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seasonal produce: spinach

Many of us remember spinach as an unappetizing mound of green on our dinner plate. Today it’s a whole new story for this versatile vegetable. No longer sold only in sandy bunches, cans or frozen blocks, spinach is now a fresh convenience food. Bags of tender leaves are ready to use in truly delicious spinach recipes—and not just spinach salads. It's also terrific in all kinds of soups and pasta dishes, as well as bistro-style sandwiches, omelets, quiches and more.

Purchasing Spinach

  • Look for fresh spinach leaves that have a dark green color, crisp texture and fresh aroma.
  • Avoid bunches or bags with wilted, yellow-spotted or slimy leaves and bunches with a sour or musty odor.
  • Spinach stems should be fairly thin. Thick, coarse stems indicate overgrown leaves that will be tough and bitter tasting.
  • Check the “best if used by” date on bags of ready-to-use spinach before purchasing to ensure freshness. Also, give bags a gentle squeeze; if the spinach has a springy feel, it’s fresh and crisp.
  • Refrigerate unwashed spinach bunches in a plastic bag for 3 to 4 days.
  • Refrigerate ready-to-use spinach in its original bag according to the stamped freshness date. Many of these bags are specially designed to keep the spinach fresh.

Preparing Spinach

  • Bunches of fresh spinach are very sandy and must be washed thoroughly just prior to using. Trim off any roots and separate the leaves. Submerge in a large bowl of water and swish gently. Let the sandy soil settle to the bottom of the bowl, and then remove the leaves from the water with your hands. Pour the soiled water out of the bowl and refill with fresh water. Repeat this process until the water remains clear.
  • Even though bagged spinach leaves are often prewashed, it’s still a good idea to give them a rinse under cold water to ensure they are clean and fresh.
  • Any tough stems should be removed from spinach leaves prior to cooking or eating. To remove the stems, fold each leaf in half and pull the stem up toward the top of the leaf.
  • It may be necessary to tear larger leaves into smaller pieces depending on how the spinach is used. Baby spinach leaves are usually used whole.
  • For salads and other raw uses, dry the spinach leaves with paper towels or in a salad spinner.
  • If cooking, the water clinging to the leaves is usually enough liquid for steaming, sautéing or microwaving the spinach.
  • Cooking greatly reduces the volume of raw spinach. One pound (about 10 cups) fresh spinach yields only about 1 cup cooked spinach.
  • For best results, cook fresh spinach just until it wilts to maintain its flavor and bright green color.
  • Avoid cooking spinach in aluminum or cast-iron pans since these metals can produce undesirable flavor and color changes.
  • If most of its excess moisture does not evaporate during cooking, thoroughly drain spinach before serving or combining with other ingredients.

Spinach Nutrition

  • Low in calories, fat free.
  • Excellent source of vitamin A.
  • Good source of vitamin C and folate.

Serving Spinach

  • Replace some or all of the lettuce in tossed green salads with tender, baby spinach leaves for extra color and flavor.
  • Strawberries, mandarin oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, apples and pears are just some of the fruits that taste great in spinach salads.
  • Heat your favorite KRAFT Vinaigrette Dressing just until warm, and then toss with fresh spinach leaves for a delicious wilted spinach salad.
  • Toss fresh spinach into soups just before serving, stirring until the leaves wilt. In addition to extra color, this is a great way to sneak spinach into meals.
  • Spinach blends well with milk and eggs. Stir cooked, well-drained spinach into your favorite cream or cheese sauce for a tasty side dish or into omelet fillings and quiches.
  • Sauté fresh spinach in OSCAR MAYER Bacon drippings, season with salt and pepper and top with cooked and crumbled bacon for an easy side dish.
  • Nutmeg, garlic, lemon, cheese, mushrooms, and hard-cooked eggs all pair well with the flavor of spinach.
  • Tuck fresh spinach leaves rather than lettuce into sandwiches—including pitas and wraps—for a change of pace.
  • Stir fresh spinach leaves into rice, pasta dishes and stuffing during cooking for delicious Florentine dishes.
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