All Posts In In Season

Cook This Now: Garlicky Broccoli Rabe

by in Cookbooks, In Season, November 2, 2011
broccoli rabe
6-minute side dish.

I see a lot of cookbooks — that’ll happen when you work for Food Network — and even though there’s a stack of new books on my desk threatening to topple over, I still get excited when I get a really good, new cookbook. The cookbooks that excite me are the ones filled with healthy, seasonal recipes, especially those with a lot of vegetable dishes because I don’t eat meat. Food writer, NY Times columnist and cookbook author  Melissa Clark‘s book, Cook This Now was one that excited me. So much so that it made it home to my kitchen, and not the teetering, 4-foot cookbook pile on my desk.

The book is organized by month, and each month has 10 recipes using ingredients that are at their peak that month. The setup is helpful for obvious reason: it’s easy to figure out what’s freshest and what to shop for at farmers’ markets, but there was an unexpected bonus to the month-by-month organization. Usually when I get a great cookbook, I leaf through the whole thing, flagging dozens of recipes I must make, then can’t decide what to make first. When I cracked open Cook This Now, I jumped right to November. I was tempted by the Butternut Squash Risotto With Pistachios and Lemon, the Honey Whole Wheat Corn Bread and the Roasted Acorn Squash, Honey, Smoked Paprika, and Sage Salt, but last night just happened to get a big bunch of broccoli rabe in my CSA, so was eager to turn that into dinner.

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Apple Recipes for Every Variety

by in In Season, October 29, 2011
bakedapplecrisptop
Sunny Anderson bakes apples and oats for a seasonal dessert.

Now apple season is in full swing, there’s even more reason to get your “apple a day”—and then some. According to the US Apple Association, US orchards produce nearly 100 varieties of apples, but 15 varieties make up about 90 percent of production. Those 15 include Braeburn, Crispin, Empire, Fuji, Gala, Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Idared, Jonagold, Jonathan, McIntosh, Red Delicious, and Rome apples. For more details on their respective taste and textures, check out the US apple association’s chart

In October, Braeburn, Crispin, Idared, and Jonagold apples are just starting their harvest season. While most apple varieties stay in season for many months, harvest for the Ginger gold ends in Novermber, so grab them while you can!

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How Can You Tell if a Pear is Ripe?

by in In Season, October 14, 2011
bartlett pear
Barlett pears. Image courtesy of USA Pears.

If you’ve ever bitten into a pear, heard a crunching sound, but didn’t really taste the sweetness you might have expected, chances are it wasn’t quite ripe. A little-known fact about pears: They’re one of the few fruits that don’t ripen on the tree. Once they’re picked,they need a little time for their sugars to develop, then they ripen (and sweeten) from the inside out. 

Some pear varieties change color when ripe. A Bartlett pear acts like a banana—it goes from green to yellow when ready to eat.  Unfortunately, not all pears broadcast this transformation so vividly. Checking ripeness doesn’t involve some complicated process however; it really just calls for holding the fruit in your hand. If the area around the stem of a pear gives a little with a gentle squeeze, it’s good to go. The USA Pear Bureau has an easy phrase for remembering how to determine if your pear is ripe: Check the neck.

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Market Watch: Early Butternut Squash, and a Butternut Squash Focaccia Recipe

by in Farmers' Market Finds, October 5, 2011

butternut squash
Typically winter squash isn’t ready until mid-October, but I get to enjoy it extra early since I grow this special variety in my garden.

While it’s too late now to plant it in your garden, put these seeds on your list for next year. Be on the lookout for it at the local farmers’ market too, its name is simple to remember, it’s actually called Early Butternut Squash. The sweet and tender squash will be ready to eat as early as August and the plant will keep producing through October. Make soup, add roasted chunks to pasta or make this crowd-pleasing foccacia recipe.

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31 Days of Pumpkins

by in In Season, October 3, 2011
alton brown's pumpkin bread
What to Do With Pumpkins idea #15: make Alton Brown's pumpkin bread.

Whether it’s for dinner, dessert or carving Jack-o-lanterns, nothing says fall quite like shiny orange pumpkins. We’ve got ideas for every day of the month.

1.    Check out your local farm or farmers’ market for unique varieties like “Oz” or “Spooktakular”

2.    Did you know? Pumpkins can be found in different colors, like orange, green and white.

3.    Find out where the “pumpkin capital” of the United States is.

4.    When you’re at the pumpkin patch – choose pumpkins with smooth, hard skin that are free of bruises or blemishes.

5.    It’s not pumpkin season until you make Pumpkin Pie – try our slimmed down recipe.

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Herb of the Month: Oregano

by in In Season, October 2, 2011
oregano
Try cooking with fresh oregano, it's much different than the dried stuff.

