Fresh News

Some­times the health­i­est and tasti­est dishes are the sim­plest. Keep­ing meals sim­ple is ideal as these last hot days of sum­mer roll into fall.

Using only a hand­ful of ingre­di­ents, like five or less, makes sense for reluc­tant kitchen cooks.

September’s mash up of sea­sonal pro­duce is truly a schiz­o­phrenic best of both worlds.

On the one hand, some of the prized toma­toes of the sea­son are just com­ing to mar­ket. Fresh herbs, peaches, zuc­chini, sweet and hot pep­pers, egg­plants and corn beg for the spot­light.

The other hand is deal­ing out new crop apples, pears, quince, figs, nuts and grapes. Hard squash, new pota­toes and onions, kale and beets paint a new plate palette.

Uncom­pli­cated and straight­for­ward, sal­ads, entrees and sides are assem­bled in short order with just a few sim­patico ingre­di­ents. Pantry sta­ples such as olive oil, salt and pep­per are exempt from the tally as those are always at hand.

Mid-​week time man­age­ment for hur­ried din­ners and hun­gry mouths let pro­duce shine bright. Zuc­chini rib­bons, nec­tarine and beet salad or lemon-​garlic spinach spruce up the plate. Given avail­abil­ity of pre-​cut veg­gies and fruits, the pain of slic­ing and chop­ping can be elim­i­nated.

A recent Cap­rese salad served on the week­end took advan­tage of already sliced moz­zarella cheese. How easy is that for a sexy quick starter? Fresh basil leaves, gar­den toma­toes and the per­fect thick­ness of soft moz­zarella. Bellissima!

Read more: Gimme Five →

Move to close out these last pre­cious days of sum­mer on a healthy note. Mod­ify the daily dietary reg­i­men to incor­po­rate a few health­ier choices. This will kick start a ter­rific fall lifestyle.

Plant-​based/​Plant-​forward eat­ing prac­tices have been widely adopted and quite pop­u­lar in recent years. An empha­sis on meals focused pri­mar­ily from plants can do a body good.

This includes not only fruits and veg­eta­bles, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Eat­ing a plant-​based diet means get­ting most or all calo­ries from fresh, whole plant foods that are min­i­mally processed.

The Mediter­ranean diet is a way of eat­ing that’s based on the tra­di­tional cuisines of Greece, Italy and other coun­tries that bor­der the Mediter­ranean Sea. Plant-​based foods, herbs and spices are the foun­da­tion of this diet. Mod­el­ling this way of eat­ing could be the first step in over­haul­ing the diet by fall.

Olive oil is the main source of added fat. Fish, seafood, dairy and poul­try are included in mod­er­a­tion. Red meat and sweets are eaten only occa­sion­ally.

Start by build­ing meals around veg­eta­bles, beans and whole grains. Eat fish at least twice a week. Try using olive oil instead of but­ter in prepar­ing food.

Instead of calorie-​laden heavy desserts, serve fresh fruits after meals for a sweet treat. Grapes, mel­ons, oranges and fresh berries can be quite sat­is­fy­ing after din­ner.

Eval­u­ate daily sugar, cof­fee, and alco­hol con­sump­tion. Look for ways to adjust or reduce intake. Exam­in­ing these uncon­scious habits hon­estly may yield to the promise of reduced inflam­ma­tion, higher energy lev­els and bet­ter sleep.

Drop­ping a few extra pounds can incen­tivize going far­ther in a total fall reset. Putting exer­cise on the daily cal­en­dar makes it a pri­or­ity. If the work­day locks in seden­tary behav­ior, decide how to break the streak. Set an alarm for a sure fire way to get in those 10,000 steps. Sched­ule in a time slot for a phys­i­cal appointment.

Read more: Plant Ahead →

Chips and salsa are pretty stan­dard fare in most Mex­i­can restau­rants. At home, we rely on them for a go to snack or pre­cur­sor to an enchi­lada or chili rel­leno din­ner.

The combo is a good stand-​alone bite when hang­ing out with friends on the patio.

Salsa lit­er­ally trans­lates to sauce. Don’t get stuck think­ing that tor­tilla chips are the outer lim­its to what pairs per­fectly with salsa.

Purists might fol­low the pico de gallo or rojo route. That’s a ter­rific jump­ing off point for home­made salsa. Chili pep­pers, toma­toes, onions, fresh lime and cilantro get the job done. The fresher the bet­ter wins over salsa fans.

