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

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

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

THE HISTORY OF GRAPEFRUIT

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a longer history of grapefruit.

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

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

   

Sweet Scarlett Red Grapefruit

Star Ruby Grapefruit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Red Grapefruit & Avocado Salad

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

 

WHAT MAKES THE FLESH RED?

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

Why are red grapefruits sweeter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Oils To Use, And Not To Use

    What cooking oils are in your pantry?

    Here’s what you should know from Chef Gerard Viverito, a culinary instructor and Director of Culinary Education for Passionfish, an NGO non-profit organization dedicated to educating people around the globe on issues of sustainability in the seas.

    THE 12 COOKING OILS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT

    In your mother’s kitchen, the only cooking oil may have been all-purpose vegetable oil, a blend of inexpensive oils. Then came the Mediterranean Diet and the attention paid to its heart-healthy olive oil.

    Today, there are more than a dozen options for cooking oil. Don’t be stuck with mom’s ingredients. Use Chef Gerard’s handy guide to determine which cooking oils you need to add to your collection.

    EVERYDAY HEALTHY COOKING FATS

    Each of these healthy fats deserves a place in your pantry, says Chef Gerard.

  • Butter. There’s no need to avoid this tasty fat (it isn’t an oil, but we’re giving it a pass). The myth about saturated fat has been busted. Butter is fine to use in moderation for adding flavor to veggies or potatoes.
  •    

    Olive Oil & Olives

    Heart-healthy olive oil has become a staple in American kitchens. Photo courtesy Flavor-Your-Life.com, a great resource for olive oil lovers.

  • Coconut oil. A tropical oil that is gaining in popularity, coconut oil’s medium chain fatty acids (also found in grass-fed butter and palm oil) are easily utilized as body fuel, which may help with weight management. Coconut oil’s natural sweetness makes it a great choice for baking.
  • Malaysian palm oil. This up-and-coming healthy tropical oil is a popular replacement for harmful trans fat. This non-GMO, balanced and ultra-nutritious oil can already be found in many of your favorite packaged foods. It tolerates heat extremely well, so it’s an ideal all-purpose cooking oil. All palm oil isn’t the same. Look for Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil; if it isn’t in your supermarket, check the nearest health food store. The Malaysian palm industry adheres to the 3Ps sustainability model.
  • Olive oil. Rich in monounsaturated fat, this oil is great for a healthy heart and healthy skin. Use it for salad dressings and drizzling over breads, but don’t use for high-temperature applications. This healthy oil starts to degrade before you hit 400°F. (Tip: Have at least two tablespoons a day, whether in salad dressing or straight from the spoon.)
  •  
    SPECIAL OCCASION COOKING OILS

    These oils have more limited uses, and often come with a higher price.

  • Avocado oil. Avocado oil is rich in nutrients, because it is extracted from the fruit’s flesh. This process is similar to olive oil and palm oil production. Avocado oil tolerates heat up to 500°F, which makes it great for broiling. You can also find flavored olive oils, delicious on salads and other vegetables, potatoes, and grains.
  • Flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is a nutritious yet delicate oil. While many nutrition-focused people want to eat more of it, it begins breaking down at just 225°F so can’t be exposed to heat. The oil is extremely rich in heart-healthy omega-3, but unfortunately, many people find its flavor unappealing. Consider adding a teaspoon of flaxseed oil to your next smoothie to reap its health benefits.
  • Macadamia nut oil. Although more commonly used as a beauty aid, this sweet and buttery oil is good for your health, too. It contains a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Why is this important? Many health experts believe the Western diet contains too many inflammatory omega-6s. Try macadamia nut oil in salads.
  •  
    If you currently use sunflower oil, consider this:

  • Sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is rich in skin-, brain- and heart-healthy vitamin E tocotrienols. Unfortunately, it’s also high in inflammatory compounds, so instead of cooking with it, it’s better to rub some on your cuticles or use it to smooth your hair. Instead of sunflower oil, get your tocotrienols from Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil, nature’s richest source.
  •  

    Macadamia Nut Oil

    Macadamia and avocado oils are both made in Australia. For the best flavor, look for first cold pressed oils. Photo courtesy Brookfarm.

     

    GENETICALLY MODIFIED OILS

    If you’re trying to avoid genetically modified foods (GMOs), put these oils on your “do not buy” list. More than 90% of these crops are grown using genetically modified seeds.

  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Soybean oil
  •  
    Give all of your current oils the “sniff test.” If they smell musty, they’re ready the recycling bin.

    Replace them with “good oils.”
     
