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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 Vegetables/Salads/Herbs

TIP OF THE DAY: Try Leeks

When was the last time you cooked leeks?

Leeks are closely related to onions and shallots, although they are not interchangeable in recipes, as their flavors and intensities differ.

  • Leeks look like jumbo green onions (scallions). The long, thick stalks are mild. Leeks are hardier than onions and shallots, and are also more difficult to clean and cook. Unlike onions, leeks don’t produce bulbs or grow underground.
  • Onions come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and tastes, from sweet and mild to pungent, spicy and even acrid. Easy to grow, it is used in cuisines worldwide. The bulb grows underground, revealing itself by a single, vertical shoot above ground.
  • Shallots look like small yellow onions, a bit more oblong in shape. They grow underground. Their flavor is onion-like—sharper when raw but much more sweet and delicate when cooked, an onion-garlic hybrid. Like garlic, the bulbs grow in cloves. Unlike onions, shallots normally bloom white or violet flowers.
  •  
    Leeks are often called “gourmet onions” because they are harder to find and costlier than onions. They can be prepared easily—boiled, braised, fried, sautéed or poached—or in elaborate recipes, or served raw as a milder substitute for onions.

       

    roast-leeks-latourangelle-230

    Roasted leeks are delicious, low in calories and easy to make. Photo courtesy La Tourangelle.

     

    The only rub is cleaning them. Leeks grow in sandy soil and don’t have a protective skin cover like onions and shallots; so you’ve got to be sure to get the sand out. Here’s a video showing how to clean leeks.

    Leeks are available throughout the year, although they are in greater supply from the fall through the early spring. Purchasing tips:

  • While larger leeks may look more impressive, they are generally more fibrous in texture. Select leeks with a diameter of one and one-half inches or less.
  • In a recipe where the leeks are cooked whole (like the one below), select leeks that are of similar size to ensure consistent cooking.
  •  
    Try this easy recipe from La Tourangelle, producers of the finest culinary oils and a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. The recipe tastes extra-special using their Roasted Walnut Oil or Roasted Hazelnut Oil, but is certainly delicious with EVOO. You can serve it as a side or a first course.
     
    RECIPE: ROASTED LEEKS WITH MUSTARD-TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds small leeks, trimmed, rinsed and halved lengthwise
  • 2.5 tablespoons walnut oil, hazelnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  •  

    leeks-organic-goodeggs-230ps-r

    Leeks, fresh from the field. Photo courtesy
    GoodEggs.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Prepare an ice bath in a bowl.

    2. BRING a 2-quart pot of salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the leeks to the ice bath. Let chill completely, about 1 minute. Transfer the leeks to a paper towel-lined plate to drain about 3 minutes.

    3. DRIZZLE the leeks with the oil and toss to coat. Place on a baking sheet or baking pan and roast the leeks until they become slightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl…

    4. WHISK together the vinegar, mustard, garlic and lemon zest to make a vinaigrette.

    5. REMOVE the leeks from the oven and transfer to a platter. Spoon the vinaigrette over the leeks and garnish with the black pepper and tarragon. Serve hot or at room temperature. Enjoy!

     
    MORE LEEK RECIPES

  • Fried Leeks Garnish
  • Leek & Giblet Stuffing
  • Leek Soup
  • Leek & Seaweed Salad
  • Vichyssoise (leek and potato soup)
  •  
    ABOUT LEEKS

    Leeks are a member of the Allium genus, which includes garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions. Their botanical family, Amaryllidaceae, comprises herbaceous, perennial and bulbous flowering plants including the amaryllis, from which it takes its name.

    Leeks look like large scallions, having a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk of superimposed layers that flows into green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves. Cultivated leeks are usually about 12 inches in length and one to two inches in diameter and feature a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of shallots but sweeter and more subtle.

    Wild leeks, known as ramps, are much smaller in size, but have a stronger, more intense flavor. They are available for a short period of time each year and are often widely sought out at farmers markets when they are in season.

    Believed to be native to Central Asia, leeks have been cultivated in there and in Europe for thousands of years. They were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were thought to be beneficial to the throat. The Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.