Step­ping away from this clas­sic, expand to other ingre­di­ents to pump up the salsa reper­toire. Explore unlikely sum­mer and trop­i­cal ingre­di­ents. Straw­ber­ries, man­gos, peaches, pineap­ples and even water­melon rise to meet salsa aspi­ra­tions.

Pome­gran­ate arils are a sur­prise ele­ment that deliver on zing and crunch fac­tors. Dessert is unique with a ladle full of fruit salsa over vanilla ice cream, chur­ros or cin­na­mon tor­tilla chips. Bold is not bor­ing when it comes to new ways to inter­pret tra­di­tional appli­ca­tions of how we put salsa in motion

Con­sider serv­ing these level up con­coc­tions with tra­di­tional menus choices like Baja style tacos or faji­tas. When cook­ing chicken, fish or pork, those bright and fruity ver­sions con­vert ordi­nary din­ner to one of higher inter­est.

Tomatil­los can be added to nearly any­thing salsa. Tangy, more acidic, and less sweet, this green tomato-​looking thing is in the fruit family.

Read more: Salsa Crush →

Cal­i­for­ni­ans have been cul­ti­vat­ing grapes for more than two cen­turies.

Today, Ninety-​nine per­cent of table grapes in the United States are pro­duced in California’s warm, dry cli­mate that is ideal for grape grow­ing.

With eighty two grape vari­eties grown, Cal­i­for­nia grapes come in three col­ors — green, red, and black — and are in sea­son from May through Jan­u­ary.

Deter­min­ing when grapes are ripe is a real sci­ence . Both the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Food and Agri­cul­ture are involved in set­ting and mon­i­tor­ing grape pro­duc­tion stan­dards. Sugar con­tent, color, bunch and berry size and uni­for­mity are all mea­sured before har­vest begins. Work­ers who decide which grapes to har­vest are trained pro­fes­sion­als with years of expe­ri­ence.

Once picked, fresh grapes are eas­ily dam­aged by rough han­dling, warm tem­per­a­tures, exces­sive mois­ture and decay-​causing organ­isms.

Grape bunches are care­fully inspected and then imme­di­ately packed by hand into ship­ping con­tain­ers – often right in the field.

Shortly after picking/​packing, the field heat is removed from the fruit in cold stor­age facil­i­ties. Grapes are stored at tem­per­a­tures between 30 F and 32 F. From this point, until they reach their des­ti­na­tion (mar­kets through­out the world), the grapes will be main­tained in a care­fully reg­u­lated envi­ron­ment to assure they arrive in just-​picked condition.

Read more: Good­ness Grapes →

The word “water­melon” con­jures up images of free-​spirted sum­mer­time fun. Fam­ily gath­er­ings, care-​free beach days, back­yard bar­be­cues, and out­door camp­ing events keep water­melon on the top of the sum­mer gro­cery list.

Over thirty states in the U.S. grow water­melon for the sum­mer sea­son. When domes­tic har­vests end, we move back to imported mel­ons from Mex­ico and Guatemala. This means there is a year-​round sup­ply of this fam­ily favorite.

Most peo­ple eat the red flesh of water­melon down to the rind. Once fin­ished, they toss out the rest of the water­melon. Gar­den­ers know to put the rinds in the com­post heap. Back­yard chicken farm­ers give their hens a tasty rind treat.

Those two good uses for the rind are not the only ben­e­fits of using the entire water­melon. The flesh, juice and rind are one hun­dred per­cent edi­ble.

A few sug­ges­tions for putting the rind to good use make water­melon a zero waste food.

Make Pick­les. Water­melon rind is pretty sim­i­lar to a cucum­ber. A quick boil and cool down of the cut up rinds allow them to absorb what­ever pick­ing spices and vine­gar pre­ferred. Sweet, sour, spicy or some­thing in between give water­melon pick­les a full range of options.

Read more: It’s a Rind →

No sweeter words res­onate more with par­ents today than “you’re going back to school”. Sweet words, yes, but maybe a bit con­fus­ing, as well.

The past eigh­teen months have not been a pic­nic for house­holds jug­gling work, home-​schooling, life sched­ules and fam­ily time.

The return to in-​person learn­ing will give a sem­blance of rou­tine and per­haps a promise to a more life-​balance for teach­ers, par­ents and stu­dents.

