pro­duce preparation

  • A Mixed Bag

    A ran­dom sur­plus of sea­sonal veg­eta­bles may pose a prob­lem worth solv­ing.

    Com­ing out of a flush hol­i­day pantry or work­ing through a fat CSA box, par­tic­u­larly with seem­ingly incom­pat­i­ble or unusual fresh ingre­di­ents, may trip us up at first.

    Take a sec­ond look at what there is to work with in the kitchen. Fen­nel, cele­riac and but­ter­cup squash…then what?

    After a bit of head scratch­ing, turn to an inter­net search for a blog post spout­ing the ben­e­fits of that pecu­liar ingre­di­ent. A recipe pos­si­bil­ity is cer­tain to fol­low.

    A wide spec­trum of menu options will be pre­sented. Decide first on which meal solu­tion to tackle. Break­fast, lunch or din­ner? Snack or appe­tizer? That answer will clear a path to the next hur­dle.

    Cooked or served raw will be the next line to cross. Var­i­ous cook­ing meth­ods will pro­duce com­pletely dif­fer­ent tastes and tex­tures. Com­pare a crisp, crunchy car­rot to that of one, moist and soft, roasted in a hot oven.

    Roast­ing ver­sus grilling pro­duces dif­fer­ent results. Sautéing ver­sus pan fried yields takes it in yet another direc­tion.

    The pop­u­lar­ity of fresh pick­les lends itself to con­vert­ing some of these more obscure veg­gies.

    Thinly shaved, juli­enned and whole items brined or soaked with sweet and sour spices make for good snack­ing and gift giving.
  • Baby Food

    Eas­ily rec­og­nized, yams and sweet pota­toes are some of those ugly fall and early win­ter root veg­eta­bles that are found on the side of the plate this time of year.

    Roasted, stuffed and on occa­sion, marsh­mal­low topped, the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of sweet pota­toes and yams has pushed their demand to become a year-​round thing.

    Baby yams and sweet pota­toes, avail­able sea­son­ally from August through Decem­ber, make it eas­ier to enjoy a single-​serve sweet gem.

    Com­pared to their larger coun­ter­parts, the smaller baby ver­sions allow for a petite, ten­der vari­ety to daz­zle the dish with color and fla­vor. With an edi­ble skin, the baby size have a sig­nif­i­cantly faster cook­ing time.

    Well known named vari­eties, sim­i­lar to their larger and jumbo cousins include Gar­net, Jewel, Japan­ese and Sweet Potatoes.
  • Bright & Tangy

    Tart and tangy, with an under­ly­ing sweet­ness, win­ter grape­fruit offer bright­ness to the cold days of Jan­u­ary.

    This juicy piece of cit­rus shines by pro­mot­ing good nutri­tion while deliv­er­ing a zippy taste.

    Orig­i­nally known as “the for­bid­den fruit”, grape­fruit made its way to the United States in the early 1800’s via the Span­ish and French set­tlers who brought seeds to Florida.

    From there, Span­ish mis­sion­ar­ies are cred­ited for bring­ing grape­fruit west to Texas, Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia.

    Although avail­able year-​round, they are in sea­son and at their best from win­ter through early spring.
  • Call Me “Honey“

    The National Mango Board has launched a new mar­ket­ing cam­paign, renam­ing the Ataulfo mango vari­ety to Honey mango.

    Over the years, the Ataulfo name has been repeat­edly reported as hard to pro­nounce for United States con­sumers, retail­ers and food­ser­vice users.

    They’ve had a bit of an “iden­tity cri­sis” with other names attached to them as well. Cham­pagne, yel­low, young, baby and Adolfo are all name tags placed on this beloved sweet piece of fruit.

    Dif­fi­culty with the name has cre­ated some missed edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties for this pop­u­lar Mex­i­can cul­ti­var.

    A main dif­fi­culty in the name has been a bar­rier to pur­chas­ing for those U.S. mango lovers con­fused about the mango. Using Honey mango is a consumer-​friendly way to improve the honey mango aware­ness and purchases.
  • Figs


    David John III dif­fer­en­ti­ates figs: Brown Turkey, Kadota, Tiger Striped.


  • Fresh Turmeric


    Turmeric: what it is, health ben­e­fits, prepa­ra­tion, usage.
  • Glam­our Shots

    The cal­en­dar page says Novem­ber so all bets are off. The imme­di­ate feel of this new month takes on a more fes­tive and impres­sive aura.

    Maybe we start to pay closer atten­tion to every detail of the plate. Is it pos­si­ble to have even more col­ors avail­able when using fresh ingre­di­ents this month?

    The shift towards apples, pears and cit­rus is evi­dent as they crowd out peaches and nec­tarine dis­plays. Hard squashes and root veg­eta­bles make their way to menu selec­tions at food­ser­vice venues.