    The Romans most likely introduced leeks to Britain; they were so esteemed in Wales that they became country’s national emblem. As the story goes, during a battle against that Saxons in 1620, Welsh soldiers placed leeks in their caps to differentiate themselves from the enemy—and won the battle, of course.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Gourmet Potato Tots (A.K.A. Tater Tots)

    sandwich-tater-tots-redduckketchup-230

    Heaven: sandwich, beer, potato tots. Photo
    courtesy Red Duck Ketchup.

     

    They’re not quite senior citizens, but Tater Tots® hit the big 6-0 this year. You could buy a box to celebrate, or you could make your own, tastier tots—bite-size potato croquettes—from scratch.

    The Idaho Potato Commission salutes the tot as both an inspired potato product and a springboard for potato creativity. Its website boasts a collection of innovative tot recipes and variations on the theme.

    For example, enhance the potato mixture with:

    ROBUST SEASONINGS

  • Aromatics, such as truffles
  • Herbs (parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme)
  • Onion or scallion—lots more than in Tater Tots*
  •  
    ELABORATE STUFFINGS

    Stuffed Tots with elaborate fillings:

  • Simple proteins (crumbled bacon, shredded crab, Parmesan, blue cheese)
  • Braised pork
  • Curried chicken
  •  
    HEARTY TOPPINGS

  • Breakfast scrambles
  • Chili
  • Nachos
  • Poutine (brown gravy and cheese curds†)
  •  
    *The ingredients in Tater Tots are potato, vegetable oil, salt, corn flour, onions, dextrose (a simple sugar also known as glucose), disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate (an antioxidant that prevents potatoes from turning brown) and natural flavoring.

    *Traditional poutine consists of these toppings on fries, but we’re borrowing them for tots.
     

    TATER TOTS VS. POTATO TOTS

    The term Tater Tots is used generically, like Kleenex; although it’s a trademark of Ore-Ida, which invented the little potato bites in 1953. If you’re referring to anything but the Tater Tots brand, call them “potato tots.”

    Tater Tots are made from deep-fried, grated potatoes, resulting in crisp little cylinders of hash brown-style potatoes. Tater is American dialect for potato, and “tots” came from their small size.

    Ore-Ida founders, brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg, were considering what to do with leftover slivers of cut-up potatoes from their signature French fries. They chopped them up, mixed them with flour and seasonings, and pushed logs of the grated/mashed potato mixture through a form, slicing off and frying small pieces.

    Tater Tots began to arrive in grocery stores in 1954. They quickly caught on as a snack food, a side dish and the foundation for casseroles at dinner tables across America.

    The Ore-Ida brand was acquired by H. J. Heinz Company in 1965.

     

    LOADED POTATO TOTS

    This potato tot recipe borrows from the “loaded baked potato” concept, adding bacon, chives, shredded cheese and sour cream.

    Ingredients

  • 2½ pounds russet potatoes, divided
  • 2 ounces bacon, double-smoked, cooked, chopped
  • 6 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 1 ounce butter, melted
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt, as needed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 each eggs, lightly whipped
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
  •  

    loaded-potato-tots-idahopotatocomm-230r

    Loaded Potato Tots. Photo and recipe courtesy Idaho Potato Commission.

     

    Preparation

    1. BOIL 2 pounds of potatoes. Cool, peel and mash.

    2. COMBINE bacon, cheese, chives, butter, cream, pepper and salt to taste in a large bowl; blend well. Roll into 1-ounce pieces, place on wax paper-lined sheet pan and chill overnight.

    3. SHRED remaining potatoes, using a box grater, into a shallow bowl.

    4. PLACE flour in another shallow bowl. Roll potato tots in flour to lightly coat then coat in egg. Roll in shredded potatoes to form crust. Return to sheet pan and chill.

    5. HEAT oil to 375°F in a heavy-bottomed pot, and fry balls until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel to drain. Season with salt and serve.
     

    AND THERE’S MORE

  • Recipe: Baked Potato Tots
  • History of potatoes
  • Potato Types
  •   

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Veggie Fries

    If the only way to get the family to eat more veggies is to feed them fries…well, Veggie Fries should become a very big brand.

    You can make veggie fries, which substitute all or some of the potato for a more nutritious vegetable, from scratch at home.

