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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Fruits & Nuts

TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Enjoy Rhubarb

rhub-230

By the time it gets to market, the leaves
(which are mildly toxic) are typically cut off
rhubarb, and only the stalks are sold.
Rhubarb looks like pink celery, but it isn’t
related. Photo courtesy OurOhio.com.

 

Spring is rhubarb season. It parallels asparagus season, available fresh for just three months a year—April through June.

So make rhubarb while you can. Naturally tangy, this versatile vegetable can be used in savory sauces or cooked as a vegetable. When combined with sugar it pops into delicious desserts, which is why sweet rhubarb has become more popular than savory preparations.

Rhubarb first grew wild in northwest China, and was cultivated as far back as 5,000 years ago, for medicinal purposes. Before it was first sweetened by British cooks in the Victorian era, it was added to soups, sauces and stews—Moroccan tagines and Middle Eastern stews, for example.

The thinner and darker pink the fresh rhubarb stalks are, the sweeter they will be. When shopping for rhubarb, look for stalks that are crisp, bright pink, thin, and unblemished.

Check your farmers markets and specialty food stores for rhubarb products, fresh-baked (pies, tarts) or prepared (chutneys, jams).

At the grocer’s, Dry Soda makes a rhubarb flavor; rhubarb syrup to mix into drinks, on pancakes, etc. (you can also find strawberry rhubarb syrup).

 
COOKING WITH RHUBARB

Be sure to cook only the stems; the leaves are mildly toxic.

Savory Uses For Rhubarb

  • Braised and served with meats and as a savory garnish (recipe)
  • Fresh rhubarb in lentil soup (recipe)
  • Homemade rhubarb pickles
  • Hot & sour tilapia with gingered rhubarb sauce (recipe)
  • Rhubarb chutney as a condiment with grilled meats (recipe with pork loin)
  • Rhubarb chutney with a meat and cheese board
  • Rhubarb chutney or jam on a grilled cheese or ham and cheese sandwich
  •  
    Sweet Uses For Rhubarb

  • Baked into cobblers, crisps, muffins and more (substitute rhubarb for apples or pears in your favorite recipes)
  • Rhubarb dessert soup (recipe)
  • Rhubarb chutney (recipe)
  • Rhubarb jam (recipe) or rhubarb and ginger jam (recipe)
  • Rhubarb ice cream (recipe)
  • Rhubarb simple syrup for beverages (cocktails, club soda, water, juice) or as a breakfast syrup (recipe)
  • Stewed rhubarb or rhubarb compote, delicious as a side with ham, pork and poultry, does double duty as a dessert (recipe below).
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (recipe—you can substitute raspberries)
  • Tofu pudding with rhubarb topping (recipe—substitute your favorite pudding)
  •  

    RECIPE: NANA’S STEWED RHUBARB

    You can use soft and sweet stewed rhubarb by itself, with an optional topping of crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek yogurt. We also like it:

  • With fresh berries or other fruit
  • On a biscuit or slice of cake with whipped cream
  • Atop cheesecake
  • Atop or mixed into yogurt
  • In tart shells or pavlovas (meringue shells)
  •  
    We loved our Nana’s stewed rhubarb so much, we visited twice weekly during rhubarb season just to get our fill.

    This easy recipe requires only three ingredients—rhubarb, sugar, water and lemon juice—with optional flavorings (you can substitute a teaspoon of vanilla for the tablespoon of lemon juice).

    For a purée, like applesauce, run the cooked rhubarb through a food mill or food processor.

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound rhubarb
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Optional: raspberries, strawberries
  •  

    stewed-rhubarb-BalticMaid-230

    A seasonal delight: sweet and tangy stewed rhubarb. Photo courtesy BalticMaid.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. TRIM, wash and dice the rhubarb. Combine in a saucepan with the water, sugar, lemon juice and optional sliced berries.

    2. BRING the water to a boil and then simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is slightly thickened and the rhubarb is is in threads (stringy), about 15 minutes.  

    3. COOL and chill or serve warm.
     
    ABOUT RHUBARB

    Technically, rhubarb is a vegetable, a member of the sorrel family (the difference between fruits and vegetables). Native to Asia, rhubarb has long been used in Chinese medicine.

