pro­duce preparation

  • 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.
  • Sloppy Good

    Sum­mer eat­ing occa­sions are inher­ently more for­giv­ing. Many foods are hand held, eaten out­doors and have a cer­tain casual put-​together-​look about them.

    No need for name call­ing or sham­ing, but sloppy look­ing foods get by this time of year out of sheer good­ness.

    Less for­mal pre­sen­ta­tions give us more time pool­side or on the patio. We’re more inter­ested in less meal prep and more face time with our peeps.

    A Cap­rese salad of rough cut toma­toes, torn basil leaves and ran­dom Buf­falo moz­zarella pieces is quite suit­able. Pep­pered and oiled, this sum­mer cold plate rivals any pris­tine sliced and shin­gled ver­sion.

    Sum­mer fruits and veg­eta­bles are well groomed for a quick toss with herbs, dress­ings and light sea­son­ings. A squeeze of lime, lemon or grape­fruit may be all chopped and sliced mel­ons need.

  • Smooth Move

    Build­ing a sum­mer rou­tine begins today. No doubt that local stone fruits, berries, and mel­ons can influ­ence good habits.

    An instant refresher, smooth­ies make for a nutri­tious break­fast or sat­is­fy­ing mid-​day snack.

    Sum­mer hydra­tion is crit­i­cal to men­tal alert­ness and phys­i­cal sta­mina. The liq­uid choices in smooth­ies run the road from coconut water to fruit juices.

    Fruit juices range from cran­berry, orange and pineap­ple to cherry, pome­gran­ate and apple. Tap in to the antiox­i­dant attrib­utes of those dark reds for max­i­mum ben­e­fit.

    Watch the sugar intake as fruit and juices have nat­ural sug­ars that need to be accounted for when cre­at­ing a smoothie menu.

    Dairy and non-​dairy oat, almond and soy milks add their own ver­sion of liq­uid fla­vor. A yogurt of any type boosts the nutri­tional value of what goes into the blender.

    Make it green. Plenty of green fruits and veg­eta­bles turn the daily smoothie into a BIG Green energy machine. Avo­cado, kale, baby spinach, kiwi, cucum­ber, mint, lime, apples, cel­ery and chard qualify.
  • 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.
  • Sum­mer Jams

    Music venues and out­door con­certs get a lot of traf­fic all sum­mer long. Indi­vid­ual tastes run the spec­trum from rock, blues and coun­try to reg­gae, pop and rap.

    Clas­si­cal sum­mer choices fea­ture Mozart and Bach. If sym­phonies and operas don’t res­onate, try a dif­fer­ent type of sum­mer jam.

    Peak of sea­son fruits beg for pre­serv­ing in some fash­ion. We can’t eat it all no mat­ter how hard we try. Jams, jel­lies, com­potes and mar­malades allow the essence of sum­mer to be cel­e­brated in a jar.

    Sin­gle small batched jams can be achieved in a short period of time, mak­ing the process rel­a­tively pain­less. In just an hour of invest­ment, fruit can be trans­formed in to a mag­nif­i­cent jarred treat.

    Like most other food endeav­ors, we get out of it what we put in to it. Qual­ity going in means qual­ity in the jar. Pick or pur­chase high-​quality fruit at its peak for fla­vor, tex­ture, and color. Skip mushy, over­ripe, and dis­eased fruit.

  • Sun­ny­side Up

    Hun­ker­ing down to avoid the win­ter dol­drums requires a cer­tain amount of self-​awareness. Dreary, cold Jan­u­ary days sup­press high spir­its and kill spunk.

    Need a quick boost? Skip the day spa and go straight to the fruit bowl. A shot of sun­shine and bright­ness is just a peel away.

    Cit­rus ther­apy invig­o­rates the senses and tricks the mind into ener­gized, warmer thoughts.

    A sim­ple act of reach­ing for any type of cit­rus– orange, man­darin or grape­fruit– sets a tone for self care and good health. This choice, above other salty or sweet snack options, rein­forces good behav­ior and new year res­o­lu­tions.

    Break­ing open the skin of any easy to peel cit­rus fruit releases a burst of oil. Aro­matic and clean, the fra­grance is at once wel­com­ing and familiar.
  • Sweet For­give­ness

    Not every­one is blessed with the tal­ents of a great pas­try chef. A chem­istry class at times seems eas­ier than fol­low­ing an elab­o­rate dessert recipe.

    Not to worry. That same casual approach to sum­mer din­ing allows for sweet for­give­ness when it comes to summer’s famed desserts.

    Pair­ing the best exquis­ite sea­sonal fruits with the sim­ple, rus­tic meth­ods of care­free desserts require almost no kitchen skills.

    Light-​hearted clas­sics include fruit galettes, clafoutis, crisps and cob­blers.

    The impre­cise, free-​form galette is more of an imper­fectly shaped pie or tart — filled with the good­ness of sliced berries, cher­ries, peaches, nec­tarines, plums, pears, apri­cots, apples, rhubarb or any com­bi­na­tion of on-​hand sum­mer fruits. The dough is folded in on itself giv­ing it an irreg­u­lar, but entic­ing look to the pastry.
  • Switch­ing Gears

    Fall menus dic­tate a change of gears. Espe­cially when it comes to choos­ing fresh ingre­di­ents.

