An abundance of tender greens at farmers' markets and produce stands signals the arrival of spring. From spinach and sorrel to arugula and watercress, they will brighten soups, salads, pastas, seafood dishes and more.
Look for fresh, crisp leaves free of blemishes, yellowed spots or tiny insect holes. Do not buy greens if they are wilted or dried out. Small, young leaves will have a milder flavor, and more and more greens are now available as tender "baby" leaves. Look for greens tied in bunches or washed, chopped and sealed in plastic bags. (Even though the latter are prewashed, they should be rinsed well again before using.) Baby greens are sold in bulk or in plastic bags. Greens are available year-round in large markets, but most are at their peak from late winter to early spring.
Store greens unwashed in plastic bags. Although best if eaten the day of purchase, soft-leaved greens will keep for up to 4 days in a plastic bag in the crisper of the refrigerator. Firmer lettuces such as romaine will keep for up to 10 days.
Immerse greens in a large bowl or sink filled with cool water. Discard any wilted or yellowed leaves. Gently lift out the greens and repeat the washing until the water is clear. A salad spinner is ideal for drying greens, but shaking them gently in a clean kitchen towel will also absorb excess moisture. Be sure to dry the greens as much as possible, especially if using them for salad, as excess water will dilute the dressing and prevent it from coating the leaves. If you have time, put the washed greens in the refrigerator to crisp.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion (Time-Life Books, 2000).
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