    Or, you can buy Veggie Fries, a new line that has debuted offering:

  • Broccoli fries (27% broccoli and beans)
  • Carrot fries (32% carrots and beans)
  • Chickpea & Red Pepper fries (25% chickpeas and bell peppers)
  • Tuscan Bean & Herb fries (29% beans and herbs)
  •  
    The all natural line mixes better-for-you vegetables and legumes in with potato, to deliver more fiber and vitamins. The fries are low in sodium and gluten-free.

    The company tried more than 300 recipes to create the perfect veggie fries: extra crispy on the outside, fluffy and tender on the inside. We hope you love them as much as we do.

    Learn more at EatVeggieFries.com.

       

    broccoli-fries-plate-bag-230

    One of the new fries in town: Broccoli Veggie Fries. Photo courtesy Healthy Life Brands.

     

    chickpea-red-pepper-plate-230sq

    Chickpea & Red Bell Pepper Fries. Photo
    courtesy Healthy Life Brands.

     

    The fries bake in the oven, and in just 18 to 23 minutes you’ll have crispy fries to enjoy with your favorite foods—or all by themselves as a lower-guilt fry snack.

    Serve them with your favorite condiments, or try a new one, like ponzu sauce—an Asian alternative to the malt vinegar preferred by the Brits instead of ketchup. Or take a look at these more unusual, sophisticated condiments from Chef Johnny Gnall.

    If ketchup is your condiment, take a look at the best ketchup brands. For example, blend your own chili paste and honey or hot sauce, a dip of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, or flavored mayonnaise.

    And consider creating a signature fries recipe with different toppings.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cauliflower Salad & Romesco Sauce

    Victoria Amory is a cook and food writer born and raised in Spain. She now lives in the U.S., and has her own line of specialty sauces.

    One of the signature sauces from the Catalonia region of Spain is romesco. Learn more about it below.

    Victoria’s sells an Almond & Garlic Romesco Sauce, but you can make your own from scratch, using almonds, other nuts, or a blend.

    Crafted with red chile peppers, pimentón (paprika), nuts and extra virgin olive oil, romesco is a perfect sauce to use with meats, roasted vegetables, shellfish and fish. “It elevates your everyday meals to everyday feasts,” says Chef Victoria.

    If you have leftover sauce, it is delicious as a dip or bread spread.

    For an everyday feast, try her Cauliflower And Bacon Salad With Romesco Sauce.

    RECIPE: WARM CAULIFLOWER & BACON SALAD WITH
    ROMESCO SAUCE

    Ingredients

       

    multicolored-cauliflower-nourishtheroots-230

    Colored cauliflower makes the dish more exciting. Photo courtesy NourishTheRoots.com.

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and chopped into florets
  • ½ pound bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3 large slices country white or wheat bread, torn into pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can (8 ounces) garbanzo beans, canned, rinsed
  • ¼ pound baby spinach leaves, rinsed & dried
  • 1 cup romesco sauce, to serve
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, toss together the cauliflower, bacon, olive oil and vinegar. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

    2. TOSS the bread with the garlic and extra virgin olive oil and add the cauliflower. Roast for an additional 10 minutes or until the bread is toasted and the cauliflower is golden.

    3. MIX the cauliflower with the chickpeas and toss with the spinach leaves. Add a drizzle of olive oil if needed. Serve warm with romesco sauce on the side.

     

    romesco-dip-Aida-Mollenkamp-230

    Romesco sauce and dip. Photo courtesy Aida
    Mollenkamp.

     

    RECIPE: ROMESCO SAUCE & DIP

    As with most recipes, there is considerable variation in the proportion of ingredients. This version is adapted from chef Aida Mollenkamp.

    Ingredients

  • 1 jar (15 ounces) roasted bell peppers (pimento)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 6 ounces blanched almonds (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Optional heat: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    2. SERVE with crudites, crusty sliced bread or your favorite crackers.

     

    WHAT IS ROMESCO SAUCE?

    First, it isn’t romanesco sauce. There is no romanesco sauce. Romanesco is a language; the sauce is romesco.

    Romesco is a pungent, smooth, rich red sauce made from red peppers, tomatoes, ground almonds or other nuts, olive oil, garlic, and cayenne pepper. It originated in Tarragona, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea in the province of Catalonia in northeast Spain. Though the exact origin is unclear (as is the meaning of the name), it is believed that the local fishermen made it to eat with their catch.

    It has become a popular sauce beyond seafood, enjoyed with meat, poultry and vegetables as well as for a dip and a bread spread.

