What's Good in Produce these Days?

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.