Dur­ing the pan­demic, Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC) direc­tives have helped influ­ence school safety deci­sions. Recent updates rec­om­mend remov­ing pre­ven­tion strate­gies one at a time. With vac­cines only avail­able for peo­ple ages 12 and older, a large pro­por­tion of school-​age chil­dren remain unpro­tected from COVID.

School dis­tricts are work­ing hard to flush out the details of what the school year will look like.

Every state, every county is pay­ing atten­tion to how new poli­cies for in-​person school or a hybrid pro­gram means will keep every­one safe from COVID. Some con­flicts between juris­dic­tions and local­i­ties are yet to be resolved.

Mean­while, kids still need to eat. Where they eat, how they eat and what they eat are the fine points indus­try enti­ties are inter­ested in know­ing. A con­gre­gate set­ting may not be avail­able for this school year. Likely, self-​serve salad bars are off the prover­bial table. “Grab and Go”, pre-​packaged break­fasts or lunches will be preferred.

Read more: Back to School →

Cal­i­for­nia grows one third of the veg­eta­bles pro­duced in the United States. It grows two-​thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts.

Last winter’s La Nina weather pat­tern in the Pacific left Cal­i­for­nia with less rain­fall and mois­ture than nor­mal or needed.

Many farm­ers saw the impend­ing water short­age and drought con­di­tions as good rea­son to opt out of plant­ing for the this sea­son.

The cur­rent drought is on pace to be one of the worst ever on record. Cal­i­for­nia, home to about 70,000 farms and ranches, with a com­bined AG pro­duc­tion of about $50 bil­lion a year, is suf­fer­ing severe con­se­quences.

The dairy indus­try accounts for the largest chunk of the state’s agri­cul­tural rev­enue, fol­lowed by almonds and then grapes.

The State Depart­ment of Water Resources and the Fed­eral Bureau of Recla­ma­tion, declared that “the Water Year 2021 is cur­rently the dri­est on record since 1977”.

Drought con­di­tions inten­sify long-​standing water allo­ca­tion con­flicts among farm­ers, munic­i­pal­i­ties and envi­ron­men­tal advo­cates. Even in years when the state has had good rain­fall and snow­pack lev­els, Cal­i­for­nia has never had enough water to sat­isfy all demands.

Cli­mate change has shifted rain pat­terns and increased tem­per­a­tures across the planet. Record-​setting tem­per­a­tures in June were an early start to a very long, hot summer.

Read more: High & Dry →

Din­ing alone can be daunt­ing if not intim­i­dat­ing. Not every per­son feels com­fort­able sit­ting at a restau­rant table by them­selves for an entire meal ser­vice.

Road war­riors were used to fend­ing for them­selves when work duty called. Busi­ness travel has not fully rebounded from the pan­demic. Sales peo­ple and oth­ers will hit the road again when the COVID dust is clear.

Fly­ing solo is not exclu­sive to the mobile work­force. Think of those liv­ing alone by choice or by cir­cum­stance. Per­haps a life part­ner has gone away for a short leisure or work trip. There are many rea­sons for din­ing out alone and none should pre­clude enjoy­ing a great meal in your own com­pany.

Eat­ing out alone does not mean that a per­son is lonely, with­out friends or at all unhappy. The social stigma attached to a being a soli­tary diner is what might pre­vent more brave souls to ven­ture out.

To expe­ri­ence things in one’s own unique way is empow­er­ing. Give your­self per­mis­sion to try that new neigh­bor­hood café or bistro on your own.

The notion of shar­ing meals with oth­ers is well sup­ported for the culi­nary acu­men and social engage­ment aspects. Those two fac­tors are not exclu­sive to group set­tings. As a soloist, one can engage with wait staff to fully embrace the menu, prepa­ra­tions and any spe­cial ingre­di­ents and sourc­ing tid­bits.

Sig­na­ture dishes are wor­thy of a sin­gle plate.

Read more: Table for One →

Pulp Fic­tion, the 1994 cult clas­sic by Quentin Taran­tino, ref­er­ences many iconic foods in the film.

The Burger Royale puts a Euro­pean twist on an all Amer­i­can favorite. The five dol­lar shake at Jack Rab­bit Slim’s makes movie-​goers won­der what that extrav­a­gant drink might taste like.

The cur­rent food sup­ply chain puts an end to guess­ing about what an expen­sive shake or burger might taste like. Menu prices are going up fast.

