Archive: Seasonal Produce

Wild for Ramps

(Tim Fitzgerald) For many home cooks, spring equals asparagus, but there’s a fragrant little onion -- the ramp -- that emerges from the soil well before those beloved spears. Native to North America, the ramp grows in forests and mountainous regions from Canada to South Carolina. Resembling a scallion but with broad, soft leaves and a tinge of pink on the middle of the shoot, the ramp has developed a cult following, both at homespun festivals and with celebrity chefs. Guest blogger Tim Fitzgerald, a scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, shares his love for the wild onion, both in the field and in the kitchen. After I had my first taste of grilled ramps pizza at Mario Batali’s Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in New York, I knew I was hooked. The only problem is that these little buggers are expensive -- as much $25 per pound. So what is...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 21, 2009; 07:20 AM ET | Comments (1)

20 Ways to Get Your Spinach On

(Kim O'Donnel) After devouring Monday’s spanakorizo, I had what could be described as a full-on leafy green love attack, admiring spinacia oleracea’s ability to be wilted, steamed, braised, fried, and tucked, not to mention its easy-going personality. In fact, it seems that the challenge is what NOT to pair with spinach -- and other than peanut butter and jelly, I’m coming up short. Nutritionally, you can’t do much better; one cup of boiled spinach contains Vitamins A, B, C and K, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, protein, fiber AND Omega-3 fatty acids, all for 41 calories. Go here for the nutrient details. In case you hadn’t noticed, Americans need some help in the veggie servings department. Just 27 percent of us eat three or more servings of vegetables a day, which is a fraction of federal recommendations, as published in Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. I’m just sayin’…...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 31, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (18)

Celebrating the Pomegranate

(Kim O'Donnel) November may have been National Pomegranate Month, but there’s still plenty of time to get your pom on (it’s in season til January). In fact, I think of the pomegranate -- with its glistening ruby red jewel-like seeds (also known as arils) -- as a December fruit, bringing to mind Christmas tree lights and big globe ornaments hanging from the boughs of a Douglas fir. In a word, she’s stunning. But the pomegranate isn’t just a beauty contest winner in the produce aisle; she’s also one of the most nutritious (polyphenol antioxidants galore, beating out red wine) and ancient (dating to prehistoric times -- was it a pom instead of an apple that tempted Adam and Eve?) fruits on the planet. Most first-timers are flummoxed by the seemingly off-putting rind, slicing through to the juicy aril network and navigating the fibrous membranes -- without painting you and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 4, 2008; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (13)

Doing One Last Zucchini Dance

From the desk of Let’s Make the Most of Summer Produce Before It Disappears into the Winter Sunset: Zucchini is still in the house! Mother Nature’s clock is ticking, but there’s still a wee bit of time to have your way with La Zuke in the kitchen. As veteran summer squash gardeners already know, zucchini is a prolific little bugger, which means never having enough friends -- or zucchini recipes. Zucchini getting some time with ricotta and herbs. (Kim O'Donnel) Have I got a goodie for you. For years, I’ve been hollowing out zucchini halves into boats and stuffing them with herbs, tomatoes and breadcrumbs, but this one, with Calabrian origins, is rich with ricotta (if you can, get some fresh stuff -- it really makes a difference). Fresh tomatoes get some time in a sauté pan with onions and garlic, and when cooled, the sweet mixture gets folded into...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 11, 2008; 11:30 AM ET | Comments (11)

A Lovely Eggplant Zinger

In three-or-four-season produce land, September is just about the best time of year; it is a true cornucopia -- the best (and often the last) of summer crops as well as the arrival of cooler-weather heartier plants that turn our thoughts to Thanksgiving and woolen scarves. The seasonal choices are endless, sometimes overwhelming in that embarrassment riches sort of way. Gardeners and farmers are up to their eyeballs in peppers, squash and tomatoes, and everyone wants to know what the heck to do with all the basil and eggplants growing like crazing on the vine or what the neighbor has just dropped off. Eggplant "fingers" mingle with a dry herb (rather than spice)-based curry. (Kim O'Donnel) Here’s one to lighten your eggplant, basil and tomato load, a Thai-Indian number that comes from “660 Curries,” a new cookbook from Raghavan Iyer. As I paged through Iyer’s 832-page tome, my finger came...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 5, 2008; 11:59 AM ET | Comments (4)

