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TIP OF THE DAY: Rhubarb, A Spring Favorite

Rhubarb

Trimmed Rhubarb

Top: Rhubarb with its leaves. Don’t eat the leaves—they’re mildly toxic (photo courtesy OurOhio.org). Bottom: Trimmed rhubarb, as it is most often seen in stores (photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco).

 

To many foodies, the beginning of spring means asparagus, fava beans, morels, ramps, scapes and shad roe.

We add rhubarb to that list. In North America it grows between April and June, paralleling asparagus season.

Nana was so fond of stewed rhubarb, she made it once or twice a week during rhubarb season. She served it in a dish, like pudding, with or without heavy cream; in a compote; in a parfait; on pound cream (with whipped cream); and as a topping on ice cream.

Her daughter, Mom, was an inveterate pie baker, turning out Rhubarb Pie, Raspberry Rhubarb Pie and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. We have a Strawberry Rhubarb Tart recipe below.
 
RHUBARB: A VEGETABLE, NOT A FRUIT

Technically, rhubarb is a vegetable, a member of the sorrel family. Fruits are not necessarily sweet. Tomatoes are fruit, avocados are fruit, hot chiles are fruits, cucumbers and squash are fruits.

By botanical definition, fruits have their seeds/pits, on the inside, contained in the fruit’s ovary sac*.

Fruits carry their seeds inside; vegetable seeds scatter in the wind. You see seeds in an apple, avocado, cucumber and tomato, but not in broccoli, carrots or lettuce. Lacking sweetness doesn’t make it a vegetable.

Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum, is a vegetable in the Polygonaceae family. The leaf stalks (petioles) are crisp like celery with a strong, tart taste. Rhubarb looks like rosy-pink celery, but is no relation (celery is a member of the Apiaceae family).

 
Even for a vegetable, rhubarb is very tart. Before it was served sweetened, it was added to soups (try it in lentil soup) and sauces: in the Himalayas, in Moroccan tagines and in Middle Eastern stews. Be sure to cook only the stems; the leaves are mildly toxic (they contain oxalic acid).

But for most of us, rhubarb needs a sweetener. It’s absolutely delicious as stewed rhubarb, rhubarb ice cream, rhubarb pie and its variation in this recipe, strawberry rhubarb pie. Some people eat the stems raw by dipping them into sugar.

Rhubarb grew wild in northwest China, and was cultivated about 5,000 years ago for medicinal purposes. It made its way west via Turkey and Russia, and was first planted in England by an apothecary in 1777. Once sweetened, it became popular for jams, sauces and crumbles.

The thinner and darker pink the fresh rhubarb stalks are, the less tart they will be. Look for stalks that are crisp, bright pink, thin, and unblemished.
 
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*The only exception is the strawberry, which is not a botanical berry but an accessory fruit. True vegetables have no pit or seed sac.
 
RECIPE: STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB GALETTE

This French-inspired pastry is the perfect balance of tart and sweet, prepared with fresh strawberries and peak season rhubarb enveloped inside a buttery, hand-formed crust and garnished with a touch of sparkling sugar.

It’s a spring specialty at Hewn, an artisanal bakery in Evanston, Illinois, which advises that this pastry makes a brief appearance only during the late months of spring, when rhubarb season is at its peak.

 
What’s A Galette?

In the pastry world, a galette is a rustic, open-face fruit pie. It is flat, with a flaky, turned-up crust that wraps around the filling to creates a “bowl.” The Italian word is crostata.

A galette is a pie instead of a tart because it uses a pâte brisée crust, instead of the dense, crumbly and sweet pâte sablée used for sweet tarts.

 

 
Ingredients For A 6-Inch Galette

For The Filling

  • 1 pint ripe strawberries, cut in quarters
  • 2 stalks of rhubarb, skin removed (use a knife to peel off the dark outside layer)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean (the other is used in the dough)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/16 teaspoon sea salt
  •  
    For The Dough

  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 sticks chilled butter, cut into tiny cubes
  • ¾ cup chilled cold water
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • Optional: fresh thyme or tarragon, chopped, to taste
  • 1 egg (whisked and used to brush the dough before baking)
  •  
    Preparation

    Make the Filling

    1. CHOP the rhubarb into ¼ inch strips. Toss the rhubarb with the quartered strawberries.

    2. ADD the sugar, vanilla bean and sea salt to the rhubarb and strawberries. Toss until it is coated.

    3. ADD the flour and mix the filling.

     
    Make the Dough

     

    Rhubarb Tart

    Stewed Rhubarb

    Top: Rhubarb Galette from Hewn; recipe included, Bottom: Nana’s favorite: stewed rhubarb. Photo courtesy Fast-Ed.com.au.

    The easiest way to make the dough is to use a food processor—but you have to make sure to not overwork the dough.

    1. USING a food processor add the salt and flour and pulse for 5 seconds. With the food processor on…

    2. SLOWLY DROP butter in, in a continuous stream. You should be able to have all the butter added within a minute. Once all the butter is added, let the processor run for 10 more seconds. The dough should look very shaggy and the butter should still be visible. Add the optional herbs.

    3. TURN to the the pulse setting and slowly pour the cold water. This is where the dough can get overworked. Once the water is added, the dough will still be shaggy and should NOT form a ball. The shaggier it is, the flakier the dough will be.

    4. SCOOP out the dough and form into a flat disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and let the dough chill for 2 hours before rolling it out.
     
