This is basically the same recipe my mother made for us growing up, except she didn’t use garlic and she seems to think she steamed, rather than sauteed, the garlic. I think it’s not a huge point of contention because although oil is added and the garlic is briefly sizzled in it, steaming still is the main way the spinach is softened and cooked.
This dish has the virtue of being both incredibly easy and incredibly healthy for you. Most the iron is locked up in spinach’s dark green leaves, only to be released by the heat of cooking. Eating it raw is still a healthy and delicious option, but it’s nutritional content skyrockets once it’s cooked. Garlic, lemon and olive oil also have plenty of benefits, so this dish is among the most angelic side dishes you can find, nutritionally speaking.
Adding the lemon juice at the end is a vital step, but I made this the other day when my friends Valerie and Greg came over before realizing I was out of lemons. I substituted fresh-squeezed orange juice instead and the result, while not the same, was quite delicious.
We ended up using garlic from our garden, as you can see from the photo above, because Isobel became a little anxious and picked it early. It could have definitely used a few months to fatten up under its thick blanket of earth, but that’s okay.
When I make this I use either a half or a whole bag of salad spinach. You will be surprised because even what seems like a vast amount of spinach will cook down to almost nothing. And here’s the other thing: err on the side of too much, not too little. I try but even so routinely regret not making more sauteed spinach.
This is one of those recipes that is very friendly to eyeballing and estimating. Often I just make this with “some spinach” and “some garlic” – whatever is at hand. It will not disappoint.
- 2ish tbs olive oil
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2ish tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 package, or about a 1/2lb to 1 lb of spinach, damp
- salt and pepper
- Mince the garlic while the olive oil heats in a pan over medium heat. Juice the lemons while waiting so that everything is ready to go.
- Saute the garlic in the oil, stirring frequently, until fragrant – no more than 30 seconds.
- Add the spinach. Often spinach from the package can be quite dry and you will need a bit of water to start the steaming process, so I add a few drops of water from a spoon or a spray bottle if this is the case.
- Stir the spinach and steam saute briefly until wilted but still bright green – minute or so.
- Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. This is good warm but especially so at room temperature.
One night I made this for Isobel as part of dinner. I had made brownies earlier and the temptation to eat one was almost more than she could bear. I told her that if she ate three bites of spinach, which she had refused to try, she could have a bite of brownie. I watched her eat those three bites of spinach, and then more until all the spinach was gone.
“More spinach, please!” she shrieked. “Oh good, you liked it,” I said, adding more to her plate. “No, I don’t,” she still insisted, “I just want to keep eating more of it.”
She had three helpings.