In a Tomatillo State of Mind

Local tomatillos showed off their pretty chartreuse-y skins at my neighborhood farm market last weekend, which means only one thing at Casa Appetite: salsa verde. Tomatillos waiting to be sauced. (Kim O'Donnel) If you've never had the pleasure, now's the time. As a member of the nightshade family (eggplants, tomatoes, peppers), tomatillos show up when it's nice and warm. Even though it kinda looks like a tomato and it's got tomato as part of its name, the tomatillo is not a tomato, nor is it a green tomato waiting to turn red. Think of it as a distant cousin with a sweet-tart disposition. Super-low in calories (1/2 cup is just 20 calories), the tomatillo is also a good source of potassium and Vitamin C. See for yourself what a great sauce she makes, proving her mettle in all kinds of flavor scenarios -- with grilled mains, rice and beans, scrambled...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 10, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (8)

Ten Ways to Get Your 'Loupe On

Summer of 1988: I was a new college grad, making six bucks an hour at two jobs and living in a group house in West Philadelphia. It was ridiculously hot all the time in that skunky Philly sort of way. Other than developing a penchant for tequila, I remember my obsession with cantaloupe and vanilla yogurt. I made it for breakfast before heading to my six-dollar-an-hour job on my bicycle called Shirley, and I made it for dinner because most of the time, it was just too hot to cook. I'd buy my 'loupes from Al the Fruit Man, an old codger who sold produce on the U. Penn campus, or I'd pick one up at Sue's, a Korean-owned fruit shop on a corner in Center City. Cantaloupe with honey and pecans. (Kim O'Donnel) There is one caveat with loving cantaloupe melons -- and that's the uncertainty of the tasting...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 8, 2008; 11:50 PM ET | Comments (19)

Rocket (Arugula) in My Pockets

For the brunch-y spinach-chickpea pie I made over the weekend, I needed three bunches of spinach. (When cooked, the shrinkage is amazing.) Boy was I surprised while prepping my pie on Sunday to discover that I had purchased three bunches of arugula instead. Don't get me wrong; I'm a lover of the peppery green with a name for every day of the week (eruca, jirjir, rocket, roqueta, roquette, ruchetta, rucola) -- but three bunches? That's a lot of perishable greens on my hands. You know the rule: Use it or lose it -- and fast. An embarrassment of arugula riches. (Kim O'Donnel) To get the arugula party started, I used about half of one bunch in a salad of mixed greens and smoked trout, and that turned out great. But I could hardly rest, with those 2.5 bunches staring right at me. What to do, I ask you? Should I...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 25, 2008; 07:56 AM ET | Comments (9)

Bring on the Blood Oranges

As many of you know, I've got a thing for winter citrus. There's a fruit bowl on the dining room table, and it's brimming with peelable sun-kissed treats. My current citrus main squeeze, however, is the blood orange, which is making the rounds at area produce aisles. Still life, January style: A blood orange among its citrus brethren.(Kim O'Donnel) Although it may seem like old hat to citrus hounds in Texas and California (and Italy and Spain), where the arancia rossa thrives, I am swooning over my stash, as I know they'll soon vanish into the produce sunset. Aside from eating out of hand, which I heartily endorse as a mid-afternoon snack activity, the blood orange offers intriguing savory opportunities at the dinner table. If you've never had the pleasure, a blood orange is a heaven-sent combination of sweet and tart that sparkles on the tongue. Think navel orange mixed...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 8, 2008; 10:45 AM ET | Comments (7)