    Assemble And Bake

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F (325° for a convection oven).

    2. ROLL the dough out and use a ring or bowl to trace a round. The size should be about 6 inches. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper, lay the dough ring on it sheet pan and spoon ¼ cup of the filling in the center. Fold the edges of the dough up, so it creates a pocket to contain the filling. Add the rest of the filling.

    3. BRUSH the edge of the dough with the egg wash and bake the galette for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes check: The crust should be deep golden and the filling should not be runny.

     
    ABOUT HEWN ARTISANAL BAKERY

    Founded by partners Ellen King and Julie Matthei in 2013, Hewn is a cozy neighborhood spot in a historic space. Ellen is a classically trained chef, Julie is the business director.

    Hewn sources local and seasonal ingredients from small, local farmers. The bakery’s name refers to the craftsmanship associated with making something by hand For more information, visit HewnBread.com.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Halos, Sweet & Lovely Mandarins

    Bowl Of Halos

    Halos Peeled

    Photos: Halos, unpeeled and peeled, and perhaps the easiest fruit to peel. Photos courtesy Wonderful Foods.

     

    April is the end of the season for the sweet little mandarins called Halos. We have been enjoying them by the bagful, and in addition to flavor and nutrition, they keep us from eating refined-sugar snacks.

    They deserve their halo!

    WHAT ARE HALOS?

    The fruit aisle can be confusing. Depending on the store, you can find clementines, Cuties, Halos, Dimples, tangerines and mandarin “oranges” (mandarins are not oranges, but a different species—more about that in a minute).

    Welcome to the world of single serving, easy to peel, sweet and juicy—and branded—citrus.

    Halos, Cuties and Sweeties are mandarins from California, different brand names for what are often clementines.

    Don’t call them mandarin oranges: While both are from the genus Citrus, mandarins are a different species, just as broccoli and cabbage, both members of the genus Brassica, are different species.

    Here’s the difference (Produce Pete and Wikipedia take note!).

    From a visual perspective:

  • Oranges are medium to large round or ovoid shapes covered with a thick peel that can take time to remove. They are in the genus Citrus, with separate species (e.g. Citrus sinensis, the sweet orange group, includes the common sweet orange, blood orange, and navel orange). Sometimes they’re sweet, and sometimes they aren’t; you don’t know until you buy and try.
  • Mandarins are small and roundish with flatness on the top and bottom, and a loose, easy-to-peel skin. They are in the genus/species Citrus reticulata. The ones from California are reliably sweet and usually seedless. That’s why we prefer mandarins like Halos.
  •  
    WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT NAMES ALL ABOUT?

    Why the different names? Branding! The names are not varieties, but trademarked names, encouraging the consumer to look specifically for Cuties or Halos.

  • The Cuties trademark is owned by Sun Pacific.
  • The Halos trademark, also “Wonderful Halos,” is owned by Wonderdful Citrus, which also owns the trademarks POM Wonderful pomegranates, Wonderful Pistachios, Wonderful Almonds and Sweet Scarlett red grapefruit (also a passion of ours). It is the #1 mandarin brand in the U.S. and 100% California-grown (some producers may augment their domestic supply with imported fruit). Even their website sounds delicious: Wonderful.com.
  • The Dimples trademark is owned by Cecelia Packing. Dimples are a branded name for the Gold Nugget mandarin. Their season is later than clementines, beginning in April.
  • Tangerine is a different species of mandarins,—Citrus tangerina—and not a brand name.
  • Murcott is a mandarin/sweet orange hybrid. In the trade they are referred to as tangor, “tang” from tangerine and “or” from orange. They are also called the temple orange. Their thick rind is easy to peel. Some are trademarked as Golden Nugget, some as Tango.
  •  

    Now for a twist:

  • The season for California clementines is November to January.
  • A similar mandarin, the murcott, is available from February to April, and they substitute for Cuties and Halos clementines during that time.
  • Non-branded murcotts are often called clementines at retail, because the name is more familiar to consumers and it sells better.
  • If you see clementines after April, they are likely imported.
  •  
    HOW TO USE HALOS

    Like oranges, mandarins are very versatile. The first thing anyone would think of is hand fruit. The term refers to fruits small enough to eat from the palm of your hand, such as apples, pears and stone fruits—but not pineapples or other fruits that need to be cut up.

    But why stop there? Use luscious mandarins:

  • On cold or hot cereal.
  • Sliced in a cup of tea instead of lemon.
  • Juiced, or added to smoothies, cocktails and mulled wine.
  • In fruit salads, green salads and Asian chicken salads.
  • In stir-fries with proteins and/or vegetables.
  • In cake batter or cheesecake batter, or as a garnish on top.
  • Atop single crust pies or tarts, in segments or slices (we cover the entire top of a cream or custard pie with slices).
  • In puddings, gelatin and other desserts.
  • As a garnishes on desserts and beverages.
  •  
    To find a store near you, here’s the Halos store locator.
     
    MANDARIN TIPS

  • For garnishing, you can separate the segments or slice horizontally across the peeled fruit for wheels.
  • Because of their thin skin, mandarins don’t keep as long as oranges. Store them in the fridge and enjoy them within two weeks.
  •  

    Green Salad With Clementines

    White Chocolate Tart

    Top: Toss segments into a green salad (photo courtesy Wonderful Foods). Bottom: Garnishing a white chocolate tart with a macadamia crust. Here’s the recipe from Rodale’s Organic Life.