Con­sumers are cer­tainly spend­ing more for food. Costs for “take out”, din­ing in and prepar­ing meals at home have all increased post-​pandemic.

Lots of fac­tors account for the ris­ing costs. Those increases, not unlike with other indus­tries, are being passed on to patrons.

Toi­let paper and pasta short­ages were evi­dent six­teen months ago. At the start of national COVID-​19 out­breaks, the run at retail gro­cery stores led to pantry hoard­ing.

Today’s price hikes are real. The cost of every­thing from lum­ber to food to air­fares is climb­ing. Com­pa­nies report short­ages of prod­ucts, mate­ri­als, and work­ers. As the pan­demic wanes, we are left to grap­ple with long-​term sup­ply chain issues.

We see first-​hand the robust return and re-​opening of food­ser­vice. That’s great and wel­comed news for every­one. One down side is how busi­nesses are choos­ing to cope with new oper­a­tional challenges.

Read more: Burger Royale →

After a year or more of going nowhere, Amer­i­cans are on the move. Vac­ci­nated indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies are get­ting back to their des­ti­na­tion “bucket” lists.

Encour­aged to “play it safe” and see the United States, theme parks, hotels, camp­grounds, state and national parks are bustling with sum­mer tourists.

Inter­na­tional travel ambi­tions are com­pli­mented by rel­a­tively rea­son­able air fares and afford­able accom­mo­da­tions. Nearly every­one we know had to can­cel 2020 vaca­tion plans.

Rec­om­men­da­tions to travel safely are well announced. Coun­tries to avoid are well-​supported. Much of Europe is still off-​limits to Amer­i­cans. Croa­tia and var­i­ous other Balkan coun­tries, includ­ing Alba­nia, North Mace­do­nia, Ser­bia and Mon­tene­gro, are open.

North­ern lights in Ice­land are tempt­ing. Bali may be open but still may require mul­ti­ple days of quar­an­tine upon arrival. Cana­dian bor­ders are not fully allow­ing Amer­i­cans to freely cross. Greece is open for leisure Amer­i­can vis­i­tors. Ahh Greece.

Rea­sons for travel to for­eign places are often times per­sonal. The cul­ture, the peo­ple, the his­tory and geog­ra­phy play a role. So does build­ing life­long mem­o­ries with com­pan­ion trav­el­ers. The food of every cul­ture and within each coun­try tells a story cen­tral to the travel expe­ri­ences.

Greek cui­sine has been greatly influ­enced by both East­ern and West­ern cul­tures. Any num­ber of authen­ti­cally pre­pared Greek dishes reminds one of why we need to travel.

Read more: Greek with Envy →

Eat­ing in the morn­ing sets the tone for the rest of the day.

It makes sense then that mak­ing it a bal­anced meal with fiber – rich grains (foods made with both whole grains and enriched grains), lean pro­tein, and some fruit or veg­gies will keep the wolves away.

Stay­ing sat­is­fied by a good break­fast keeps us on track and avoid­ing that mid-​morning crash or energy slump.

The whole morn­ing break­fast rit­ual has come under scrutiny by those look­ing to shed a few pounds. Sure, inter­mit­tent fast­ing or stick­ing to a “cof­fee only” start reduces daily calo­ries. Skip­ping break­fast robs us of the oppor­tu­nity to nour­ish the body with essen­tial micronu­tri­ents.

Once we rise, the energy stores are depleted by as much as eighty per­cent. With­out food, a body begins to con­serve energy and actu­ally burn fewer calo­ries — slow­ing down metab­o­lism. Stud­ies show that break­fast skip­pers were nearly five times more likely to be obese than peo­ple who eat break­fast.

A high-​fiber, high-​protein break­fast may be the most impor­tant invest­ment made for improv­ing mood, waist­line and sta­mina.

Morn­ing fuel pos­si­bil­i­ties are a blank can­vas. Paint it with broad brush strokes for on the go oat­meal jars to pro­tein smoothies.

Read more: Rise & Dine! →

Two quin­tes­sen­tial foods that define sum­mer are water­melon and corn. By July fourth, both items are on house menus and in high demand.

Water­melon takes a back seat to noth­ing in the pro­duce win col­umn. For now, set it aside for a bit of corn amaze­ment.