    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 family Polygonaceae. 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).
     
    Fruit Vs. Vegetable

    While rhubarb is botanically considered a vegetable, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction on imported rhubarb tariffs, as tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits. [Source: Wikipedia]

    And that’s only one example. Science notwithstanding, on May 10, 1893, tomatoes, a red fruit/berry of the Nightshade family, were declared a vegetable by the United States Supreme Court.

    At the time, there were import tariffs on vegetables but not fruits, yet tomatoes were still being subjected to the tax. In 1887, an importing company had sued the tax collector of the Port of New York to recover back duties collected on their tomatoes, which they claimed had been wrongfully classified as vegetables.

    The Court decided that the tariff act should be based “in common language of people,” not botanists, so tomatoes should be taxed like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets etc.

    More proof that justice is blind.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The New “Dirty Dozen”

    The “dirty dozen” of produce refers to those fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residues. If you’re going to buy organic versus conventional produce, these are the foods to buy.

    Since agricultural practices change, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates an annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposure to chemical pesticides.

    It ranks 48 popular fruits and vegetables by their pesticide loads. The rankings are based on lab tests done [mostly] by the USDA, which tests more than 34,000 samples of common food crops for pesticide residue.

    Rinsing and peeling conventional produce does not remove all of the chemical residue. Some plants absorb pesticides through the peel.

    Nor does washing and peeling change a food’s ranking, because the USDA lab tests produce as it is typically eaten: washed and, when applicable, peeled.

    But the EWG underscores that the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks from pesticide exposure. In other words, eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating enough fruits and vegetables at all.
     
    WHY SOME PRODUCE HAS TO BE “DIRTY”

    Crops differ in their hardiness—whether they’re more or less susceptible to intense heat, cold, rainfall, drought, fungus or other disease, etc.

       

    assorted-apples-USApples-230

    An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it also has the highest amount of pesticide residue. The solution: Buy organic! Photo courtesy US Apples.

     
    In the case of bugs, some crops are more readily attacked and destroyed by the hungry little critters. So chemical pesticides are used to kill the bugs, fungus, etc. before they kill the crop.

    Organic farmers use natural pesticides and fertilizers—no chemicals. The expense of growing crops this way leads to the higher cost of organic produce.

    Some shocking statistics:

  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
  • A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 diffent pesticides.
  • A whopping 99% of apple samples, 98% of peaches and 97% of nectarines tested positive for at least one pesticide.
  • Single samples of cherry tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, imported snap peas and strawberries each showed 13 different pesticides.
  •  

    asparagus-twine-230

    Eat all the asparagus you like: They’re one of the most pesticide-free veggies. Photo courtesy California Asparagus Commission.

     

    THE 2015 “DIRTY DOZEN” FRUITS & VEGETABLES

    Ranked from highest (dirtiest) to lowest (cleanest of the Dirty Dozen) are some of our favorite fruits and vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Imported Snap Peas
  • Potatoes
  •  
    Wow!

     
    We’ve been buying organic celery for years (it’s been on the Dirty Dozen list for a long time). But we’re going to go our of our way for organic apples and strawberries, two fruits we eat almost daily.

    We’ll also buy more of the Clean Fifteen, produce with the least amount of pesticide residue.
     
    THE “CLEAN FIFTEEN” FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Frozen Sweet Peas
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potatoes
  •  
    As an American consumer, the choice is yours!
      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Green Almonds

    After limited pickings during the winter months, spring has begun to yield food treasures. But you may have to be a good treasure hunter to find things that are new (to you) and special.

    One tip is to ask when you see something unfamiliar, like the fuzzy green “beans” in the photo. They’re actually green (unripe) almonds.

    For a window of three to four weeks, reports Hannah Kaminsky, green almonds may be hiding in plain sight at your local farmers market. You may need a sharp eye: Less known products are often placed behind the more popular fare. Writes Hannah of these immature nuts:

    “One would never mistake them for the raw or roasted almonds they can become, which is part of the appeal. Catch familiar nuts on the unripe side and you’ll be treated to a whole new snacking sensation.