     
    MANDARIN HISTORY

    Thanks to Etienne Rabe, Vice President, Agronomy, for Wonderful Citrus, for this history of mandarins:

    It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the name, but we know that mandarins were grown for many centuries in China. The first mandarin tree was brought to England from China in 1805, and its progeny went from England to Malta, then to Sicily and continental Italy.

    Little information is available about mandarins in Chinese literature, but as far back as 1178 C.E., Chinese author Han Yen-chih described 27 different varieties of mandarins.

    The clementine originated in North Africa and made their way to Morocco in the 1960s and Spain in the 1970s. Spain started exporting them to the East Coast of the U.S. in the 1990s.

    The murcott variety was bred in Morocco and introduced to the U.S. in the mid-1990s.

    As imported clementines became popular, American citrus growers saw the potential of the fruit…and how lucky we are!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen

    We are encouraged to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily for health and nutrition; but the items we buy are often heavily coated with pesticides residue. A quick rinse them doesn’t remove all of them; a sustained rinse under cold water with a light scrub from a vegetable brush is better. We use this special antimicrobial sponge; it’s easier to use than a conventional vegetable brush.

    One reason to buy organic produce is to avoid these potentially harmful chemicals—especially for children and people with compromised health. Animal studies indicate toxicity that disrupts the normal functioning of the nervous and endocrine system, and increases risks of cancer.

    Each year the Environmental Working Group releases a list of produce with the most pesticides—The Dirty Dozen—and the least pesticides—The Clean 15. Here’s the Executive Summary of the most recent report.

    Pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration are analyzed, and result in rankings for the most popular fresh produce items. Blueberries and snap peas showed sharply different results for domestic-grown and imported. Here’s the list of the 50 most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables.
     

    THE DIRTY DOZEN

    These are the results of the 2015 ranking of the produce with the greatest amount of pesticide residue. The list actually shows 15, not 12: The last three items were next in line and have been added to the list because of their popularity. Foods are listed in order of pesticide amount.

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  •    

    Apple Varieties

    Celery Stalks With Leaves

    Top: An apple a day…is covered with residual pesticide. Photo courtesy US Apples. Bottom: Celery has more pesticide residue than any other vegetable. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Snap Peas (Imported)
  • Potatoes
  • + Hot Peppers
  • + Kale
  • + Collard Greens
  •  

    Hass Avocado

    Green Cabbage

    Avocado is the fruit with the least pesticide; cabbage is the most residual-free vegetable. (Photos: Avocado Board and Good Eggs).

     

    THE CLEAN FIFTEEN

    These fruits and vegetables are listed in order of least residue.

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes
  •  
    DOWNLOAD A POCKET COPY OF THE GUIDE AT EWG.com.
     
    _______________________________
    *A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the U.S. is produced from genetically engineered seedstock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid GE produce.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Easter Egg Dessert Pizza Or Fruit Platter

    fruit-pizza-easter-egg-sugarhero-230

    This Easter egg “dessert pizza” is glazed fruit atop baked cookie dough. Photo courtesy Elizabeth LaBau | Sugar Hero.

     

    Pastry chef Elizabeth LaBau of the blog SugarHero.com decided back in 2013 to create an egg-shaped dessert “pizza” for Easter: a cookie dough base topped with glazed fruit.

    Looks delicious, doesn’t it? Here’s the recipe.

    We always bake a cake with Easter decorations, and also serve a fruit salad. So three years ago, we adapted the “pizza” idea to a fruit platter.

  • Year 1: We took a tray and piped royal icing in an Easter egg shape, a border to contain the fruit. You could arrange the fruit without one, but as guests serve themselves, the border keeps the shape of the egg (not to mention, it keeps the grapes from rolling away).
  • Year 2: We had an inspiration to go back to the original recipe’s cookie dough, but use it raw to build the border. Unless you have a very steady hand, it’s much easier to shape strips of cookie dough into an egg than to pipe the shape. We used a tube of egg-free sugar cookie dough. Some people nibbled on the dough, some didn’t.
  • Year 3: We used chocolate chip cookie dough. Not surprisingly, most of it was nibbled up.
  •  

  • Year 4: This year, we’re using cream cheese frosting for the border. It’s easier to pipe and tweak (fix the shape) than royal icing. A recipe is below.
  •  
    Truth to tell, even with three years of practice, Ms. LaBau’s work is still far lovelier than ours. But we never claimed to be a professional pastry chef—just a professional pastry eater.

    RECIPE: CREAM CHEESE FROSTiNG

    Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  •  
    Note: To frost a cake, you need a larger amount of icing. For vanilla cream cheese frosting, combine: 16 ounces cream cheese, 2 sticks (1 cup) softened butter, 1-1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted after measuring) and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients and place in a piping bag and pipe an Easter egg shape.

    2. TIP: If you don’t want to pipe freehand, cut an egg shape from foil or parchment and use it as a guide. The trick is to fold the foil in half and cut half an Easter egg, so the halves will be perfectly symmetrical when you unfold it.

      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Fruit & Yogurt Or Smoked Salmon For Breakfast

    fruit_kabobs_siggis-230

    Smoked Salmon, Dill & Yogurt

    Valentine Toast

    Top: Yogurt and “Valentine fruit” for breakfast. Center: Smoked salmon for more sophisticated palates. Photos and recipes courtesy Siggi’s Dairy, producer of artisan yogurt. Bottom: “Valentine toast.” Photo courtesy SmellOfRosemary.Blogspot.com.

