Although spinach can be cooked in so many ways, sometimes, simplicity is best. Sauteed or steamed spinach is a quick side dish to serve your family on any day of the week. A splash of vinegar and a sprinkling of lemon adds flavor and a little sophistication to the greens.
Prepping the Spinach
Choose either mature or baby spinach to cook, depending on your taste preference. Baby spinach tends to have a slightly sweeter, more delicate flavor than mature flat-leaf spinach. Cut off the coarse stems if they have not been pre-cut using a sharp kitchen knife. It is important to thoroughly wash your spinach, as it is known to be gritty from the sandy soil it is grown in. Fill a large bowl with cold water and swish the spinach around in the water to thoroughly remove sand, and other debris. Leave the spinach in the water a few minutes before draining it in a colander. Fill the bowl again with clean water and repeat the process, tasting a leaf to test for grittiness. Dry the spinach thoroughly, either with a salad spinner or by blotting gently with paper towels.
Lemon and Vinegar Options
Lemon is a common accompaniment to cooked spinach, as it brightens the flavor. Typically, lemon is added to cooked spinach right after it is done cooking. You can infuse even more lemon flavor by adding lemon zest to the water if you are steaming it, or to the olive oil if you are sauteing it in a pan. Vinegar is also sometimes used to flavor spinach, adding a slight tang and sourness. It also helps to reduce bitterness and balance flavors. The taste and intensity of the vinegar varies depending on the type of vinegar you are using. Vinegars often used to cook and dress spinach include balsamic vinegar, which has a slight sweetness to it, red wine vinegar, which has a light tanginess, and cider vinegar, which has fruity undertones.
Grate the skin of a lemon with a microplane zester to create lemon zest. Heat olive oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven the stove over medium heat. Use about 2 tablespoons of oil for every 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of spinach you are cooking. Add in the lemon zest, then the spinach a little at a time. Use tongs to lightly toss the spinach in the oil until it wilts. At this point, you can 1 or 2 tablespoons of a vinegar of your choice, such as red wine vinegar or a balsamic vinegar to add to the skillet. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Fill a medium-sized saucepan with 2 to 3 inches of water. Add lemon zest to the water, then add a steamer basket insert. The water should reach just below the steamer basket. Bring the water to a boil, then add the spinach to the steamer basket and cover the saucepan, reducing the heat to a simmer. Cook until the spinach is fully wilted. Remove from the heat and toss the spinach with a vinegar of your choice before serving. Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh lemon juice.