February 1, 2012

Foodie Escapade #2: Seeking Spinach

Good food is a gift from a good God.

This time of year, I am seeking spinach each time I shop. Considering price, safety, and versatility, fresh bunches of spinach are a great value.

I normally shop twice per week, because I prefer fresh ingredients that aren't canned or bagged. Canned spinach scares me a bit, because I know the sodium content inside of the can offsets all of the nutritional value of the leaves inside. After the bacterial outbreaks involving bagged leaf vegetables, I am willing to sacrifice convenience for safety. (Try googling the phrase"spinach bacterial contamination" if you are truly curious about this).

Because I enjoy raw spinach in salads and on sandwiches --try an open-faced tuna sandwich with spinach, tuna ,homemade mayonnaise, and pickles!-- I avoid frozen spinach. That leaves lovely bunches--pardon the pun!!

How to select the best fresh spinach in a "regular grocery store"?  (It's winter where I love, so no farmer's markets are available).This is what works for me:

1) Buy fresh spinach in a store that sells lots of produce, guaranteeing a regular and fairly rapid turnover and replacement of product on the shelves,

2) Buy from the top (if bunches are stacked). Yes, these bunches have been handled more, but they aren't as soggy as those on bottom. Spinach must be carefully cleaned anyway, so start off with some that hasn't been wasting and wilting away while buried.

3)  Buy on the first or second day after new arrivals come in. Ask a produce department staffer or the store manager. Let them know why you want to know.

4)  Avoid yellowed or wilted looking spinach. Yes, yes...I know it's most abundant in the spring, but since I can't live without it, I'm eating what's traveled a pretty good distance. Another reason to avoid the bagged spinach: you can't examine it closely to determine the true condition of the greens.The spinach should be a brilliant green color and the leaves should lay flat.

Upon arriving home, I store my spinach in a well aired bag on the bottom shelf of my fridge, near the front. This is a warmer zone than the back or center, and because I use my spinach within three or four days, I like having easy access to the leaves. I don't wash spinach until I'm ready to use it.

My favorite ways to use fresh spinach:

1) In a breakfast or dinner omelet, along with scallions, garlic, brown rice, and a little cheese on top.

2) Included in any meat sandwich (adds texture, color, and flavor).

3) A main ingredient for salads featuring fruit. The fresh spinach goes well with grapes, berries, and any citrus fruit.

4. A decorative and edible bed (raw or sauteed) for chicken and tuna salads.

More information on spinach can be found here:

The  Worlds Healthiest Foods

Global Dishes Starring Spinach

From Eating Well: Healthy Spinach Recipes and Cooking Tips

Happy spinaching!! Hey, is that a word?

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