Posts tagged ‘produce’

Farmer’s Market bounty

Farmers’ Markets have their full complement of produce this month, so hopefully this will inspire you to be creative with your favorite fruits and vegetables.

–Make a summery salad of watermelon chunks and cherry tomatoes with feta or goat cheese, topped off with chopped mint and pistachios, and tossed with red vinegar and oil. It’s an unusual combination, but surprisingly refreshing. (Use the leftover watermelon to blend up killer margaritas or gazpacho!)

— Steam fresh green beans and mix with a warm dressing of sautéed chopped red onions or shallots, Dijon mustard, dill, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

— Slice a French baguette lengthwise and spread with basil pesto. Pile on fresh slices of mozzarella, tomato and a fistful of basil or arugula. Have plenty of napkins handy!

— Corn is at its peak right now. Instead of preparing it in the traditional style, try rubbing each cob with olive oil and grilling it; the flavor will be incredible. Or, cut the kernels off the cob and make a salsa — put the corn in a bowl, add chopped red onion, red or green peppers and basil or cilantro. Squirt with lime, add a splash of red vinegar and oil and a bit of chile powder and cumin. Spice it up with jalapeno if you like the heat and cherry tomato halves if you can’t resist an extra taste of summer. Stir and spoon over a piece of grilled chicken or fish for a simple and colorful seasonal dish.

— Take advantage of the abundance of mint to make a pesto to serve with lamb. Start with a basic pesto recipe –- replace half of the basil with mint, and the other half with Italian parsley. Then substitute walnuts for the pine nuts to enjoy a delicious alternative to mint jelly. And to make the meal even more special, ask the butcher to bone and butterfly the lamb so it can be grilled. Mint pesto is also great with corn. After taking the kernels off the cob, toss with the pesto, a touch of lime and some feta cheese.

The great thing about using summer produce is that you are limited only by your own imagination, so get thee to a farmer’s market and start creating!

July 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

ABC’s of Pesto

Pesto is one of life’s greatest delights–whether it is made with arugula, basil, or cilantro. Make up a batch and freeze it in ice cube trays so you’ll always have some on hand: try it as a quick fix for a bland soup; to add a layer of complexity to a sauce; or to perk up a pasta. You might also consider filling a canning jar and giving it as a gift–your friends will love you! (Be sure to put a layer of oil on top to keep the air from ruining the vibrant green color).

Arugula–Puree batches of this sharply flavored green with olive oil, garlic and a touch of lemon. Add to just cooked linguine or bocatini tossed with sautéed shallots, garlic, sliced wild mushrooms and spinach. Serve with balsamic vinegar and pecorino romano cheese at the table.

Basil–A traditional pesto calls for basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil. Mix with a good quality mayonnaise, in approximately equal proportions, and spread on toasted ciabatta. Make a terrific sandwich with grilled salmon or chicken, roasted red peppers and wild greens.

Cilantro—Combine cilantro in a food processor with garlic, lime juice and olive oil. Cook a shaped pasta, preferably ditale or cavatappi.  Put in a big bowl and add corn, chopped scallions, and red pepper, blue cheese and black beans. If you want a heartier dish, chunks of grilled chicken make this a true meal.

July 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

A Primer for Picking Ripe

It’s that time of year again, when people stop me in the grocery store to ask how I can tell if a particular fruit or vegetable is ripe. With the July 4th holiday approaching, now is a good time to revisit a topic that I posted about last summer– the low-down on methods and secrets to picking perfect produce.

Artichokes. These majestic orbs have a mysterious quality to the uninitiated. The key to finding one with a soft and flavorful heart is the tightness of the leaves. The overall look of the vegetable should be rounded, not spiked. (A hint about cooking — they are done as soon as a leaf can be easily pulled from the heart.)

Berries. Avoid berries that are stuck together. Like the presence of mold, this is a sure sign that they’re not still fresh. Similarly, stay away from raspberries with black edges and strawberries dotted with blemishes.

Cantaloupe. Use your nose for this one. Take a sniff at either end of the melon, and if there’s a fragrant aroma, it’s ready to be eaten. Check to be sure the stem end has a smooth indentation.

Cherries. My mother taught me at a young age how to sift through the box of cherries to find the juiciest and sweetest among them. I was often left with the assignment of painstakingly picking each one while she finished shopping. Dark and firm ones, she told me, were the juiciest and firmest. These days grocers pre-bag cherries, not giving consumers an opportunity to handpick.

Corn. The entire ear should fill out the husk–make sure that the ends are not thin, an indication that the corn was picked too early.  Peel back the husk just a tad to check that the kernels are tight, but plump, and bug-free.

Green Beans. Go for the skinny ones. Beans that are large and thick are usually overgrown and tend to be stringy and tough.

Peaches, nectarines and plums. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, look for stone fruits that are not too hard and not too soft. Too hard and they may not ripen, too soft and they tend to be mushy or overdone. If you can find even a hint of softness, they’ll undoubtedly ripen to perfection after a couple of days in a paper sack or on the windowsill.

Peppers—Like a baby’s bottom, peppers should be firm and smooth, with no wrinkles. Whether spicy or not, the most flavorful of peppers have the deepest color.

Tomatoes. It’s tempting to gravitate towards the prettiest tomatoes in the box, but beauty may only be skin deep –the tastiest tomatoes are typically misshapen and imperfect. They should be fully colored when picked—that’s when they have the ambrosia quality that we all crave.

Watermelon. Thump it with the palm of your hand to determine whether it sounds hollow. Also, check to see if there’s a yellow spot where the melon sat on the ground in the garden. If not, it was picked too early and may not be sweet and juicy. Finally, make sure the stem at the end is brown and came off the vine because the fruit was ripe, not because someone pulled it.

July 1, 2010 at 8:44 am Leave a comment


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