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Archive for Vegetables/Salads/Herbs

TIP OF THE DAY: Ingredients For Exciting Winter Salads

Green Salad With Apples & Pecans

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

Green Salad With Edamame

thai-celery-salad-with-peanuts-bonappetit-230

Top: Mixed greens with apples and pecans.
Second: Shaved Brussels sprouts,
watermelon radishes on greens, topped with
feta from Good Eggs. Third: Edamame, diced
red bell pepper and black beans top greens
at Betty Crocker. Bottom: Thai celery salad
with sliced hot chiles and peanuts. Photo
courtesy Bon Appetit.

 

Over the weekend we had the occasion to meet friends for two different restaurant meals. At both, the side salad we ordered was boring: monotonously green with no contrast, but for dull croutons on one and a crown of thin-sliced red onions on the other.

These were not free salads; they were overpriced sides. When we mentioned our disappointment to the servers, both mentioned the “limited selection” in winter.

Limited choices, NO. Lack of imagination or sheer laziness, YES.

There’s just as much opportunity to pack green salads with color and texture as any other time of the year.

It’s just as easy to balance the flavors and textures with something bright-colored, something crunchy, something tangy, something peppery and something sweet.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to sprinkle with colorful, crunchy pomegranate seeds or some mandarin segments.

And it doesn’t have to cost more: Use pricier ingredients sparingly and they’ll still add interest.

Here’s how to add interest to winter salads while Mother Nature is taking a nap.

  • Plan for something crunchy, something colorful and something sweet in each salad.
  • Incorporate two colors besides green—red cherry tomatoes and orange bell peppers, for example.
  • Any salad can be turned into a lunch or dinner main when topped with a protein.
  • Don’t overlook your leftovers, from beans to grains and pasta. Toss them in!
  •  
    START HERE TO BUILD YOUR WINTER SALAD

    Pick something from each group, and no one will find your salads boring.

    Salad Greens: Beyond Everyday Lettuce

  • Arugula
  • Baby spinach
  • Bell pepper
  • Cabbage (especially Savoy cabbage)
  • Endive
  • Frisée
  • Kale
  • Lettuce, beyond iceberg and romaine
  • Watercress
  •  
    Other Vegetables

  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts, shaved
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Celery root
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Fennel
  • Hearts of palm
  • Onion
  • Pickled vegetbles
  • Pimento
  • Mushrooms, raw or marinated
  • Radicchio or red endive
  • Radishes
  • Red cabbage
  • Squash, roasted and diced
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Turnip, shaved
  • Water chestnuts
  •  
    As you go up and down the produce aisles, look for other ingredients you’d like to try, whether as a principal ingredient or an accent.

     

    A Touch Of Fruit

    You don’t have to add fruit to every green salad, although most people will enjoy the touch of sweetness.

    Diced, sliced or segmented, you’ve got great choices:

  • Apple
  • Citrus: kumquat, mandarin, orange, pink or red grapefruit
  • Dried fruits: apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, figs, raisins, dates
  • Grapes
  • Pear, Asian pear
  • Persimmons
  •  
    Garnishes

  • Cheese: crumbled, shaved, shredded
  • Chiles
  • Corn kernels
  • Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, parsley
  • Nuts, toasted or candied
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Seeds
  •  
    Plus A Touch Of…

  • Anchovies
  • Bacon
  • Beans
  • Baby potatoes or sunchokes
  • Capers
  • Croutons
  • Grains
  • Preserved lemons
  • Olives
  •  
    For The Dressing

    We’re fans of vinaigrettes rather than heavier dressings (although we do have a weakness for a great blue cheese dressing).

    Vinaigrettes are lighter, lower in calories (in that you use less), and most importantly, offer so much variety in terms of which oils and which vinegars you use.

     

    Arugula & Quinoa Salad

    Arugula & Burrata Salad

    Spinach Salad, Apples, Beets

    Top: Quinoa, arugula, red onion and sundried tomato at California Pizza Kitchen. Second: Mesclun and burrata atop beets, garnished with cherry tomatoes and a jumbo garlic crouton, at Duplex On Third. Third: Spinach salad with apples, beets and sliced almonds from Butterball.

    Anyone can mix three parts of oil with one part of acid. Take a look at:

  • Flavored oils
  • Nut oils
  • Flavored vinegars and balsamic vinegar
  • Herb-infused vinaigrette
  • Layered viniagrettes: add Dijon mustard, fresh lemon or lime juice, honey, horseradish or wasabi, orange juice, maple syrup
  •  
    These options should keep you busy…until the spring veggies arrive, and beyond.
     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Chop Herbs

    Chopping Parsley

    Fresh Cilantro

    Top: Be sure that herbs are absolutely dry
    before you chop them. Photo courtesy
    Williams-Sonoma. Bottom: Remove the
    woody stems but keep the green portions.
    Photo of cilantro courtesy Good Eggs | San
    Francisco.

