The truth about spinach is the bitter green is downright great for you. Loads of iron, calcium, vitamin K (hard to come by in the winter), folate (for healthy babies) and to top it all off omega-3 fatty acids. This you may know. But what isn’t common knowledge is the ingredient you need to eat with spinach in order to unlock its full nutritional potential. And I doubt Popeye was getting any of the sort out of those cans.
It’s vitamin C, or any source thereof. It aids your body in breaking down the iron in the spinach to allow for maximum absorption. Citrus is the most accessible form – but red peppers are loaded with it, too. Especially if you are eating raw spinach in a salad, a citrus vinaigrette is the perfect accompaniment. Although, my favorite way to approach spinach is a very basic cooking method (this is where you would hit the easy button).
Cook a little shallot or onion in a small amount of olive oil, add the spinach until it wilts and season for tastiness. End of story. I used to think dry greens like spinach needed a decent amount of butter or oil in the pan. But recently our St. Andrew’s CafÃ© chef told me to just drop it all in and watch it cook. “No butter or oil, chef?”
“Sure,” he laughed, “if you want”. At the risk of being laughed at twice, I sent in the spinach dry. And ended up with what you have below.
No too shabby, if I do say so myself. The key is to season the greens generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper, if possible. A little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil at the end is also nice. And to quote my husband, “it tastes like butter!” What they don’t know can’t hurt them.
- 1 bag fresh baby spinach
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup Spanish or yellow onion, small diced (about one quarter of a medium onion)
- 1 orange, peeled and segmented into wedges
- Extra virgin olive oil, for cooking and drizzling
- In a large sauté pan cook onions, shallots and garlic over low heat until translucent in color, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add spinach in three parts, stirring occasionally to evenly distribute heat. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice or orange segments.
Snap Shot: Slicing Orange Segments
Cut a flat base at both ends of the orange. Then moving your knife from top to bottom, remove the peel while saving the flesh. Then holding the orange in your non-dominant hand, slice each segment away from the pith. If you visualize that each segment is a hardcover book with a jacket, think that you are slicing between the jacket and the book cover on both sides. Then gently lift out the segment.
Here’s a video of a Culinary Institute chef demonstrating the elusive citrus segmentation.