    “The fuzzy exteriors belie a firm, crunchy texture, wholly edible and entirely delicious from the outside shell to the kernel. Their short window of availability is dictated by the maturation of the almond, as it grows and transforms into the crunchy nut we all know and love.

     

    green-almonds-hannahkaminsky-230

    Unripe green almonds, fuzzy on the outside, remind us that almonds are botanically related to peaches. The soft green shell will harden into the tough brown shell of the mature almond. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     
    “Before that happens, the immature almond has a pleasantly bitter taste, with an overriding flavor of lemons and cucumbers, sometimes with a hint of tart grape in the background. Juicy yet crisp, they’re impossibly addictive when eaten with just a light pinch of salt.

    “You can also add them to salads, whole or chopped; use them for garnishes on chilled soups (make Spanish chilled almond soup with them!); combine them with spring peas; or otherwise toss them into any raw or cooked food.

    “But they’re best when allowed to shine solo. At most, cure them in a lightly sweet and sour brine, and you’ll have the stuff of pickle plate dreams.”

    Their soft-yet-firm texture can be like a grape, depending on how unripe they are when picked. But there’s a sense of the nut it’s going to become.

    Almond lovers: Head to your farmers market, or find a friend with an almond tree!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat Sunny Food

    It’s no fun looking out the window on the first day of spring, waiting for the snowfall to begin. So to counter the gray skies and eat something bright and sunny.

    Anticipating the weather, we acquired a ripe papaya and other fruits for this recipe from Hannah Kaminsky, who is wintering in Hawaii.

    “At the Salted Lemon Smoothie & Juice Bar,” she writes, “they’ve perfected the art of building an unsinkable papaya boat. Local orange and pink-hued fruits, more brilliant than a sunrise in paradise, are hollowed out and stuffed to the brim with granola, yogurt, banana slices and blueberries, and finished with a light shower of chia seeds.

    “The contrast between creamy yogurt and crunchy cereal, flavored with the ripe and juicy fresh fruits, is so simple yet so satisfying,” she concludes.

    And on a day like today, in the gloomy Northeast, it provides something bright that says “Happy spring!”

    RECIPE: PAPAYA BOAT

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 medium or large papaya, peeled and seeded
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1 6-ounce yogurt, fruit, plain or vanilla
  • 1 medium banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries or raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  •    

    papaya-boat-hannahkaminsky-230

    Have papaya as part of a sunny breakfast or lunch. Photo © Hanna Kaminsky.

  • Optional: sweetener to taste* (agave, honey, maple syrup)
  •  

    *If the fruit isn’t sweet enough.

     

    papaya-cut-hannahkaminsky-230

    A halved papaya with a fanciful cut. Photo ©
    Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    Preparation

    1. DIVIDE a half cup of granola between two plates to set up a “foundation” for the papaya boat. This will help prevent it from capsizing when you eat it, and it also provides a layer of crunchy cereal to enjoy.

    2. PLACE the remaining granola inside the papaya halves (1/4 cup inside of each) and top that with the yogurt, spooning equal amounts into the two boats.

    3. ARRANGE the sliced banana and berries as desired. Top with a sprinkle of chia seeds.

    4. FINISH with a light drizzle of syrup as desired.
     
    HOW TO BUY PAPAYA

    1. When papaya ripens, the green skin will turn mostly yellow with patches of red. Smell the fruit at the stem end; a ripe papaya will be fragrant.

     
    2. Squeeze the papaya gently; it will give a little if it is ripe. Avoid papayas that are overly soft. You can ripen the papaya on the counter in a brown paper bag overnight, or place it in a sunny spot for a day or two.

    3. You can refrigerate a ripe papaya in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 3 days.
     
    CAN YOU EAT PAPAYA SEEDS?

    You can use papaya in any number of recipes, or simply eat it like a melon. Wash the outside, cut the fruit lengthwise and discard the seeds.

    But do the seeds have any other use?

    While there is no scientific evidence, in some circles the seeds have caught on as a potential health food. They are nontoxic, should you want to try them.

