Tag Archives: produce

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Rhubarb Season

We can have a legitimate discussion about whether rhubarb should be classified as a fruit or a vegetable, and whether is it best used in sweet or savory dishes.  But please don’t try to convince me that the arrival of rhubarb season isn’t a reason to celebrate.  If you do, I won’t invite you to the party.

Rhubarb Season

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Rainbow Chard

While standing at one of my favorite greenmarket stands, I overheard a couple speaking to each other while gazing at the rainbow chard.

“Look at this.  It’s absolutely beautiful,” one said.

“Yes it is,” said the other, “but I never know how to cook it.”

I apologized for eavesdropping on their conversation, and quickly explained that cooking rainbow chard is as easy as chopping it up and sautéing it with some oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and — if they liked — a squirt of fresh lemon juice.  Then, I promised them that it would be delicious.  They thanked me and bought a big bunch, as did I.

On my walk home, I wondered how many twenty-first century Americans believe they no longer know how to cook.  It’s a shame that our society has become so intimidated by the concept of turning on a stove, throwing some fresh food in a pan, and seeing what happens.  

So, if you think you may be letting fear keep you from expanding your culinary repertoire, buy something you’ve never bought before, bring it home, research a simple recipe or two on the internet, and give it a shot.  Chances are, it will be easier than you think, taste better than you expect, and give you a well-deserved reason to pat yourself on the back.

Rainbow Chard

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Hard Boiled Eggs

Recently, a woman selling me eggs at my farmers market apologized for the price.   At $6.00 a dozen, she felt they may be too expensive.  I assured her they were not.  What else can you buy for fifty cents that is high in protein, low in salt, sugar, and fat, and contains only about 80 calories?  Add to that the versatility of eggs, and they seem like a genuine bargain to me.   When I got home, I hard boiled a few and added them to some fresh salad greens, homemade croutons, and sliced red onion, and tossed it all together with some mustard vinaigrette.  It was delicious.  In fact, it was a lot tastier and healthier than a large coffee beverage that costs nearly as much.  So, the next time you hear someone complaining about the price of eggs, you may want to politely suggest that they think again.  

Bacon and Egg Salad

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Pea Shoots

With the weather still cold, and snowflakes falling as recently as yesterday, posting a photo of beautiful, fresh pea shoots could very well seem like a cruel April Fool’s joke.  But, thanks to Bodhitree Farm in New Jersey, the bowl of pea shoots I ate for lunch yesterday was no joke; rather, it was a delicious oracle of the bounty of fresh, spring produce that will soon grace our farmers markets and tables.  Happy April!

Pea Shoots

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Kale Stem Pesto

. . . And now, back to kale.  Not surprisingly, I had a bag full of kale stems left over after I stripped the leaves for kale salad and kale chips.  I could have composted the stems at my farmers market, which I often do, but I had so many stems this time that I decided to search the internet for a recipe for kale stem pesto. 

It’s a good thing I did. 

As instructed, I chopped and blanched the kale stems, along with a few cloves of garlic, before adding it all to my food processor with olive oil, lemon zest, parsley, red pepper flakes, sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and a big handful of organic walnuts — a gift from a dear friend with a walnut ranch in California.  I tossed the pesto together with fresh, homemade spaghetti and some spicy chicken sausage made on a local farm, then I topped it all off with grated Romano cheese from Tonjes Farm Dairy.  It was sublime. 

I doubt that I’ll ever throw my kale stems into the compost pile again.  

Kale Pesto

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Kale Chips

If kale salad isn’t your thing, perhaps you’re a fan of kale chips.  These addicting, crispy little snacks are a great way to get even the most finicky eater — child or adult — to eat green vegetables.  You can, of course, spend a small fortune purchasing them in plastic containers at your local health food store.  Or you can save yourself a lot of money and make them at home in almost no time at all.

Simply remove the leaves from the stems, wash and dry them thoroughly, toss them in a little olive oil (rubbing each leaf to make sure it’s very lightly coated), and sprinkle with sea salt (kosher salt will work, too)  and, if you like, pepper.  Then spread them out in a single layer on a sheet pan or two (or three), and place them in a 350 degree oven for about 12 to 18 minutes, turning the trays around after about 6 or 7 minutes.  You’ll know they’re done when they’re translucent but haven’t yet begun to turn black. 

