I like to think of very early spring, which I’ll tentatively say is what we’re in now, as saag paneer season. Every year around this time, I buy a couple of the big bags of spinach that are popping up at the market right now in the northeast, and make this saag paneer recipe from 101 cookbooks. The big-leafed spinach that shows up at the greenmarket beginning in mid to late March here in New York has been overwintered, meaning it was planted in the fall and tucked in for winter using some sort of insulation such as straw mulch, another type of cover, and/or by planting in a cold frame. This long winter nap means that the spinach emerges early in the spring especially sweet and is prized by chefs and home cooks.
I love overwintered spinach because it’s one of the first green things to come back in the market, way before asparagus and #ramps. This is around the time when our bodies are craving green stuff like whoa, so it’s nice to know that mother nature has our backs on this one. Because overwintered spinach has to be tough enough to soldier through a long winter, it’s not the best suited for salads like the baby spinach that’s available later in the season, IMHO. However, it’s dreamy just wilted or lightly sauteed. One other tip I’ll offer related to preparing overwintered spinach is that it can tend to be a bit sandy. You won’t want to just give it a rinse in a colander. Fill up your sink or a large pot with water and give it a good bath. Change the water and do the whole thing again.
Here’s some inspiration on how to cook overwintered spinach. Be sure to leave your own ideas in the comments!
- Again, this saag paneer from 101 Cookbooks
- Along the same lines, this coconut creamed spinach from Love & Lemons
- Floyd Cardoz’s Sautéed Spinach and Ramps With Toasted Lentils, from New York Magazine
- Spring Saute of Overwintered Spinach, Leeks, and Carrots from MarcusSamuelsson.com
- Greens & garlic soup from Brooklyn Supper
- Kuku Sabzi, an herbed frittata for Persian New Year, from The Year in Food
- Real deal creamed spinach from Smitten Kitchen
- This spinach ricotta lasagna from Food for my Family could easily be made gluten-free
- Of course, a simple sauteed spinach with garlic like this one from The Pioneer Woman, is always good too
- I’ve made this Moong Dal recipe from the New York Times a couple times now and most recently, I stirred in some torn-up, overwintered spinach leaves at the very end
How do you like to cook up spinach?