     

    Fresh herbs are the avenue to adding a big punch of flavor with few calories to most dishes.

    The emphasis is on fresh. While dried herb are a fine stand-by, they don’t deliver the same flavor—and the flavor fades as they age. First…

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HERBS & SPICES

    These two terms are often used interchangeably, but that’s inaccurate. There are important differences.

  • Herbs are the leaves of a plant (although stems may also be used). They grow in any climate warm enough to grow vegetables.
  • Spices are from the seeds, roots, fruit or bark, and typically used in dried form. Most originate in tropical or semi-tropical regions.
  •  
    It’s possible for one plant to contain both herb and spice. For example:

  • Cilantro, an herb, is the leaf of the coriander plant; the seeds of the plant, coriander, are a spice.
  • Dill weed, an herb, and dill seed, a spice, come from the same plant.
  •  
    SWEET & SAVORY HERBS

    Most herbs can be used in savory dishes. Think dill, garlic, thyme, oregano, parsley. In addition, there are the so-called sweet herbs, that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes:

  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Licorice
  • Mint
  • Rose Geranium
  • Tarragon
  •  
    There are other sweet herb not often found in the U.S., such as sweet cicely (British myrrh). Stevia, an herb, delivers sweetness in addition to licorice notes.
     
    HOW TO CHOP FRESH HERBS

    Here’s what you should know before you grab a sharp chef’s knife and the cutting board:

    1. Be sure the washed herbs are fully dry.

    If they’re just a bit damp, they’ll get mushy when you chop them.

  • While you can use paper towels to pat them dry, the best course is to wash them in advance of when you need them—even a half hour in advance—and let them dry naturally.
  • Don’t have time to let them dry? Gout the hair dryer! No kidding: We’ve done this more than once with big, damp bunches of parsley.
  •  
    Next up: Different herbs require different chopping techniques.

     

    2. Herbs with edible stems.

    When you throw away the slender stems of herbs like cilantro, dill and parsley, you’re throwing away money. They are just as edible as the leaves.

  • Trim the bottom part of the stems, including any thick portion. If you don’t want to use them in the particular recipe, freeze them for later use in soups, stocks, stir-frys, pestos, minced into plate garnishes, etc. The stems freeze well; delicate leaves, less so.
  • Then, simply chop the stems along with the leaves. Don’t spend any time pulling the leaves off the stems!
  • Green stems from any herb can be cut fine or tossed into anything you’re cooking.
  • Use them in the same way you use bay leaf: When the food is cooked, remove and discard them. Use a spice ball if you like. They are a great addition to sauces, soups and even stir-frys.
  •  
    3. Herbs with big leaves and woody stems.

     

    Herb Keeper

    You don’t need an herb keeper. To make fresh herbs last longer, use a water glass instead. Add the herbs and cover the glass with a plastic bag.

     
    Big-leaf herbs like basil, mint and sage require a different technique.

  • Start by pulling the leaves from the woody stems.
  • Tear them into pieces, or make a chiffonade: Stack the leaves, roll them into a tight bundle and slice crosswise with a sharp knife.
  • Here’s more on how to chiffonade, plus a video from Le Cordon Bleu.
  •  
    3. Herbs with small leaves and woody stems.

    This group includes oregano, rosemary, tarragon and thyme. The leaves need to be stripped from the stems, but the stems are too woody to use.

  • The “hand technique” includes holding a single sprig at the top, pinching the stem with two fingers, and quickly running your fingers down the stem to remove all the leaves.
  • We prefer to use an herb stripping tool. It’s inexpensive and doesn’t take up much room in the gadget drawer.
  • Check your kitchen scissors; they may have an herb stripper built in to the center section.
  • These are small leaves and easy to chop or mince to desired size.
  •  
    4. Chopping or mincing chives.

    Chives, long and stem-free, are in their own category.

  • If you’re good with a knife you can simply slice them horizontally.
  • For us, it’s faster and neater to use our kitchen scissors.
  •  

    HOW TO STORE FRESH HERBS

    You don’t need an “herb keeper” to store herbs. Simply fill a tall glass with a few inches of fresh water, insert the herbs and cover with a plastic produce bag.

    It’s that easy!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pickled Fennel (Fennel Pickles)

    Fennel

    A head of fennel. The white portion is the
    bulb, the feathery green tops/stems are the
    fronds. Photo courtesy Valerie Confections.

     

    We’ve always loved fennel in a salad (like cucumber salad or this Orange-Fennel Salad) or on a crudité plate. But we never thought to pickle it until we saw this recipe from Quinciple, which makes weekly deliveries of the freshest seasonal produce.

    Fennel makes such a charming, crunchy pickle that we began to make it as house gifts. It’s made without sugar, and is low in sodium: a win for everyone!