    Crav­ings begin for com­fort­ing soups, stews, casseroles and heartier dishes. New recipes get put into the week­night rota­tion.

    Web searches surge for slow cooker and Instapot ideas. The last of sum­mer pro­duce and new fall har­vest items pair well with legumes, rice, noo­dles, and grains.

    Triple digit tem­per­a­tures still linger in some parts of the coun­try. Once those finally fade away, we’ll jump right into col­or­ful autumn cook­ing. Soul sooth­ing foods are a tem­po­rary relief from the daily stress encoun­tered dur­ing these trou­bled times.

    The phys­i­cal engage­ment of increased peel­ing, chop­ping and shred­ding takes the edge off a day of work or life stress. Fol­low­ing a recipe or try­ing a new cook­ing tech­nique puts focus on some­thing other than our­selves. A tri­umphant new dish con­tributes to nour­ish­ing body and soul.

    Sweet pota­toes, kohlrabi, cab­bages, pome­gran­ates and per­sim­mons brighten up the fall pantry. Intro­duc­ing new greens and adapt­ing recipes to feed the fam­ily rein­vig­o­rates our enthu­si­asm. We can all use a boost to shake up the rote work of meal­time prepa­ra­tions.

    There have been a parade of new cook­books released this year. Many of them are plant-​centric and breathe life in to the ordi­nary way we approach widely avail­able veg­eta­bles.

    Red, green and orange bell pep­pers, chile pep­pers, corn, avo­ca­dos and cel­ery are all year round ingre­di­ents. How we bring them together for a sea­sonal riff is nuanced in roast­ing or pureeing.
  • Take It Slow

    Smart cook­ers like Instant Pots are enjoy­ing a moment. This cel­e­brated multi-​cooker is touted as capa­ble of replac­ing seven dif­fer­ent appli­ances.

    It brags of doing the work of a slow cooker, an elec­tric pres­sure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/​browning pan, and food-​warming pot.

    Cook­ing speed may be the sin­gle most advan­tage of going for the Instant Pot. This is par­tic­u­larly true if cook­ing some meats is high on the menu. Shav­ing time off of ribs, roasts and whole chicken mat­ters.

    Risotto and dried beans seem to cook in record time. Soups and stews from scratch develop depth of fla­vor with­out turn­ing on the stove or oven.

    Not every­one wants or needs sev­eral (or even one more) kitchen gad­get tak­ing up shelf space. Com­pe­ti­tion among food proces­sors, stand mix­ers, blenders, juicers and var­i­ous cof­fee mak­ers is fierce within most households.
  • Taste Cal­i­for­nia

    Cal­i­for­nia avo­ca­dos have arrived! They are gen­er­ally avail­able from April to Sep­tem­ber, but for the nearly 5,000 grow­ers in the state, the avo­cado sea­son is a year-​round endeavor.

    Farm­ers walk their avo­cado groves every month to check on the trees, assess weather affects and grove con­di­tions. They must ensure avo­ca­dos are on the right track for pro­jected har­vests. Each stage in the growth cycle is crit­i­cal.

    Avo­ca­dos, grown on trees, have a tree growth cycle with six stages: flow­er­ing, shoot growth, root growth, fruit set, fruit growth, and har­vest.
    That’s a lot to watch and care for dur­ing each sea­son.

    Cal­i­for­nia pro­duces about 90 per­cent of the nation’s avo­cado crop. Ninety-​five per­cent of Cal­i­for­nia avo­ca­dos are the Hass (rhymes with pass) vari­ety.

    The Hass vari­ety accounts for about 80 per­cent of all avo­ca­dos eaten world­wide. By now, most of us under­stand that an avo­cado is actu­ally a fruit.
  • Team Car­rot

    Brus­sels sprouts and cau­li­flower have enjoyed the recent lime­light with chefs and home cooks.

    The hum­ble car­rot is wor­thy of some kitchen love and atten­tion.

    Car­rots are at their sweet­est in spring, when their bright col­ors and del­i­cate fla­vors shine.

    They are ten­der enough to enjoy raw in sal­ads and yet hearty enough for roast­ing, pick­ling, mash­ing and purees. Soups and stews are made bet­ter when car­rots take the stage.

    Juic­ing car­rots, alone or with other fruits and veg­eta­bles, is a game chang­ing spring rit­ual for those look­ing for a sea­sonal cleanse or detox. Their inher­ent, earthy sweet­ness bal­ances other flavors.
  • The “S” Word

    Sprouts are those skinny lit­tle veg­etable threads that are high on nutri­tion­als. They begin as seeds. When those seeds are exposed to the right tem­per­a­ture and mois­ture, they ger­mi­nate into very young plants. These ten­der young ten­drils are the edi­ble sprouts.

    Com­mon sprout vari­eties include grains, beans or leafy sprouts. Three of the most pop­u­lar bean selec­tions are alfalfa, soy and mung bean sprouts. They can be served raw or lightly cooked.

