I always find spinach a difficult vegetable. It has an overpowering taste, but is quite bland on its own. It seems like the only thing that stands up to the spinach are rich sauces heavy in cream and cheese. But sometimes that is just not what you want, so I came up with three (slightly unexpecting) lighter ways of flavouring spinach.
Another thing that is very important with spinach is the preparation. Use fresh spinach, not frozen. Frozen spinach is not a vegetable, it is icky green goo. There are lots of vegetables that freeze well, but spinach is not one of them. For me the best way to cook spinach is in portions in a very hot, dry pan. Using oil isn’t going to do anything for the spinach at this point. I don’t saute it until it has completely wilted, because it will continue to cook when you take it out of the pan and set it aside to cook the next portion. This ensures a nice bite, and prevents the spinach from getting slimy and soggy. After cooking the complete batch of spinach, I prepare the flavouring, then I add the spinach again.
The first variant is Asian. To prepare the flavouring, add a very finely chopped clove of garlic to a tablespoon of oil. Heat very gently to get rid of the sharp flavour of raw garlic, but take care not to overheat it, as it will burn the garlic (which is very bitter). Add a sprinkling of mustard seeds, nigella seeds, cumin seeds and salt. Add a few drops of sesame oil and add the spinach back in.
The second version is Arabic. Start again with heating garlic in oil. Add salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and a few tablespoons of tahin (sesame paste; I like the roasted variant). Add the spinach back in. Optional: garnish with sesame seeds.
The third version is Mediterranean. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil, add very finely chopped garlic and a finely chopped small onion (or a few shallots), add some salt. Saute until translucent. Meanwhile soak some (golden) raisins and roast some pine nuts. Mix everything together.
And as a bonus, a fourth recipe (but this one does have a creamy sauce), perfect as pasta sauce. Start again with heating garlic in oil. Add some mascarpone and grated parmesan. Add the spinach back in. Optional: add mushrooms and/or pine nuts.
Nb: all recipes are for about 300 g spinach.