    Quinciple recommends the pickled fennel in and on:

  • Cheese plates
  • Ham sandwiches (we like it on other sandwiches too, including grilled cheese and burgers)
  • Potato salad (chop it finely)
  • Green salad (add some fresh herbs and use a bit of the pickling liquid as the acid in the dressing)
  •  
    RECIPE: PICKLED FENNEL

    Ingredients For 1 Pint

  • 1 head fennel
  • 2 strips orange zest, neatly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar (substitute cider vinegar)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  

    Preparation

    1. CUT off the fennel leaf stalks just above where the bulb ends and the fronds begin. Reserve 3-4 of the prettiest leaf fronds; wash and set aside.

    2. TRIM off the bottom of the bulb and, if bruised, the outer layer. Give the bulbs a quick rinse. Slice them in half lengthwise, then cut the fennel into ¼-inch-wide slices.

    3. PLACE the fennel fronds, zest and peppercorns into a clean pint jar, making sure they are arranged nicely against the glass. Add the fennel slices. Make sure there is ½” of headroom above the fennel.

    4. COMBINE the vinegar, water and salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling brine over the fennel. Let cool, cover tightly with the lid and place in the fridge. The pickles will keep for about 2 weeks.
     
    FENNEL FACTS

    Fennel is in season from fall to early spring. It’s crunchy like celery, with a slight anise taste.

     

    Pickled Fennel

    Elegant and yummy fennel pickles. Photo and recipe courtesy Quinciple.

     
    A member of the parsley family, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and celery (Petroselinum crispum) are botanical cousins, members of the same order* (Apiales) and family* (Apiaceae). Both are believed to be indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, growing wild before they were cultivated.

    Records of fennel’s use date back to about 1500 B.C.E, although it has been enjoyed by mankind for much longer.

    Fennel is highly aromatic and flavorful, with both culinary and medicinal uses. The bulb and stalks resemble celery, the leaves look like dill (Anethum graveolens, also of the same order and family), and the aroma and flavor resemble sweet licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabraa, a totally different order [Fabales] and family [Fabaceae]).

    Fennel can be substituted for celery in recipes when an additional nuance of flavor is desired. We also enjoy it as part of a crudité plate. The fronds make a lovely plate garnish, and can be dried and used as herbs.

    Fennel seeds are a popular spice, for baking, bean dishes, brines, fish, pork, sausages and much more. We especially like them in cole slaw and cucumber salad. Plain and sugar-coated fennel seeds are used as a spice and an after-meal mint in India and Pakistan.
     
    ___________________________________________
    *In case you don’t remember plant taxonomy from high school biology, here’s a refresher.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Don’t Toss The Broccoli Stems

    Many people don’t like broccoli stems, as proven by the bags of florets-only in the produce section. But while the texture is different, the stems are just as tasty, with just as much nutrition and cruciferous antioxidants.

    If, for whatever reason, you don’t cook them along with the florets, put them to another use.

  • Cook and purée them.
  • Shave them raw into salads.
  • Steam and add them to omelets and cooked grains.
  • Add them to soup.
  • Toss them into a stir-fry.
  •  
    For the tenderest results, you can use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of supermarket broccoli stems before cooking; they tend to be tougher than just-harvested greenmarket broccoli. Then, you can cook them as you like or keep shaving the raw stems for a salad ingredient.

    In the recipe that follows, the raw stems are sliced into thin circles and turned into their own salad: broccoli stem salad! Who needs lettuce?

    This recipe is by Kate Galassi for Quinciple, a delivery service that brings the week’s best fruits and vegetables to your door.

    RECIPE: BROCCOLI STEM SALAD

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 2 broccoli stems (from 2 large heads of broccoli)
  • ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of chili flakes (crushed red pepper)
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup mixed fresh herbs, such as basil, mint or parsley; or fresh or dried oregano* and thyme*
  • ___________________________________

     

    Broccoli Stem Salad

    Head Of Broccoli

    If you don’t cook the broccoli stems, make a broccoli stem salad. Top photo and recipe courtesy Quinciple.com; bottom photo courtesy Burpee.com.

     
    *A little bit of oregano and thyme go a long way, so don’t use too much in your blend.
     
    Preparation

    1. SHAVE the stems into paper-thin slices with a mandoline. If you don’t have one, use a very sharp chef’s knife to slice the stems as thinly as you can.

    2. WHISK together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and chili flakes, and toss with the sliced broccoli stems. Season with salt and pepper and let sit for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile…

    3. PICK the herb leaves off their stems. Small leaves, including parsley, can stay whole. Larger leaves of basil and mint should be torn into smaller pieces. Or, chop them all if you like, with a mezzaluna or other tool.

    4. DIVIDE the broccoli salad between two plates and garnish with the fresh herbs.
     
     
    THE CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES FAMILY

    Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, a member of the Brassicaceae family of cancer-fighting superfoods.

    “Cruciferous” derives from cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing.” The flowers of these vegetables consist of four petals in the shape of a cross.

    The family includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi and turnips.

