20 Ways to Get Your Spinach On

(Kim O'Donnel)

After devouring Monday’s spanakorizo, I had what could be described as a full-on leafy green love attack, admiring spinacia oleracea’s ability to be wilted, steamed, braised, fried, and tucked, not to mention its easy-going personality. In fact, it seems that the challenge is what NOT to pair with spinach -- and other than peanut butter and jelly, I’m coming up short.

Nutritionally, you can’t do much better; one cup of boiled spinach contains Vitamins A, B, C and K, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, protein, fiber AND Omega-3 fatty acids, all for 41 calories. Go here for the nutrient details.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Americans need some help in the veggie servings department. Just 27 percent of us eat three or more servings of vegetables a day, which is a fraction of federal recommendations, as published in Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.

I’m just sayin’…

In the spirit of wellness, I've jotted down 20 ways to play with your leafy greens -- and that doesn’t include fork pushing. Got a spinach-y treat to add to the list? Please share in the comments area. And that reminds me -- send your "chat" questions my way; I'll pick three from the mail bag to be featured in this space once weekly.

Spinach and chickpea pie, with a chickpea flour dough

Hand-held Middle Eastern spinach pies (aka fetayer), that you can make in advance, freeze and pack for lunch

The cozy comfort of Joe’s Special, a one-pot ground beef and egg number with plenty o' leafy greens

Lasagna with a greens and ricotta filling

Over short pasta or orzo, in a sauce with cherry tomatoes, garlic, lemon zest, white wine and fresh herbs of choice

Tucked into an omelet or as part of a frittata

Sandwiched into a quesadilla, with black beans -- or if you’re out of tortillas, how about two pieces of sandwich bread for a zesty take on the ole grilled cheese?

Wilted atop red lentils

: Spinach leaves get dipped into a zesty chickpea batter and flash fried, resulting in gorgeous, crispy morsels that blow away your party guests

Teamed up with a grilled Portobello mushroom, roasted red peppers and your favorite melty cheese on a bun

Simply steamed, with lemon, olive oil and salt

Braised, with caramelized onions and a can of drained white beans or chickpeas (from “Arabesque”)…

…or in coconut milk with chiles and garlic, served over rice (from “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian")

As a hot salad --- toss greens with vinaigrette (with or without bacon grease) in a stainless steel bowl that fits neatly atop a pot with a few inches of simmer water. With tongs, toss until warm (from “Chez Panisse Vegetables”)

Wilted in a hot skillet and oil, with a mustardy-shallot-y vinaigrette…. (from “Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini”)

…or with sesame oil, soy sauce, a smidge of grated fresh ginger and sesame seeds

Indian style, with ginger, green chile, garam masala sugar and cayenne (from “Hadhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking”)

…or Mediterranean style, with garlic and/or shallots, pine nuts and raisins

Raw, chopped and mixed in with cous cous (my preference is the larger Israeli variety), red onion, plenty of fresh lemon, olive oil, cayenne or smoked paprika, chopped fresh parsley

Atop a pizza with fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, prosciutto, sauteed mushrooms, olives, anchovies

Need I go on?

By Kim ODonnel |  March 31, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Seasonal Produce
Previous: Meatless Monday: Spring Into Spinach 'n' Rice | Next: Feast at Casa Bizarro


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My new favorite way to have spinach is inspired by a recent dish I had at Posto on 14th. A top cheesy polenta, sauteed with garlic, good canned tomatoes (San Marzano) and spicy Italian sausage. It's been a great dish for this in between, sort of cold, sort of warm weather.

Posted by: cf07 | March 31, 2009 8:12 AM

How about Eggs Florentine? Steamed spinach, poached eggs and hollandaise or white sauce. Or just the spinach and eggs -- when my parents were on a low-carb diet, my now-teenage son developed a taste for that combination. It's still one of his favorites.

Posted by: margaret6 | March 31, 2009 8:26 AM

"Cream" of Spinach Soup, mine own invention. You can make this all-but-nonfat by using a tiny bit of oil for the onion, and nonfat milk or yogurt at the end.

1. Saute a chopped onion in oil or butter, as much or as little as you like it cooked. Less sauteed = stronger flavor.

2. When onion is done, add a couple of cloves chopped garlic, stir to mix.

3. Add washed spinach that you haven't bothered to dry. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low, let the spinach steam in the rinse water. Add more water or stock if necessary.

4. Puree. I like to rough-puree in the pot with a stick blender, because I'm lazy and don't want to wash the blender. If you don't have one or want it really smooth puree, or have someone else to wash your dishes, use the blender then return to pot.

5. Thin to taste with a liquid: stock, milk, yogurt, V-8, etc. Season to taste.

Posted by: fitday19550 | March 31, 2009 8:58 AM

Two more thoughts:

Stir fry!!

Just about anything you can do with spinach, you can do with the milder-tasting chard. Chard tends to be prettier, too, with magenta, red, orange, yellow or white stems.

Posted by: fitday19550 | March 31, 2009 9:05 AM

Oh I love spinach! My favorite is chopped spinach with lots of fresh chopped basil, some orzo pasta, pine nuts, feta cheese, maybe some cherry tomatoes, then top with a olive oil/fresh lemon juice/salt and pepper dressing. Simple and delicious, I can eat the whole thing myself!