     

    Following our recent article on chocolate pancakes for Valentine’s Day, one reader tweeted, “Got anything for health-conscious eaters that fits into the schedule of a busy working mom?”

    Beth, this one’s for you and the kids. You can easily make one or both recipes.

    RECIPE #1: FRUIT SKEWERS WITH VANILLA YOGURT DIP

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 container (5.3 ounces) vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Fresh fruit (kiwi, melon, pineapple, etc.) sliced 3/4-inch thick
  • Optional: grapes or raspberries for “spacers”
  •  
    Plus

  • 1-inch heart cookie cutter
  • Ice pop sticks or skewers
  • Valentine toast (see below)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the yogurt and honey in a bowl; mix well and set aside.

    2. CUT the fruit with a small heart-shaped cookie cutter. Assemble the skewers, using grapes and/or raspberries between the hearts as desired.
     

    RECIPE #2: SMOKED SALMON & DILLED YOGURT

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 container plain fat-free yogurt
  • 3 ounces smoked salmon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt & fresh-ground pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: lemon zest or thin lemon quarter*
  •  
    Plus

  • Valentine toast (see photo)
  •  
    _________________________________
    *Cut a thin wheel of lemon, then cut the circle into quarters.
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT the smoked salmon into large but bite-size pieces.

    2. BLEND the yogurt and dill, seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.

    3. SCOOP the yogurt into a bowl and top with the smoked salmon.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve.

     

    VALENTINE TOAST

    Make heart-shaped whole wheat toast with a heart-shaped cookie cutter of any size.

    Toast both the original slice of bread and the cut-out heart.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Rose Pear Galette & The Different Types Of Pears

    Given the mark-up on roses for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, you might want to bake your own roses. These lovely individual tarts are made from seasonal pears. (See the different types of pears below.)

    If you prefer an apple rose tartlet or a vegetable rose tart, take a look at these rose pastry recipes.
     
    RECIPE: ROSE PEAR GALETTE

    Treat yourself with this elegant and refined after-dinner delight from Adrianna Adarme of A Cozy Kitchen. It’s included in her book The Year of Cozy: 125 Recipes, Crafts, and Other Homemade Adventures.

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 20 to 25 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4 Individual Tarts
     
    For the Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen
  • 4-8 tablespoons very cold water, divided
  • 1 large egg, beaten (for egg wash)
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado* sugar
  • Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil
  • Reynolds parchment paper
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 2 Bartlett pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon coffee grounds, finely ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  •  
    For Serving

  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
  • ________________________________
    *Turbinado sugar is partially refined light brown cane sugar, similar to demerara sugar but with larger crystals. It is sold in bulk packages, and in packets as Sugar In The Raw. See the different types of sugar.
     
    Preparation

    1. MIX together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Using a box grater, grate the cold butter atop the flour mixture. Working quickly and using your hands, break the butter bits into the flour until they’re evenly distributed and resemble the size of small peas.

       

    Pear Galette - Reynolds Kitchens

    The Year Of Cozy

    Bartlett Pear

    Top: Rose Pear Galette from A Cozy Kitchen | Reynolds Kitchens. Center: The Bosc pear used in this recipe, although you can substitute the varieties below. Bottom: The Year of Cozy: 125 Recipes, Crafts, and Other Homemade Adventures.

     
    2. ADD 4 tablespoons of water and mix. The mixture will be shaggy at this point. From here, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the dough comes together (generally about 3 additional tablespoons). Flour a work surface and dump the dough onto it. Knead a few times until it comes together. Form the dough into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour, or ideally overnight.

    3. MIX this filling together just before the dough is ready to be removed from the fridge: In a medium bowl, toss together the pear slices, brown sugar, cocoa powder, coffee grounds, vanilla extract and salt.

    4. REMOVE the disk of dough from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for 10 minutes. Liberally flour a work surface and a rolling pin. Begin to roll the dough into a 16-inch round, being sure to rotate it every so often to avoid sticking. Using the bottom of a bowl or plate that measures about 6 inches in diameter, cut out 3 circles. Re-roll the scraps to get 1 additional circle.

    5. ARRANGE the pear slices neatly in a circular pattern in the center of each of the pie crust rounds, leaving about 1-1/2 inches clear at the edges. Fold over the edges to cover about 1/2 inch of the filling. Repeat with the remaining rounds. Transfer the galettes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place them in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.

    6. BRUSH the pie crust edges with the egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Transfer to the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Check on the galettes periodically. If at any time the crusts’ edges are getting too brown, take a piece of Reynolds Wrap® Aluminum Foil and tent over the edges. When the edges are golden brown, remove from the oven. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.

     

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    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/comice 230

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/forelle pear 230

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/green anjou pear 230

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/seckel 230

    Some of America’s most popular pears. From
    top to bottom: Bosc, Comice, Forelle, Green
    Anjou, Seckel.

       

    A SEASONAL GUIDE TO PEAR TYPES

    Thanks to USA Pears for this background material.

    Fresh domestic pears are available year-round. Although each pear variety has its own unique properties, most can be substituted for each other in recipes.
     
    Bartlett Pears: August to February
    The Bartlett pear turns from bright green to golden yellow as it ripens. Very juicy and sweet, with aromatic flesh, it is used most for canning and for salads or desserts (photo above).
     
