My Recipe Box

Cooking with spinach

by Dabney Gough

fromFine Cooking
Issue 96

At the supermarket, we have a choice when it comes to spinach: baby, bagged, or bunched. When we tested Susie Middleton's Lemon-Thyme Spinach, we decided to try each kind to see how different they were after cooking. Here’s what we found:

Bunched
Bunched Spinach

Bunched spinach had the best, most spinachy flavor and tender texture of those we tried—it was the favorite among our tasters. It had a couple of drawbacks, though: By weight, about 60% of our spinach was stem, so it took 5 pounds to yield the 2 pounds of trimmed leaves we needed—that’s a lot of waste. It’s also usually pretty sandy, so it takes some time to stem and wash the leaves.

Bagged
Bagged Spinach

Bagged spinach had solid spinach flavor, but it wasn’t quite as good as the bunched spinach. What’s nice about bagged spinach is that it’s fairly well trimmed—only about 20% of the weight is stem. It’s also a little quicker to clean because it’s “triple-washed.” It still needs rinsing (we’ve seen plenty of sandy triple-washed spinach), but not as many times as bunched spinach. For the Lemon-Thyme Spinach, we consider bagged spinach to be the best all-around option: good taste, less waste.

Baby
Baby Spinach

Baby spinach has small, delicate leaves that wilt to a slippery mass when cooked, making the texture slightly less desirable. The flavor of baby spinach is also much milder than that of mature bagged and bunched spinach. On the upside, bagged baby spinach is ready to use as is—it’s usually well washed and the stems can be left on—so if you’re crunched for time, it’s a reasonable option.

Photos: Scott Phillips

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