What's Good in Produce these Days?

Strawberry-lg
2/23/11  With the historic freeze in Mexico, preceded by freezes in California, Arizona and Florida and not to mention the deluge of  rains hitting the west coast.  What is good in produce these days?  I know this sounds kind of strange recommending in February, but you will find strawberries to be of exceptional quality and flavor.  One of the best kept secrets is that February/March is a good time of the year for strawberries.  Strawberries come from the southern growing regions of California at this time of the year and the plants are very hardy and vigorous producing beautiful red ripe fruit.  It ia also cooler during this time, which strawberries like and they can grow even bigger than during the spring and summer, because heat inhibits their growth.  Moms and Dads, if there is one fruit kids will choose over candy, it is strawberries and remember strawberries are loaded with vitamin C, more than any other berry.  Tip:  Only wash just before consuming and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator.

Calling All Potato Lovers!

Baked Garlic Fries 

With Valentine's Day on Monday, what better way to celebrate than with a little love for the potato!  February is Potato Lover's Month.  In a recent survey Americans indicated they love their spuds, it is their favorite vegetable followed closely by corn and broccoli (hey, what about tomatoes?). Potatoes come in all different shapes, sizes and colors.  Here are some interesting factoids on potatoes:

Americans consume over 143 pounds per person annually.

Did you know you could power a clock with a potato?

I think I did that experiment back in grade school!Some people believe by washing your face with potato juice you can remove facial blemishes.

Potatoes have been around for thousands of years and have been cultivated since 200 B.C.

Julia Childs confessed she secretly loved McDonald's French fries.

Thomas Jefferson was the first president to serve French fries in the White House.

To ease a sore throat, put a slice of potato in a sock and tie it around your neck (not sure about this one?).

Potatoes are an excellent source of fiber, minerals, vitamins and, just by sheer volume, they are the greatest source of vitamin C in our diets.


Out of the Frying Pan and into the Oven:
Many potatoes are consumed as French fries, which is undesirable due to all the fat absorbed from deep-frying.  On today's show we will demonstrate a healthier and much more delicious way to eat potatoes, Garlic Fries!  On a recent trip to California I ate my fair share of garlic fries, they seemed to be everywhere from the airport to bars to drive-ins (Taylor Refresher, the best!) to high profile white tablecloth restaurants.  I took the best of the best, modified it a bit and came up with this healthy version to serve to your loved one(s) on Valentine's Day.  Not only do people love potatoes, but garlic has been reputed throughout history to be an aphrodisiac.  Some claim (modern science has actually confirmed some of this) that it inflames passion; a little extra passion is good on Valentine's Day! 

I like my fries in the form of round chips which makes it easier for the home cook to slice.  Start with Idaho potatoes (best for frying or baking because of the starch to moisture ratio); they fry up crispier and bake up fluffier.  Slice 1/8" to 1/4" thick, toss in a bowl with a little oil and spread on a baking sheet.  Use non-stick cooking spray or parchment paper (I love parchment paper, it makes clean up a breeze) to prevent sticking.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning once (or "spin" in chef-speak) halfway through cooking time.  Place in a bowl and toss with a mixture of olive oil, chopped parsley and fresh chopped garlic, sprinkle with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper and there you have it!  See attached for complete recipe.  This Monday I will be serving these delicious garlic fries with roasted lobster and fresh steamed asparagus to my Valentine as we celebrate our 30th anniversary!

 

Here are some useful tips on storing, buying and using potatoes:

Store in a cool dark place, a temperature between 45 and 55 degrees is ideal.
If a potato begins to develop sprouts, simply cut out the sprouts and use.

Never store next to onions as each vegetable emits a gas that will accelerate decay in the other.

You can refrigerate, but bring to room temperature before using.

Scrub well before cooking.

Enjoy with the skin on, the skin is rich in fiber, iron, calcium, potassium....

Buy firm potatoes free from cracks or wrinkles, reject any that have a tinge of green (indicating the presence of solanine) or that are soft.

 

 Oven Baked Garlic Fries

4         Idaho Russett Potatoes (Medium Size)
2T       Olive Oil Divided
1t        Garlic (Finely Chopped)
4T        Parsley (Italian or Curly will do)
1t        Sea or Kosher Salt
1/2t    Cracked Black Pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash potatoes, but leave skin on. Slice potatoes in round 1/4" slices. Put in a large bowl and toss with 1T of oil, coating evenly. Spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with non-stick spray to prevent potatoes from sticking. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, rotate pan them bake an additional 15 minutes. Total baking time 30 to 35 minutes or until potatoes turn golden brown. Do not overcook, potatoes should be slightly brown on the outside and white and fluffy inside. Remove from oven and immediately place in large bowl. Add parsley, garlic, salt and pepper tossing and coating potatoes thoroughly.