    You can eat papaya seeds whole, or can grind them up. Here’s how to do it from WikiHow, which claims that the taste is “fairly similar” to ground pepper.

    The skin should not be eaten.
     
    MORE SUNNY FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Yellow/Orange fruits: apples, apricots, cape gooseberries, cantaloupe, golden kiwi, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, nectarines, oranges/mandarins, papapyas, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapples, tangerines, yellow figs, yellow watermelon.
  • Yellow/Orange vegetables: acorn/butternut/pumpkin/other squash varieties, beets, bell peppers, carrots, corn, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, summer squash, Yukon gold/other yellow potatoes, yellow tomatoes, yellow winter squash varieties.
  • Red/pink fruits: apples, blood oranges, cherries, cranberries, grapes, grapefruit, pears, pomegranates, raspberries, red pears, strawberries, watermelon.
  • Red/pink vegetables: beets, bell peppers, radicchio, radishes, red onions, red potatoes, rhubarb, tomatoes.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cherimoya

    WHAT’S A CHERIMOYA?

    When our colleague Hannah Kaminsky mentioned that cherimoya was her favorite fruit, we were curious. Depending on where you live, you may not come across this heart-shaped subtropical fruit often.

    We had to head to a Latin American supermarket uptown. But seek it out we did, and the trip was worth it. The fruit’s blend of banana, mango, passionfruit and pineapple notes is luscious. The ivory-colored flesh is creamy, similar to a ripe peach.

    Also called a custard apple in the U.S., cherimoya is believed to have originated in the Andes Mountains. The name originates from the Quechua (Inca) word chirimuya, meaning “cold seeds” (because the seeds germinate at high altitudes). It grows as a shrub or tree.

       

    cherimoya-baldorfood-230

    A cherimoya. Now you know! Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

     

    HOW TO BUY & SERVE CHERIMOYA

    The pale green, shingled skin must be handled with care to avoid bruising. Choose unblemished fruit that is firm and allow it to ripen at room temperature.

    As it ripens, the skin will turn a darker green and will yield to gentle pressure. Refrigerate soft fruit and consume it as soon as possible for the best flavor.

    To serve, chill the cherimoya, cut it in half, spoon out the seeds and eat the flesh with a spoon. It can also be turned into desserts, such as crêpes, custard (hence the name “custard apple)”, dessert sauce (purée), fruit salad (as with apples, dip cut fruit in lemon or orange juice to prevent darkening), mousse, pie filling, pudding and sorbet.

    You can freeze the cherimoya and eat it as ice cream, from the shell. Definitely try this!

    And you can drink it. Whip up a shake, smoothie, cherimoya Daiquiri or other fruity cocktail.

    To usher in spring, which began today, make Hannah Kaminsky’s tropical cocktail or smoothie, Cherimoya Lava Flow.

     

    cherimoya-shake-hannahkaminsky-230

    Celebrate spring with this Cherimoya Lava Flow. Photo and recipe courtesy Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    RECIPE: CHERIMOYA COCKTAIL OR SMOOTHIE,
    THE CHERIMOYA LAVA FLOW

    From Hawaii, where her local farmers market has plenty of cherimoyas, Hannah writes: “It’s a pricy treat to be sure,” even though grown locally. Her favorite way to enjoy the ripe, custard-like flesh is to dig in with a spoon.

    “With an overripe fruit, though,” she advises, “the only thing one one can do is blend and drink it. That’s where the idea to create a tropical shake came from, playing off the classic umbrella drink, the lava flow.

    “Fiery red rivulets of strawberry ‘lava’ flow throughout a classic coconut-pineapple rendition of this refreshing island staple, finished with a kiss of light rum. The sweet, creamy richness of cherimoya transforms the drink into an exotic new experience, which is just as luscious with or without the booze.

    “In lieu of fresh cherimoya, you can substitute either 1 medium banana or 2/3 cup young coconut meat for a different, yet still delicious, taste.”

    Of course, you can leave out the rum for a tropical smoothie. Substitute an equal amount of pineapple juice.