A Sweet Potato Two-Fer

I had a moment yesterday that only can happen at the neighborhood farmers' market, an affirming moment when I exclaim, "This is why I shop locally!" As I glanced over the selection of seasonal fruits and veg at the stand of Flowers of the Forest Farm in Great Mills, Md., I spotted a crate of greens that I had never seen before. The I saw the sign which read: "Sweet Potato Greens, $2/pound." Sweet potatoes and their sweet, tender greens. (Kim O'Donnel) I asked the farmer how I might prepare them - they are so tender, and she agreed, mentioning they might go well in a raw salad with other greens. Then James, the vendor who sells baked goods for Grace's Pastries, walked over and chimed in. He says back home in his native Liberia sweet potato greens are a beloved dish. "We fry them," he says, looking excited to...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 15, 2007; 12:04 PM ET | Comments (5)

Rotten Tomato Blues

I woke up this morning....and smelled something bad ....(Maybe this is the beginning of a great blues song?) Mister Mighty Appetite didn't smell nothin' And he was sittin' right by the smell I thought for a moment Maybe I'm dreaming But no, no, no Baby That smell It was comin' From that box of Roma tomatoes Sitting on the dining room table I open the box And half my Romas They were smellin' real bad Turning into vinegar I was gagging a tad Pappa al pomodoro, made from rescued Romas. (Kim O'Donnel) I dumped out the bad ones And rescued the rest Those red ladies were cryin' Cryin' real bad "Baby, please do somethin' Somethin' real fast We don't want to turn Into tomato gas." I thought for a moment As I sipped on my Joe It's a wee early For cookin' But if I don't do something Those 'maters...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 9, 2007; 11:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

What to Do With a Box of Romas? Slow Roast'em

I was at the farmers' market, but I felt like I was at Bingo night with a winning card or at a half-price shoe sale. SCORE! It was Sunday morning, and Mister MA and I had rolled out of bed for our weekly ritual at Columbia Pike farm market. While he sipped on coffee and chatted with the farmers, I filled our bags with chard, celeriac, lamb chops, a loaf of bread and mustardy greens. My tomato bounty. (Kim O'Donnel) As I walked past the Toigo Orchards stand, I noticed something different from the usual set up of apples, pears and peaches. Perched behind the two guys working the stand was a huge box of Roma tomatoes, its inside lid functioning as a sign, which read: "10$ the box." My heart began to race. Oh man, the things I could do with that many tomatoes, I thought. I motioned to...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 3, 2007; 11:23 AM ET | Comments (18)

A Passion for Purple Hull Peas

A Yank like me didn't know much 'bout fresh field peas growing up; many years would pass until I even felt a pod in my hand, zipped it open on its seam and smelled its earthiness. In fact, as a kid, I hardly ate beans at all, with the exception of the occasional can of chickpeas that my father would include on his antipasto platter of cured meats and cheese. (I can see that plate in my mind's eye, iceberg lettuce as a liner, salami and provolone cheese rolled up, toothpicks at the ready.) A close up of purple hulls, inside and out. (Kim O'Donnel) It seems that as an adult, I'm making up for lost time because now I can't get enough of beans. I can't imagine my life without them -- dried, canned, fresh, black, white, speckled -- they're all good in my book. Not until I became...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 17, 2007; 11:07 AM ET | Comments (0)

Don't Leave Me This Way, Basil Baby

In just nine short days, autumn officially takes over, which in this part of the country means bracing one's self for the end of so many warm-weather produce goodies, from Anaheim chiles to zucchini. I know, they'll all be back next year, but inevitably I get a bit wistful, pining for tangled cucumber vines and corn husks even as they disappear into the quickly fading sunset. At many farm markets, it will likely be the last hurrah for corn, peaches, cucumbers, and the delicately-leafed basil. Basil, on its way out for the season. (Kim O'Donnel) Yesterday afternoon, I faced a harsh reality, watching two basil-y bunches in a pitcher of water on the kitchen counter wilt before my eyes. I knew I had to act fast and make the most of what would probably be my final basil moment for the season. These leaves were useless for garnish or as...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 14, 2007; 10:49 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Cobbler-Top Debate