    They’re low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can’t eat too many of them, but you can overcook them. You’ll know they’re overcooked when an unpleasant sulfur aroma appears. They’ll also fade in color.

    That’s because all cruciferous vegetables contain chemical compounds that, when exposed to heat for a sufficient amount of time, produce hydrogen sulfide.

    So, enjoy them on the al dente side.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Serving Raw Mushrooms

    We really appreciate mushrooms. They’re what we call a “bonus” food: extremely low in calories and a versatile ingredient in cooked foods from omelets to rice pilaf to meat loaf to sauces.

    They’re also delicious raw. Our marinated mushroom salad is very popular (recipe below) and we typically serve mushrooms with other crudités and dip. But we were newly inspired by this mushroom carpaccio from Qunciple.com (a produce delivery service like a CSA, but representing the best of many farmers).

    A beautiful presentation, you can make a large platter for a buffet or to pass at the table, or prepare individual plates.

    RECIPE: MUSHROOM CARPACCIO

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1/2 pound white button mushrooms, wiped cleaned
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (we use basil oil or
    rosemary oil)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh herbs for garnish: basil or parsley
  •    

    Mushroom Carpaccio

    A pretty presentation: mushroom carpaccio garnished with basil leaves. Photo by Julia Gartland | Quinciple.

     

    Preparation

    Ideally use a mandolin, which makes uniform slices and can cut them as thin as possible.

    If you don’t yet have a mandoline, it’s a good excuse to get one. They don’t take up much room, and if you cook regularly, you’ll appreciate the convenience it provides in slicing fruits and vegetables, including crinkle and waffle cuts; as well as cheese and chips. You want one that’s slip-free, has multiple attachments (to make different shapes), and the indispensible hand guard. This mandoline has it all.

    1. HOLD each mushroom by the stem and use the mandoline to cut very thin slices off the top of the mushroom cap. Stop before you reach the stem. Remove the stems (they will still have some of the cap attached); you can add them to grains, omelets, sauces, soups or stocks.

    USING A KNIFE: If you don’t have a mandolin use a large, sharp knife. Lay each cap flat on a cutting board and trim one edge, slicing off 1/8″ or so. Turn the cap on its edge so that the cut side is flush against the board and the mushroom is steady on the board. Slice the mushrooms as thinly as you can.

    2. ARRANGE the mushrooms on one or two plates in overlapping concentric circles (start at the outside and work your way to the center). Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, finish the plate(s) with a generous squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve.
     

     

    Marinated Mushrooms

    Marinated Mushroom Salad

    Top: Marinated mushrooms in a lettuce cup;
    photo courtesy Taste Of Home. Bottom:
    Marinated mushrooms with a side of dressed
    greens. Photo courtesy A Shifted Perspective.

     

    RECIPE: RAW MUSHROOM SALAD

    This recipe is so flexible, you can add whatever you like: baby corn, capers, fennel, etc. You can also use other than white mushrooms, and it’s even more interesting with an assortment of mushrooms. Check out the options in our Mushroom Glossary.

    Ingredients

  • 1 8-ounce container white mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon wine or sherry vinegar (or more to taste)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh herbs (basil, chives, dill, oregano, parsley, thyme), minced (we use two different herbs)
  • Optional ingredients for color: diced red pepper or pimento, red onions, sliced green onions or chives
  • Optional ingredients for variety: broccoli or cauliflower florets, edamame, sliced olives
  • Optional heat: 1 chili, seeded and white pith removed, finely sliced
  • Baby arugula, baby spinach, mesclun, watercress or lettuce/cabbage/radicchio cups
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CLEAN the mushrooms and pat dry. Place in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the sea salt. Toss to coat thoroughly. Let stand for about 30 minutes so the salt can remove excess water from the mushrooms. Brush any remaining salt from the mushrooms with a mushroom brush or a paper towel.

     
    2. COMBINE the marinade ingredients in a bowl: olive oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon zest, pepper and herbs. Toss the mushrooms in the marinade to coat. (We don’t add salt at this stage because of the residue salt on the mushrooms.)

    3. COVER the bowl refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend (we often let it sit overnight). Taste and adjust the seasonings.

    4. SERVE as desired. We enjoy marinated mushrooms as a salad course, along with dressed greens.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Spice Up Your Diet With Chiles

    Blistered Chiles

    The Great Pepper Cookbook

    Top: Blistered chiles, particularly padróns
    and shishitos, have become a hot side dish
    (no pun intended). Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco. Bottom: Start your chile adventure with a good book, like this one from Melissa’s.

     

    Here’s a healthy food tip for the new year: Check out the health benefits of chiles and add more chiles to your diet.

    Chiles originated in Central and South America, where they have been cultivated for more than seven thousand years. They were first used as a decorative item, then became a foodstuff and a medicine.

    Christopher Columbus encountered them in the Caribbean Islands and brought them back to Europe, where they were used as a substitute for pricey black pepper from India.