    Red Bartlett Pears: August to January
    The Red Bartlett turns bright red as it ripens and is similar in flavor and texture to the yellow Bartlett.
     
    Bosc Pears: September to April
    Bosc pears have long, tapered necks and skin that is naturally russet to a cinnamon brown. Dense, fragrant, and honey-sweet flesh with a texture that holds its shape when heated, the Bosc is a good choice for baking, poaching, grilling and roasting.
     
    Comice Pears: September to March
    Pronounced co-MEESE, these pears have a full, round shape with a short neck and stem. They are usually green, sometimes with a red blush. They are very succulent, with a custard-like texture and mellow sweetness. They are best as an eating pear and go well with cheese. They don’t hold up well in cooking.
     
    Concorde Pears: September to February
    The Concorde has a tall, elongated neck and firm, dense flesh, with skin that is golden green, usually with golden yellow russets. Its flavor has vanilla undertones and, like the Bosc, it has a firm texture that holds up well when baking, grilling or poaching. It is one of the newer varieties, introduced in the past 10 years.
     
    D’Anjou Pears: September to July
    Green D’Anjou pears, recognized by their egg-like shape, stay green when fully ripe. With moist, sweet and dense flesh, the D’Anjou is excellent for snacking or baking.
     
    Red D’Anjou Pears: September to May
    Sweet and succulent when ripe, red D’Anjou pears are similar to their green counterparts. The red skin is a colorful addition to salads, desserts and main dishes.
     
    Forelle Pears: October to March
    The Forelle, known for its smaller size and unique yellow-green skin, is tasty sweet with a crisp texture even when ripe. Ideal for kids’ lunches and baked desserts.
     
    Seckel Pears: September to February
    Seckel pears are another small variety, recognized by their maroon skin, with olive-green coloring. With their crunchy flesh and ultra-sweet flavor, they are great for snacks, pickling or garnishing.
     
    Starkrimson Pears: August to January
    Another new variety introduced within the past 10 years, Starkrimson pears have a brilliant crimson red skin and a thick, stocky stem. Juicy and sweet, they have smooth flesh and a distinct floral aroma.
     
    MORE DELICIOUS PEAR DESSERTS

  • Pears Hélène
  • Poached Pears
  •  

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Walnuts On Pizza

    Apple Walnut Pizza

    Blue Cheese Walnut Pizza

    Chicken Alfredo Pizza

    Top: Apple Cheddar Pizza With Walnuts from OhMyVeggies.com. Center: Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Pizza from 2Teaspoons.com. Bottom: Chicken Alfredo Pizza With Walnuts & Gorgonzola from Pillsbury.com.

     

    We’d never had walnuts on a pizza—or even thought of it—until a recent excursion to Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.

    The restaurant serves both conventional pizzas (arugula, mushrooms, pesto, sausage, etc.); but we can get those elsewhere. Instead, we go for the more unusual selections, such as:

  • Gouda, Sliced Canadian Bacon & Maple Syrup
  • Beef Brisket, Pickled Red Onions & BBQ Sauce
  • Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Prosciutto, Dried Bing Cherries
    & Orange Blossom Honey
  • Speck & Pickled Pineapple (a better version of ham-and-pineapple pizza)
  •  
    This time, we chose a “special” topped with walnuts, goat cheese and baby spinach. We loved the toasty, nutty crunch—plus the opportunity to deny the carbs we were consuming by focusing instead on the added nutrition of the walnuts: protein, fiber and different phytonutrients (types of antioxidants).

    We then returned to the office to research other approaches to walnut-topped pizza.
     
    We found quite a few pizza recipes that combined walnuts with different cheeses—blue, cheddar, goat and others—with fruits (apples, pears) and with more conventional pizza toppings (bacon, ham).

    So this tip is for home pizza makers: Try some of these ideas for a gourmet Super Bowl experience or for a new take on the comfort food.

    You can also add some of the ingredients to delivery pizza and frozen pizza.
     
    TAKE A BITE OF WALNUT PIZZA

    So many walnut pizzas, so little time to try them all!

  • Apple Cheddar Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts Recipe
  • Arugula, Goat Cheese & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Blue Cheese, Pear & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Caramelized Onion, Walnut & Goat Cheese Pizza With A Beer Crust Recipe
  • Chicken Alfredo Pizza With Gorgonzola & Walnuts Recipe
  • Gorgonzola, Pear & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Arugula & Walnut Pizza Recipe
  • Walnut Pesto and Zucchini Pizza Recipe
  •  
    SUMMER WALNUT PIZZAS

    These are summer recipes that require seasonal ingredients such as fresh tomatoes and summer squash (yellow squash, a close relation* of zucchini).

  • Summer Squash Pizza with Goat Cheese and Walnuts Recipe
  • Walnut Pizza with Arugula and Yellow Tomatoes Recipe
  •  
    Today we’re making the Caramelized Onion, Walnut & Goat Cheese Pizza,; and we have fresh baby arugula so we’ll add that, too, when the pie comes out of the oven.