    ALL OF THE COOKING OILS

    There are more cooking oils, including the pricey-but-delicious hazelnut, pistachio and walnut oils; and powerful dark sesame oil, which is delicious when used in moderation. Take a look at the different cooking oils in our Culinary Oils Glossary.

     

    And check to see if your oil should be kept in the fridge. Some are very hardy and stay well on the shelf for two years; others, less so.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Soulfully Sweet Great Gluten-Free Cookies

    If you’re looking for a great gluten-free cookie, look no further than Soulfully Sweet.

    You can tell that many, many test batches were baked to find the magic mixture that makes these cookies taste so good.

    With the right mix of ingredients and technique, you can’t tell that baked goods are gluten free. Soulfully Sweet has pulled this off, creating crunchy, very flavorful cookies that easily pass for conventional gourmet cookies.

    The best ingredients are not inexpensive, so don’t be dismayed that a box of eight cookies (2-1/2 inches in diameter) is $10.99, and you’ll want all eight flavors. They are a find for the cookie-lover on a gluten-free diet. Once you taste them, you’ll be happy to give up something else to fit them into your budget.

    We loved every one of the eight flavors:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Toasted Pecan Cookies
  • Double Chocolate Cookies For Chocoholics
  • Molasses Ginger Cookies With Spice Infusion
  • Oatmeal Cookies With Cherries & Chocolate Chips
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies With Toasted Walnuts
  • Orange Cookies With Pistachio & Cranberry Chunks & Orange Essence
  • Peanut Butter Cookies With A Peanut Avalanche
  •  
    In addition to gluten-free, the ingredients are non-GMO, mostly organic* and “virtually” soy-free. The cookies are preservative free and all natural.
     
    A taste is worth a thousand words, so head to SoulfullySweet.com and indulge your cookie passion.
    __________________________________
    *The combination of gluten-free and organic ingredients is often hard to find and very pricey when you do find it. The cookies range from 84% to 90% organic ingredients. This brand doesn’t cut back on the absolute best-tasting gluten-free ingredients, and that, plus the small batch artisanal production, is why the cookies are so expensive.

     

    Gluten Free Cookies

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Soulfully Sweet cookies in three of the eight flavors: Molasses Ginger, Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Chip. Photos courtesy Soulfully Sweet.

     

      

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    FOOD 101: Those Oldies But Goodies ~ The First Cultivated Crops

    Emmer Wheat

    Brown Turkey Figs

    Top: Emmer wheat, one of the eight founder crops. Photo courtesy Sortengarten. Bottom: Figs were the first fruit to be cultivated. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    All of the plant-based food we eat first grew wild. When man transitioned from packs of nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled villages of farmers, they learned to cultivate the foods that were most important to them.

    This happened some 10,000 or 11,000 years ago, in the Neolithic Age (sometimes referred to as the Agricultural Revolution). Man domesticated animals as well; and the stable food supply supported an increasingly large population.

    The Neolithic Age is considered to be the final stage of cultural evolution among prehistoric humans: living together in communities. Also called the New Stone Age, it was the period where man developed stone tools by polishing or grinding*, and began to develop crafts such as pottery and weaving.
     
    THE FOUNDER CROPS

    After 9500 B.C.E. the eight so-called “founder crops” of agriculture appear in the Fertile Crescent, the land in and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that is now include Mesopotamia, and the Levant, the eastern coast of the Mediterranean sea. Levant†.

    The eight wild crops that were the first to be cultivated were:

  • Cereals: einkorn and emmer wheat
  • Legumes: bitter vetch (heath pea, a species of pea), chickpeas, hulled barley, lentils, peas
  • Flax (linseed)
  • ____________________________
    *The previous age or period, the Paleolithic, was the age of chipped-stone tools. Following the Neolithic was the Bronze Age, which saw the development of metal tools.

    †The previous age or period, the Paleolithic, was the age of chipped-stone tools. Following the Neolithic was the Bronze †The Levant was a large area in southwest Asia: south of the Taurus Mountains, with the Mediterranean Sea as the western boundary, and the north Arabian Desert and Mesopotamia in the east. Today, the area includes Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

     
    Although archaeologists believe that wheat was the first crop to be cultivated on a significant scale, all eight crops appear “more or less simultaneously” in sites in the Levant. [Source]
     
    Fig trees follow shortly; or, based on newer evidence, they may have been the first cultivated crop of all.

    Scientists have found remains of figs in Jericho, near the Jordan River in what is now called the West Bank, an area formerly called Palestinian territories and the State of Palestine. They appear to be the earliest known cultivated fruit crop—and perhaps the first cultivated crop anywhere. The figs were dated to 11,400 years ago. As archaeologists continue to unearth new evidence, our knowledge will evolve.

