Sunday, September 17, 2006

Spinach. What, me worry?

So, after planning my spinach lasagna, I found out Thursday that spinach had been linked to an E. Coli outbreak, but details were sketchy, no specific products had been named, and I decided that I'm not going to be scared into not making my lasagna. Friday, I assembled the lasagna and stuck it in the fridge while folks over at Cooking Light continued to discuss the lastest news on what we should or should not be eating. I casually joked that my spinach was not bagged, but in clamshell form and came from Earthbound Farms, an organic producer. Perhaps I'd be safe? Nah. Turns out Earthbound Farms is part of Natural Selection Foods, the source for the outbreak and has voluntarily recalled all of their pre-cut spinach products.

Notice the "not available" addition to this photo
on the Earthbound Farms website.

As everyone frantically tossed or returned their spinach for a refund, I decided there was no way I was throwing out my lasagna. After all, the spinach had been dunked in boiling water and then baked, so any bacteria present should have been killed off. That's why we are supposed to cook hamburgers to 160º, right? Well, boiling water is hotter than that! And what the heck, life is full of risks and 100 outbreaks is pretty small when you consider the huge numbers of bags of spinach that have been consumed in the last few weeks all over the U.S. and Canada. Getting into your car and driving to the store to BUY the spinach is a lot more dangerous......

Anyway, if you can stomach hearing about spinach, here are the details of the lasagna........

I found this recipe on a lasagna thread over at, where else, the Cooking Light Bulletin Boards (otherwise known as the CLBB, kind of like EVOO). After I drooled over the looks of this recipe, I realized my New Best Recipes cookbook from Cook's Illustrated has this very recipe within its pages which then made me realize that I really need to crack this cookbook open more often!

I kind of sort of mostly followed the recipe as written. I decided to add mushrooms and was pleased to see that they listed this as an option in the recipe. However, I decided not to use button mushrooms. Why settle for plain old button mushrooms when you can easily find shiitake and cremini mushrooms? I didn't look at the weights, but I think it probably came to 8-10 ounces of mushrooms altogether. I sauteéd the mushrooms in a bit of butter, adding a touch of salt, pepper and thyme for seasoning.

One modification I made was to use 10 ounces of the fresh, hopefully e. coli-free spinach along with a 10-ounce box of much less likey to be contaminated frozen spinach. I had originally thought that 10 ounces might be enough, but panicked at the last minute and decided to go with the full 20 ounces as called for in the recipe, so I hauled out a box of frozen spinach to add to the fresh. I used skim milk in place of whole milk and 1% cottage cheese instead of full-fat.

I wasn't so sure about using the no-boil lasagna noodles but I'm glad I tried them. Not only were they easier, but I preferred the texture of these over regular noodles. They had a more delicate texture, more like fresh pasta. I also found the smaller size easier to work with - you layer these crosswise in the pan, not lengthwise. Not at all what I thought they would be - a very pleasant surprise and I plan to use these noodles from now on.

The lasagna was flavorful and delicious without being overly heavy and cheesy. It could have, perhaps, used a little more bechamel sauce, but it was by no means dry. The frozen spinach was definitely not as pleasant tasting as the fresh spinach, so it may well be worth the extra time and effort to start from fresh. Hmph - if and when we can find the fresh stuff again, that is. Until then, frozen spinach is an acceptable enough substitute.

I love the Earthbound clamshell packages of spinach and hope they show up on store shelves again very soon. When they do, I will not hesitate to buy one and will happily serve it to my family. It's been two days since we served the lasagna and so far no signs of illness. Of course if I go several days without posting, it's possible that we weren't so lucky with my little gamble after all, and then those who were more cautious than I can say, "I told you so!".

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  1. We had Wilted Spinach Thursday Night and felt fine. I also use the Earthbound Farms Spinach

  2. Hi Dani - Well, it's probably better to be safe than sorry, but I think most of these things get a bit overblown.....

  3. The spinach is safe if you cook it.

  4. Oh that lasagna looks fantastic Alysha! I use those lasagna noodles all the time. I didn't believe thet'd work either- but that is such a time and frustration saver. I hate working with cooked lasagna noodles.

  5. Hi Erika. :)

    I was doubtful, but I'm so glad I tried them!

    But I think the boys and DH are wondering when we're going to have a "real" lasagna - meat and red sauce and all that. ;)