Spinach is packed with nutrients, but a bunch of the fresh leaves can cook down to practically nothing. With frozen spinach, what you see is what you get; that is, a 10-ounce chunk of frozen spinach will still provide close to 10 ounces of food after it is steamed or defrosted. Frozen spinach is packed right after it is harvested, so it retains most of its nutrients. Although frozen spinach lacks the tenderness and vitality of the fresh greens, it is still a useful ingredient, especially in side dishes that complement main courses without calling much attention to themselves.
Frozen spinach works well in hand-held pies and dumplings, when it's covered with a savory crust. Tiropeta, or single-serving triangular versions of spanakopita, use sheets of phyllo dough to wrap frozen spinach and feta cheese. Steam frozen spinach before using it in savory crusts, then squeeze or drain it well to remove the moisture and keep the pie or pastry from growing soggy. Serve wrapped spinach side dishes with protein-rich main dishes, such as steak or roasted chicken.
Saute frozen spinach to match virtually any main dish you prepare. Use dill and a hint of anise to complement Greek dishes; add basil and oregano for a side dish for Italian meals; or use soy sauce and toasted sesame oil for a Chinese-style dish. Thaw the spinach in a steamer before sautéing it with onions, garlic or shallots, and your favorite seasonings.
Creamed spinach is a classic side dish that works well with frozen spinach instead of fresh. Simply prepare a cream sauce, season it lightly with nutmeg, and add frozen spinach that has been steamed and strained to remove any excess moisture. As with other side dishes that use frozen spinach, removing the extra liquid keeps the water from running out during the cooking process, diluting flavors and making dishes unpleasantly runny.
Season a Salad
A salad made with frozen spinach isn't quite the same as a salad made with fresh spinach. The frozen version is more dense and moist, while the fresh version will be bright and crunchy. Frozen spinach can bring advantages to a salad recipe, however, such as its ability to soak up and showcase seasonings. Prepare a Japanese spinach salad seasoned with soy sauce, sesame seeds and sweet rice cooking wine, or a holiday salad with lemon and olive oil, as well as raisins and pine nuts.
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Devra Gartenstein is a self-taught professional cook who has authored two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan", and "Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes". She founded Patty Pan Cooperative, Seattle's oldest farmers market concession, and teaches regular cooking classes.