Monday, June 6, 2011

Eating Our Way Through the Produce Alphabet

Continuing with our march through the produce alphabet made me recall a book that I used to read with my children when they were small:  Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert.    This colorful board book pictures fruits and veggies from A to Z.   Reading it did not in any way ensure that my children ate a wide variety of said fruits and veggies, but to this day, they know kohlrabi from kale.

Today we feature J to R....

J...Jalapenos.   Whether it's a three course dinner featuring various peppers or a spicy take on brownies, we love chilis of all types! 

K...Are Kiwis in season?  I don't think so.  But they are delicious and very good for you; filled with potassium!

L..Lemons and Limes.  Ok, they're neither seasonal nor local, but we'd be lost without them.  A wedge in a glass of ice water turns nondescript into refreshing and delicious.  Not to mention the possibilities when we start talking margaritas, lemon martinis, mojitos.  I'm getting thirsty.  And when it comes to cooking--well, in salads, on fish, in marinades or over fresh fruit, a splash of citrus is just what the doctor ordered.  I can't forget dessert, either--my favorite course.  Key Lime PieLemon Souffle Cake.  I really, really like citrus.

M...We adore Mache lettuce for its sweetness.

N...Napa Cabbage.  Any variety of cabbage sauteed in olive oil with a dash of salt and a generous sprinkle of black pepper will pleasantly surprise you--it bears no resemblance whatsoever to that stinky boiled mush that you may have suffered through as a child.  If you want to get fancy, try this Indian recipe that blends cabbage with mustard seeds, ginger, chilis and yogurt.  It will knock your socks off!

O..Onions.  Sliced raw and placed atop a juicy burger.  Grilled and served as a stand alone side.  Caramelized and slathered over steak or salmon.  Chopped coarsely and tossed in a salad.  Pickled and served with cold meats.  Red, white, yellow, green, sweet, strong, pungent or mild, onions are a cook's best friend.

P..Peas in all forms.  How did we ever live without pea shoots?  Make a salad from pea shoots, shavings of parmesan, Marcona almonds (ie the Spanish salted variety).  Toss with olive oil and a sprinkling of pepper and salt.  A worthy dinner party salad this!  Can't find Pea Shoots?  (We're on the tail end of their season right now.)  Grab a few handfuls of snap peas.  Even the most reluctant vegetable consumer can't resist these sweet, crunchy pods served raw with a dip or quickly sauteed with garlic, soy and ginger.  And Claire still recalls fondly the hours she spent as a child shelling the  fresh peas that her family grew in the garden.  (I suspect that she was less fond of the task while she actually performed it, but hindsight isn't always 20-20.)

Q...Quince.  Ok, we're not exactly conversant in these either, and we can't even reliably claim that they are in season now, but quince paste, aka membrillo, is a divine accompaniment to a cheese plate.  Our friends at Salumeria assembled this lovely ensemble--membrillo, manchego, and crackers specifically made for sheep milk cheeses.  They highly recommend serving membrillo with sheep milk cheeses (hence the Manchego selection--but Pecorino or Roquefort would be admirable pairings as well).   With a salad, a well-assembled cheese plate can serve as a lovely, light supper on a hot day when cooking is abhorrent.

R...Radiccio has an intense flavor, so a little goes a long way.  It introduces a beautiful bright color to contrast with the greens in your salad and that slight bitterness is a lovely flavor match with the sweetness of balsamic.

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