Need to know how to cook spinach? Yes, I know that Popeye likes his spinach straight out the can, but most of us need a little more preparation. Let’s be honest, apart from that muscly sailor it is no one’s favorite vegetable. But, we all know we need to eat more greens, and spinach can often seem the lesser of the green evils. There are actually a few ways it can be cooked to tempt even the fussiest eaters.
The big problem with spinach is the bitter taste, but if you learn how to cook it in the most basic way first, you can eliminate a lot of that bitterness before you do anything else.
The first thing you should do is to wash your spinach and dry it – spinach leaves are quite delicate and if too much water is left on them before cooking they can essentially start to cook. You should then chop off the thick stalks – they take longer to cook than the leaves although can still be used in quiches or even stir fries.
You can choose to either wilt your spinach leaves down in a pan using boiling water or a tablespoon of oil and this will only take 2-3 minutes. DO NOT cook them past the ‘just wilted’ stage.
You know spinach is cooked once it starts to wilt – so in other words once it starts to go a darker green and becomes less leaf like. Even spinach served in top restaurants (unless served raw) will not look anything like the fresh spinach leaves you start off with in the pan – this is normal so do not worry.
Essentially that is cooking spinach covered but we’d also like it to taste good too right?
Spinach That Isn't Bitter
The big issue here is the amount of water in spinach – this is what you need to get rid of in order to get rid of the bitterness. The best way to do this is to drain out as much water as you can using a colander, but it will also need a helping hand too. You really need to squeeze as much of that water out as you can, so press down with the back of a spoon to force out more water through the colander.
If you don’t own a colander or want to get even more water out of your green leaves then wrap it in a cheesecloth (or piece of muslin) in a pouch style, twist and squeeze – the water should come through the fabric leaving only delicious, bitter less spinach behind. Obviously take care when doing this – it’s a good idea to let it cool for a few minutes first and make sure you squeeze it over a sink or bowl.
With either of these methods make sure not to make an attempt to squeeze or push through all the spinach in one big go as it can go very mushy. Just a few short goes should do it.
I have also had success with using a salad spinner to get rid of some of the water from spinach but it still retains a slightly bitter taste using this method as it doesn’t eliminate all of the water.
Try sautéing spinach in a little olive oil with crushed or thinly sliced garlic – the simple ways are often the best. This is great for when you want something less wet and soggy that can often be the case with spinach. Make sure to cook your garlic in a skillet or frying pan with plenty of olive oil first, and once it starts to change color you can pile in the spinach.
You’ll need to keep the spinach moving to make sure it all gets cooked so use a large spatula to help you and remember do not take it past the wilted stage – this should only take around 2 minutes.
Spinach has an ideal partner in the creamy form of ricotta cheese. This tastes great with the two just mixed together but if you use it as a filling for your cannelloni you will be in for a taste sensation. Serve covered with a simple tomato sauce to add a bit of punch and counterbalance the soft taste of the spinach and ricotta combo.
Make a simple white béchamel sauce (or buy readymade) and get wilting your spinach once again (use the olive oil in a skillet method from above). Once cooked through and drained, put the spinach into a bowl and pour the sauce over the top. You can also add an extra kick to the sauce whichever way you wish such as with horseradish, chili or garlic.
Why Not Try...
Knowing how to cook spinach is just the start – there are many ways you can choose to serve your new favorite green.