When I was a child the only spinach I knew was the droopy olive green strands that came in a can. Then one night I went out to steak house with my friend Kim and her parents. I was thinking only of a juicy filet and hash browns and my heart sank as Kim’s mother also ordered a spinach and bacon salad. Still cringing I dug in my fork and pulled out the tinest bit of bacon drenched leaf. It was love at first bite. I ate every morsel of that salad and every time I went to a restaurant I scanned the menu for a similar dish.
But more than delicious and versatile, spinach is a nutritious anti-aging, antioxidant rock star. Raw or cooked, its packed with antioxidants like vitamin A ( 168% of RDA), leutin, vitamin C vitamin E, vitamin B6, and folic acid. Spinach also packs a payload of anti-aging minerals including iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, copper and selenium. Last but not least spinach is fat -free, low in carbs and offers both fiber and protein. Seriously, its that good.
When I first started to cook, spinach with bacon sald was one of the first dishes I mastered. And like so many young brides of the time I worked my way through Julia Child and learned how to saute fresh spinach with olive oil and garlic — equally delicious without the calories , fat and salt of my first spinach favorite.
There are four basic types of spinach in the markets these days:
1. Curly spinach– can be a bit tough and its hard to get the dirt and sand out of its grooves. Its been said that curly spinach gave this gorgeous green a bad rep for a gritty texture.
2. Flat or smooth spinach– are tender and much easier to clean throughly of all the grit that clings to the leaves. You can eat the whole thing, but the stem if they are long can be a bit untidy. I take off half the stems so that the dish looks nice and leafy rather than stringy.
3. Baby spinach– smooth tender little leaves are perfect for salds and can be be used in sandwiches in place of lettuce.
4. Frozen spinach– these lumpy green blocks preserve the antioxidants beautifully. They are an inexpensive choice where spinach is an ingredient in a soup, frittata, quiche or stuffed mushroom.
One final thought. While on paper spinach is high in both iron and calcium, these anti-aging minerals are in a form that is not easily available to the body. That’s the bad news. The good news? Serving and or cooking spinach with lemon juice or dairy increase absorption for both minerals. Squeezing lemon on sauteed spinach or mixing Greek yogurt into chopped cooked spinach are delicious ways to increase nutritional availability. FYI the antioxidant vitamins are available whether spinach is frozen, raw or cooked. Nice.