    Ferdinand Magellan is credited with introducing chili peppers into Africa and Asia on his voyages. Now, chiles are grown on all continents, and incorporated them into world cuisines.

    Here are ways to use five popular chile varieties: chiles in adobo, habanero, jalapeño, poblano and dried chiles.
     
    HOW TO BUY CHILES

    Here are some tips from Whole Foods Market:

  • Fresh chiles: Place unwashed fresh peppers in paper bags or wrap them in paper towels. They will keep in the vegetable compartment of the fridge for at least one week. Avoid storing them in plastic bags, which can accumulate moisture and cause the chiles (and other vegetables) to spoil more quickly.
  • Dried whole chiles: Buy dried chiles that are still vivid in color. If they’ve begun to fade, they’ve probably lost their flavor as well.
  • Shopping for dried chiles: Look for the best dried chiles at spice stores or ethnic markets. You’ll not only find a larger selection than in American grocery stores, but the selection is likely fresher and of superior quality.
  •  
    Dry Your Own Chiles

    For a fun project, dry your own fresh chiles; then grind them into chili powder as needed. You can hang them in the sunlight to dry (the most fun) or use the oven or a dehydrator. Here are instructions.

    If you garden, you can grow your own chiles as well.

    GET A BOOK

    The best way to add more chiles to your meals is to start with a book that shows all the possibilities. Our favorite cookbook in the category is The Great Pepper Cookbook, a thorough guide to choosing and cooking with peppers.

    From mild to hot and hotter, the book explains how to choose, prep and cook 37 varieties of fresh and dried chiles. The recipes are splendid and the photos are gorgeous. They make you want to prepare every recipe.
     
    EASY MILD CHILE RECIPES: CHILE VERDE WITH CHICKEN & CUBANELLE CHILES

    To start you off, here are some pairings with mild chiles that favored by Steve Lindner, Executive Chef and Founder of Zone Manhattan.

    Chef Steve uses the cubanelle chile to make a version of Chili Verde, a stew from northern Mexico. Originally made with pork, it can be made with chicken as well. Serve it with a whole grain and vegetable sides.

    Ingredients

  • ½ pound chicken thighs
  • ½ pound cubanelle chiles, sliced
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnishes: cilantro, grated jalapeño, lime zest, sliced green onion
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUBE the chicken and sear in a pot. Add the onion and garlic.

    2. COVER with the wine and vinegar. Simmer until soft. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Serve with garnishes.

     

    PEPPERONCINI RECIPE: COCONUT & SHRIMP CEVICHE

    You can do much more with pepperoncini than add them to a Greek salad. Coconut and shrimp are a popular combination, but you can make ceviche with scallops or any fish. Here’s more about ceviche.

    Ingredients

  • ½ pound shrimp, cleaned and split in two
  • 1 orange, 3 limes and 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 5 pepperoncini chiles, thinly sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup toasted coconut
  • Garnishes: cilantro, shaved baby cucumbers, sliced green onion
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the first four ingredients and marinate for several hours or overnight. Taste and add salt as desired.

    2. TOP with the coconut and serve with the garnishes.
     
    IS IT “CHILE” OR “PEPPER?”

    Chiles were “discovered” in the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus, who called them “peppers” (pimientos, in Spanish) because of their fiery similarity to the black peppercorns with which he was familiar.

    However, there is no relationship between the two plants (or between chiles and Szechuan pepper, for that matter). “Pepper” is a misnomer, but in the U.S., it seems to have taken over. Some people use “chile pepper,” a bit of a correction, still not accurate.

    Here’s more on the history of chiles.
     
    IS IT CHILE, CHILI OR CHILLI?

    The term “pepper” is not used in Latin America. There, the word is chili, from chilli, the word in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. The original Nahuatl word is chilli. The conquering Spanish spelled it chile.

    In the U.K., chilli is the popular spelling. In the U.S., many people use chili, a seeming middle ground between chilli and chile.

     

    Cubanelle Chile & Feta Sandwich

    Chiles Nogada

    Top: Cubanelle chiles are so mild that you can add them to almost any sandwich. Simit + Smith combines them with feta, lettuce and tomato. Bottom: Chiles en Nogada, poblano chiles with walnut sauce, are another mild chile dish. Here’s the recipe from Pom Wonderful.

     

    Now that you know, the choice is yours. We choose “chile” because it’s the spelling by which Europeans were introduced to the chilli, and the best variant of that word.

    How many types of chiles have you had? Check them out in our Chile Glossary.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Roasted Garlic, A Healthy Garnish

    Baked Garlic

    Roast Garlic

    A bulb of roasted garlic is a delicious
    accompaniment to grilled meats. Photo
    courtesy Sushi Roku Katana | West
    Hollywood.

     

    Originating more than 6,000 years ago in central Asia, garlic took the culinary world by storm, spreading from culture to culture. It is used in cuisines on all the world’s continents and is one of America’s most popular herbs*.