     

    RECIPE: CHERIMOYA LAVA FLOW

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

    For The Strawberry Lava Sauce

  • 1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen/thawed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  •  
    For The Creamy Cherimoya Cocktail

  • 1 medium cherimoya
  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4-1/2 cup light rum
  • Optional garnish: fresh pineapple wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the strawberry sauce first by combining the strawberries, sugar and lime juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, just until the berries have softened and the sugar dissolved. Transfer to a blender and thoroughly purée so that no chunks of fruit remain. Strain out the seeds if desired and set aside.

    2. RINSE and dry the blender bowl and return it to the base. Slice the cherimoya in half and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, discarding the black seeds as you encounter them. Add the cherimoya to the blender, along with the pineapple, coconut milk and 1/4 cup of rum. Blend on high speed until completely smooth. Add more rum to taste.

    3. DIVIDE the cocktail between two glasses and drizzle the strawberry “lava” into each one, aiming for the sides of the glass to create the greatest visual impact. Serve with a tall straw and an additional wedge of fresh pineapple for garnish.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Kumquats

    kumquat-whiteflowerfarm-230

    Kumquats are the size of large olives. Photo courtesy White Flower Farm.

     

    How can it be that we’ve never published a piece about the kumquat? Today’s tip remedies that oversight.

    Native to China and now grown throughout Southeast Asia (plus the U.S. and elsewhere), the kumquat is a tiny citrus fruit that is entirely edible, skin and all. The orange flesh is juicy, acidic and tart (some varieties have are more tart than others). The skin is fragrant and sweet.

    Kumquats grow on small trees or bushes. They looking like wee, oval oranges, the size and shape of a large olive.

    The word “kumquat” comes from the Cantonese kin kü, meaning golden orange. The earliest historical reference appears in China in the 12th century.

    The tiny fruits were introduced to Europe in 1846 by Robert Fortune, a collector for the London Horticultural Society. Not long after, they arrived in North America, and found a happy growing ground in Florida.

     
    HOW TO SERVE KUMQUATS

    People who have never tried kumquats may look at them in the produce aisle, wondering what to do with them. As a citrus fruit, they work wherever other citrus fruits are employed. You don’t peel them or juice them, but serve them halved, sliced or whole. Some opportunities:

  • Braised, with fish or poultry
  • Breakfast breads and muffins
  • Cakes, cookies, pies, frostings
  • Candied
  • Dressing/stuffings
  • Fruit salads (sliced)
  • Garnishes/decorations, including cocktail garnishes
  • Green salads (sliced)
  • Ice cubes, whole, haved or sliced
  • Jelly/marmalade/preserves
  • Liqueur
  • Tea, hot or iced (sliced)
  •  

    Here are dozens of kumquat recipes from Kumquat Growers of Florida—from kumquat ice cream to kumquat tea to kumquat cranberry relish.
     
    Kumquat recipes from THE NIBBLE:

  • Field Salad With Kumquats And Strawberries (recipe)
  • Limoncello-Kumquat Cocktail (recipe)
  • Pernod Fruit Salad (recipe)
  •  
    A final idea: halved kumquats, topped with cream cheese and pepper jelly, as an hors d’oeuvre or tea time snack.
     
    BUYING & STORING KUMQUATS

    Look for firm, blemish-free fruit with a fresh scent. Avoid kumquats with green skins—they aren’t ripe and won’t ripen off the vine.

    You can refrigerate kumquats whole for up to one month, in a plastic storage bag. Freezing is not recommended.

     

    limonce-kumquat-cocktail-230

    Use kumquats in cocktails or as a garnish. Photo courtesy Limonce Limoncello.

     

      

    Comments

    FRUIT: Ugly And Uniq

    ugli-whole-half-melissas-230

    The Ugli fruit has inner beauty, and snappy citrus flavor. Photo courtesy Uglifruit.org.

     

    Our recent daily tips have included vegetables to cure the winter doldrums. That goes for fruits, too.

    Take the Uniq fruit, wrinkled and rough with splotchy coloring and surface scarring. Its skin is wrapped very loosely over the pulp. It’s the shar-pei of fruits.