    The nuts can be any mixture of roasted or raw almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts or walnuts, plus roasted garlic, olive oil, mild bitxo chiles (red chiles similar to Anaheim/New Mexico chiles) and/or nyora peppers (a sun dried, small, round variety of red bell pepper).

    Flour or ground stale bread is sometimes used as a thickener or to provide texture. Other common ingredients employed in different recipe variations include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onions. Leaves of fennel or mint are added when the sauce is served with fish and other seafood.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad

    Here’s a twist on an American favorite: Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad. It replaces the romaine—crunchy, but not particularly nutritious—with Brussels sprouts, a superfood.

    Brussels sprouts, a member of the powerful wcruciferous vegetable* family, are usually available year-round. However, they are a cold weather vegetable, and the peak season is from September to mid-February.

    Buying tip: The smaller the sprout, the sweeter the taste. Although the larger sprouts may look appealing, aim for those that are 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Pick sprouts of the same size so they’ll cook evenly.

    Never overcook Brussels sprouts, and don’t store them for future use. Even though they’ll look normal, as the harvested sprouts age, the sulfuric compounds that are so unpleasant in overcooked sprouts become more prominent in the raw ones.

    This recipe, from Litehouse Foods, uses their OPA Caesar Dressing, made with Greek yogurt.

    Prep time is 15 minutes.

       

    purple-brussels-familyspice-friedasFB-230

    Yes, you can find purple Brussels sprouts! These are from Frieda’s Produce.

     

     

    Brussels-Sprouts-Caesar-Salad-litehouse-opa-230

    Brussels sprouts replace the romaine in this
    Caesar salad. Photo courtesy Litehouse
    Foods.

     

    RECIPE: BRUSSELS SPROUTS CAESAR SALAD

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 1 package sliced Brussels sprouts (or 16 ounces whole Brussels sprouts, sliced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup OPA by Litehouse Caesar or other Caesar dressing (classic Caesar dressing recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    Preparation

    1. BLANCH the sliced Brussels sprouts in boiling water for approximately 1 minute, then immerse in bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain.

     
    2. PLACE the Brussels sprouts in mixing bowl; top with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese.

    3. TOSS all ingredients in the dressing, or serve the dressing on the side. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately.

     
    *The cruciferous group includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna (a variety of mustard green), mustard greens, radish, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi, turnip and wasabi, a type of horseradish. Mizuna and tatsoi have become “designer greens” in salads at America’s finest restaurants. All contain phytochemicals (antioxidants), vitamins, minerals and fiber that are important to your health; although some of the group are more poerful than others. Government health agencies recommend that we eat several servings of them per week.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Bread Salad #2 (Panzanella)

    bread-salad-2-pillsbury-230r

    Bread salad: Try it, you’ll love it. Photo
    courtesy Pillsbury.

     

    Several weeks ago we published a recipe for panzanella, Tuscan bread salad. While perusing other recipes, we discovered this one on Pillsbury.com, submitted by Carrian Cheney of the blog, Oh Sweet Basil.

    It’s what to do when you have leftover French or Italian bread, to convert into crusty croutons that absorb the dressing.

    While markets are still filled with bountiful produce, make hay and make panzanella.

    Prep time is 20 minutes. You can substitute any vegetables in the recipe for others, from fennel to eggplant and beyond.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 loaves day-old crusty baguette, refrigerated and chopped
  • 3 large any color bell peppers, assorted colors, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2/3 cup your favorite creamy dill dressing or vinaigrette
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    Preparation

    1. HEAT 4 tablespoons olive oil in 10- to 12-inch skillet, over medium heat. Arrange bread pieces in single layer in skillet (you will have to do a few batches). Cook until golden; turn and cook again. Repeat with remaining bread. Remove from skillet; cool.

    2. HEAT the remaining olive oil in the same skillet, over medium heat. Add bell peppers, zucchini and onion; cook 3 to 6 minutes or until tender. Cool.

    3. PLACE bread, cooked vegetables, tomatoes and dressing in a very large bowl; add salt and pepper to taste. Toss; serve immediately.
     
    Find many more delicious recipes at OhSweetBasil.com.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 5 Ways To Use Chiles

    ChilesNogada_poblano-pomwonderful-230r

    Grilled chiles can be served plain, or in this
    Chiles Nogada (walnut sauce) recipe from
    Pom Wonderful. Photo courtesy Pom
    Wonderful.