    A member of the onion genus, Allium (the Latin word for garlic), garlic’s cousins include the chives, green onions/scallions, leeks, onions and shallots. Its botanical family, Amaryllidaceae, comprises flowering plants, most grown from bulbs (including, not surprisingly, the amaryllis).

    Garlic is not only a delicious flavor to many people; it is also one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and may even fight Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

    Here’s more on the health benefits of garlic.

    The most common use of garlic involves crushing or mincing a few cloves and adding the raw garlic to a recipe. But you can cook entire bulbs or whole cloves of garlic as a side or a garnish to please your favorite garlic lovers.

    There are two principal ways to do this, each delivering different flavors and textures. Roasting an entire head of garlic is the simpler of the methods.

    Both produce a rich, sweet, mellow flavor that appeals even to people who don’t like the flavor of garlic in recipes.
    _________________________________________
    *An herb is a plant that is used to flavor or scent other foods.

    RECIPE: ROASTED GARLIC

    A head of roasted garlic is served as a hearty side with roasted meats and poultry.

  • You can scoop it from the head with a utensil, or squeeze it from the cloves onto bread or toasts—a different approach to garlic bread!
  • You can give each garlic lover his/her own roasted garlic head/bulb, or share a number of bulbs at the table.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. CREATE a “hinge” on the top of the garlic bulb/head by slicing horizontally into it. Stop before you cut completely through. Then close the hinge and wrap the entire head in aluminum foil.

    3. PLACE the packet in the oven and bake for at least 45 minutes. It’s ready when you can squeeze the bottom of the bulb and the sweet, caramel-colored garlic oozes out the top.

     

    RECIPE: GARLIC CONFIT

    Confit is a method of preservation whereby a food (usually meat, as in duck confit) is cooked slowly in fat. It is then submerged and stored in the fat, where it will last for months.

    You can adapt the technique to garlic. Using peeled garlic cloves instead of the whole bulb, the confit method develops a flavor similar to roasting, but is more conducive to using as a garnish.

    Use the garlic confit as a topping or side garnish for meat, poultry and grilled fish; with eggs; to top burgers and sandwiches; as part of a condiment tray with pickles; or any way that inspires you.

    The garlic-flavored oil that remains in the dish after cooking is a quick flavor booster in almost any recipe that requires oil—including a vinaigrette for the meal’s salad course, or bread-dipping, or marinades. We like to use it in mashed potatoes and to cook eggs.

    You can freeze or refrigerate the confit for future use, so don’t hesitate to make a large batch at once. Bring some to garlic-loving friends.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 225°F.

    2. PEEL the garlic cloves: First soak the unpeeled cloves in cold water for five minutes to loosen the skin. Slice off the root and tip with a sharp paring knife, then use the tip to lift off the papery skin.

    3. PLACE the peeled garlic cloves in an oven-safe dish with high sides, then cover completely with olive oil. You can also add aromatics to the oil—chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme—lemon zest, or chiles.

     

    Roasted Garlic

    Russian Red Garlic

    Top: Garlic confit, glistening cloves roasted in olive oil. Photo courtesy Apronclad.com. Bottom: Beautiful Russian Red garlic. Photo courtesy Chef Seamus Mullen | FB.

     
    4. COVER and bake for at least an hour, or until the cloves become soft enough to squish between your fingers. Remove from the oven and drain the oil into an airtight jar or other container. Store in the fridge.

      

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    RECIPE: Cabbage Chips

    We over-kaled last year. We couldn’t escape it: It seemed as if every restaurant entrée we ordered came with kale. We made too many kale chips as “better for you” snacks.

    Now we’re on a kale moratorium, and were happy to discover that you can also make chips from kale’s cruciferous cousin, cabbage. The recipe is from our favorite gourmet grocer, Good Eggs in San Francisco.

    RECIPE: CABBAGE CHIPS

    Ingredients

  • 1 head green cabbage
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Red chile flakes or caraway seeds
  • Optional: yogurt-dill dip
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 225°F. Line two baking sheets with wire racks; parchment is fine if you don’t have racks.

    2. CUT the cabbage into quarters and discard the tough outermost leaves. Carefully remove the innermost leaves and spread them on the baking sheets/racks in a single layer.

    3. DRIZZLE or brush the leaves lightly with olive oil and use a brush (or your fingers) to spread the oil over the front and back of each leaf.

    4. BAKE for about 90 minutes, until the cabbage is crispy and golden brown. Remove from the oven and season with salt and chile flakes. Eat immediately or store in the fridge in an airtight container.

    5. MAKE the optional yogurt dip. Blend nonfat Greek yogurt with dill, optional minced garlic and salt to taste. Or, substitute curry powder for the dill.

     

    Cabbage Chips

    Green Cabbage

    Cabbage is the new kale chip. It’s one of the lowest-priced fresh vegetables. Photos courtesy Good Eggs.

     
    THE CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES FAMILY

    Your healthcare providers want you to eat more cruciferous veggies.

