Popeye knew what he was about with all that spinach. Because he definitely didn't get those biceps by inhaling pizza. And truly the bitter green is downright great for you as long as you don't have a health condition, like kidney stones, that calls for a low oxalate diet (we'll nerd out on that a little farther down the page). But you need to know how to cook spinach to maximize it's nutrients AND create edible times.
So easy, I taught my five-year-old how to cook spinach this way
If you need a vegetable for dinner in a HOT MINUTE, dump a bag of baby spinach in a sauté pan over medium heat, and it will cook itself with minimal stirring. End of story. Or when you're feeling crazy, sweat (gently cook) a little minced shallot or onion in a small amount of olive oil, then add the spinach until it wilts and is completely tender. Then quick chop that leftover breakfast bacon, and you've got yourself a little YUM.
The people who shouldn't eat spinach
Spinach the vegetable with the highest concentration of oxalates - or compounds that the body's digestive process turns into oxalic acid. According to the Cleveland Clinic, calcium oxalates are the most common type of kidney stones. The oxalate binds to calcium in the body, and the pain caused by stones in kidneys is apparently worse than unmedicated childbirth. I've only endured the latter, so I can't offer anecdotal insight.
Bottom line, the people who shouldn't consume foods high in oxalate know who they are. Everyone else can apply within.
Do better than Popeye
I think most Americans see spinach for the nutrient-dense green it is. Bu what isn't common knowledge is the other food you need to eat with spinach to unlock its full potential.
Orange you glad you scrolled down?
Surprise! It's vitamin C. It aids your body in breaking down the iron in the spinach, to allow for maximum absorption. And we all know it keeps your immune system strong. Citrus is the most accessible form that plays nice with spinach, but red peppers are loaded with it, too.
If you are eating raw spinach in a salad, say, a citrus vinaigrette is the perfect match. For sautéed spinach, a squeeze of fresh orange or a few segments will get it done.
Be strong to the finish
Season the greens generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. A little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil adds great healthy fat. We cook spinach this way for dinner once every couple weeks, and it sure beats anything you can eat out of a can.
The outsiders below - onion, shallot, garlic - are completely optional. To get a quick fix of sautéed spinach, just dump the bag in the pan and let it cook itself. Don't forget the butter and salt!
- 1 bag fresh or frozen 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 or simply squeezed over cooked spinach
- Extra virgin olive oil or butter, for finishing
- In a large sauté pan sweat 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.
Please don't feel I'm pushing you to perspire in the kitchen (unless you want to). Sweating vegetables is chef-speak for cooking gently over a low heat to avoid browning.
Keywords: spinach, how to cook spinach, oxalates