    For example, the latest findings show that the olive was first domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean between 8,000 and 6,000 years ago, following figs as the earliest domesticated fruit.

    Even with the advent of farming, other foods were still gathered wild, including lentils, almonds and pistachios, wild oats and wild barley. No food source was left uneaten!

    Remains of dates have been found on a number of Neolithic sites, particularly in Syria and Egypt. This means that they were being eaten by man as much as 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, although we have no proof that they were cultivated that early. [Source]
     
    WHAT ABOUT ANIMALS?

    Sheep and goats were the first domesticated food animals, followed by cattle and pigs. Man’s best friend, the dog, was domesticated in the Paleolithic by hunter-gatherers, some 12,000 years ago.

     

    HOW DID FARMING BEGIN?

    People collected and planted the seeds of wild plants. Over time, the first farmers learned how much water and sunlight were needed for success. Weeks or months later, when the plants blossomed, they harvested the food crops.

  • Between 9100 and 8600 B.C.E., farming communities built communal brick buildings to store the village’s harvests.
  • By 7000 B.C.E, sowing and harvesting were practiced in Mesopotamia.
  • By 8000 B.C.E., farming was established on the banks of the Nile.
  • Maize was domesticated in west Mexico by 6700 B.C.E. Other New World crops included the potato, the tomato, the chile pepper, squash, several varieties of beans.
  • In parts of Africa, rice and sorghum were domestic by 5000 B.C.E.
  • Evidence of cannabis use by 4000 B.C.E. and domestication by 3000 B.C.E.—in Siberia, no less!
  • In the 6th millennium B.C.E. in the Indus Valley, fertile plains in what are now Pakistan and northwest India, oranges were cultivated; by 4000 B.C.E. there were barley, dates, mangoes, peas, sesame seed and wheat; and by 3500 B.C.E. cotton.
  •  
    In the Far East, domestication occurred separately, but at about the same time.

  • In China, rice was the primary crop instead of wheat. Rice and millet were domesticated by 8000 B.C.E., followed by mung, soy and azuki beans.
  • In New Guinea, ancient Papuan peoples are thought to have begun practicing agriculture around 7000 BCE. They began domesticating sugar cane and root crops.
  •  

    Fresh Chickpeas

    Just Picked Olives

    Top: Chickpeas (they’re inside the green shell) were a founder crop. Photo courtesy Melissas.com. Bottom: Olives were one of the first cultivated foods. Photo courtesy Kaldi Tastes.

     
    And the rest is [agriculture] history!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Granola Bars

    Granola Bars

    Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

    Top: No-bake chocolate chip granola bars
    from Fearless Homemaker. Here’s the recipe.
    Bottom: Cherry, chocolate and cashew
    granola bars from Love And Zest. Here’s
    the recipe.

     

    It’s National Granola Bar Day. Even if you’re happy with the bars you buy, it’s the day to make your own custom recipe (ours is dark chocolate chunks, dried cherries and pistachio nuts, sometimes with a bit of coconut).

    HISTORY OF THE GRANOLA BAR

    Heree’s the history of granola breakfast cereal, which was invented in the 19th century by Dr. James Caleb Jackson for his sanitarium patients. It was the first dry breakfast cereal, and the first to be eaten cold.

    He actually invented “granula.” In 1881, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, proprietor of another sanitarium, copied his recipe; when Jackson brought a lawsuit, Kellog changed the name of his product to granola.

    Granola bars did not appear until much later, as a better-for-you snack. Most sources credit Stanley Mason (1921-2006) as the innovator. Mason was a tireless inventor. His more than 100 inventions also included the squeezable ketchup bottle, dental floss dispensers and disposable diapers.

    Granola bars are dense, chewy cereal bars made from granola ingredients—oats, honey and inclusions like dried fruits and nuts. These days, chocolate baking chips, peanut butter and other ingredients not imagined by either Jackson or Mason, are often added.

    There are no “wrong” ingredients, although M&Ms and marshmallows seem to defeat the purpose of a nutritious snack. Here’s a basic recipe:

     
    RECIPE: GRANOLA BARS

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (or a mix of other seeds)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts of choice (a mixture is fine)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ, oat bran or ground flaxseed*
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or canola oil), melted, plus extra to grease the pan
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted nuts)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups dried fruit in any combination (a list follows)
  •  

    *If you don’t like these ingredients, use more oats. For gluten-free bars, use gluten-free rolled oats.
     