Serve and enjoy.
 

 

It's a Blue December!

Blueberries

12/16/10  Blueberries are my pick of the month for December!  Blues (that is how we refer to them in the produce business) are coming from Argentina and Chile (mostly Chile now) and they are really sweet!  I love the flavor and I love all the healthy antioxidants they are loaded with.  Although, they are not packed in full pints (they come in 6oz containers), you will  find them at very reasonable prices at this time of the year. I love blueberries in my cereal, but mostly eat them plain out of the container (Tip: only wash just before using, store in the coldest part of your refrigerator and they will last 5 to 7 days), how do you enjoy blueberries?

Cherries-for-cherry-juice

One more recommendation for December is fresh Bing Cherries.  I know this is not the time of year, but they are coming from Chile and season is short for cherries so enjoy them now in December, because the will not be around long.

Top 10 Turkey Tips!

Cranberry-Glaze-Turkey_Final_1
11/16 What are your best turkey tips?  Here are my Top 10 Turkey Tips that I have collected through the years:

10.  Always thaw a frozen turkey for 2 to 3 days in your refrigerator, a 20# turkey will take 3 days

9.  For a crispier crust, the night before unwrap and leave in your refrigerator uncovered.

8. Use a balsamic vinegar after rinsing your turkey to help kill bacteria and add flavor to the bird, it will also give your bird a darker color when finished cooking.

7.  Rub you turkey before roasting with an extra virgin olive olive oil then season with Kosher salt, cracked black pepper and chili powder.

6.  Don't over-stuff your turkey!  I plead guilty as I always try to cram as much dressing into the cavity.  A loosely stuffed turkey will cook more evenly and allow room for the stuffing to expand and taste better.

5.  Don't trust a pop timer use a meat thermometer and insert in the thigh without touching the bone, when it reads 180degrees it is done and insert into the stuffing it should read 165 degrees.

4. Always tent with aluminum foil  when done, then let your turkey rest for 30 minutes before you think about carving! 

3.  For a moister breast start your turkey in the oven upside down, with the breast facing down.  The last hour of cooking turn breast up, but be very careful when handling an extremely hot turkey.

2.  Another tip for avoiding dried out breasts is to soak a cheese cloth in butter then place on the breast, but remove for the last hour of cooking.

1.  My #1 tip for a great turkey is to brine the bird for at least 6 hours before roasting, I actually prefer 24 hours.  Use a mixture of salt and brown sugar (I also through in a good handful black peppercorns) , with a ratio of 1 quart of water 1/2C salt and1/2C brown sugar. This will give you a moister more flavorful bird.

Love them or Hate them? Brussel Sprouts!

Brussels-sprouts
 11/9  Brussels Sprouts is one of those polarizing veggies, either people hate them or they love them.  I am in the camp of loving them, which puts me at odds with my wife who hates them!  Although I have found a way my wife actually enjoys brussels sprouts; roasting.  I think there are many people who have been exposed to over-cooked mushy sprouts that taste bitter (that's what happens when you over cook them), but if people were exposed to the clean fresh sweet flavor of a simple roasted brussels sprout, I think there would be less sprout haters.  Simply rinse the sprouts, trim the end and make Xin the base (this will help the sprout cook through), then toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, lay out on a cooking sheet and roast in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes or until el dente!  You will be surprised how the roasting will bring out the natural sweetness of this healthy vegetable; high in vitamins C and A and also known for it cancer inhibiting compounds.

Yes it is named after the capital of Belgium, where they may been the first to cultivate this vegetable offspring of cabbage.  As Thanksgiving approaches our brussel sprout sales go way up.  Another way I have enjoyed brussel sprouts is braised (cooked under low heat in a liquid), with milk or cream, then as the cream reduces and thickens add some good parmesan cheese mix thoroughly and serve.  The cream enhances their sweetness and makes a great dish to serve alongside of turkey. 

Do you like Brussel Sprouts and how do you prepare them?

Amazing Pomegranates!