    The crunchy, tasty good­ness of bean sprouts can be incred­i­bly ben­e­fi­cial to over­all health. They are packed with plant pro­tein, con­tain no fat, and are very low in calo­ries.

    While sprouts have been a part of East Asian, Indian sub­con­ti­nent and Mid­dle East­ern cui­sine for thou­sands of years, they’ve only recently become pop­u­lar in the rest of the world, includ­ing the West.

    Edu­cated fans know that eat­ing sprouts can help pro­mote good health. At the same time, there is quite a bit of debate and dis­agree­ment regard­ing the safety of bean sprouts.

    Like any fresh pro­duce that is con­sumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts carry a risk of food­borne ill­ness. Unlike other fresh pro­duce, seeds and beans need warm and humid con­di­tions to sprout and grow. These con­di­tions are also ideal for the growth of bac­te­ria, includ­ing Sal­mo­nella, Lis­te­ria, and E. coli.

  • Tinga This

    Tinga is a pop­u­lar stew using a blend of Mex­i­can and Span­ish cook­ing meth­ods. The result is a per­fect mar­riage of spicy, sweet and smoky fla­vors.

    Chicken or pork are favored meats used in this tra­di­tional Pueblo dish. Lentils, chick­peas or pota­toes are solid veg­e­tar­ian twists.

    Onions and gar­lic are sauteed first. Like most authen­tic Mex­i­can recipes, white onions are pre­ferred. Toma­toes are then added. Fresh toma­toes are used when avail­able and taste great. Vari­ety isn’t really impor­tant.

    Oth­er­wise, canned toma­toes are quite suit­able. Good choices dur­ing win­ter months would be to use fire roasted toma­toes, crushed toma­toes or even tomato sauce or tomato paste in a can.

    Next comes adding the stock, herbs and spices. Bay leaves, salt, pep­per and Mex­i­can oregano are stan­dard spices used in a tinga. Corian­der, thyme and mar­jo­ram take another culi­nary path.

    Chipo­tle chilies in Adobo sauce give the stew a sub­stan­tial kick. Essen­tially, chipo­tles in adobo are smoked and dried jalapeños chiles– rehy­drated and then canned in toma­toes, vine­gar, gar­lic, and spices.

    Decide on the heat pref­er­ence before adding a whole can of pep­pery heat. There’s no turn­ing back once they go into the stew pot or slow cooker.

    House made chipo­tle chilies are doable, but require more effort. If han­dling chili pep­pers is no prob­lem, look for jalapeños that are firm. The fresher the pep­pers, the bet­ter the result.

    The mix­ture is sim­mered long enough to allow all of the ingre­di­ents to meld nicely together. If meat is desir­able, add that to the sim­mer­ing sauce. If not, add legumes or other vegetables.
  • Vidalia Onions; Cac­tus Leaves


    David John dis­cusses how Vidalia onions dif­fer from other onions; how to pre­pare and enjoy cac­tus leaves.


  • We’re Jam­min’

    Just as we start to relax the stay-​at-​home orders, lin­ger­ing DIY projects reward those look­ing to stay in their own lane.

    Shop­pers lucky enough to have found flour, grains and yeast dur­ing total lock­down were a step ahead.

    Indus­tri­ous kitchen bees, with time on their hands, stayed busy mak­ing breads, piz­zas and pas­tas. Pantry sta­ples inspired new ways of putting food on the table.

    Self-​sufficiency doesn’t have to retreat. As we find our­selves return­ing to new nor­mal. Why not carve out some space to keep the home made food thing going?

    Ambi­tious new­com­ers and expe­ri­enced cooks are ready to tackle home­made jams, jel­lies and pre­serves.

    Tim­ing is per­fect with the glo­ri­ous stone fruits and berries com­ing in to sea­son. Cal­i­for­nia cher­ries and apri­cots lead the parade and rep­re­sent the exquis­ite short sea­son of these delec­table fruits.

    Small batch recipes dis­miss any fear of not hav­ing the right can­ning sup­plies or know how. Fewer ingre­di­ents are required and nei­ther are gear or gad­gets to com­pli­cate matters.
  • Whack Job

    Let’s talk pome­gran­ates. Most kids don’t mind get­ting messy while break­ing in to them. Stained crim­son hands and shirts don’t faze an eager ten or twelve year old.

    That’s not what most cooks and chefs care to expe­ri­ence as they work the jew­eled arils in to their pome­gran­ate recipes.

    Over the years and over the inter­net, many experts have given us var­i­ous meth­ods of extract­ing the seeds with­out dif­fi­culty.

    The under­wa­ter method seems like a lot of work for the reward. Sure, we stay cleaner but work­ing the fruit is tax­ing. Scor­ing the fruit in sec­tions is a solu­tion. We must still work each sec­tion to loosen the seeds.

    Scor­ing and invert­ing the fruit is also advised. This yields loose seeds through the sheer force of dis­lodg­ing them from their pithy mem­branes. Mus­cle and patience.