    Dried Fruit Options

  • Apricots, chopped
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Coconut, shredded or flaked
  • Currants
  • Cranberries
  • Dates, chopped
  • Figs, chopped
  • Raisins and/or sultanas
  • Tropical dried fruits: mango, papaya, pineapple
  •  
    More Ingredients

  • Candied ginger, diced
  • Chocolate chips
  • Nuts, in any combination
  • Peanut butter or other nut butter
  • Rice Krispies
  • Seeds, any kind or mixture
  • Spices: gingerbread spices, orange zest, pumpkin pie spices
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 9-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper or foil, leaving “handles” on two sides for lifting. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE the oats, seeds and nuts and spread onto a rimmed sheet pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

    3. STIR in the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the oat mixture, toss until the mixture is well coated, then add the dried fruit.

     

    Coconut Cranberry Granola Bar

    Apple Pie Granola Bars

    Top: Coconut cranberry raisin granola
    bars from Bella Baker. Here’s the recipe. Bottom: Apple pie granola bars from The Baker Chick. Here’s the recipe.

     
    4. POUR the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press down on it, tamping it as tightly as possible with a rubber spatula or other implement. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the granola is golden brown. (The longer it bakes, the harder the bars.)

    5. COOL for 2 hours before slicing into bars. Use a serrated knife. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a week, using parchment or wax paper to keep the bars from sticking. You can also freezer them for up to 6 months.

      

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    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.
     

      

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    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!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Beef-Buying Tips (What To Ask The Butcher)

    Grilled Bone In Strip Steak

    Lookin’ good: a bone-in strip steak. Photo
    courtesy Remington’s | Chicago.

     

    We recently were taken to dinner at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C., located on the lovely balcony of historic Grand Central Terminal in the heart of Manhattan.

    We wondered if Executive Chef Cenobio Canalizo would give us some advice on the most important considerations when buying steaks and roasts to cook at home. It’s a big expense, and we want to spend our money wisely.

    He kindly provided us with these…
     
    6 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR BUTCHER WHEN BUYING FINE BEEF

    1. Is it wet aged or dry aged?

    Dry-aged beef has a roasted, nutty flavor, while wet-aged beef can taste slightly metallic. Wet-aged beef lacks the depth of flavor of dry-aged, but it can be more tender.

    Chef Canalizo says most chefs will agree that dry-aged has the preferred flavor; it’s also more expensive.

     

    In wet aging, the muscle (beef) rests in a plastic bag in a refrigerated room. With dry-aged, it hangs to age in the air. When you see the word “aged” followed by a given amount of time, and there is no reference to wet or dry, you can safely assume that it is wet-aged beef.
     
    2. How long was the beef aged?

    Chef Canalizo prefers 21 days of aging. Longer is not always better, he advises. Aging actually causes the meat to decay (a tenderizing process). With too much aging, beef can develop a moldy smell and taste.

    All beef needs at least 3 weeks to start to tenderize. Naturally raised beef needs more than 6 weeks because the animals are more mature when they are processed. The reason most supermarket beef is tougher is because it is not sufficiently aged. (Aging = time = more expense.)
     
    3. Is it corn-fed or grass-fed beef?

    What a steer eats can have a major effect on the nutrient composition of the beef. Grass-fed beef usually contains less total fat than grain-fed beef. Thus, gram for gram, grass-fed beef contains fewer calories.

    According to AuthorityNutrition.com, while grass-fed beef may contain slightly less total fat than grain-fed beef, equally valuable is that it contains a lot more Omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), another fatty acid. Both are very beneficial nutrients.

     

    4. How much fat has been trimmed?

    Chef Canalizo recommends leaving a quarter inch of fat on top of the steak for flavor.

    Many people choose cuts with less fat and less marbling. Marbling is the intermingling or dispersion of fat within the lean, and is a prized feature (that’s why Kobe and Wagyu are the most prized beef in the world).

    The fat adds flavor and helps to tenderize the meat. Also, much of it is “cooked out” before the beef is served.
     
    5. How many ounces is it with the bone?

    Chef Canalizo recommends 14 ounces (bone included) per guest. You should request cuts that are closest to the bone. The meat is sweeter and there’s more flavor.

     

    Roast Beerf

    Our mom’s special occasion go-to dish: a roast beef. She insisted on USDA Prime, and became friendly with a top butcher. Photo courtesy Niman Ranch.

     
    6. What’s the grade/quality of the meat?

    From top down, the grades of beef are USDA Prime, USDA Choice and USDA Select. Additional grades, not available for consumer purchase, are Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner. These latter grades are used in anything from canned chili to pet food.

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a quality grade is a composite evaluation of factors that affect palatability of meat (tenderness, juiciness and flavor).