Posted by: CapitolHillLB | March 31, 2009 9:27 AM

My carnivore husband started eating a few veggies in the past few years. One of his favorites is raw baby spinach! I couldn't believe it. He had such an opposition to spinach, but he didn't realize the baby leaves on the salad bar and what he remembered from childhood were the same plant. I'm trying to introduce him to cooked spinach, but it's a texture thing. In the meantime, I still want him to get his veggies. So, in the Cubefarm house, a standby is a simple salad of raw baby spinach with dressing and a little bacon. As much as I love it cooked, you can't overlook having it raw.

As for cooking it, I love to toss it in with some eggs or saute it with garlic for pasta. Since I always have it on hand for Mr. Cubefarm's salads, it's easy to toss it into whatever I'm having for breakfast or lunch. Spinach goes with so much!

Posted by: DCCubefarm | March 31, 2009 9:41 AM

What a terrific list! My only suggestion is to refer to this list when you can't decide what to do with your chard, beet greens, or kale. Most of the things you can do with cooked spinach you can do with one of these other greens, too.

Posted by: esleigh | March 31, 2009 9:55 AM

Hi Kim!
I made the spanakorizo for dinner last night. I added a can of cannelini beans to it, used less olive oil(about 5 tbsp), and parmesan instead of feta since that's what I had on-hand. It was great, and I have leftovers for lunch today!
Thanks for the last-minute inspiration yesterday.

Posted by: earlysun | March 31, 2009 10:34 AM

esleigh, you're preaching to the choir -- great idea to remember how spinach AND its leafy brethren are so very versatile.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | March 31, 2009 10:49 AM

earlysun, love the improv! Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | March 31, 2009 10:50 AM

Need I go on? Yes!

I've a weak spot for Saag Paneer. You can cut the fat by subbing low fat cottage cheese for the paneer. The dish also doesn't need that much fat.

Spinach-ricotta pie (from Moosewood) is a huge hit in the Blade household. It's great to hear a three year old otherwise dislikes vegetables say "More spinach pie please!"

Along these lines, spinach-ricotta ravioli are great, especially with a quick tomato sauce. We tried the Costco variety at a friend's place and are going to make a go of home made in the near future.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 31, 2009 12:27 PM

Three of our favorite spinach uses to getting your greens on:

1) Lentils, Spinach and Feta
see link: http://loulies.com/lentils_spinach_feta

2) Grilled Spinach
see link: http://loulies.com/vacation_kitchen_meal_ideas

3) Saute up a massive bunch of spinach in garlic and olive oil, then store it in a big Mason jar for healthy snacking right from the fridge.

Posted by: Loulies | March 31, 2009 12:53 PM

One of my favorites involves using raw spinach as the "green" on my plate. I make stewed lentils, served over mashed potatoes, with a beautiful layer of raw spinach in between the potatoes and lentils, and some goat cheese crumbled on top. You could sautee the spinach but I like the slight crunch of it raw, to add another texture to the plate.

Stewed Lentils: Saute onions until soft. Saute bacon or turkey bacon too, if you want it. Stir in whatever spice you're in the mood for, I usually add thyme or oregano. Add two cans of rinsed and drained lentils and a glass of red wine. Let simmer on low until the wine is absorbed. Serve over your favorite starch (mashed potatoes, rice, polenta...) along with something green (steamed broccoli, raw arugula, raw spinach...) with some fresh goat cheese or feta on top. Drink a glass of the same wine you used in the lentils. This makes a lovely meal in less than 1/2 an hour.

Posted by: leahstan | March 31, 2009 1:35 PM

spinach and pistachio pesto! though i just heard a rumor that pistachios are being recalled for salmonella. someone needs to stop poisoning our nuts!

anyway. the pesto recipe can be found below:


Posted by: pbjenny1 | March 31, 2009 3:11 PM

Cook cheese tortelleni in some chicken or vegetable broth, add some raw baby spinach just until it wilts, making a light soup. Top with some grated parmesan. Alternately, put some in a quesadilla with grape tomatoes cut in half, cheddar cheese and Old Bay Seasoning.

Posted by: gypsy420 | March 31, 2009 3:17 PM

I love spinach sauteed in a little olive oil (or even cooking spray) with a little onion and garlic, pine nuts, and golden raisins. So delicious.

Posted by: crowtrobot | March 31, 2009 7:43 PM

What about the fried spinach appetizer at Rasika? Did you ever have that before you left DC? I so love it - wonder if you could advise on how to approximate. Tx!

Posted by: JessTrev | April 1, 2009 4:04 PM

Tonight we had baked potatoes with cheese. I usually steam broccoli and onion to go on as well, but didn't have any broc. I sauteed frozen spinach in some olive oil, seasoned with ground allspice, ground pepper, salt, and (last minute inspiration) garlic powder. I liked it a lot. My 7 and 10 yos didn't admit to liking it, but at least said it was better than roasted kale.

A friend of mine eats naked raw spinach. But then, she also eats plain nonfat yogurt straight up.

Posted by: janedoe5 | April 1, 2009 11:29 PM

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