    What’s your choice?
    __________________________________
    *Both zucchini and yellow squash are varieties of the species Cucurbita pepo, which also includes crookneck squash, scalloped squash, straightneck squash, vegetable marrows (no relation to bone marrow, but a name given to the mature fruit (see below), zucchini and cocozelle, a type of zucchini with pale green or yellow stripes. Zucchini and yellow squash are picked from the vine before they are mature, but are are tender. If they remain on the vine and grow to maturity, they are larger, drier and tougher—and referred to as marrow.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Winter Fruit Substitutes

    Fuyu Persimmons

    Fuyu Persimmons

    Fuyu persimmons can substitute for summer
    tomatoes. Top photo by Jirkaejc | IST.
    Bottom photo courtesy Good Eggs | San
    Francisco.

     

    Eating seasonally, a practice that has always existed in culinary meccas like France and Italy (and existed everywhere by default prior to modern transportation and food technology), is an idea that’s been promulgated for some 40 years in the U.S., first by chef and restaurateur Alice Waters. The the “farm-to-table” movement and subsequent awareness of sustainability and carbon miles continue to underscore the need to change the on-demand desires of American consumers.

  • Instead of asparagus in winter, for example, the idea is to substitute seasonally available leeks, broccolini or broccoli rabe.
  • Instead of longing for fruits that aren’t in season, reach for those that are: apples, cactus [prickly] pear, cherimoya, dates, grapefruits, kiwifruit, mandarins (clementines, tangerines and others), papaya, oranges, passion fruit, pears, persimmons, pomegranates.
  •  
    Seek them out not only as hand fruit, but to substitute in recipes for out-of-season fruits.
     
    WINTER SUBSTITUTES FOR SUMMER FRUITS

    Some do better when frozen than others, and fruits, frozen at their peak, are an option. But if you want fresh-to-fresh, here are some good substitutes:

  • Berries: pomegranate arils
  • Cantaloupe: kiwifruit, mango, papaya
  • Cherries: raspberries, dried cherries
  • Honeydew: green grapes, kiwifruit
  • Peaches: mangoes
  • Pineapple: cherimoya
  • Tomatoes: persimmons, radishes, red bell peppers or pimentos*
  • Watermelon: red grapefruit
  •  
    SUBSTITUTE PERSIMMONS FOR TOMATOES

    Perhaps the most missed fruit or vegetable is the fresh tomato, a staple of salads and sandwiches. Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog, residing in the produce capital of America, writes:

    “Even in balmy California, farmers market tables once straining under the weight of plump tomatoes and juicy peaches look comparatively sparse, bearing dusty tubers and hearty greens instead.

    “I’d never dream of making classic tabbouleh† in winter, when only mealy tomatoes shipped halfway across the globe can be found in markets.”

    Her solution: Substitute persimmons for bland imported tomatoes. The recipe is below.

    “It makes perfect sense the moment you taste the persimmons in this light salad” Hannah notes. “Their juicy, meaty texture and natural sweetness are an excellent substitution.” She adds even more seasonal produce to the standard tabbouleh recipe:

    “Pomegranate arils lend tart, crunchy bursts of flavor. And while parsley could be the sole herbaceous element, I felt compelled to toss in those unloved green carrot tops that are all too often discarded, rather than savored as they should be.”

  • You can substitute persimmons for tomatoes in any vegetable salad.
  • You can try them on sandwiches; although we prefer jarred roasted red bell peppers (pimento or pimiento*), sundried tomatoes in olive oil (drained) or plumped in water, or peppadews.
  •  

    RECIPE: WINTER TABBOULEH

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1/4 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 Fuyu persimmon, peeled, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups carrot tops, minced (or substitute parsley)
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1/3 cup pomegranate arils
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the bulgur, turmeric and vegetable broth in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover, turn off the heat, and let stand for 15-20 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile…

     

    Persimmon Tabbouleh

    Eat seasonally: Substitute persimmons for tomatoes in winter salads. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     
    2. PREPARE the fruits and vegetables accordingly, and toss them together in a large bowl. Add the cooled bulgur, followed by the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust flavors according to personal preference.

    3. COVER and chill for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to marry.
     
     
    WHAT ARE PERSIMMONS?

    In the late 1880s, the first persimmon arrived in the U.S., brought by a naval commander returning to Washington D.C. from Japan.

    Here’s more about persimmons, including how to enjoy them at every meal of the day.
     
     
    *What is a pimento? Also spelled pimiento (a variation of the Portuguese spelling; pimento is Spanish), the pimento is a heart-shaped variety of Capsicum annuum, the same genus and species as the familiar red bell pepper. Its flesh is sweet, succulent, and more aromatic than that of the red bell pepper. Pimento is what is used to stuff green olives, and is ground into paprika. The standard pimento measures 3 to 4 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Some varieties of pimento are actually hot. In the U.S., they are typically sold pickled, as hot cherry peppers. Don’t confuse pimento with pimenta, which we know as allspice and is also called the Jamaica pepper, and myrtle pepper.

    †Classic tabbouleh ingredients are bulgur wheat, parsley, tomato and onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: An Apple A Day

    Pinata Apple

    Apple Compote

    Sauteed Apples

    Applesauce Bar

    Apple  Pie

    Top: The Piñata apple from Stemilt is a crisp, juicy eating apple. Second: Try it in a warm compote, plain or with ice cream. Photo courtesy Ziploc. Third: It’s also a great cooking apple. We love sautéed apples with a pork roast or ham. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma. Fourth: Is there anything better than homemade applesauce? Photo courtesy U.S. Apples. Bottom: Perhaps everyone’s favorite way to eat apples: apple pie! Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    It’s the last day of January. How are you doing on those new year’s resolutions?