    Besides pump­kin every­thing (food and bev­er­ages), there are some easy ways to add drama to the plate. Take Sat­suma man­darins, com­ing on region­ally through­out Cal­i­for­nia, are a good start to glam­our.

    These delight­ful hand fruits have a zip peel and make the per­fect any­time snack. When the indi­vid­ual seg­ments are sep­a­rated, they brighten up a morn­ing break­fast and do more than dec­o­rate a sup­per dish. They perk up a ho-​hum serv­ing right away with a pop of color.
  • Good Stuff

    Nearly any­thing stuffed will con­vince us that there is a cel­e­bra­tion in the mak­ing.

    That could mean an easy week­night din­ner party if the vehi­cle used for stuff­ing is a por­to­bello mush­room.

    In North­ern Italy, this over­sized mush­room is called “cap­pel­lone” which means “big hat”. It makes sense as the shape resem­bles a large cap or top­per (just right for stuff­ing).

    To be clear, once a cri­m­ini mush­room reaches between four to six inches in diam­e­ter, it is offi­cially called a por­to­bello or porta­bella. Yes, they are one in the same vari­ety, with a dif­fer­ent matu­rity level dic­tat­ing its name.

    A porta­bello is rec­og­nized by it’s open, flat sur­face (cap). Because it’s left to grow larger, the gills are fully exposed. This means that some of the mushroom’s mois­ture has evap­o­rated. The reduced mois­ture con­cen­trates and enriches the fla­vor and cre­ates a dense, meaty texture.
  • Haku Haku

    Kabocha, pro­nounced “kah-​BOH-​chah”, is a win­ter squash encased in a dull, deep green, hard, mot­tled skin that is often­times lined with pale, uneven stripes.

    There are also some orange skinned cul­ti­vars, though the green is the most com­monly pro­duced. This time of year, they begin to appear on autumn tablescapes and in earthy fall menu items.

    The skin is tech­ni­cally edi­ble if cooked, though most com­monly, it is dis­carded. Round and squat, with a flat­tened top, it ranges from one to eight pounds. Gen­er­ally, aver­age weight is two to three pounds.

    Inside is a deep yel­low orange flesh sur­round­ing a small seed cav­ity. Cooked, Kabocha offers a finely grained, dry flesh with a but­tery and ten­der tex­ture. Rather sweet, the rich fla­vor resem­bles a com­bi­na­tion of sweet potato mixed with pump­kin.

    In Japan, Kabocha squash was tra­di­tion­ally eaten around the time of the win­ter sol­stice with shiruko (adzuki beans) in a sweet soup to boost the immune sys­tem and help pre­vent colds dur­ing the win­ter months.
  • Ital­ian Prune Plums


    David John III explains how to choose, ripen, use and enjoy this sea­sonal treat!


  • Jack­fruit


    Find out what Jack­fruit is, how to eat it, and what it tastes like. Try some­thing new!
  • Late Bloomers

    Sum­mer is fad­ing fast. Vaca­tion days in the rear view mir­ror bring a dif­fer­ent focus with some new rou­tines shap­ing our plates. Before com­pletely let­ting go of sum­mer, how about tak­ing one last bite?

    The best of late har­vest sum­mer fruits and veg­eta­bles are ready for the final soirée. Act quickly, as the win­dow is clos­ing on the late bloomers.

    That glo­ri­ous camp includes heir­loom toma­toes, egg­plants (in all shapes, sizes and color), sum­mer and early fall squashes (zuc­chini, eight ball, spaghetti and but­ter­nut), and even some squash blos­soms still on the stem.

    Last of sum­mer basil makes for pesto for pasta, pizza or bruschetta. Use the toma­toes for tomato and herb salad or Cap­rese with a bal­samic driz­zle. Both are fresh, light and the per­fect com­pli­ment to any Sep­tem­ber din­ner party.

    Off the vine pep­per choices, make us dream of sump­tu­ous stuffed bells, chile rel­lenos and roasted Ana­heim, poblano, Hatch and jalapeños. South of the bor­der delec­tables go far beyond salsa. Pep­per pop­pers keep things lively for al fresco appetizers.
  • Marme­lada

    Food his­to­ri­ans credit Por­tugese cooks for the tasty spread we’ve come to know as mar­malade.

    Orig­i­nally made of quince (marmelo is the fruit’s Por­tugese name), the sweet/​tart gel like paste is used in desserts, breads and cakes.

    Quince are a rel­a­tively unusual fruit in that they are rarely, if ever, eaten raw. Mak­ing them into a jelly/​preserve/​compote allows them to be savored well past their sea­son.

    In Brazil, most marme­los are boiled, sweet­ened and then reduced to a thick jelly-​like paste called marme­lada.

    Quince are very tart and tan­nic, mak­ing them almost impos­si­ble to eat in their nat­ural state. Dur­ing cook­ing, their tan­nins mel­low and change color, giv­ing cooked quince a lovely pink-​to-​reddish hue.
  • Mint Takeover

    A rene­gade herb that will hap­pily take over any untended gar­den bed, mint is a sta­ple of sum­mer eats and drinks.

