of fresh spinach, especially from a farmers’ market. (A little time-consuming to clean, but so worth it!) Fresh spinach, which is 91% water, loses most of its nutritional value after just a few days of storage; packaged spinach loses its nutrients over the course of about a week.

References to aspānāḵ have been found in Persia dating back 2,000 years, and the earliest known English cookbook, from 1390, mentions it too, calling it spinnedge and spynoches. In Spain, it was known as the “chieftain of leafy greens.” In Mexico, it’s espinaca.

Spinach is in the same family as chard, beets and quinoa. It’s an early spring vegetable that’s a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. And while Popeye knew that a can of spinach made him strong because of the high iron content, it needs to be cooked thoroughly for that to be true.

Nutritionists tell us that spinach in general, and raw spinach in particular, has high levels of oxalates, which block the absorption of iron and calcium. So spinach must be thoroughly steamed or cooked to lower the oxalate levels and allow your body to absorb the iron. According to the USDA, a 100 gram serving of cooked spinach has almost double the iron as a hamburger patty the same size.

·       Bacon-Spinach Breakfast Tacos

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ¼ -inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 quart packed spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup salsa verde
  • 4 soft flour or corn tortillas, warmed
  • Garnish: queso cotija, lime wedges, scallions, cilantro

Cook bacon until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving fat in pan.

Add garlic; cook over medium heat, stirring, 1 minute. Add half of spinach; cook until wilted, about 30 seconds. Add remaining spinach and cook until wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate; wipe out skillet.

Melt butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add eggs and cook, stirring, until no longer watery but still moist, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

To assemble: Spread salsa over tortillas, then spinach and then eggs. Top with bacon. Serve immediately with crumbled queso cotija and other garnishes. —

Simple Sautéed Spinach

2 big bunches of spinach, about 1 pound

Olive oil

3 cloves garlic, sliced

Salt to taste

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute until just beginning to brown. Add spinach, pushing it down a bit in the pan. Using a spatula or wide spoon, carefully flip sections of the spinach so oil is spread through leaves. Cover and cook 1 minute. Uncover and turn the spinach over again. Cover again and cook for an additional minute. until spinach is completely wilted. Remove from heat. Drain any excess liquid, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve immediately.