The harvest is coming to and end … culminating in the Thanksgiving feast. As the weather turns colder, we instinctively turn to comfort foods. And the seasonal fruits and vegetables seem instinctively to know this.
Broccoli, mushrooms, pumpkins, spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash.
Cranberries, oranges, pears, pomegranate, tangerines.
If salads are your thing, look no further than Mark Bittman’s Roasted Sweet Potato Salad or 101 Cookbooks’ Bulgur, Celery and Pomegranate Salad. For a main course, you can try Spinach, Pesto, and Fontina Lasagna or Artic Char with Chinese Broccoli and Sweet Potato Puree, both from Epicurious.com. And this month, we’ll turn to Smitten Kitchen for dessert: Cranberry Pecan Frangipane Tart – sounds divine.
As for mushrooms, which I love, I have two suggestions. The first is mushroom crostini (like bruschetta but with mushrooms). With the holidays coming, it’s always good to have a few go-to appetizers that you know your guests will love. Martha Stewart offers up Wild Mushroom Crostini. The second recipe is Mushroom Risotto. The official version of my favorite locked away in a storage unit in one of the outer boroughs, I discovered a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis and modified it slightly to match the memory of the one I love. I made it yesterday and, I have to say, it was delicious. The recipe, along with my changes, are included below.
As always, enjoy the season and eat well!
Giada De Laurentiis, “Everyday Italian“
- 8 cups canned low salt Chicken Broth
- ½ oz dried porcini mushroom
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 cups finely chopped Onions
- 10 oz white Mushrooms finely chopped (I used cremini mushrooms)
- 2 Cloves Garlic minced
- 1½ cups Arborio rice or short-grain white rice
- 2/3 cup Dry White Wine
- ¾ cup frozen pea thawed (I omitted the peas)
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
- salt and freshly ground black pepper optional
- Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.
- Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the white mushrooms and garlic. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth). Stir in the peas. Mix in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Note: If you’re short on broth, as I was last night, instead of reconstituting the porcini mushrooms in the chicken broth, do it 2-3 cups of boiling water (for about 20 minutes). Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and follow the directions above. You’ll be left with the “porcini broth” which you can run through a strainer, adding it to your chicken broth. You’ll have more than enough to cook the arborio rice and the flavors are all there.
The harvest is kicking into high gear. I was at the Union Square Greenmarket here in New York on Saturday, and it was literally bursting with fruits, vegetables, and flowers (not to mention artisinal jams and cheeses). There are so many good things. The tomatoes are fantastic, so sweet they’re almost like eating candy. Here’s what’s delicious at the moment.
Eggplant, Lettuce, Pumpkin, Spinach, Tomatoes
Grapes, Pears, Pomegranite
First, I’ve got to try Smitten Kitchen’s Eggplant Salad Toasts (think bruschetta with eggplant, feta, onion, and garlic).
Then, the next time I’m craving a burger, I’m going to try this super simple, healthy version courtesy of Joy Bauer, Spinach Turkey Burgers. This recipe calls for frozen spinach, but I think it’s a good habit to get into. For the fresh-from-the-farmer’s-market variety, I love to saute it with extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of salt.
And this month, I’m reaching north of the border, to the LCBO Food & Drink website, for the last two suggestions. The first is Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce – not as difficult as it sounds, as the recipe calls for pre-made dumpling or wonton wrappers, and, if you’ve ever had this dish at a restaurant, you’ll know it’s well worth the effort. The second is Poached Pears in Rosemary Lemon Syrup. It serves two. Think of it as the perfect date night dessert. I’ve include it below.
If you want to a detailed list of what’s specifically in season in your part of the country, check out the Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map.
When you feel like having a lighter dessert but still want something sweet, these pears fit the bill.
½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
3 sprigs rosemary, about 3-inches (8-cm) each
3 wide strips lemon peel
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice
½ vanilla bean
2 whole ripe but firm pears
Crème Fraîche or whipped cream (optional) (recipe follows)
1. Fill a medium saucepan with 1½ cups (375 mL) water. Add sugar, rosemary sprigs, lemon peel and juice. Slice vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into saucepan along with bean. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.
2. Meanwhile, peel pears, leaving them whole and stem intact. Using a melon baller or small spoon, from base of pear, scoop out core. Place pears in saucepan. Bring mixture back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, turning pears occasionally, until fork-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from saucepan using a slotted spoon.
3. Boil syrup uncovered until reduced and thickened (it will thicken more upon cooling), 7 to 9 minutes. Cool. If it’s not thick enough, boil about 1 more minute. Place each pear on a plate. Drizzle with a spoonful or so of syrup. Sweeten crème fraîche or whipped cream with syrup to taste. Place a dollop beside pear.
¼ cup (50 mL) buttermilk
2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream
1. Whisk together buttermilk and whipping cream in a glass measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on counter for 24 to 48 hours or until thickened. Refrigerate. The mixture keeps for 2 weeks.
We’re getting into the heart of it, the time of the year when farmers markets are bursting with produce and just about everything is in season.
Corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, summer squash, tomatoes.
Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon.
Summer Squash – I came across a recipe for Sauteed Zucchini on 101 Cookbooks. I’ve yet to try it, but love that it can be served as a side dish, or with some hearty pasta, like faro, or even as the topping of a frittata.
Corn, Tomatoes – Meanwhile, Smitten Kitchen has posted a fabulous Summer Succotash recipe.
Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries – And the Today Show has a healthy, delicious, minimal-cooking-required dessert, courtesy of Joy Adams, James Beard award-winning chef and owner of Boston’s Rialto Restaurant and Bar. Her Greek yogurt with berries, blueberry honey sauce and pistachios is my idea of the perfect summer dessert. I have included it below.
