From nutmeg to chili, spinach is the vegetable that can take just about any seasoning. A leafy green vegetable that is generally cooked, but can also be eaten raw, spinach has a bittersweet taste that is still delicate enough to mesh with other ingredients. The best time of year for spinach is between May and October when the leaves are green and fresh and most flavorsome.

To Start

Most people will have tried spinach and feta cheese together at some point in their culinary experience, but spinach can also be paired with less distinctive cheeses and other flavors. A mild cheese combined with finely chopped green chili and spinach makes just as tasty a filling for samosas. A different starter idea involves pairing steamed and chopped spinach with cooked, sliced artichoke and mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard and a splash of Tabasco sauce for a spicy, mouthwatering and filling dip.

Soups and Salads

Spinach is an excellent alternative to lettuce in salads. Throw in some raw spinach to a salad mix and add just about any of your favorite dressings for a satisfying lunch experience. Some flavors that might surprise include fresh spinach and sliced fruit, as you will find in spinach and mango salad. Add a few blanched almonds, 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar and 1/4 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon. Season with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Then there is a classic spinach combination found in nutmeg and spinach soup. Add the spinach to vegetable stock and a bunch of chopped green onions, blend with a small grating of nutmeg and a cup of heavy or light cream. It is filling, delicious and distinctively spinach.

The Main Course

A spinach sauce is delicious atop grilled fish. Approximately 9 oz. cooked spinach can be blended with an equal amount of cooked watercress and added to gently heated 5 fl oz. white wine, 10 fl oz. heavy cream, 2 tbsp. mustard, and 2 oz butter. Another idea involves a classic spinach dish with a twist. Spinach and eggs have been paired together forever but you can spice up your Eggs Florentine with a few coriander leaves or a sprinkling of nutmeg or five-spice. In a vegetable stir-fry, spinach can be chopped roughly and added fresh to the mix along with peanut or sesame oil in place of other oils. As the main ingredient however, not much can beat a simple spinach dish stir fried with mushrooms, garlic, a little olive oil, soy sauce and black pepper.

Something Else

If you like to bake your own bread, throw a couple handfuls of torn fresh spinach leaves into a blender and then add it to your dough mix before you bake. The slightly savory accent can be highlighted with small cherry tomatoes halved and pressed into the kneaded dough already blended with the spinach. Then there is the refreshing taste of the spinach smoothie. Blend fresh spinach with blueberries, bananas, cranberry juice, vanilla yogurt, a banana and some ice.