A summer without cobbler is like ______________________ For me, it's like a morning without coffee, a Sunday without the paper, a kitchen without garlic. Something feels amiss, not quite right. (Feel free to fill in the blank and weigh in below in the comments area.) Blackberries cobbled with topping, Nigel Slater's way. (Kim O'Donnel) It's right around this time of year when blackberries and peaches are bursting at market that I get a yen for cobbler. Last Sunday, I brought home 2 pints of blackberries with drupelets (the small clusters of small fruits) taller than my thumb, resembling a beehive hairdo that Marge Simpson might envy. (By the way, the fruit clusters are not called brambles, as I had mistakenly assumed. The bramble is the actual plant, which is a thorny bush, and to bramble means to pick wild blackberries.) They are almost too pretty to eat, but don't waste...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 3, 2007; 09:40 AM ET | Comments (22)

Winter Sorbet

Those who eat with the seasons (a concept which I maintain is worth preserving and practicing and one I urge you to try on for size) know that winter presents interesting challenges in the produce department, particularly in distinctly four-season climes. Tangelos make the most marvelous sorbet. (Kim O'Donnel) In theory (the crazy flipside weather notwithstanding), the veggie lineup is hearty, earthy and often still has roots attached and the choices include beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, collards, kale, mustard, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, squash, sweet potatoes and turnips (add to the list if I've forgotten something). As for the fruit, the regional pickins are usually limited to apples and pears, which are kept in storage from the fall harvest. At some point (and maybe you're already there), the choices lose their luster and you, the obedient seasonal cook, develop a hankering for a spritz of spring greenery. Sigh. The silver...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 17, 2007; 10:29 AM ET | Comments (6)

Tropical Winter Wonder

Yeah, the calendar says it's January. But if you live in the northeastern part of the country, Saturday was like a day in early June. People were sunbathing poolside, for crying out loud. Pineapple salad: Just what the meteorologist ordered. (Kim O'Donnel) On this El Niño kind of day, my thoughts turned tropical when it was time for dinner. All I could think about was pineapple, its juicy bursts of brightness tickling my tongue. I could eat fresh pineapple every day and be the happiest girl in town. When I was finishing up cooking school 10 years ago, the chef instructor, who had done cooking stints in Hawaii and in parts of southeast Asia, passed on a recipe for Thai pineapple salad. I remember the excitement of my first experience tasting sweet with salty, spicy and pungent all in one bite. This one salad set the course for my exploration...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 8, 2007; 10:31 AM ET | Comments (6)

Citrus for the Solstice

Today is the darkest day of the year, aka winter solstice. Yeah, it's the first day of winter, beginning this evening at 7:22 ET. A ray of culinary sunshine. (Kim O'Donnel) The sun rose at a very tardy 7:23 a.m. and will set before today's episode of Oprah is over, at 4:49 p.m. ET, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Translation: We get a mere nine hours and 26 minutes of daylight. I know -- complain, complain. In Copenhagen, where I've got a few friends, the daylight quotient shrinks to seven hours, with sunset taking place around 3:30. And let's not forget Anchorage, Alaska, which is essentially a city working in the dark, clocking in with a whopping five hours, 26 minutes of light. But while we mope around in the dark, the one consolation about the solstice is the return of the sun, ever so slightly, beginning tomorrow. In...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 21, 2006; 10:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

