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|All "Chef Tim Says..." Columns|
Spinach has gotten a bad rap, I think. It ranks as one of people's least favorite foods, but I believe that's because generations past had little to eat but canned or frozen spinach and in fresh spinach there's so much to love.
It's because of the availability of fresh spinach now that consumption is on the rise. Americans now consume about 2 1/2 lbs. per person, per year, on average. Still not a lot (that's only 5 servings per person), but growing.
There are two main types of spinach available in the market – flat leaf or curly leaf spinach. It's increasingly difficult to find curly leaf spinach. For the most part spinach is spinach, but there are some subtle differences.
Flat leaf is sometimes called New Zealand spinach in the markets. The leaves are flat and slightly plump. They will sometimes have a fine fuzz on them. Flat leaf spinach is easy to clean (always a plus), but the flavor is not quite as sweet as the curly leaf spinach. Much of what is sold these days is pre-packaged in special plastic bags that facilitate keeping the spinach fresher, and most of the spinach sold is younger or “baby spinach.”
Curly leaf spinach is of two types. In gardening terms, curly spinach is said to be savoyed and can be either semi-savoyed or heavily savoyed. The more curly (savoyed) the spinach is, the harder it is to clean. Curly leaf spinach is rarer in markets today because of the difficulty in cleaning it, and growers wish to wash and pre-bag spinach, partly for the convenience of consumers who will more readily purchase a “ready to eat” product, and partly because the bags prolong shelf life.
Canned spinach is pretty terrible, but frozen isn't so bad. In recipes such as soup, frozen spinach works just fine. The time you spend to clean, rinse and cook fresh spinach is not worth the difference in flavor in a dish where the spinach is well cooked. Spinach, like a lot of vegetables, is full of water, so you'll need to place the thawed spinach in a strainer and press with a spoon to squeeze out the excess water for recipes like lasagna or stuffed shells. For soup the extra water won't matter all that much.
Popeye ate spinach because of the high amounts of vitamin A and C as well as iron. There's a ton of calcium in spinach, too, with a cup having 245 mg (a cup of milk has about 300 mg calcium).
1 cup chopped spinach = 12 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 0g mono fat, 1g protein, 2g carbohydrates, 44mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol
March 3, 2008