     

    In addition to shrimp on the barbie, how about some chiles?

    Here are 5 tips for using chiles from Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill:

  • Jalapeño Chiles. Jalapeños are found in practically every market but vary widely in their heat range. Usually the bigger the chile, the milder the flavor. Store fresh jalapeños in a loosely closed plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
  • Poblano Chiles. Poblanos and large jalapeños taste great when grilled or roasted. Set them over a gas flame, under a broiler or on the grill. Roast, turning often, until the skin is blistered and blackened—about 10 minutes. Cool, covered with a cloth towel. Gently slip off and discard the charred skin. Use the whole chile for chiles rellenos; cut them into thin slices to add to soups, salads and stews; or finely chop and add them to salsa.
  • Habanero Chiles. Stock up on fresh habaneros now at local farmers markets. Simply put them into freezer containers; they’ll keep nicely for several months. Or roast the habaneros and grind them in a blender with fresh lime juice and salt into a thick salsa. Serve this blazing hot condiment with eggs, roast or grilled pork and seafood.
  •  

  • Dried Chiles. Whether you purchase them dried or dry them yourself, dried chiles will keep in the freezer for a year or so; then they can be turned into a seasoning paste. Defrost, remove the seeds and stems and tear the flesh into flat pieces. Gently toast the pieces in a hot cast-iron skillet just until aromatic (a few seconds). Then soak in hot water until soft and purée in a blender until smooth. Use this chile paste to season sauces, salsas and stews.
  • Chipotles In Adobo. You’ll find these canned in supermarkets and elsewhere. After opening the can, transfer the contents to a glass jar and store in fridge; the chiles will keep several months. Use the spicy adobo sauce to season barbecue sauce, stews and chili.
  •  
    HOW MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHILES HAVE YOU HAD?

    Check out the types of chiles in our Chile Glossary.

     

    chiles-grilling-basket-weber-amz-230

    A grilling basket is very handy for grilling chiles (above, habaneros and jalapeños) and other vegetables. Photo courtesy Weber.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Party With Veggie Sandwiches

    philly-cheesesteak-portabella-230rl

    Pile grilled veggies onto a sandwich. Photo
    courtesy Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

     

    Why wait for Meatless Mondays to have a great veggie sandwich? Every healthcare professional advises eating less animal protein and more vegetables and grains. And of course, eating less meat is far better for the environment.

    So start by switching some of your sandwich intake to delicious vegetarian sandwiches. It’s painless!

    While we love a sliced avocado and tomato sandwich using local summer tomatoes, we think that grilled vegetables make the best vegetarian sandwiches. While it’s still prime grilling season, develop some signature veggie sandwich recipes. You can even turn the concept into a veggie sandwich party—a build-your-own sandwich buffet.

    Creative flavor layering is at the heart of a great veggie sandwich. Peruse the following groups for inspiration, and offer something from each group.

    GROUP 1: HEARTY VEGETABLES, GRILLED OR ROASTED

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Bell peppers
  • Bok choy
  • Broccolini
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Onions
  • Poblano Chiles
  • Portabella mushrooms
  • Romaine
  • Summer squash: yellow squash and zucchini
  • Tofu (not a vegetable, but an excellent vegetarian addition to this list)
  • GROUP 2: RAW VEGETABLES

  • Avocado, sliced or diced
  • Cabbage, shredded
  • Carrots, shredded
  • Cherry tomatoes in vinaigrette
  • Cucumber
  • Leafy greens: arugula, spinach, watercress
  • Mustard greens/mizuna/tatsoi
  • Sprouts
  •  

    GROUP 3: SPREADS

  • Bean dip
  • Greek yogurt or labneh, plain or seasoned
  • Guacamole
  • Hummus
  • Soft, spreadable cheeses
  • Tapenade
  • Tzatziki
  •  
    GROUP 4: CONDIMENTS

  • Barbecue sauce
  • Chutney
  • Cocktail sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise/flavored mayonnaise
  • Mustard(s)
  • Pesto
  • Relish
  • Salsa/Chimichurri
  • Sauces: horseradish, yogurt-dill
  • Vinaigrette & other salad dressings
  •  
    GROUP 5: FLAVOR ACCENTS

  • Chopped herbs
  • Dried fruit: cherries, cranberries, raisins
  • Kimchi
  • Pickled beets, cucumbers, onions or peppers
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sliced olives and/or chiles
  • Toasted seeds
  •  

    grilled-radicchio-230

    Grilled raddicho, endive and romaine are delicious, on a sandwich or as a side. Photo courtesy Radicchio.com.