    But Uniq tastes delicious: a cross of grapefruit and tangelo, a refreshing citrus taste that’s very juicy. It looks like a grapefruit’s great-grandfather (no disrespect, great-granddad). It has been sold under the brand name Ugli fruit since 1934.

    And its thick, loose skin makes it much easier to peel than other citrus fruit.

    It’s now in season. You can find the fruits ranging in size from a large orange to a large grapefruit, the color ranging from yellow mottled with lime green to darker green to light orange. You can smell the fragrance through the peel.

     
    The Uniq/Ugli fruit was discovered as an accidental hybrid seedling in Jamaica. is a variety of tangelo, a citrus fruit created by hybridizing a grapefruit (or pomelo, the parent of the grapefruit, another accidental hybrid).

    Store the fruit at room temperature for up to one week or two weeks in the fridge, and enjoy it as you would any citrus.

    If you can’t find it locally, you can order the fruit from Melissas.com.
     
    MORE FRUIT IN SEASON

    Keep your eyes peeled for:

  • Kumquats
  • Starfruit (carambola)
  •  
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Applesauce & Applesauce Bar

    applesauce-bar-USApple-230

    Set up an “applesauce bar” for breakfast,
    dessert or snacking. Photo courtesy U.S.
    Apple.

     

    Mom always made applesauce from scratch. Her apple of choice was the McIntosh, and she cooked them with the peel. It generated a pretty pink color when strained through a food mill.

    When we first had commercial applesauce from a jar (that would be you, Mott’s) at a friend’s house, we couldn’t believe the difference in flavor and texture. That is to say, Mom’s was the winner by far.

    For breakfast, lunch or a healthful dessert or snack, set up an apple sauce bar with custom toppings.

    We share our Mom’s stove top recipe—so easy!—as well as a slow cooker recipe from the U.S. Apple Association.

    If you’re avoiding refined sugar, you can cook the apples without sugar and sweeten the cooled applesauce with a noncaloric sweetener, agave, honey, etc.

    TOPPINGS BAR

  • Fruit: fresh berries; dried blueberries, cranberries, cherries, raisins
  • Nuts, raw or toasted: almonds, walnuts
  • Seeds: chia, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds
  • Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice
  • Sweeteners: agave, honey, maple syrup
  •  

    RECIPE: JOAN HOCHMAN’S APPLESAUCE

    This applesauce is delicious in its natural state, but if you like to experiment you can try adding spices or lemon zest. Test your preference by seasoning half the batch after you remove it from the heat.

    We easily devoured the two quarts of applesauce in a week; but if it’s too much for you, rather than reduce the recipe, stick it in the freezer. It freezes beautifully.

    Ingredients For 2 Quarts

  • 4 pounds McIntosh apples
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (add another 1/4 cup if the apples aren’t sweet enough)
  • Optional: 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg or lemon zest, or a combination
  •  
    Preparation

    1. QUARTER and seed the apples; don’t peel. Add to a pot of boiling water that covers the apples, top the pot with the lid, reduce the heat to simmer and cook slowly, until the apples are mushy, about 15 minutes.

    2. TASTE and adjust the sugar if needed. If the texture is too thick for you, add water, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired thickness is reached. After adjusting either, re-boil for a second or two to blend.

    3. LET cool. Process through a food mill. (If you remove the peel before cooking, you can pulse in a food processor). Serve at room temperature and refrigerate the extra.

     

    RECIPE: SLOW COOKER VANILLA APPLESAUCE

    Ingredients For 3-3/4 Cups

  • 3 pounds apples, peeled and cut in chunks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the peeled apple chunks in the slow cooker and sprinkle with sugar, lemon, vanilla and salt. Stir to mix. Cover the cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.

    2. UNCOVER the cooker and use a potato masher to coarsely mash the apples. For a really smooth sauce, you can purée in a food processor or blender, or use a food mill. Be careful when handling the hot apples and juice, cover the lid of the processor or blender with a folded towel and hold it closed as you turn on the machine.