    Look­ing to exact a sense of culi­nary cool, calm, sweet or fresh­ness? Mint is indis­pens­able and with­out sub­sti­tute.

    The entic­ing aro­matic gets its scent from the oil in the leaf, men­thol.

    A wide vari­ety of mint plants exists, ready for use in the kitchen. The two most com­mon are prob­a­bly pep­per­mint and spearmint and the more rare curly leaf, pineap­ple and gin­ger mint.

    Get to know the nuanced dif­fer­ences so appli­ca­tions into sal­ads, starters, sides, entrees, drinks, cock­tails and desserts are best suited to spe­cific fla­vor pro­files.

    A few top mints to get to know: Spearmint. Most com­monly used in cook­ing for many noto­ri­ous mint recipes, includ­ing lamb, spring rolls, veg­eta­bles (like peas, car­rots, pota­toes, beans and cucum­bers), tabouli salad and favorite sum­mer cock­tails like moji­tos and mint juleps.
  • New CA Pota­toes


    Learn about New Pota­toes and how to use them.
  • Run­ner Beans (Mann’s Ten­der­bite Beans)


    These long, ten­der beans are a vari­ety called run­ner beans. Mann’s Pack­ing is re-​introducing them to the US as Ten­der­bites beans.


  • Savory Pear Tart

    It could very well be a savory pear tart. Or a car­rot souf­flé or even a Brus­sels sprouts Cae­sar salad with pecans that starts a hol­i­day dis­pute.

    A seem­ingly nice sur­prise and uncon­ven­tional approach to fruits and veg­eta­bles this time of year might sound per­fectly ratio­nal.

    Thanks­giv­ing is a time to gather with friends and fam­ily around a table that holds mostly tra­di­tional favorite dishes.

    The mere thought or sug­ges­tion of sneak­ing in a new take on a famil­iar salad, side, appe­tizer or dessert may be grounds for a fam­ily fuss.

    Chances are good that if the group assem­bled at your Thanks­giv­ing table has been there year-​after-​year, the expec­ta­tion is to serve exactly those same “tried and true” dishes that have been plated before.
  • Secret Sauce

    Grilling, smok­ing and bar­be­cu­ing are all pre­ferred meth­ods of sum­mer­time cook­ing.

    If you are the cook, you have a “secret sauce” of some kind in the out­door cook­ing arse­nal. Shar­ing it with oth­ers depends on how close to the vest you want to play it.

    Those of us merely the lucky recip­i­ents of good food cooked by oth­ers can only imag­ine what goes into the secret sauce. A hint of honey, a hit of ginger…sweet apri­cots or plums all just a guess.

    Mas­ters of mari­nades and glazes typ­i­cally have a “go to” one that can be applied to a choice of poul­try, fish, pork, beef or veg­eta­bles. Divulging any fam­ily recipes might be tricky.

    A quick inter­net search results in thou­sands of rec­om­men­da­tions for rich, lusty, sticky sauces that can be appro­pri­ated as our own.
  • Soup Plus Sand­wich

    A mid-​winter slump begs for more choices in the week night meal rota­tion. Soup and sand­wich riffs take some pres­sure off any­one respon­si­ble for putting food on the table.

    Afford­able and sat­is­fy­ing, a grilled cheese sand­wich and tomato soup combo are pretty hard to beat.

    Their warmth and com­fort goes past those Campbell’s Soup com­mer­cials. Think of other nat­ural pair­ings and get into the spirit of a lunch or din­ner that don’t require much home­work.

    Explore cream of cel­ery, French onion, Thai aspara­gus, veg­etable, potato — leek and mine­strone soup pro­files. A vast cat­a­log of recipes are avail­able to assist.

    Spicy ver­sions of tor­tilla, Mul­li­gatawny and pho take us to great exotic tastes from around the world. Chile pep­pers, curry, lentils, gin­ger root, mush­rooms and gar­lic make for excep­tional soup starters.
  • Soup Vital­ity

    Soup from scratch is well worth the small effort it takes to make. Likely, the famil­iar, basic com­po­nents are already in the pantry.

    Why wait for that req­ui­site sea­sonal cold or flu to set­tle in? Make soup now as it can be a com­fort for the soul and a tonic to the body.

    The nutri­tional val­ues and sooth­ing prop­er­ties of soup work on mul­ti­ple lev­els.

    Con­sum­ing plenty of liq­uids is always advised when fight­ing of aller­gens or bat­tling anti­bod­ies. The broth of soup counts toward flush­ing out the tox­ins and hydrat­ing the weary body.

    Warm liq­uids tend to clear the sinus pas­sages. Hot water and hot tea suf­fice, but hot soup is a wel­come change to the daily steam regimen.