Pomegranate
10/26/10 The amount of fresh whole pomegranates Peapod sells each year is amazing to me!  What do customers do with this rather odd fruit?  I hope most customers are enjoying the the seeds within the pomegranate, they are called the arils and are the edible part of the fruit, sweet and delicious. They can be used in salads or served alongside chicken or fish dishes or simply eatened out of hand.  Tip: the best way to seed a pomegrante is cutting it into sections then submerging the sections in a bowl of water and seperating the seeds from the pulp.  The seeds will fall to the bottom of the bowl and you can skim off the white inedible pulp. 

Another use is juicing the pomegranate seeds, recently pomegranate juice, tea and even ice cream have become popular because of  published health benefits from preventing heart disease, certain forms of cancer and to lowering blood pressure.  Packed full of antioxidants (think color, fruit or vegetables with color usually contain high amounts of anti oxidants), pomegranates are good for your health.

I know of some customers who like to use pomegranates as decorations as part of a fall theme with mini pumpkins, and gords, because left out at room temperature pomegranates dry out (do not spoil) and look rather fallish. 

Tip: When choosing a pomegranate look for nice ruby color (in my years of experience this indicates sweetness), and also heavy fruit this indicates full of seeds. They are best stored in the refrigerator where they can last a month or even more. We are in the prime season for pomegranates right now through Thanksgiving!

Must Eat Veggie for Women!

Watercress

Great article on Yahoo today for must a eat vegetable for Women, watercress.  This vegetable is high in vitamin A,C and K (great for bone strength and heart healthy).  But, most importantly they have discovered a compound in watercress that inhibits tumor growth so it may reduce the risk for certain types of breast cancer.  Watercress is often found as decorative green on side dishes and there is always the occasional watercress salad, but you  can serve alongside fish, chicken and toss with pasta.  For the entire article on Yahoo and some good recipe ideas for watercress you can access with the  link below:

http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/health/the-must-eat-green-most-women-overlook-2395044/

Butternut or Acorn, which do you prefer?

86185
With the cool fall days upon us are thoughts and appetites turn to hardier dishes that can also be healthy as well.  Also, if you looking for local produce you can't beat the hard squashes which are all harvested locally at this time of the year.  The hard squashes include names like Carnival, Delicata, Buttercup, Turbin (don't try to eat this one, more for decoration), Calabaza, Sweet Dumpling... and of course Pumpkin, but the 2 most popular squashes are Acorn and Butternut.  Do you prefer Acorn or Butternut?  I am a Butternut lover for a couple of reasons; one is I love the richer color and flavor of the butternut squash (a slightly nutty flavor, thus the name butternut) and because of the color Butternut delivers a whopping dose of healthy beta carotene, also known as vitamin A.  Just a 3 1/2 oz serving of butternut contains more than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A! 

All of these aforementioned squashes are difficult to cut, a quick tip is to use a heavy kitchen knife and pierce the squash in several places, then place in the microvave for 2 to 3 minutes, let cool then cut.  You will find it much easier and softer.  Just a side note in many of our markets you can buy fresh butternut squash already cut, cleaned and cubed.  My favorite way to cook butternut is cut into several wedges, toss with a small amount of canola oil, a little salt and pepper and roast in a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes.  The high heat caramelizes the sugars in the squash and you can enjoy this healthy dish without any butter or sugar. 

The Incredible Honeycrisp Apple! Now available at Peapod!

Honeycrisp 

9/20/10:  What's the rave in apples?  It is the Honeycrisp and their incredible crispness followed with an explosion of flavor! There is nothing like their perfect sweet-tart balance that makes their flavor so incredible!  First developed in 1991 by the University of Minnesota when they crossed a macoun and honeygold apple.  Now everyone seems to love these apples, but the season is short (usually lasting until the end of November), but their flavor and crispness is best early on.  Tip:  Always store your apples in the coldest part of your refrigerator, leaving them out a room temperature will cause them to become mealy and soft.

What's Good in Produce this Week?

Getty_rf_photo_of_red_grapes
8/26/10  I guess you can tell by the picture that I am recommending red grapes. They are really tasting great!  These are the flame seedless variety a relatively new variety that are characterize by sweetness with a little of crunch (I love grapes that go crunch!).   Remember to keep your grapes in the coldest part of your refrigerator and only wash just before using.  Frozen grapes are also fun and great way to get kids to eat a healthy snack, simply pull grapes from stem place them on a plate or tray and freeze until hard.  If you are having a dinner party, take the frozen grapes and dip them inchocolate (a mixture of white and dark makes a great display) and serve to your guests as a refreshing delicious dessert!