All Posts By Abigail Chipley

Market Watch: Melons

by in In Season, August 10, 2017

Sweet, fragrant, and brimming with juice, melons are the original thirst quencher. Since they’ve been cultivated for thousands of years, they come in an amazing range of sizes, colors and shapes. The most popular type sold in the US is the orange-fleshed cantaloupe, which is actually a type of muskmelon, or netted melon. (True cantaloupes are smaller and available mostly in Europe and the Middle East.) Other grocery-store standards include the honeydew, a reliably sweet green-fleshed melon, and of course, numerous varieties of watermelons. But increasingly, more unusual types are found in local farmer’s markets from August through early autumn. Some, such as the Charentais, with its dark orange flesh and musky aroma, don’t ship well and are best bought locally. Other exotically-named varieties you might find include the slightly spicy Crenshaw, the super-sweet white fleshed Canary, or the aptly named Tangerine Dream watermelon. Read more

Market Watch: Cherries

by in In Season, July 28, 2017

Sweet, tangy and conveniently bite-sized, cherries are one of the most reliable treats of summer. Beginning in June and ending in late August, the cherry season outlasts that of the other stone fruits and berries at the market. That’s because there are dozens of varieties that ripen at different times, ensuring a plentiful supply all summer long. Unlike peaches or nectarines, cherries are always sold tree-ripened, meaning that you’ll never have to sit around waiting for just the right moment to eat them.

Sweet cherries range from golden with a tinge of red to deep purple and nearly black. The most popular variety is the Bing, but other common types include the Rainier, Brooks, Sweetheart and Queen Anne. The most popular sour, or tart cherry is the Montmorency, which is harder to find fresh and is often made into juice, or sold frozen and canned. Happily, cold-tolerant cherries are grown in many regions of the country, from the Northwest and upper Midwest to the East coast. That means there’s usually a plentiful supply at roadside stands, farmer’s markets and grocery stores near you.

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Q&A with Chef Aaron Adams of Farm Spirit

by in Chefs and Restaurants, July 16, 2017

Aaron Adams knows a thing or two about making vegan food taste delicious. That was certainly my conclusion after eating at Farm Spirit, his dinner club style restaurant located in Portland, Oregon. At a cozy, 14-seat counter, he and his chefs prepare and serve a series of small dishes, featuring produce, grains, and nuts from local farms — none of which are more than 105 miles from the restaurant. By the end of the meal — up to 13 courses in all — you might imagine you’d have to roll home. Not so. Aaron’s light touch leaves you feeling satisfied, not over-stuffed. What’s more, there’s a lovely smug feeling that comes with consuming what might just have been one of the healthiest meals of your life. Recently, I had the chance to ask him about what inspires his ultra-healthy cooking style, and how home cooks might up their vegan game. Read more

Market Watch: Apricots

by in In Season, July 2, 2017

With their luscious, velvety texture and sweet-tart flavor, fresh apricots are one of the highlights of summer. But unless you’re lucky enough to live near a local grower, you may never have tasted one that’s truly worth biting into. That’s because, like peaches and plums, these tender little fruits are best when allowed to ripen on the tree. One of the first of the stone fruits to arrive at markets, apricots are only available for two short months, beginning in late May and extending through mid-July. There are about a dozen common varieties, produced primarily in California, but they are also grown on a small scale in many other regions of the country. Any fruit you see during the winter months have been imported from either South America or New Zealand.

 

Apricot Facts

Apricots are rich in carotenoids and xanthophylls, nutrients that researchers believe may help protect eyesight from aging-related damage. They are also a good source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium. When dried, they lose some of their vitamin C, but become a concentrated source of iron–a particular boon to those who follow a vegetarian diet. Read more

Market Watch: Artichokes

by in In Season, May 13, 2017

With its spiky tips and armadillo-like scales, the artichoke has been known to repel many a timid eater. If you can get past their formidable appearance, though, artichokes are a delight — mild in flavor, and even fun to eat. What’s not to like about a vegetable that can be eaten with your hands, and is a vehicle for melted butter?

Grown primarily in California, artichokes are actually unopened flowers from the thistle family. Though there are over 50 varieties, the most common is the Green Globe, an Italian type with a bright green hue. The choke — or thistle — is inedible, as are the tough outer leaves and prickly tips. The heart, which is really the base of the artichoke, is considered the tastiest part. Though they are harvested year-round, artichokes are at their peak in spring, from March through May. Read more

Market Watch: Asparagus

by in In Season, April 11, 2017

The arrival of asparagus at farmer’s markets makes it official: spring has finally sprung. Thick or thin, green, white, or even purple, asparagus reins supreme for a few short months — beginning in March or April, and ending sometime in early June. It’s said that this member of the lily family was the favorite vegetable of Thomas Jefferson. King Louis XIV of France was another fan, referring to it as the “king of vegetables.” Today, it retains its hoity-toity reputation, with chefs devising entire tasting menus to showcase its bright, springy flavor. For home chefs, asparagus can lend a sophisticated feel to an ordinary weeknight dinner, not to mention an Easter feast.

 

Asparagus facts

Closely related to garlic, onions, and leeks, asparagus is high in fiber, and a good source of iron, vitamin C and folate.