    These factors include carcass maturity, firmness, texture and color of the lean, and the amount and distribution of marbling within the lean.

    Beef is graded in two ways: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.

    While only the quality grade is important to you as the buyer, you should note that in the yield grade, only 3% of all beef produced in the U.S. is USDA Prime. It’s sold only at top butcher shops and top steak restaurants like Michael Jordan’s.

    If you’re not going for USDA Prime, be sure you’re getting USDA Choice, not USDA Select.

      

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    RECIPE: Turnip Soup

    Turnip Soup

    Today is pretty chilly, so we’re making turnip soup. Photo and recipe courtesy Quinciple.

     

    Turnips are part of the super-potent cruciferous vegetables* group, from which we try to eat daily. There’s more about the family below.

    We’ve enjoyed mashed, purée, roasted and stir-fried turnips, and we’ve fried and baked them in the manner of sweet potato fries.

    But until now, we never tried turnip soup, a comfort food that can be crowned with garnishes from apples and chives to crumbled bacon and shredded cheese.

    Although the soup looks creamy, there’s no dairy. The rich color and texture come from the gold turnips.

    If you can only find white turnips, you can add a some carrots for color, or just enjoy the pale soup. But gold turnip are noted for their “bonus” flavor, slightly sweet with a nutty nuance of almond.

    The recipe is courtesy Quinciple, a subscription service that delivers the week’s best fresh produce.

     

    RECIPE: GOLD BALL TURNIP SOUP WITH APPLES

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound gold turnips, washed and peeled
  • 1/2 yellow onion, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Optional spice: 1/2 teaspoon cumin or dried chile pepper
  • Garnish: ½ apple, thinly sliced†
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons chopped basil, chives or parsley
  • Garnish: extra virgin olive oil, plain or flavored
  •  
    __________________________________
    *There’s more about the cruciferous family below.

    †Wait until ready to serve to slice the apples, so they don’t brown. Leave the skin on for a touch of color.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Cut the turnips and onion into ½” cubes. Toss with two tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

    2. ROAST until the turnips are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Purée the roasted turnips and onions with the stock, and add enough water to achieve a smooth consistency.

    3. WARM the soup in a small pan. Taste and adjust the seasonings. To serve, garnish with apple slices, herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

     

    GOLD TURNIPS HISTORY

    There are several varieties of gold turnips, heirloom varieties from Europe that were first grown in France in the 1800s.

    In the U.S. they are marketed variously as Baby Gold, Boule D’or (the prized French variety, which translates to “golden ball”), Golden Ball and Golden Globe turnips.

    Gold turnips are a less durable than the common white and purple-white varieties, as they are not a good “cellar vegetable.” This means that they will not maintain their firmness and flavor if stored throughout the winter—a prized feature of turnips, rutabagas and other root vegetables in the days before refrigeration.

    Turnip were cultivated as far back as the Greek Hellenistic Period, 321 B.C.E. to 31 B.C.E. They grow from fall through spring, and can’t tolerate summer heat.
     
    HOW TO USE GOLD TURNIPS

    Gold turnips can replace common turnips in any recipe, and provide more flare due to their color. In fact, they can pretty much be used anywhere carrots are used, as well.

    In addition to cooked recipes, turnips (white and gold) can be eaten raw as crudités and in salads. They can be shredded into a slaw along with cabbage and carrots, and tossed with a Dijon vinaigrette. The leaves can also be eaten raw or cooked.

    Per SpecialtyProduce.com, the flavor is truly transformed and sweetened when they are slow roasted, braised or sautéed in butter.

    Good accents include:

  • Acids: lemon juice and vinegar
  • Apples
  • Bacon
  • Butter and/or cream
  • Cheeses such as Parmesan and Pecorino
  • Herbs: chives, garlic, parsley, tarragon and thyme
  •  

    Gold Turnips

    Purple Top Turnips

    Top: Gold turnips. Photo © Marie Iannotti | GardeningTheHudsonValley.com. Bottom: Common turnips are all white or white with purple tops. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    THE CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES FAMILY

    The turnip is a cruciferous vegetable, a member of the Brassicaceae family of cancer-fighting superfoods. They are also called the brassicas, after their family name.

    “Cruciferous” derives from cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing.” It refers to the flowers of these vegetables, which 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.

    Cruciferous vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can’t eat too many of them, but you can overcook them.

    Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and the rest of the family, cruciferous vegetables contain chemical compounds that, when exposed to heat for a sufficient amount of time, produce hydrogen sulfide (an unpleasant sulfur aroma).

    So take care not to overcook them.

      

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    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.

      

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