It's the cold-weather gift that just keeps on giving. The question is, how do you eat it all before it goes bad?
Every Wednesday I pick up my CSA share, a hefty box of vegetables packed with whatever is in season that week. Right now the root vegetables are dominant, mainly potatoes, carrots, squash, and onions, as well as some greens. And, of course, there's always a lot of spinach, about a pound and a half per week. I'm not a spinach salad fan -- at least, not in the kinds of quantities required to get through that much spinach -- so I've become quite good at using it up in other ways, some of which I'll share here.
The secret to working one's way through large amounts of spinach, I've realized, is to cook it, because it cooks down to a fraction of its original size. Apparently this also makes it healthier. As Melissa reported for TreeHugger in 2016, certain nutrients become more bio-available after cooking:
"Vegetarian Times writes that folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium are more available in raw spinach when it is eaten raw, cooking increases the vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron – as well, important carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, also become more absorbable when spinach is cooked."
So here are ways to start making a dent in that mountain of spinach.
1. Spinach Pesto
Pesto is most commonly made with basil, but it doesn't have to be. Replace half the basil with spinach and you'll hardly notice a difference. They have the same color and texture, so spinach makes a great filler.
2. Spinach Cheese Bake
This is a crustless quiche that's quick and easy. I like to serve it with salads or soups, and it uses up a good amount of my weekly spinach allotment. Recipe comes from Simply in Season (Herald Press, 2009).
1 pound of chopped spinach.
Cook and thoroughly drain.
1 cup milk
1 cup Swiss cheese or other shredded cheese
1 cup bread, cubed
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Combine in bowl and add cooked greens. Pour into a greased 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes, or until set.
My mother spent three years living on the Mediterranean island of Crete when she was a teenager, so she cooked a lot of Greek food when I was young. She used to make little phyllo pastry triangles called 'kaletsounias,' but I find it faster and easier to make a big pan of spanakopita. Here's a recipe to try, courtesy of Ina Garten.
4. Spinach paneer
A family favorite, this flavorful combination of spicy spinach sauce and soft tofu-like cheese is a huge hit with my kids. Best of all, it uses up a ton of spinach, as I usually double or triple the batch. You can find paneer in the dairy section of most large supermarkets, or try making your own.
5. Spinach Lasagna
America's Test Kitchen has a wonderful recipe for Spinach Lasagna in its Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. It features a creamy spinach sauce (that uses over a pound of spinach!), tangy cottage cheese, and shredded cheese layered with no-bake lasagna noodles. Look up the specific recipe or find another like it to use up that spinach in a delectable way.
6. Curried lentils with spinach
Spinach is one of those magical vegetables that melts away to almost nothing when cooked, and nowhere is this more obvious than when you stir it into dal or another kind of soup or stew. You just keeping adding handfuls, letting it wilt, and you can barely tell it's there. Make any kind of curried lentils or dal, and add generous amounts of spinach near the end of the cooking time.
7. Spinach Calzones
Another great idea from America's Test Kitchen, make batch of homemade pizza dough and a bowl of spinach-ricotta filling. Use cooked, drained, and chopped spinach blended with ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan, and fill individual dough rounds. These bake in 15 minutes and are a big hit with kids. (Full recipe available here.)
8. Spinach Dip
If you've got guests coming and don't know what to serve, a bag of spinach will do the trick. Who doesn't love a warm spinach dip, served with pita wedges or crackers? Here's a good recipe to try, via Epicurious.
Do you have any favorite ways to use large quantities of spinach? Please share in the comments below.