     
    GROUPS 6 & 7: SIDES & SANDWICH BREADS

    Of course, the remaining ingredient to make veggie sandwiches is bread. We won’t add more long lists here, just two bullets:

  • Bread and rolls: Three or more different styles for a party. If you’re grilling, grilled bread is delicious.
  • Sides: The usual suspects, including chips, cole slaw, potato salad, even green salad.
  •  
    Party on, veggie-style!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Farmers Market Shopping Tips

    One of our favorite weekly recreations is strolling through our local farmers market. We love looking at the farm-fresh, locally-grown produce, baked goods, cheeses and seafood pulled fresh from the ocean. We love finding things we’d never find in a retail store. Purslane, anyone?

    You meet nice people, too. Aside from the farmers themselves, the customers can be helpful, sharing “finds” and cooking tips. Last week, one gentlemen pulled out his wallet to help us when he thought we didn’t have enough cash to pay for our heirloom tomatoes!

    Don’t expect bargains at a farmers market: You’re getting top quality, fresh-picked produce grown by small family farmers. We could pay less for peaches at Trader Joe’s, shipped in from who knows where. We save where we can, but we’re glad that we can afford to help keep family farms in business.

    Birds & Blooms magazine consulted farmers nationwide to create a comprehensive guide to the proper etiquette and best tips for shopping at farmers markets. Here are our top ten (the full list of 33 tips can be found here):

  • Go early. When we tarry and arrive after noon, the fresh corn is almost always gone. It’s also fun to watch the stands set up, and to enjoy the early morning air on a nice day.
  •    

    hollywood-farmers-market-.net-230

    A walk through a farmers market is a food
    lover’s joy. Photo courtesy Hollywood Farmers
    Market
    . Wish we were there right now!

     

  • Bring cash. Most markets are a strictly cash business. Credit and debit cards not only erode profits by taking a fee with each purchase, but renting the electronic scanners also erodes the already-low profit margins.
  • Don’t haggle! Traditions from the flea market do not port over to the farmers market. Farmers are almost always giving you the best price they can while still making a profit. Be happy to pay in full—you’re not only getting better, fresher produce, you’ll also be supporting a local farm.
  • Bring your own tote bags. Having a reusable bag is eco-friendly and also cuts out the number of plastic bags farmers have to pay for.
  •  

    tomatoes-greenbeans-birdsandblooms-230

    Handle gently! Photo courtesy Birds and
    Blooms.

     
  • Look around before buying. We are guilty of shopping at the first stand we encounter, only to find that the same item costs 50¢ a pound less, just five stands away. Walk the market first to compare prices and products; then decide where to spend your money.
  • Respect the produce. While you typically inspect the fruit and veggies and help yourself, remember that many of these items are fragile. Do your best to handle everything with great care, and not to tear up a display in search of the perfect bunch of basil.
  • Don’t spurn imperfections. Some heirloom varieties may not look as perfect as supermarket varieties (that’s why they’re heirlooms, not mainstream). But even though that tomato looks strangely lumpy, you can bet that it will taste a lot better than the perfect-looking one from the store. And once it’s sliced, you won’t notice.
  • Ask questions. Farmers love to talk about what they raise, as long as they aren’t super busy. They often take great pride in educating customers about their farms and their wares. Ask questions, and soak it all in.
  •  

  • Be adventurous. First, try something you haven’t tried before. The farmer can suggest how to prepare it, or you can look online.
  • Get tips from the farmer. Ask how long the eggs, dairy products, produce or baked goods should last, and what can be kept on the counter versus the fridge.
  •  
    TO FIND A FARMERS MARKET NEAR YOU, VISIT LOCALHARVEST.ORG.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Chioggia Beets

    chioggia-beets-matchsticks-beeraw-230

    Chioggia beets, candy striped by nature.
    Photo courtesy BeeRaw.com.