    Cruciferous vegetables—also known as brassicas—are superfoods that comprise the Brassicaceae family of vegetables. These nutritional powerhouses are also packed with cancer-fighting* phytonutrients, powerful antioxidants.

    The family includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi and turnips.

    Eat up: They’re low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Consume them raw or lightly steamed to get the maximum amount of antioxidants. Just don’t overcook them! You can eat overcooked carrots or potatoes; overcooked broccoli and Brussels sprouts are not so pleasant.

    “Cruciferous” derives from cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing.” It is so named because the flowers of these vegetables consist of four petals in the shape of a cross.

    Here’s a book you may enjoy: Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More.
     
    *Studies have shown the ability of cruciferous vegetables to stop the growth of cancer cells in the breast, cervix, colon, uterus, liver, lung and prostate.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Winter Fruits & Vegetables

    Here’s our final installment of seasonal fruits and vegetables. We began this series with spring produce, then summer produce, then fall produce.

    With the winter season, our “year of produce” is complete. But don’t think of winter produce as bleak and limited. It’s time to revel in different types of citrus, try new fruits and winter squash varieties, and take a look at recipes for items you rarely buy: cherimoya and chestnuts, cardoons and collards.

    Then, look online for interesting ways to prepare them.

    If your main food market doesn’t have some of the more specialized items, check international markets that focus on Chinese, Indian, Latin American and other specialties. You can also check online purveyors like Melissas.com.

    The list was created by the Produce for Better Health Foundation. Take a look at their website, FruitsAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org, for tips on better meal planning with fresh produce.

    A final tip: Know where your produce comes from. While some imported produce is excellent, others are picked too early and have a long ocean voyage. If you buy something that’s lacking flavor, speak with the produce manager and get recommendations.

    WINTER FRUITS

  • Cactus Pear
  • Cherimoya
  • Clementines
  • Date Plums*
  • Dates
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwifruit
  • Mandarin Oranges
  • Maradol Papaya
  • Oranges
  • Passion Fruit
  • Pear
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranate
  • Pummelo
  • Red Banana
  • Red Currants
  • Sharon Fruit*
  • Tangerines
  •    

    Persimmons

    When was the last time you had a persimmon? Persimmons can be eaten as hand fruit, made into tarts and sorbet, baked into muffins, sliced into salads, turned into mousse and more. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

     
    *The date plum, also known as the lotus persimmon, is the variety known to the ancient Greeks as “the fruit of the gods.” Its English name probably derives from the Persian khormaloo, literally “date-plum,” referring to its flavor, reminiscent of both dates and plums. Sharon fruit is an Israeli cultivar of persimmon, called Triumph. The fruit is named for the Sharon Plain where it is grown. Sharon fruit” has no core, is seedless and particularly sweet. It can be eaten whole. You may find still other varieties of date plums in your market.

     

    Cardoons

    Not a variety of celery, these stalks are
    cardoons, a member of the artichoke family.
    If you’re an artichoke lover, snap them up:
    They taste like artichokes without the bother
    of the thorns and the fur. Photo courtesy
    Johnnyseeds.com.

     

    WINTER VEGETABLES

  • Belgian Endive
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Buttercup Squash
  • Cardoon
  • Chestnuts
  • Collard Greens
  • Delicata Squash
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Sweet Dumpling Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Turnips
  •  
    DON’T OVERLOOK FARMERS MARKETS

    Farmers markets are our go-to place for something different. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, ask the farmers if they know where you might find it, or to suggest other items in the market that you shouldn’t pass up.

     

    You can search the National Farmers Market Directory for locations near you.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: A Delicious Vegetable Mix At Breakfast (Ratatouille)

    Fried Egg Ratatouille

    ratatouille-theformerchef-230r

    You can dice your ratatouille fine or chunky.
    A fine dice is a better base for the egg,
    crostini, etc.; a larger dice is better as a side
    dish. Top photo courtesy Elegant Affairs
    Caterers. Bottom photo courtesy
    TheFormerChef.com.

     

    Nutritionists expend lots of effort to get their clients to achieve nutrition goals. Americans are major under-consumers of vegetables.

    There are numerous ways to add good vegetables into every meal (fried onion rings don’t count!) You don’t have to twist our arm to adopt this one: ratatouille at breakfast.

    WHAT IS RATATOUILLE

    Ratatouille (rah-tah-TOO-ee) is a vegetable side dish that originated in the Provence region of France. The classic recipe consists of sautéed eggplant, onions, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini plus garlic and herbs.

    Sometimes, each vegetable is sautéed separately, then layered into a baking dish and baked. Modern recipes make it easier: We fully sauté groups of vegetables with similar densities, combine them and don’t bake them. can customize the dish as you like—for example, with bell peppers, celery, fennel, olives, onions and yellow squash.

    There are similar dishes in other Mediterranean countries, including tourlou or briami in Greek cuisine, türlü in Turkish cuisine, samfaina in Catalonia and in ciambotta in southern Italy.

