Sautéed Spinach of Shrinking

I have finally learned that boiling spinach should result in a night in the stocks.  Many nutrients end up in the water and often the result can be mush.  Steaming spinach is a great alternative, but there are just so many options that can be explored with steamed spinach.  So I took a long look at my inventory tab and decided to try a duel between a pile of spinach and a skillet.  When this starts out in the skillet, the spinach seems like it will win, but after a short time in the heat of sautéing the spinach ultimately gives up and shrinks into tasty, tender leaves.  The fun variation with this recipe is the oil.  With so few ingredients, the type and quality of oil used really stands out and can change the flavor dramatically.  I typically use a #8 cast iron pan for this with a lid.  Alternatively I suspect a “dutch oven” (or similar item) could be used.  The goal is to keep the spinach and steam contained.

Heat 1T of oil in the pan over medium heat.  Add 1T of minced garlic and let that cook for a couple minutes.  Add spinach and 1t of sesame seeds.  Stir around to coat everything with oil (that part is easier with a larger pot – in the skillet I carefully flip clumps of leaves using tongs).  Add 1T of water.  Cover.  Reduce heat to low for about 5 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.

Using a very little amount of water and a tight lid here avoids boiling the spinach and uses any residual moisture in the leaves to cook them.  The result is spinach that is still a little leafy and not cooked into mush.  As apposed to steaming in a basket, not as many nutrients end up in a green moat-water-like broth beneath the spinach.  Any remaining fluid can easily be used to coat the spinach and leave nearly a clean pan.

Again, the oil is very important here since it stands out so clearly.  Good olive oil is generally something that should be reserved for dipping, dressings, and other places where you can appreciate the flavor.  Despite the heat, and the likelihood that the oil will breakdown some, using good olive oil here is an option.  I have also used peanut oil, safflower oil, and now I’m on to using seasame oil.

Variations I have tried with this, and enjoyed, are:* julienne[1] half an onion, sauté, then add garlic, etc.* add a very small amount of ginger* add a dash of soy sauce or rice vinegar — though with the vinegar I add that at the very end and rinse the cast iron immediately to prevent any ill reactions with the iron or accumulated carbon.

[1] I had no idea how to go about this for a while until I stared at an onion for a moment and realized that if I cut off the root and top sides and then cut slivers out of it radially it would get me what I needed.  Of course, did I look this up?  Why should I when staring at an onion is more fun?  Having looked up tricks to julienne an onion since then, I don’t think it is any surprise that I like my way better.  There’s always more than one way…

One thought on “Sautéed Spinach of Shrinking

  1. I use this approach for all leafy greens rather than any “wet” cooking method. I never add any water, but I probably add a lot more oil so I don’t need it.

    My favorite thing to do here is wilt spinach and fresh basil this way and then build an alfredo sauce around it to make a kind of hybrid pesto/alfredo. This is great either over macaroni (not long pasta, big leaves and long noodles is hard to eat) or as part of a topping on a pizza.

    Sesame oil, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds is great for kale, mustard, collard or other hearty greens which can then be incorporated into any one of a number of Chinese style dishes like chili tofu.

    I actually cook pretty much all vegetables in a skillet, at this point. The only thing I boil is grains and pastas.

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