Ruby the Grapefruit Is Back in Town

December has arrived in windy, wintry fashion and I'm happy to be snug indoors, yes indeed. But with the cozy comfort from the cold comes the inevitable drying effects of indoor heating. Parched doesn't even describe the feeling. (Is this what it's like to be a porcini mushroom?) Thankfully, hydration relief has arrived in area produce aisles. Her name is Ruby and she's from Texas. I'm talking big mama, softball-sized grapefruits with a deep red-velvet flesh that practically sparkles and quenches like nobody's business. Say hello to Miz Ruby from Texas.(Kim O'Donnel) The Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas is prime red grapefruit country, and I say, welcome y'all Texas gals. In stores, you'll meet Rio Star, a sweet red head, and her sister, Ruby-Sweet, whose interior is more pink and a bit more tart. I love starting my winter days by sinking my teeth into a few Ruby grapefruit...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 4, 2006; 12:49 PM ET | Comments (0)

Farewell, Summer!

On this last night of summer, there was a distinct chill in the air. The sun-streaked sky turned indigo just before 7:30. It was clear that Fall was eager to start running the show. Before saying farewell, I wanted to celebrate my favorite season once more, with a meal that would include some of her prized jewels, plus a few signs of the road ahead. It was a two-dish plate, kind of southern style. Earlier this week, I picked up a bag of fresh butter beans (aka lima beans) at the farmer's market in Clarendon. I brought up a pot of water to boil, then cooked the beans for about 15ish minutes. I drained them and let them rest, while I heated up butter and olive oil in a skillet. To that, I added thinly sliced sweet onion and a wee bit of garlic. The beans followed, and I coated...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 22, 2006; 09:58 AM ET | Comments (1)

A Smokin' Baba Ghanouj

In her cookbook, "A Well-Seasoned Appetite," food writer Molly O'Neill poignantly describes this time of year as "summer's last stand." In her introductory notes to a chapter entitled "Almost Autumn," O'Neill writes: "Summer's end seems to ask for deep, huskier flavors, the kinds born of roasting, simmering and baking. Romancing summer and reveling in the new gives way to a relationship. It's time to tend." Chinese eggplant is great on the grill. (Kim O'Donnel) In my own kitchen, I see this shift, looking at the new (apples and pears) but also finding ways to bridge the romance of summer with the "impulse to insulate against cooler winds." This week, as I pay my respects to summer's end, I am giving eggplant one last dance. And like O'Neill, I look for more intense flavors that stand up to earlier sunsets and transitional breezes. For these reasons, I turn to the smoky...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 20, 2006; 12:05 PM ET | Comments (4)

Chile Pepper Parade

There's a changing of the guard at Season's gate later this week, with autumn officially kicking off the evening of Friday, Sept. 23. Like it or not, it's the home stretch of summer, the last opportunity to savor warm-weather crops that soon will be a winterized memory. Get'em while they last -- tomatoes, eggplant, corn, melon, peaches and peppers. Throughout this week, I'll pay tribute to a few summer produce hangers-on; today is all about chile peppers. Below, a chile sampler found at a few area farm markets over the weekend:...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 18, 2006; 12:08 PM ET | Comments (17)

Pesto Americano Will Have to Do

Don't mess with Mother Nature, even when she speaks Italian. A recent spate of hailstorms took its toll on Italy's basil crop, which are likely to have an impact on the availability and price of pesto, the beloved green sauce. One of the most hail-damaged areas is just west of Genoa, the Ligurian capital and birthplace of pesto alla Genovese. Italians are a particular lot; pesto made outside of Genoa cannot be considered the real deal. Given the circumstances, do you suppose they'll let the pesto rules slide this season? Will basil from Sardinia be considered an acceptable substitute? For those of you with more backyard basil than you know what to do with, count your leafy blessings and think of all those pesto-starved Italians. Perhaps an all-basil dinner party is in order, complete with a batch of stateside pesto. Your Italian guests, too distressed to notice the difference, will...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 23, 2006; 10:35 PM ET | Comments (0)

Who Loves Ya, Basil Baby?