     

    Some vegetables just engender a smile. For us, watermelon radish and chioggia beets are two of these, both charmingly candy striped by nature.

    It’s so much fun to find them at farmers markets and add them to salads and crudité plates.

    This show-stopping salad is made of raw chioggia (pronounced kee-OH-juh) beets, also known as bullseye beets, candy cane beets and candy stripe beets.

    The chioggia is impressive for its dramatic presentation and in this recipe (photo at left) it is combined with other simple, bright flavors. A bonus: this variety of beet doesn’t bleed, which good news for those of us who have stained an item or two with beet juice.

    The recipe is courtesy Bee Raw honey, which made it with their clover honey.

    A beet-washing tip: While it can be tempting to scrub away at the beet skin with a vegetable brush, it’s delicate. Be gentle.

     
    Cooking Chioggia Beets

    If you think about cooking them in a subsequent recipe, note that heat causes the pink rings to fade. Sadly, what nature giveth, nature taketh away. This also happens with other unusually colored foods, like purple asparagus.

    You can boil them with a spoonful of lemon juice or white vinegar to keep the color from fading. But that’s why using them raw in a salad, or pickled, is ideal.

    You can find chioggia beets at farmers markets and some specialty food markets. Note that if you’re storing the beets, first cut the greens from the root; then place them in separate plastic bags in the fridge.

    RECIPE: RAW CHIOGGIA BEET SALAD WITH HONEY VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients For 4 To 6 Servings

  • 3-4 medium chioggia beets (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds) (substitute another beet variety if chioggia isn’t available)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios (substitute edamame)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: We added sliced red onion (substitute green onions), a garnish of goat cheese (substitute feta) and a garnish of chopped fresh mint (substitute basil)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. WASH and dry the beets. Cut the beets into uniform matchstick-sized pieces; place in a medium to large bowl.

    2. CHOP pistachios; set aside.

    3. WHISK together the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice and honey in a small bowl. Toss with beets and optional onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    4. PLATE salads on individual plates and and sprinkle with pistachios and optional goat cheese and herbs. Serve immediately.
     
    MORE ABOUT CHIOGGIA BEETS

    Beets, Beta vulgaris, are a member of the Amaranth family, Amaranthaceae, along with lamb’s quarters, purslane, Swiss chard and quinoa, among many others. Heirloom chioggia beets were noted in northern Italy before 1840. They are named after a fishing village near Venice. The variety arrived in the U.S. prior to 1865.

     

    chioggia-whole-and-sliced-goodeggs-230

    Chioggia beets, whole and sliced. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     

    The light red skin looks like many other beets, but the candy striped white and red rings inside are a visual treat. The flesh is very tender, mild and sweet without the earthiness that some people don’t like in conventional red beets.

    The beet is a root vegetable; it is known as beetroot in the U.K. and other Commonwealth countries. The wild beet is thought to have originated in prehistoric times in North Africa, and later grew wild along Asian and European seashores. Surprisingly, given the constant quest for food, early people ate the beet greens only.

    The ancient Romans were among the first to cultivate beets and eat the roots. The tribes that invaded Rome after the fall were carried beets throughout northern Europe. There, they were initially used as animal fodder and later for human consumption. [Source]

    Beets became more popular in the 16th century but really became prominent in the 19th century, when it was discovered that they were a concentrated source of sugar.

    Enjoy them baked, pickled, roasted, sautéed, steamed or sliced or grated raw in a salad. Consider baking them with yellow squash and/or zucchini and any herbs, tossed in olive oil for 30 minutes at 350°F (the pretty chioggia stripes will not survive the heat). These baked veggies are delicious plain, but toward the end you can add grated cheese for a gratiné.

  • You can also toss in leftover chicken, meat or fish, and a top of mashed potatoes (like shepherd’s pie).
  • Don’t forget to sauté the beet greens. Cook them like chard or spinach, in olive oil with a sliced garlic clove. It’s especially nice if you have some bacon fat to throw in.
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    Beet Nutrition

  • Beets are very low in fat and have no cholesterol. They are a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, potassium and manganese, and a good source of iron, magnesium and vitamin C.
  • For those avoiding sugar should note that a 4.8 ounce serving has 9g sugar.
  • Betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets their red color, is a powerful antioxidant that is believed to protect against heart disease, birth defects and colon cancer, among others.
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