    If you’re like most food lovers, you haven’t done as well as you’d like with regard to eating more of the better-for-you foods.

    So here’s what may be the easiest resolution of all: an apple a day. Not because it keeps the doctor away, but because they’re yummy. And new varieties are always coming onto the market.

    Take the Piñata apple. Named Apple of the Year in Germany in 2001, it caught the notice of U.S. growers and is now available nationwide. The name Piñata comes from combining syllables of the apple’s two European names, Pinova and Sonata. Pinova is the cultivar of apple trees that produce Piñata apples.

    Why do we need a new apple? Don’t we have enough Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, etc. etc. etc.?

    The answer is marketing. Food-oriented folk are always looking for something new, and retailers want to give it to them. We remember rushing to try the first Gala apples* and the first Honeycrisps*.
     
    HOW TO CREATE A NEW APPLE VARIETY

    Apple varieties take decades to develop. They are typically developed at university agricultural schools, although independent companies and individual growers may also develop them.

    First, existing varieties need to be cross-bred, or mutations need to be propagated. The Piñata originated way back in 1970, after researchers in Germany crossed three varieties: the Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and the Duchess of Oldenburg, an Orange Pippin variety from 18th century Russia. (The latter two provide the vibrant orange-ish hue to the peel). You want a new apple not only to taste special, but to look special, too.
     
    The root stock is tested in different soils and climates to determine where the sweetest fruit will grow. Then, the saplings need to be planted.

  • In every phase of development, it takes 5 to 8 years for a tree to bear fruit. (One tree yields 4 to 5 bushels of apples per year.)
  • Development takes much longer than you’d think. From its start in 1970, the Piñata was first released in 1986 to European growers. Some varieties take even longer. Honeycrisps were first developed in 1960, but not released commercially until 1991.
  • Before it purchases the right to grow the apples from the developer, a grower needs to test the apple in its own orchards: another 5 to 8 years of growing, which may or may not produce the apple qualities the grower is hoping for.
  •  
    Then, the apple variety must be licensed from the developers, and a name chosen and trademarked. Licensing is how the developer gets paid back for years of development.

  • In the U.S., Stemilt Growers in Washington holds the exclusive rights to grow and market Piñata apples. Why “Piñata?” In English, Piñata sounds more alluring than Pinova.
  • The grower plants the stock and waits, yes, 5 to 8 years for the first commercial crop.
  • Only then does a new variety make its way to your market. Hopefully, you’ll appreciate its long journey and enjoy each bite even more.
  • ________________________________________
    *Gala apples are a cross between Golden Delicious and Kidd’s Orange Red, first planted in New Zealand in the 1930s. In turn, it was bred into dozens of other varieties, including the Royal Gala and the Scarlett Apple. Honeycrisps are a hybrid of Macoun and Honeygold varieties, were developed at the University of Minnesota in 1960. They were patented in 1988 and released commercially in 1991.
     
    PIÑATA APPLE FACTS

    The Piñata apple thrives in eastern Washington’s arid climate and is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after apples, thanks to its unique tropical flavor and culinary attributes. The stripy red skin over an orange background has eye appeal. The flesh has a blend of high sugar and high acid levels, producing a welcome tangy taste.

    The apple is super crispy and juicy. Its classic apple flavors are complemented by nuances of tropical fruits.

    Piñata is one of the most versatile apples on the market. Its crisp bite and great flavor make it ideal for eating out-of-hand, while its thin skin and fine-grained flesh make it a delight in salads and baking.

    Use Piñata apples any way you like: baking, cooking, juicing, salads and snacking (known as hand fruit in the industry). Here are recipes from the grower. You can also download their e-book of savory soups and sides recipes.

    The season for Piñata apples is November through May. So what are you waiting for?

     
    Here’s more about Piñata apples from the grower at Stemilt.com.

    And if you want to know what an apple a day does for your health and well-being, here’s the scoop from the U.S. Apple Association.
     
    THE TOP TEN APPLES IN THE U.S.

    According to the U.S. Apple Association, the 10 most popular apples in the U.S. based on sales are, in order, Red Delicious, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Rome, Empire and Cripps Pink (Pink Lady).

    Of course, the popularity is retailer-driven. Retailers want to buy varieties that will sell, and customers can only buy what the retailer has. Personally, we’d like to see fewer Delicious apples (they haven’t been exciting in a long time) and more new varieties.

    But keep those apples handy, whatever the variety, and you won’t even notice that they are helping you with your better-eating resolutions.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Red Grapefruit, The Best Winter Fruit

    Grapefruit is a winter fruit, and we’re glad to have it.

    America is the world’s largest consumer of grapefruit, with large commercial groves in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. But the grapefruit’s ancestor, the pummelo (also pomelo, pomello and other spellings), comes from far away. It’s native to Malaysia and Indonesia.

    THE HISTORY OF GRAPEFRUIT

    In 1693, pummelo seeds were brought from the East Indies to the West Indies—Barbados—by an English ship commander, one Captain Shaddock. The grapefruit may have been a horticultural accident or a deliberate hybridization between the larger pummelo and the smaller sweet orange. The original grapefruit was about the size of the orange.

    Its name evolved in English to a descriptive one: The fruit grows on trees in grape-like clusters. The fruit was pretty but very sour and the thick took time to peel. For a long time, it was grown only as an ornamental tree.