Although still in a Sunday morning fog, I grabbed my market bags off the hook and stumbled out the front door for the few blocks to my neighborhood farmer's market. Basil: Not just for tomatoes anymore. (Kim O'Donnel) On my short walk, I began formulating my mental shopping list for the week, not paying attention to the fact that I was nearing the white canopies of the market. Suddenly, I was greeted with an alluring perfume, a mix of anise and flowers that immediately lifted me out of my somnambulistic state. "Wow," I said to myself out loud, "what smells so good?" One more step led me underneath a vegetable seller's canopy where the mystery was solved. Of course. It was the basil making all that aromatherapeutic magic. She was everywhere I looked, on display at nearly every vendor and graciously infusing the atmosphere -- allowing us to ignore the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 14, 2006; 09:27 AM ET | Comments (11)

American as Cobbler

The expression "American as apple pie" is indelibly ingrained in our brains. Remember the "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" commercials? But really, if you want to get down to the nitty gritty, the expression has been around only since the 1960s (according to "America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America" by David K. Barnhart and Allan A. Metcalf), a relatively short time in the pie world. The anatomy of a cobbler. (Kim O'Donnel) The reason I bring up pie in a cobbler blog is because pie predates cobbler by a few hundred years - it was born in England, it seems, during the Middle Ages. When the English settled on this side of the Atlantic, they quickly began baking their beloved pies, but with a twist. Enter the cobbler. (check this link for recipe details) "Without the resources of brick ovens...colonial cooks often made cobblers...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 11, 2006; 10:27 AM ET | Comments (9)

A Vegetarian Feast Fit for a Queen

You've listened to me wax philosophical about shopping at your local farmer's markets. I know I can be relentlessly passionate about eating and shopping locally, and maybe you've had enough of my stuff. But right about now is when all that philosophizing and dream weaving becomes a matter of practicality and smart food shopping. Okra at dusk. (Kim O'Donnel) August is the peak period for summer produce, and when the weather cooperates, the harvest is golden, yielding tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs, onions, garlic, green beans, okra, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, peaches, melon and berries. (I'm sure I'm missing something; please add to the list in the comments area below.) Sounds like the produce aisle in the supermarket, doesn't it? And because of the variety of veg, it's easy to forget about meat at suppertime. Last night was a case in point. I stopped off at Clarendon farm market in the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 10, 2006; 11:17 AM ET | Comments (13)

Tomato Love Poetry

Sonnet #43, Kitchen Style Tomato-basil salad with dots of goat cheese. (Kim O'Donnel) How do I love thee, tomato? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and might My palate can reach, when remembering out of sight Your peak month of August, when you bear fruits of juicy Grace. I love thee to the level of everyday's Most urgent need for a BLT, by sun or moon-light. I love thee with abandon, as Venus might her Mars or Vulcan I love thee purely, as surely as the summer wanes I love thee with the passion of my appetite Above all fruits, and with my childhood's eye of Jersey tomatoes As if they were falling from the sky. I love thee with a hunger I seemed to lose With my lost innocence (and the icky mealy tomatoes of January)! I love thee with the smell,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 7, 2006; 09:31 AM ET | Comments (17)

Drink Your Dinner Tonight

Ah, the weather. The way it shapes our lives, changes our mood, affects the way we think, sleep and eat. This week in weatherland has been a real hootenanny, hasn't it? Even in the short time I've been back on DC soil, the uber-meltdown has a heat-lover like myself running for shade. Gazpacho: Much better than a V-8. (Kim O'Donnel) Under such extreme conditions, what does one eat? Do you cook? Do you even want to eat? Consider uncooked items for the dinner table -- no, that's doesn't mean a bowl of cereal. Consider another kind of bowl -- gazpacho. The Andalusian cold soup is like having a whirl of air conditioning down the hatch. There's something so lovely and cooling about a cold tomato puree. Let it linger in the throat and feel the internal temperature come down a few degrees. In addition to its cooling factors, gazpacho offers...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 4, 2006; 01:12 PM ET | Comments (8)