    3. TRANSFER the applesauce to sterilized jars and let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

     

    apple-macintosh-230

    McIntosh apples, Mom’s favorites for applesauce. Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

     

    APPLE STATISTICS

    The U.S. Apple Association tells us that the United States has approximately 7,500 apple producers who grow nearly 200 varieties of apples, on approximately 328,000 acres. Nearly 100 varieties are in commercial production; the remainder are heirloom varieties grown in backyards and small-scale farming, generally sold at farmers’ markets.

    The 2013 crop was estimated at 248.6 million bushels, with a wholesale value of the U.S. apple crop is more than $2.7 billion. Sixty-seven percent of the crop is grown for fresh consumption and 33% goes for processing (applesauce, pie filling, juice, fresh slices, etc.).

    Apples are grown commercially in 32 states. The top ten apple producing states are, in order of size of crop:

  • Washington
  • New York
  • Michigan
  • Pennsylvania
  • California
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Ohio
  • Idaho
  •  
    The Top 10 apple varieties grown in the U.S. are, in order of crop size:

  • Red Delicious
  • Gala
  • Golden Delicious
  • Fuji
  • Granny Smith
  • McIntosh
  • Honeycrisp
  • Rome
  • Empire
  • Cripps Pink (Pink Lady)
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Citrus As A Cake Garnish Or Base

    With a limited offering of sweet fresh fruit during the winter, turn to seasonal citrus to dress your desserts.

    Angel cake, cheesecake, olive oil cake, pound cake, sponge cake: all are highly receptive to a garnish of citrus segments (or, depending on how you look at it, a citrus fruit salad).

    In addition to cheery color, if you use the citrus as a base you can place a smaller piece of cake atop a larger amount of fruit.

    Go for a blend of color—rosy blood oranges, pink cara cara oranges, conventional oranges, pink or red grapefruits (with perhaps some white grapefruit for contrast). You can also add some kumquats and something from the Mandarin group: clementines, satsumas, tangelos and tangerines.

    Cut some of the fruits into disks, and supreme others into segments. “Supreme” is the term that refers to removing the skin, pith, membranes and seeds of a citrus fruit and separating it into segments (wedges). Here’s a YouTube video showing you how to do it.

    One note: You may not want your cake sitting in the citrus juices. If so, be sure to drain the citrus well—but save those delicious juices and drink them or add them to a vinaigrette.

       

    olive-oil-cake-citrus-garnish-froghollowfarm-230r

    Create a colorful citrus garnish for plain cakes. Photo of olive oil cake courtesy Frog
    Hollow Farm.

     

    mandarin-peeled-noblejuice-230

    I am not an orange: I’m a mandarin! Photo courtesy Noble Juice.

     

    FOOD 101: THE MANDARIN IS NOT AN ORANGE

    A mandarin is erroneously called “mandarin orange”, but the two are separate species. Even Produce Pete calls clementines and mandarins “oranges,” so do what you can to spread the truth.

    There are three basic citrus types—citron, mandarin and pummelo—from which all modern citrus derives via hybrids or backcrosses.

    While they look like small oranges and are often called “mandarin oranges,” mandarins are a separate species that includes the clementine, mineola (red tangelo), murcott (also called honey tangerine), tangelo, temple and satsuma, among others.

  • Oranges are from the order Sapindales, family Rutaceae, genus Citrus and species C. × sinensis. They are believed to have originated in southern China and northeastern India. They were first cultivated in China around 2500 B.C.E.
  • Mandarins are from the order Sapindales, family Rutaceae and genus Citrus but differentiate at the species level: C. reticulata. Reticulata, Latin for reticulated, refers to the pattern of interlacing lines of the pith. Mandarins, which originated in Southeast Asia, are also identifiable by their loose skin.
  •  
    According to the horticulture experts at U.C. Davis, the mandarin reached the Mediterranean basin in the early 1800s, and arrived in Florida about 1825.You can read more here.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Meyer Lemons

    During the cold winter months with most fruits out of season, citrus become a go-to fruit. Calamondins, clementines, grapefruits, kumquats, lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, pomelos, satsumas, sweet limettas, tangelo, tangerine, ugli fruit and even more exotic varieties: All are waiting for you to enjoy.