    OUR FAVORITE RATATOUILLE RECIPE

    We misplaced our nana’s ratatouille recipe card; but the recipe below, adapted from TheFormerChef.com, looks almost identical.

    Ratatouille is delightfully colorful when you use red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers and tomatoes/cherry tomatoes.

    Regarding the tomatoes: Ratatouille has traditionally been a summer dish, when tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash are plentiful. While you can find decent squash in the off season, imported tomatoes can be both pricey and lacking in flavor. You can substitute cherry, grape or sundried tomatoes; or use diced canned San Marzano tomatoes. Canned tomatoes don’t need to be sautéed; just drain them and add them to the final heating.

     
    TIP: Don’t throw away the liquid you drain off. You can freeze it into ice cubes for Bloody Marys, or add a bit of gin, tequila or vodka for a mini cocktail treat.
     
    RECIPE: RATATOUILLE

    We make double recipes and microwave the ratatouille (or other sautéed vegetables) from the fridge while the eggs are cooking.

    Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups onions diced (about 1.5 large onions)
  • 1 6 tablespoon garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
  • 3 cups bell peppers (1 each, red, yellow, green), diced
  • 8 cups zucchini and yellow squash, large diced
  • 6 cups eggplant (about 1.5 lbs), diced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeded as necessary
  • 3 6 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (rosemary, basil, thyme)
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon ground coriander fennel seeds
  • Optional garnish: capers or caperberries (the difference*)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan or skillet†, over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Transfer the sautéed vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

    2. RETURN the pan to the heat and add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil. Add the zucchini and yellow squash and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add them to the onions and bell peppers.

    3. Return the pan to the heat and add the final 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the eggplant and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup of water; the eggplant will absorb all the oil very quickly and the water will help it cook before it burns. When the water is absorbed and the eggplant begins to soften (about 5 more minutes), add the chopped tomatoes to the eggplant.

    4. COOK the tomatoes until they start to break down and the eggplant is soft, but not mushy. Add the rest of the vegetables back into the pan, folding it all together with a large spoon.

    5. Cook for another 5 minutes and add the fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Don’t overcook; you want the flavors to remain fresh and distinct. Plus, if you plan to reheat the ratatouille at a later time, it will cook more then.
     
    __________________________________________
    *Capers are the flower bud of the caper bush, Capparis spinosa. Caperberries are the fruit with seeds inside. Both are brined and thus contribute saltiness as well as flavor to dishes. They are members of the same botanical order as cruciferous vegetables, Brassicales, but a different family.

    †While the pans can usually be used interchangeably, a skillet or frying pan has slanted sides and a sauté pan has straight sides. A skillet has a larger bottom surface area, and its straight sides are better for making an omelet or frittata—even though you may see slope-sided pans marketed as “omelet pans.”

     

    RECIPE VARIATIONS

  • Serve with a poached or soft-boiled egg instead of a fried egg.
  • Mix the vegetables into an omelet or scrambled eggs.
  • Add with cooked eggs to a breakfast burrito or pita breakfast sandwich.
  • Combine eggs and toast: Make ratatouille crostini (toast topped with ratatouille topped with the egg).
  •  
    SUBSTITUTES FOR RATATOUILLE

    Serve any of the following, and don’t hesitate to mix them together.

  • Any leafy green vegetable(s), such as kale, spinach and/or watercress.
  • Shredded Brussels sprouts.
  • Sautéed cherry or grape tomatoes, halved.
  • Cauliflower steak.
  • Sautéed mushrooms.
  • Sweet potato or purple potato hash with beets and leeks (or default to white potatoes).
  •  
    OTHER THINGS TO DO WITH RATATOUILLE

    Ratatouille is a side dish that’s great with grilled fish or seafood on Meatless Monday, or as a side anytime with grilled or roasted beef, chicken, lamb or pork. But you can also:

  • Us it as a topping for pancakes or waffles—savory instead of sweet.
  • Serve it as a vegan main course with a whole grain, couscous‡, polenta, beans or legumes.
  • Use it to top bruschetta, crostini (the difference) or flatbread.
  • Use it instead of tomato sauce, chunky or puréed, on pasta, grains and other dishes.
  • Use as a topping for burgers, grilled cheese and other sandwiches.
  • Use the purée as a base for vegetable soup (add broth to desired consistency.
  •  

    Fried Egg On Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

    Fried Eggs On Toast

    Top photo: Go cruciferous: Place your egg atop sautéed Brussels sprouts, collards or mustard greens. At Olio e Piú | NYC, the Brussels sprouts are mixed with radicchio. Bottom photo: Combine the toast and eggs into ratatouille crostini, or as shown above, with asparagus in season. Photo courtesy Urban Accents.

     
    We’re off to make breakfast: ratatouille and fried eggs (no surprise).
    ___________________________________
    ‡You can find whole grain couscous; but most supermarket products are not whole grain.

      

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