    The grapefruit arrived in the U.S. in 1823, but it was not immediately popular for eating. The tart fruits had numerous tiny seeds and required a generous sprinkling of sugar.

    Growers learned how to breed selective fruits that were sweeter, and in 1870, the first grapefruit nursery was established in Florida.

    In 1885, the first shipment of grapefruits arrived in New York and Philadelphia, generated interest and helped to create the commercial grapefruit industry.

    Here’s a longer history of grapefruit.

    Most grapefruit grown is white grapefruit. But hopefully that will change: Red grapefruit (not pink) is where it’s at.
     
    HOW RED GRAPEFRUIT DEVELOPED

    The first grapefruits were white. Pink grapefruit, a mutation, was first discovered in 1906 in the groves of the Atwood Grapefruit Company in Manatee County, Florida.

       

    Sweet Scarlett Red Grapefruit

    Star Ruby Grapefruit

    Top: Sweet Scarlett red grapefruits. Photo courtesy Wonderful Fruit. Bottom: The yellow rinds often have a pink blush. Photo of Star Ruby grapefruits courtesy Specialty Produce.

     
    One day, a grove foreman peeled a grapefruit with the intention of eating it, and discovered that the fruit inside was pink! A local nurseryman was able to propagate the pink fruit, and it met with big success: In addition to a more pleasing color, the flesh tended to be sweeter.

    Another mutation gave us red grapefruit, which was originally discovered growing on a pink grapefruit tree in Texas. It was patented as Ruby Red grapefruit in 1929. Red grapefruit is known in agriculture as a “limb sport,” a mutation of one limb (branch) that has different fruit characteristics than the rest of the tree.

    A hit from the start, sweeter with alluring rosy red flesh, Ruby Reds are marketed under different names: Flame, Rio Red, Rio Star, Ruby-Sweet, Star Ruby, Sweet Scarletts, TexaSweet and others.

    While consumers call these different red grapefruits “varieties,” botanically it’s more accurate to call them different “selections” because they are all derived from one another as descendants of the original Ruby Reds. Each has different small attributes, tailored to succeed in different climates and soils.

    Otherwise stated, all of the different deep red grapefruits grown around the world—Rio Red in Texas, Star Ruby in South Africa, Flame in Florida, etc.—are not botanically different, but have been adapted to the the climate and soil in each region.

    Different selections also have different shades of flesh. For example, Florida’s Ruby Reds are deep pink, while Flame grapefruits have deep red flesh.

     

    Red Grapefruit & Avocado Salad

    Simple yet elegant: Rio Star grapefruit
    sections in an avocado half. Here’s the easy
    recipe
    . Photo courtesy TexaSweet.

     

    WHAT MAKES THE FLESH RED?

    Red and pink grapefruits contain lycopene, a phytochemical (antioxidant) found in tomatoes and some other red fruits and vegetables such as papaya, red carrots and watermelon. Red grapefruits have a greater concentration than pink grapefruits.

    Why are red grapefruits sweeter?

    It’s all in the weather. Sweet Scarletts, for example, are grown in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where hot days, cool nights and the unique terroir† merge to create the ideal grapefruit.

    Most red grapefruits are grown in Texas, since the The Texas climate produces the sweetest red grapefruits.
     
    DON’T LET THE SEASON PASS YOU BY

    Different regions are ready to harvest at different times; but in general, red grapefruit is available from October through March.

    We have been enjoying a box of Sweet Scarletts, and couldn’t be happier. They’re so sweet and lush, who needs ice cream?

     
    If you aren’t already a grapefruit lover, head to the store and bring some home. They’re sweet, juicy, and low in calories* (42 calories per 3.5 ounces of flesh). It’s one of our favorite great-tasting and great-for-you foods.
     
    HOW MANY DIFFERENT WAYS CAN YOU SERVE RED GRAPEFRUIT?

    Here are nine pages of red grapefruit recipes, from cocktails and appetizers through main courses, sides and desserts.

  • One of our favorite preparations is red grapefruit sorbet. Here’s a recipe from Emeril via Martha Stewart.
  • Red grapefruit sorbet is also delicious in a dessert cocktail. Fill a Martini glass or coupe with sparkling wine and add a scoop of sorbet. Garnish with some grated grapefruit zest.
  • Another favorite preparation: broiled grapefruit. It takes just three minutes: Sprinkle a half grapefruit with brown sugar, place on a cookie sheet and broil for three minutes. It’s ready when the sugar melts and gets crispy—the grapefruit version of crème brûlée.
  •  
    Many thanks to to Etienne Rabe, Vice President, Agronomy at Wonderful Citrus in California, for explaining the fine points of this “wonderful” fruit.
     
    ______________________________________
    *For those who closely monitor their nutrition, they’re high in the cancer-fighting antioxidant vitamin A; the free-radical-fighting antioxidant vitamin C; the vision-friendly flavonoid antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein, naringenin and xanthin; the dietary fiber pectin (which also lowers cholesterol); and potassium, which counters the negative effects of sodium; among other nutrients such as B vitamins. Red grapefruit also contains the powerful flavonoid antioxidant, lycopene, which protects skin from damage from UV rays and fights macular degeneration and several types of cancer.

    †Terroir, a French word pronounced tur-WAH, refers to the unique combination of geographic location, climate and microclimate, soil and temperature that creates the individual personality of an agricultural product. As in the growing of grapes for wine or beans for coffee, terroir dramatically affects the flavor profiles of the product.

      

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