Try it, and I suspect you’ll discover that the hardest part about making kale chips is not eating them before they have a chance to cool.  

Kale Chips

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Kale Salad

A couple of years ago, raw kale — once much-maligned — became all the rage in almost every restaurant of note.  It was hard to find a menu that didn’t feature kale salad in one form or another.  In my opinion, its fame was long overdue, and my own version of kale salad has become a winter staple at Chez Ks.  A simple dressing of olive oil, shallots, anchovies, capers, preserved lemon, black pepper, and chopped dates, makes the chiffonade of kale appear almost translucent.  But it’s the irresistible taste that keeps me coming back for more as I patiently await the arrival of spring’s baby lettuces.

Kale Salad

 

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Roasted Shallots

Roasted shallots are one of those things that easily impress dinner guests.  “Did you individually peel every single one of these?,” they always ask, astounded by the amount of work and time they believe that would take.  But peeling shallots is amazingly simple if you first blanch them in a pot of boiling water for a minute or two before dousing them in cold water.  The skins will then slip right off in your fingers, especially if you first trim off the ends with a sharp knife. 

The roasting part of the cooking process is even easier.  Just place the peeled shallots in some melted butter in a cast iron skillet, add salt and pepper, and swirl around over high heat for a minute before placing the entire pan in an oven.  It doesn’t really matter what temperature the oven is, as that will only determine how long it takes for the shallots to turn golden brown.  I like to turn them over part way through the cooking process, and sometimes I’ll add whole garlic cloves and a sprig of thyme to the pan.  But whether you add anything else or not, you’ll love how deliciously sweet they taste, and your dinner guests will think you’re a magician in the kitchen.

Roasted Shallots 2

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An Abundance of Riches

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that there’s no good produce at the farmers market this time of year, I’d be a very wealthy woman.   And if I had another dollar for every time I proved them wrong, I’d be twice as wealthy.

An Abundance of Riches

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Wintercress

It wasn’t long ago that the new year in New York meant that dedicated locavores still faced several more months without fresh, green salads.  Today, however, the farmers markets offer a variety of fresh greens throughout the winter months.  I’m told by many of my farmer friends that the warming climate and the improved “technology” of simple warming hoops enable them to produce salad greens once relegated to summer fare.  Among my favorite winter salad greens is wintercress, little more than a cultivated weed that I would best describe as the love child of sassy arugula and a shy fennel bulb.  If you’re fortunate enough to come across some wintercress in your own farmers market — or perhaps, even, to find some in your local park —  bring it home, dress it in a bit of salt, lemon juice, and olive oil, and try to keep a smile from forming on your lips.

Wintercress

 

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Cranberries, Evergreens, and Snow

When I was younger, I often found myself feeling blue during the first few weeks of each new year, when the holiday season came to a close.  These days, I no longer find myself feeling so down.  Maybe it’s because I spend so much time looking at all the holiday photos I took and eating the holiday leftovers I cooked.  Or maybe it’s because I finally appreciate that January brings with it more cranberries, more evergreens, and — when we’re lucky — just enough snow to make everything a little more beautiful.

Cranberries in Snow

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Brussels Sprouts on the Stalk

Having spent my life to that point buying Brussels sprouts in conventional grocery stores, I was well into my thirties before I discovered that Brussels sprouts grow on large trunk-like stalks, which can be as long as a man’s arm.  To see the stalks lined up at a farm stand is exciting, and removing the sprouts from the stalk is as easy as slicing — or even snapping — them right off.  So, the next time you see a giant stalk covered in Brussels sprouts, take one home and have some fun.  Who said it isn’t polite to play with your food?

Brussels Sprouts on the Stalk

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Seckel Pears

The first time I saw a tiny seckel pear, I was mesmerized and full of questions.  ”Is it just a baby Bartlett pear?”  ”Will it ever get any bigger?”  ”How does it taste?”  The answers, I soon learned, were “No,”  ”not much,” and “indescribably delicious.”

Seckel Pears