On its own mer­its, a sin­gle but­tered ear of sweet corn is supremely sat­is­fy­ing. What we can do with these bright green husks and their sweet nuggets inside is noth­ing short of sur­pris­ing.

Don’t believe there is any­thing more to dis­cover about sweet corn? Have you made or tried corn ice cream? How about a savory whipped corn dip to upstage hum­mus with dip­ping veg­eta­bles?

Put on that corn apron and get busy with shrimp and corn chow­der or a lob­ster or crab boil with corn as a trusty side kick.

Nancy Silverton’s L.A. restau­rant Pizze­ria Mozza cel­e­brates fresh Cal­i­for­nia pro­duce. She serves an upgraded grilled cheese sand­wich filled with a charred sweet corn-​studded blend of nutty English-​cheddar and sharp cacio­cav­allo.

What­ever the cook­ing treat­ment, corn is like the unex­pected happy sur­prise to the main attrac­tion. Grilled corn plays so well with other fresh sum­mer items.

Read more: A-​MAIZ-​ING! →

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.

Read more: Smooth Move →

The taste of sum­mer might best be summed up in one bite. That’s if that bite is a juicy, ripe peach.

One of sev­eral so called stone fruits, they fall into one of two dis­tinc­tive cat­e­gories. Cling­stone and free­stone are the peach camps.

Cling­stones are known for their firm flesh that stub­bornly clings to the stone, mak­ing it hard to sep­a­rate with­out man­gling the fruit.

Free­stone vari­eties, on the other hand, are easy to sep­a­rate the pit from the flesh. Cal­i­for­nia cling­stone peaches are best used for can­ning and freez­ing. Har­vest for these go roughly from mid-​July to mid-​September. Fresh mar­ket free­stone types are har­vested from April through Octo­ber.

Both free­stone and cling­stone peaches have numer­ous vari­eties that dif­fer in skin color, flesh color, firm­ness, and juici­ness. Two of the most pop­u­lar vari­eties of yellow-​fleshed free­stone peaches are Ele­gant Lady and O’Henry. Other vari­eties include the Empress, Elberta, and Rio Oso Gem.

Semi-​freestone or semi-​clingstone is a newer hybrid type of cling­stone and free­stone. It is good for using all around for both fresh and canned purposes.

Read more: Peaches & Cream →

Amer­i­can cooks have a mad crush on cast iron skil­lets and cook­ware. More than durable, these cook pans are long on tra­di­tion and easy to use.

From pork roast to cherry pie, results in just this one pan style of cook­ing are pretty fan­tas­tic.

Brand names like Lodge, Gris­wold and Wag­ner are fre­quently found at week­end yard sales. Vin­tage pans go rel­a­tively unno­ticed by adult kids edit­ing stuff for estate sales.

A keen eye scours trade­marks and emblems to iden­tify a rusty, crusty old pan as a pos­si­ble trea­sure. A bit of clean­ing and re-​seasoning will bring a cast iron skil­let back to “work­ing in the kitchen” sta­tus.

One pos­si­bil­ity of dis­tin­guish­ing an authen­tic cast iron pan are the sides. The depth (fry­ing pans are shal­lower than skil­lets) and the angle (sauté pans have straight sides while fry­ing pans have flared sides). Some saucepans have pour spouts. In older pans, the pour spouts were big­ger.

Most older pans had two pour spouts while newer ones might have one. Con­tem­po­rary cast iron pans might also have a helper han­dle and non-​stick coat­ings, which are both newer.

Read more: Made to Last →

Memo­r­ial Day is a national hol­i­day set aside for remem­brance. We com­mem­o­rate all U.S. cit­i­zens who have died in the ser­vice of our coun­try.

Orig­i­nally, we called it Dec­o­ra­tion Day because the tra­di­tion of dec­o­rat­ing sol­diers’ graves with flags and flow­ers seem to fit.

The long obser­vance week­end has also mor­phed into a viable excuse to gather with friends and fam­ily over pic­nics, bar­be­cues and patio meals.

Per­fect tim­ing with warm weather makes this hol­i­day a way to wel­come in more of our favorite local foods. Water­melon, sweet corn, blue­ber­ries, straw­ber­ries, cher­ries and stone fruits are Cal­i­for­nia sourced.

