While some people enjoy eating spinach raw, it’s a green that I always cook because it contains a relatively high concentration of oxalic acid. While you’d have to eat an inordinately large amount of raw spinach to kill you, in smaller doses it causes kidney stones due to the accumulation of calcium oxalate in your kidneys. While heat will not destroy oxalic acid, blanching spinach in a lot of water first will reduce the concentration.
That’s why I always blanch spinach first before using it in any dish. Another benefit to blanching is that it allows you to squeeze out excess water from the spinach preventing your dish from getting soggy. The best part about this method though, is that once the spinach is blanched, it will keep in the fridge for up to three days. This means you can blanch a large batch and just saute the amount of spinach you want to eat each day. This not only saves time, it will save a ton of room in your vegetable drawer.
After you’ve blanched and squeezed the spinach, give it a quick saute with some olive oil and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice for a delightful side that’s vibrant and full of flavor.
While most people tend to trim the roots off of spinach, I like leaving them on because they provide a nice texture and sweetness that keeps the spinach interesting. If you do decide to leave the roots on, be extra diligent about cleaning the spinach, especially where the leaves come together, or you’ll likely end up with a mouthful of grit.
Garlic Lemon Spinach
- 250 grams (9 ounces) spinach
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 12 grams garlic (2 large cloves)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- black pepper (to taste)
- 1/2 lemon
- Wash the spinach in a large bowl of water allowing sand and grit to settle at the bottom of the bowl. Pay particular attention to where the stem meets the roots. Dump the water and repeat until there is no more sediment settling to the bottom.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the spinach stems first and then push the leaves down to submerge them in the water. Blanch until the stems are no longer rigid (about 40 seconds) and then drain the spinach and dump into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking immediately.
- Retrieve the spinach by the roots and then squeeze as much water out of it as you can using your hands. Cut the spinach into 2-inch lengths.
- Smash the garlic with the flat side of the knife applying pressure with the palm of your hand and then chop into rough pieces.
- Heat a frying pan until hot. Add the oil and garlic and saute until the garlic is just starting to brown around the edges.
- Add the spinach and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Stir to break up the clumps of spinach and coat evenly with oil and then squeeze the lemon juice over the spinach. Serve immediately.
Yield: 2 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.