O.K. About Okra

First, let me introduce myself. I'm Erin Hartigan, Food and Dining editor for washingtonpost.com and I'm guest-blogging while Kim is enjoying a much-deserved yoga retreat. I was so eager to post my favorite breakfast cakes with you yesterday that I jumped right into the food. I'm thrilled to share some of my recent cooking adventures. I'm a fair-weather okra eater. When introduced to it in its pickled or fried Southern-style forms, I don't care for the slimy little things, but in certain preparations, okra is my favorite summer dish. I keep an eye out for it at local farmers markets and was thrilled to see it make an appearance last week. It wasn't until I spent some time in Nepal that I truly came to appreciate okra. A pivotal part of dal bhat, the standard Nepali meal of lentils and rice, okra spices up the dish in a curry-like preparation...

 

By Erin | July 26, 2006; 08:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

Happily Spitting Watermelon Seeds

As many of you know, I love summer and the relaxed vibe it brings to our daily lives. There are many reasons that run the gamut, but the things I love most about this time of year is the produce. Sure, I love late sunsets, sultry breezes, afternoon thunderstorms and swimming outdoors, but it's the brilliant colors and perfumes of tomatoes, berries, cucumbers, basil and watermelon that make all that humidity worthwhile. Yellow watermelon: How can you resist?(Kim O'Donnel) Speaking of watermelon, it has arrived at local markets. This weekend, I picked up a baby beauty, with a gorgeous yellow flesh, nearly the color of a daffodil. And how sweet it is! To me, there is nothing like slurping on a hunk of watermelon. It makes me feel like a kid, racing to eat the flesh down to the rind before it drips all over my clothes. If you're up...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 24, 2006; 09:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

Celebrate Local Garlic

Last week, I shared my tale of exasperation over Chinese garlic in the supermarket. Why, I wondered out loud, at the height of local garlic season, was I only finding garlic from the other side of the world? Local garlic has arrived at farmer's markets. (Kim O'Donnel) In particular, I was concerned about the supply of Chinese garlic at my local Whole Foods, which touts itself as a steward of sustainability. If a woman in Austin, Tex. can deliver 17 heads of lettuce a week from her farm to a nearby Whole Foods store, why can't a similar relationship be arranged among garlic growers in the Maryland-Virginia-West Virginia region and Washington area Whole Foods locations? I have not yet given Whole Foods a chance to respond to this question, but it's at the top of my to-do list and I will keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 18, 2006; 10:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

Let's Bake a Freelance Tart

Ever since I celebrated the arrival of summer berries three weeks ago, I have been loading up on the bounty, filling myself to the gills with antioxidant-rich purples, indigos and reds. As soon as the season begins, nature's clock starts ticking, so there's no time to waste. Fellow berry-lovers known that blueberries hold up nicely in the fridge for several days, but those irresistible blossom-esque raspberries and blackberries start breaking down as soon as you get them home. Hurry and put those berries to use, in a freelance tart. (Kim O'Donnel) Within two days after purchasing, my razzies were looking less perky and showing beginning signs of fuzzy mold, so I had to act fast. The remaining half-pint of blackberries needed immediate attention as well. Should I make a pie, I wondered? Nah, too much work on a hot day. Cobbler, perhaps? Hmm, nice idea, but not enough fruit. Plus,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 11, 2006; 09:31 AM ET | Comments (3)