Greek yogurt with berries, blueberry honey sauce and pistachios
Jody Adams, from her Rialto Restaurant and Bar
- 1 cup thick Greek-style yogurt
- 1/2 pint blueberries
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons rum
- Juice of one lime
- Zest of 1/2 lime
- 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 quart assorted berries, including raspberries, strawberries (halved, quartered, or sliced depending on the size) and blueberries.
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios
- 4 mint sprigs for garnish
If you do not have thick Greek-style yogurt, start with 2 cups of regular yogurt; put the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl and drain for two hours in the refrigerator. The volume should have reduced to 1 cup, resulting in nice, thick yogurt. Refrigerate. Discard the liquid.
Combine 1/2 pint blueberries and 1/4 cup honey with the rum in a small saucepan and cook eight minutes over medium-low heat, to cook the berries. Puree with the lime juice. Strain to remove skin and seeds. Chill.
Mix the yogurt with 2 tablespoons honey and the lime zest. Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Fold the cream into the yogurt. Chill.
Toss the berries with the sugar. Mix the berries with the mint.
Put a spoonful of the yogurt cream in each of 4 bowls. Drizzle with blueberry sauce, top with berries and sprinkle with pistachios.
Makes six servings
Pardon the pun, but we’re really getting into the meat of the season. Here’s the roster of heart-loving fruits and vegetables for the month of July.
Corn, cucumber, green beans, lettuce, summer squash, tomatoes.
Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon.
Here’s a sampling of the fantastic recipes that put these seasonal ingredients to work. So many delicious fruits and vegetables, so little time!
Kiwi Lime Tart – from the Today Show
Blueberry Pancakes – from Smitten Kitchen (includes several “Pancake 101” tips)
Summer Green Bean Salad – from 101 Cookbooks
Corn Salad – from the Svelte Gourmand
Jimmy Bradley and Bill McDaniel (The Red Cat in New York City)
8 cups grilled corn, cut off the cob
2 cups julienned sugar snap peas
1 cup small-dice red onion
1 cup small-dice red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (making this at home, I’d probably experiment and cut this down some)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and let sit for at least 1 hour. Recheck seasoning and serve. (Serves many)
Here is the June update for what’s in season.
Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, peaches, strawberries, watermelon.
When it comes to recipes to prepare using this month’s s selection, check out Rachel Ray’s Black Bean and Corn Salad. I ate this one last weekend. It is simple to prepare, healthy, and refreshing – the perfect side dish for a backyard barbeque (of course, I never have a problem with the perfect standby, corn-on-the-cob). Another great salad idea I came across combines lettuce, in this case peppery arugula, and watermelon, along with feta cheese olives, and red onions. And if you want know what to do with fresh apricots, Peter Wolfe, of Wolfe Ranch in Brentwood, CA, has published a varied list of recipes on his website, including Apricot Stuffed BBQ Chicken, Apricot Sunshine Breakfast Cake, and Fresh Apricot Dessert Topping, which I can’t wait to make:
2 cups sliced fresh apricots
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. apricot nectar or orange juice
Muscat dessert wine
Mix everything together. Use as a topping for pound cake, ice cream, frozen yogurt, etc.
As always, you can refer to the Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map for more detailed, state-by-state information.
Yesterday, a variety of news organizations reported on a study conducted by the University of Montreal and Harvard University, and published in the journal Pediatrics, linking exposure to common organophosphate pesticides, used to grow conventional fruits and vegetables, to an increased risk of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. “[T]he investigation found a connection between exposure pesticides and the presence of symptoms of ADHD.” This was alarming, to say the least, and, no doubt, left countless parents wondering what exactly they should be feeding their children.
Enter the Environmental Working Group. Today, they released their 2010 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides. What does the guide include? A list of 12 conventional fruits and vegetables that, when tested by the US Department of Agriculture Pesticide Testing program, as they would typically be eaten – after being washed or peeled – were determined to be contaminated with the highest level of pesticides. This group is known as the “Dirty Dozen.” What sorts of fruits and vegetables are on the Dirty Dozen list? Apples, bananas, blueberries, spinach, bell peppers. Also included in the guide, as a result of the same testing program, is the list of the “Clean 15” – those fruits and vegetables with the lowest levels of pesticides. What are some of the Clean 15? Onions, avocado, grapefruit, watermelon, and sweet potato.
The message? Whenever possible, when it comes to the Dirty Dozen, buy organic – if you want to pick-and-choose where to spend the extra money on organic, this list points you in the right direction. Secondly, buy from the list of Clean 15. According to the EWG, “You can lower your pesticide consumption by nearly four-fifths by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and instead eating the least contaminated produce.” And, always thoroughly scrub all fruits and vegetables, even frozen.
Your children will thank you, and you’ll feel better too.
This week’s Tip of the Week is another great tool for shopping and eating seasonally.
You select the month (the map defaults to the current month) and then click on your state. The map provides a list of fresh produce for your particular area. You can follow the list further for shopping tips and recipes for those specific fruits and vegetables. For example, if you live in Illinois, and you click on your state, you’ll receive a list of produce which will include the often under-appreciated leek. Click on “Leeks” and you’ll have the option to “View the ingredient description” taking you to the Epicurious Food Dictionary. The description includes the origin of leeks, a physical description for identification purposes, and how to buy and store them. I love this. Your second option from the map is to “View Recipes.” The Search Results for leeks yield 52 recipes, including Risotto with Leeks, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Truffles, as well as Smoked Salmon and Leek Scramble with Meyer Lemon Creme Fraiche. How could you resist?
There really is no excuse for not eating your fruits and vegetables.