    Cut them into salads, mix them into sauces, turn them into desserts and enjoy [most of them] as hand fruit.

    While your local stores and farmers markets may not carry calamondins or sweet limettas, they should be able to scare up some Meyer lemons. Deep canary yellow, these citrus treats are sweeter and less acidic than other lemons.

    A cross between a true lemon and either a sweet orange or a mandarin, Citrus × meyeri was first brought to the U.S. from China in 1908 by Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who, as an “agricultural explorer,” discovered it there.

    Of course, it was no discovery to the Chinese, who had long been growing the lemon in pots as an ornamental tree. Ornamental trees were planted in California yards, and the Meyer became popular in the U.S. when “rediscovered” by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in the 1990s. Other chefs and personalities like Martha Stewart began featuring them in recipes; groves were planted and the fruits showed up in markets.

       

    meyer-lemon-beauty-goodeggs-230

    Meyer lemons are much sweeter and more flavorful than the Bearss and Lisbon varieties commonly found in American grocery stores. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     
    Much smaller than the supermarket Lisbon lemon, with sweeter juice, less acid, brighter flavor, a thinner peel and more floral scent and flavor than other lemon varieties (more juice than Lisbon lemons, too!), Meyers are a hit among those who have brought them home. So today’s tip is: Bag a batch and decide how to use them.

    The rind and juice can be substituted wherever regular lemons are called for, in sweet and savory foods and beverages.

    Check out the different types of lemons in our Lemon Glossary.
     
    30+ WAYS TO USE MEYER LEMON

    If you find yourself addicted to Meyer lemons, here’s another tip: Squeeze the juice, freeze it in an ice cube tray and then store the cubes in double plastic freezer bags.

    Defrost a cube whenever you need a hit of Meyer lemon.

    MEYER LEMON IN BEVERAGES

  • Beer (squeeze a wedge into a lager, wheat beer or other lighter style)
  • Cocktails
  • Espresso (use the peel)
  • Hot or iced tea
  • Lemonade (recipe)
  • Meyer limoncello (recipe)
  • Regular or sparkling water
  • Simple syrup (recipe)
  •  

    meyer-lemon-trees-slt-230

    Meyer lemons were originally houseplants in China. You can still buy them as houseplants. These are from Sur La Table.

     

    MEYER LEMON IN SAVORY DISHES

  • Aïoli (recipe)
  • Any recipe that calls for lemon
  • Avgolemono soup or sauce (recipe)
  • Beurre citron (lemon beurre blanc), a delicious sauce for salmon or Arctic char (recipe below)
  • Freshly squeezed atop the dish
  • Hollandaise sauce (recipe)
  • Vinaigrette: replace half or all the vinegar and add some of the zest
  • Wedge garnish
  •  
    MEYER LEMON IN DESSERTS

  • Baked or frozen soufflé
  • Ice cream, sorbet, granita
  • Lemon chiffon cake
  • Lemon bundt, pound cake or cupcakes
  • Lemon custard (also delicious as layer cake filling)
  • Lemon meringue pie
  •  
    USES FOR GRATED MEYER LEMON ZEST

  • General garnish
  • Gremolata (minced parsley, garlic and lemon zest used as a condiment with meats—recipe)
  • Lemon shortbread (recipe)
  • Meringue cookies (recipe)
  • Whipped cream
  •  
    MORE USES FOR MEYER LEMON

  • Candied lemon peel
  • Fruit curd
  • Lemon centerpiece—enjoy the aroma for a few days before you use them
  • Preserved lemons
  •  
    RECIPE: LEMON BEURRE BLANC

    This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown, who offers this trick: You can make the sauce in advance and store it in a thermos, where it will stay hot until until ready to serve.

    Ingredients

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces white wine
  • 2 ounces lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the shallots, white wine and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Reduce to 2 tablespoons.

    2. ADD the cream; when the liquid bubbles, reduce the heat to low. Add half the butter, one cube at a time, whisking continuously. Remove from the heat and then add the remaining cubes, continuing to whisk until the mixture is fully emulsified and has reached a rich sauce consistency.

    3. SEASON with salt and white pepper to taste.

      

    Comments

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