Texas SpinachThe Pride of Crystal City
Thanksgiving dinners and other holiday meals are beginning to take shape, at least in the minds of America's cooks. We often stick to the same menu year after year in the name of tradition. That's all well and good, but there's no law that says you can't tweak tradition from time to time. Consider adding a tasty spinach side dish to your table this year.
Most Americans are guilty of food "misdemeanors." We're supposed to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, but we -- men especially --stick to meat and potatoes, often adding a rich dessert. Several U.S. presidents have publicly admitted that they couldn't stand broccoli (I won't mention any names). If you haven't been eating your vegetables, start now!
My mother never realized how lucky she was to have two children who willingly ate their vegetables. How was this miracle accomplished? Dad loved them, so we copied his example. Also, the cartoon character, Popeye the sailor, deserved a lot of the credit. It was one of our favorite cartoons and if we ever hesitated to eat spinach, we were reminded that Popeye ate it and that it made him strong. Maybe I was gullible, but it worked every time.
The Spinach Capital of the WorldCrystal City, Texas (approximately 120 miles southwest of San Antonio) bills itself as the Spinach Capital of the World. Their annual Spinach Festival began in 1936, shut down during World War II, then was revived in 1982. They even put up a statue of Popeye in 1937 to express their devotion.
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Spinach may be an acquired taste to some people, but there's no denying that it's good for you. The legendarily high iron content originated from an incorrect mathematical calculation made in 1870, later corrected in 1937. Mistake or no, spinach does contain healthy amounts of iron, folic acid, potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, and vitamin B6.
So, check out these recipes. I think Popeye would approve.
Spinach-Apple SaladColorful and tasty.
Tear washed and dried spinach into bite-sized pieces in a salad bowl. Add diced apples and chopped green onions. Combine garlic-bacon drippings with lemon juice and mayonnaise. Mix well. Pour over spinach mixture and toss. Add reserved crumbled bacon, croutons, and cheese. Toss again. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Spinach FlorentineA great accompaniment to any main course.
In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over high heat for 30 seconds. Add salt, pepper, and garlic. Stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add sun-dried tomatoes and stir-fry for an additional 30 seconds. Add spinach and tarragon and stir-fry for 1 minute, folding the ingredients together. Reduce heat to medium.
Spread spinach evenly over bottom of pan. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover pan and let cook until cheese melts (about 1 to 2 minutes). Remove from heat and keep covered. Serve as soon as possible. Makes 4 servings.
Tenderloin with Spinach & Mushroom StuffingIf you want to serve something non-traditional for Thanksgiving, try this.
For the Spinach & Mushroom Stuffing:
For the Tenderloin and Gravy
Preheat oven to 425°F. Spoon Spinach & Mushroom stuffing into slit in tenderloin. With clean string, tie tenderloin at 2-inch intervals to help hold its shape. Place stuffed tenderloin on rack in large roasting pan (17 x 11-1/2 inches). Roast tenderloin for 30 minutes.
While meat is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon butter over low heat. Remove pan from heat and stir in bread crumbs. Set crumb topping aside.
Remove tenderloin from oven and sprinkle crumb topping over stuffing. Roast tenderloin 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until crumb topping is golden and meat thermometer reaches 140°F. (Internal temperature of meat will rise to 145°F upon standing.) Or, roast to desired doneness. Transfer tenderloin to large platter and let stand 10 minutes for easier slicing.
To make gravy, add vermouth and 1/2 cup chicken broth to drippings in roasting pan and stir over low heat until browned bits are loosened from pan. Pour drippings mixture into 4-cup measuring cup and let stand a few seconds, or until fat separates from meat juice. Skim fat from meat-juice mixture. Add remaining chicken broth and enough water to equal 2-1/2 cups. Set aside.
In a 12-inch skillet, heat remaining butter over medium-high heat. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until golden and liquid evaporates (about 12 minutes). Stir in flour. Gradually stir meat-juice mixture into mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, until gravy boils and thickens slightly. Boil 1 minute.
To serve, remove string. Cut stuffed tenderloin into slices. Garnish with thyme sprigs. Serve with mushroom gravy. Makes 10 main-dish servings.
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