They're Here...Vidalia Onions!

4/30  Who is an onion lover?  I am!  Big, small, round, oblong, red, white... I like them all, but I particular LOVE Vidalia onions.  I am happy to announce yours and mine favorite sweet onion has arrived and is available for purchase.  I was just out back in the produce cooler and was pleasantly surprised on how large the first vidalia's are and also how sweet.  Because of the cool, wet winter/spring this years crop of vidalias onions promise to be one of the sweetest on record!  But a word of warning it also looks to be a small crop so we may not see vidalias past June, so enjoy them while you can.  Also, you can check out Peapod's website, go to the produce tab for a very easy tasty recipe. 

When is an Avocado Ripe?

4/28/10   It's that time of year when Cinco de Mayo is just right around the corner and many of us will celebrating the Mexican/American holiday with some cool refreshing Cerveza, plenty of Mexican food and the ever ubiquitous Guacamole.  So I thought it appropriate to tell everyone the best way to choose a ripe avocado besides buying it from Peapod.  In the produce world when we look for whether an avocado is ready or not we often refer to the button on the avocado.  The button is the the very top portion of the avocado where it attaches to the tree.  There is usually a remnant of the stem and that is what we call the button.  Now gently take your thumb nail and apply slight upward pressure, if the button pops off then the avocado is ready to be enjoyed.  Then next thing you want to examine is the area underneath the button, it should be a nice green color, that means the avocado is green on the inside if the area underneath the button is dark then it means the avocado is overripe and brown inside.  If the button does not pop off it still needs to ripen on the kitchen counter away from sunlight.  Putting it in a paper bag will help it ripen more quickly. 

I hope this tip will help you enjoy more avocados, because avocados are extremely healthy for you with the highest amount of Vitamin E and studies have shown eating more avocados in your diet have lowered cholesterol and help prevent strokes, heart disease and certain forms of cancer. 

Great Tasting Asparagus

4/5/10  I just want everyone to know how great the asparagus is tasting!  It is some of the sweetest asparagus I have tasted in the last few years.  The best way I like to serve asparagus is roasted:  Cut off the bottom woody part leaving 2" to 3" of tender sweet tip, toss with a little olive oil (always extra-virgin), some kosher salt and pepper and put on a baking sheet and roast in a 450 degree oven for 8 minutes or just until it begins to brown/golden.  TIP:  just before serving drizzle with a fresh squeeze lemon, not too much just enough to accent the flavor.  The lemon will make the asparagus burst with flavor!   

Mache or do you say Lamb's Lettuce?


4/1/10  As some of you may know I do a monthly segment on food for the local ABC affiliate in Chicago on the first Sunday of each month at 8:15 am.  You can also link to it at and search key word Tony Stallone. Here is a preview from this Sunday's show:

 Easter is a time of renewal, of springing forth, as the Earth slowly turns from the cold dreary days of winter to the warmer, longer days of spring when fresh green tendrils begin to sprout from the ground.  This weekend is also marks an important annual event in the produce industry that happens at this time; the migration of the growing fields from southern California and Arizona to the rich, fertile soils of America’s "salad bowl", Salinas Valley in central California.  This is the surest sign of spring in the industry when all of our lettuce, artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower and more start to come from this area. 

Speaking of lettuce, we will discuss, demonstrate and enjoy one of the harbingers of spring, a little-known lettuce called Mache.  Ironically on Easter Sunday when so many of us are enjoying lamb, it is sometimes referred to as "lamb’s lettuce".  This popular lettuce originates in Europe where it is belovedly called “Little Sweet One” by the French.  It is also known by many more names such as field salad, corn salad (because it originally grew wild in between rows of crops), even the fairy tale name Rapunzel!  Mache began life as weed but later started to be cultivated during Europe’s Renaissance period.  It is a tender, mild lettuce with a slightly nutty flavor and because of its resistance to cold it is often one of the first lettuces to be harvested.  It is loaded with plant-based (vs. pill based) heart-healthy Omega-3, very high in vitamin C (just 5 oz contains nearly all of our RDA) and a healthy dose of vitamin B9.  It's also lower in calories, making it the healthiest of all lettuces you can eat!  Mache grows in small clumps called rosettes that are vibrant green and slightly cupped, with a silky texture. 

Here are some recipes to help our viewers enjoy this sweet delectable salad.   The first recipe from our friends at Earthbound Farms for Mache Salad with Grapes & Almonds dressed with a simple vinaigrette.  The almonds in this recipe will be Marcona almonds from Spain, the healthiest and most delicious almonds on the planet.  Almonds are highly nutritious, containing more calcium than any other nut as well as healthy amounts of iron and vitamin E.   Another preparation I like is simple salad of Mache with grapefruit segments and shrimp drizzled with olive oil and fresh lime juice (recipe attached).  Some people refer to it as a spring tonic salad coming out of the long dark days of winter, the vitamins in the Mache help rejuvenate our bodies, minds and souls.

Mache is extremely versatile, it can be used in soup, pasta, stuffing and sandwiches, and can also stand up to warm dressings with out losing its color.  For our final salad and our piece-de-resistance we will feature our “Things of Spring Salad”.  What sort of things remind you of spring?  For me it’s the first asparagus from California, the debut of the wild foraged morel mushrooms, rushing waters filled with trout, and of course fresh Mache.  So I created a recipe that combines all of the above in a delicious, easy, savory salad that explodes with exuberant spring flavors!

See everyone on Sunday,

Download Mache Salad with Grapes and Almonds

Download Mache recipes