The Zuke-A-Mole Trick

Zucchini's in the house! Get ready, because once it starts, summer squash doesn't stop producing. As one of the most prolific items in the garden, it requires cooking ideas that go beyond the same ole zucchini bread and ratatouille. The zucchini, aka courgette, has arrived at local farm markets. (Kim O'Donnel) Last summer, I came across this zinger, a unique dip that remarkably resembles guacamole. It's so similar in look and mouthfeel that you could almost fool people. Don't get me wrong; I love guacamole, but like it or not, the avocado is high in fat - about 25 grams each. Of course, if you're a vegan, this is a great way to get plant-based fatty acids, but the tendency among we fat-loving Americans is to add fat to the fat. In the case of the guac, we like to add sour cream, cheese, even the dreaded mayo, and then...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 7, 2006; 11:34 AM ET | Comments (6)

Name That Fruit

This is Guy Smiley, with another episode of "Name That Fruit, " the only quiz show in the history of the world to tackle the mysteries of the supermarket produce aisle. Our first contestant is Rayburn Wycliffe, who's known in his home town of Bentonville, Ark., for his way with pineapple upside-down cake. (Buttermilk is the secret, so I'm told.) The first question is a real stumper, but here goes: Name a fruit native to Mexico Central America that looks like a cross between a pinecone and a corn cob but tastes like a cross between a banana and pineapple? And here's a helpful hint: It's got a SCARY name. Thirty seconds to answer, Rayburn, and you will be the owner of a BRAND NEW Viking range! The weird fruit that is the Monstera. (Kim O'Donnel) (Rayburn Wycliffe knits his eyebrows as he scours the depths of his memory bank,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 21, 2006; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (1)

Berry Marvelous

Warmer temperatures mean warm-weather crops -- and major produce scores at local farm markets. Making a debut appearance at Arlington Courthouse market this Saturday (8 a.m. - noon) were members of the squash family -- yellow, zucchini and the adorable pattypan -- and dare I say it, an inaugural bunch of peaches. The cast included cucumbers, onions of all colors, sweet (and sour) cherries, herbs galore and early-bird garlic bulbs. Blackberries and raspberries from Westmoreland Berry Fam in Oak Grove, Va. (Kim O'Donnel) But the main attraction, at least based on the long, movie theater-esque lines, were the berries! The stand at Westmoreland Berry Farm, of Oak Grove, Va., was bursting with color, showcasing six, yes six, different kinds of berries. There they were -- blueberries, blackberries, red and black raspberries, strawberries and tayberries (a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry) in all their glory, and it looked like...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 19, 2006; 09:22 AM ET | Comments (4)

All Cherries, No Pits

With the war in Iraq leading the headlines today, I offer a break from heavy news with an update from the food world: Local cherries are here! Cherries from the Clarendon farmer's market. Sweet they are (although I've been getting reports of sour variety too). Cherries are strutting their gorgeous selves at local farmer's markets (I found my batch at Clarendon farmer's market on Thursday). Aside from eating them one by one in a bowl, contemplating the meaning of life (Real Audio file), try them in a food processor-friendly clafoutis, a French dessert that's kind of a cross between a waffle and a pudding. When studded with cherries, it is luscious and screams summer. I also love the idea of roasting them in red wine as a dessert topping, a suggestion in "Fresh Food Fast" by Peter Berley. Here's how: In a small saucepan, bring to a boil: ¾ cup...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 8, 2006; 12:42 PM ET | Comments (0)

My Friend the Garlic Scape

While in Miami over the weekend, I received an e-mail from home base with the subject line: Scapes Are Here! Even at a distance of 900-plus miles from home, I was delighted by the news that one of my long-anticipated produce items had made its annual debut at the farmer's market. The "scape" in question is hardly a typo or a secret code word; it's shorthand for garlic scape, a part of the garlic plant that is a garlic lover's nirvana. Garlic scapes in all their glory. Here's the anatomy lesson: Garlic and its relatives in the allium family, (leeks, chives, onions) grows underground, where the bulb begins its journey, soft and onion-like. As the bulb gets harder (and more like the garlic we know), a shoot pokes its way through the ground. Chlorophyll- green like a scallion (maybe even greener), the shoot is long and thin and pliable enough...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 6, 2006; 09:56 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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