Sweet and spicy fresh oregano is totally different than the dried version in your spice rack. Fall is the perfect time to enjoy this pungent green herb.

Oregano Basics
Greek for “joy of the mountain” Grecian brides and grooms would wear a crown of oregano leaves to ward off sadness. Found in Mediterranean countries for hundreds of years, oregano gained popularity in the U.S. after World War II when soldiers returned from Italian assignments singing its praises.

In addition to its historical culinary uses, these tender green leaves were also prescribed to treat a variety of ailments including toothaches, muscle pain and bacterial infections.

A close relative to mint, leafy oval-shaped, oregano has a fresh and somewhat piney flavor. There are over 20 varieties including the bold and spicy “Mexican” and the more traditional “Mediterranean,” which is more mild but still full of flavor.

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Market Watch: Japanese Eggplant (and an Easy Eggplant Dip Recipe)

by in Farmers' Market Finds, September 12, 2011

eggplant spread
When tiny, cutie-pie eggplants turned up in my CSA box, they were a little small for eggplant parm, but that’s not where my eggplant options end.

Get our quick eggplant dip recipe »

In Season: Grapes

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, September 9, 2011

grapes
Grapes are in season right now. Get them fresh off the vine and try some of our favorite ways to prepare them.

When, Where, & What?
Grapes (Vitis spp, Vitaceae) are edible berries grown in clusters on small shrubs or vines. They grow best in temperate zones such as Italy, France, Spain, Mexico and Chile. New world settlers found that grapes brought over from Europe didn’t survive the winter cold and were prone to fungal diseases. They developed the hybrid varieties found in America today. Today California is the largest producer of “table grapes” – the kind for snacking.

There are thousands of varieties of grapes. Some are grown for wine production while others are grown to be eaten as-is. Concord grapes are used to produce grape juice, jams and jellies. They’re blue in color, with a thick, chewy skin and contain seeds. They’re sold as table grapes along with other varieties like Interlaken, Lakemont, Einset Seedless and Venus. Muscat grapes are turned into raisins while Riesling grapes are used to produce wine. Dana found fun varieties when she scouted her local farmers market including Mars and Juniper grapes.

Grapes are typically round or oval, smooth skinned and juicy. Some varieties contain seeds while others are seedless. Some are “slip skin” where the skin can easily be removed while other varieties have skin that is tough to remove. Grapes are divided into categories by color: white or black (or red). White grapes range in color from pale yellow-green to light green, while black varieties range in color from light red to deep purple. In the U.S., peak season for grapes is August through October.

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Herb of the Month: Tarragon

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, September 7, 2011

tarragon
Turned off by this green herb’s anise flavor? Don’t discount tarragon just yet. This delightfully fresh and fragrant herb will find its way into your culinary heart if you’re just willing to give it a chance.

Tarragon Basics
This under-appreciated herb is a staple in French cuisine. It made our list of Top Herbs for Healthy Cooking because it’s easy to grow (it will last all summer and through to the fall) and its feathery leaves are just as tasty frozen or dried as they are fresh. It certainly does have an element of anise flavor but the accompanying sweetness will make even the most devout licorice-hater swoon.

Nutrition Info
In a tablespoon of fresh tarragon, you’ll find about 5 calories. There are also all kinds of nutrients including iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and B6.

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30 Days of Corn

by in In Season, September 1, 2011
grilled corn salsa
We've got 30 ways to love sweet, tender, in-season corn, like this Grilled Corn Salsa.

It’s the peak of the season for sweet corn. Here are 30 ways to enjoy this summer treasure.

  1. Classic and straight up – on the cob with butter and salt
  2. Use our shopping tips to pick the perfect ears.
  3. Use a serrated knife to cut kernels off the cob — add raw kernels to to a salad for sweet crunch.
  4. After cutting off kernels, don’t toss those cobs – use them to flavor and thicken chowder.
  5. Make an easy summertime dinner –Fish Tacos with Chili Mayo and Grilled Corn
  6. Company coming? Make Grilled Corn Salsa and serve with tortilla chips
  7. Hit up the farmers’ market for the freshest corn. Local farmers will have all kinds of unique varieties available.
  8. Cooking Tip: when boiling corn on the cob, add salt and a splash of milk to the water.
  9. Add corn to your favorite pasta salad recipe.
  10. Add freshness and color to a stir fry.
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