While thickness is a matter of taste, there’s no arguing about freshness. Choose stalks that are bright in color and firm, with tightly closed tips. Avoid any spears that are bent, or have open flowers. Wrap the ends of a bunch of asparagus in a wet paper towel, place in the crisper drawer and store up to three days. For best results, though, cook asparagus the same day you purchase it. In addition to tasting better, fresher asparagus will also retain more Vitamin C. Read more

Market Watch: Radishes

by in In Season, March 16, 2017

Radishes

Grown throughout the world, radishes come in a surprising number of shapes, sizes, and colors, from the large, white daikon to the ping-pong ball sized red globe radish. They range in flavor too, from slightly peppery to seriously pungent. What they have in common is a satisfyingly crunchy texture and an ability to add fresh flavor to all sorts of dishes. Though they are in season all year long, they are at their peak from spring to summer. Look for them at local farmer’s markets, where you are likely to find varieties like the whimsically named French breakfast radish, an elongated red-skinned radish with a white tip and a mild flavor, striking black radishes that pack a seriously spicy punch, and gorgeous pale green watermelon radishes that reveal a hot pink interior once sliced.

 

Radish facts

Radishes belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables, and like cousins broccoli and cabbage, offer up a wealth of nutrition. They are particularly high in Vitamin C and contain fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals called indoles, which have a detoxifying effect on the body. What’s more: radishes have only 20 calories in an entire cup.

Choose radishes that are firm and free of cracks or brown spots. Before refrigerating them, snip off the greens and place the red bulbs in a plastic bag. If the greens are still crisp and not beginning to wilt, rinse them and refrigerate them separately. Plan on using the leaves within a day or so, as they won’t stay fresh for long. The radish bulbs can be stored up to two weeks. Read more

Market Watch: Romanesco

by in In Season, February 19, 2017

Romanesco

With its florescent lime-green hue and funky spire-shaped florets, Romanesco looks a little like broccoli from another planet. In fact, its alien appearance earned it a cameo in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” (In one scene, Rey is shown biting into an apple studded with Romanesco florets, which drew commentary from famed astrophysicist and Star Wars fact-checker, Neil deGrasse Tyson.) In reality, this cruciferous veggie, sometimes referred to as Romanesco broccoli, is more closely related to cauliflower than broccoli. It’s also a bit crunchier with a milder, slightly nutty flavor. Though Romanesco has been on the menu in Italy since the 16th century, it didn’t make its debut in the United States until the late 90s. Until recently, it was found mostly at farmer’s markets. These days, however, you might spot it at your local supermarket during the fall and winter.

 

Romanesco Facts

Like other members of the Brassica family, including kale and cabbage, Romanesco is high in Vitamins C and K, and is a good source of dietary fiber. Romanesco is also particularly high in carotenoids and phytochemicals.

 

When buying Romanesco, choose heads that are bright in color. The stem should be firm, with no signs of wilting. Any attached leaves should be perky and crisp. Pick it up: it should feel dense and heavy for its size. Store it in a sealed plastic bag and refrigerate for up to a week. Read more

In Season: Blood Oranges

by in In Season, February 3, 2017

Long popular in Italy and Spain, these ruby-hued oranges are now being cultivated in Texas and California. Available from December to April, blood oranges are often both sweeter and less tart than other types of oranges, with a pleasantly bitter edge. Some people say they can even detect a hint of raspberry flavor.

 

Blood Orange Facts:

Harvesting blood oranges in the winter, when they are at the peak of ripeness, ensures that they are highest in anthocyanins, the compound that gives them their vivid blood-red color. Anthocyanins are thought to help stave off heart disease and cancer, as well protect eye health. Blood oranges are also an excellent source of fiber and Vitamin C.

Choose firm oranges that are heavy for their size and store for a week at room temperature, or up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Read more

Grapes for Dinner: Sauteed Chicken with Roasted Grapes and Onions

by in Healthy Recipes, October 4, 2016

This time of year, dozens of clusters of green and purple grapes take over the outside wall of my garage. I pop them into my kids’ lunches every day for weeks at a time and serve them again as an after-school snack. They also make an easy appetizer, set out in a pretty bowl with a hunk of good cheese. Inevitably, though, my family’s ability to eat endless amounts of raw grapes starts to wane. Before I know it, the fruit is spilling out of my refrigerator and I’m racking my brain to find new uses for it.

Most recipes for grapes — jellies, jams and desserts — call for combining them with a lot of sugar. These uses also often dispense with the skins, which provide healthy fiber. Besides containing fiber, grapes are an excellent source of antioxidants known as polyphenols, which are associated with a reduced risk for developing several types of cancers.

To retain all that healthy goodness, it was time to think beyond dessert. That’s when I came upon the idea of roasting grapes to make savory compote. Bonus: That would help me sneak grapes into dinner too.

Roasting grapes at high heat intensifies both their flavor and sweetness. For balance, I mix them with a little balsamic vinegar, some red onion and a few sprigs of rosemary — an herb that grows just a few feet away from my wall of grapes. After they cook for 20 minutes in the oven, I’ve got a delicious topping for any type of meat. In this recipe, I’ve paired the compote with sauteed boneless, skinless chicken, which is low in saturated fat and an excellent source of protein, but this compote would also be a good match for pork tenderloin or chicken sausage. Leftover roasted grapes are tasty spooned onto rye crackers spread with goat cheese or ricotta cheese — lunch for the adult set. Read more