How we trans­form fresh pro­duce in to patri­otic fla­vors is open to inter­pre­ta­tion. Com­bi­na­tions of red, white and blue is an easy begin­ning. Look for ways of assem­bling fruit filled plat­ters and plates with red berries and juicy water­melon. Blue is for blue­ber­ries and even black­ber­ries.

Stars and stripes clearly rep­re­sent “Old Glory”. The thir­teen stripes and fifty stars of the U.S. flag do not have to be per­fectly repli­cated. Cookie cut­ter stars of any size are indica­tive of patri­otic sym­bol­ism.

Cut from pas­try dough or melon, add the five-​point start to pies, cakes, fruit sal­ads and more.

Read more: Patri­otic Flavors →

Burg­ers, sand­wiches and sal­ads dom­i­nate casual warm weather fare. How they go from mediocre to super star sta­tus is just one ingredient/​degree of sep­a­ra­tion.

Sweet Red Onions have just begun their sea­sonal har­vest­ing in the San Joaquin Val­ley.

They bring excep­tional fla­vor, sweet­ness and tex­ture to every­thing from piz­zas to pas­tas. To be sure, an Ital­ian Red or Fresno Flat sweet are quite dif­fer­ent from any onion rel­a­tive.

Alli­ums in gen­eral include round globe (red, yel­low and white) onions, gar­lic, shal­lots, scal­lions, leeks and chives. Packed with nutri­ents and antiox­i­dants, these kitchen sta­ples are used to impart bold and some­times savory heat to dishes.

Milder, sweet onions are ter­rific for eat­ing raw, pick­ling and grilling. In this class are well-​known Vidalia, Walla Walla and Maui Sweets. These pop­u­lar vari­eties have a pale yel­low skin with a white or light yel­low inte­rior.

Ital­ian reds have a flat­ter shape. As their name implies, are a red­dish to pur­ple bright color. Not all super­mar­ket red onions are sweet. Be cer­tain to seek out that flat appear­ance to get to the right choice.

Other red-​skinned sweet onions include Bermuda, Bur­gundy, Cipolle di Tro­pea or Tropea’s sweet. The pop of color is part of the red onion attrac­tion. The sweet, mild taste pairs nicely with greens like kale, arugula, baby spinach and but­ter or romaine lettuces.

Read more: Sweet Spot →

There’s a rea­son why “pre-​cut” or “value-​added” pro­duce sales are on the rise. It’s some­times very intim­i­dat­ing or tricky for home cooks or even pro­fes­sional chefs to mas­ter the art of cut­ting, slic­ing or chop­ping.

Knife skills are essen­tial for kitchen con­fi­dence, effi­ciency and safety. How to han­dle knives and mak­ing the best choice for cer­tain jobs comes with loads of prac­tice and expe­ri­ence.

Cer­tain fresh pro­duce items, fruits in par­tic­u­lar, are eas­ier to approach than oth­ers. Apples and cit­rus might be intu­itive. Pineap­ple, mango, papaya and water­melon are a bit more com­pli­cated.

There are sev­eral food hacks tout­ing the best ways to get to the heart of what we want to eat. Any fruit com­mis­sion web-​site (mango, straw­berry, water­melon, avo­cado, etc.) will show­case ter­rific knife skills via video or step-​by-​step photo images.

To begin, learn to choose your fruits. Same day use requires ripeness. The Mama Bear “just right” approach to color, feel, and smell is a good start.

Greener or harder fruit may not mature in a man­ner that works. Seek out pro­duce exper­tise to assist if your retailer is rep­utable for sell­ing qual­ity prod­uct and hav­ing trained and informed clerks.

There are depend­able mar­ket clerks will­ing to share their pro­duce expe­ri­ence. The value in hav­ing trusted and informed staff to assist shop­pers is reflected in sales and cus­tomer loy­alty. A great clerk has the knowl­edge to help with prod­uct selec­tion, stor­age, care, han­dling and usage.

Read more: A Cut Above →

All along the cen­tral and south­ern coast­line, hun­dreds of Cal­i­for­nia straw­berry farm­ers are cul­ti­vat­ing the major­ity of all straw­ber­ries grown in the United States.

Nearly ninety per­cent of all U.S. straw­berry pro­duc­tion hap­pens on less than one per­cent of the Golden State’s farm­land.

The Cal­i­for­nia straw­berry story is about more than the effi­cient use of this prized land. It is also intrin­si­cally con­nected to the real story of Amer­i­can immi­grants and farm work­ers.

Today, in many cases, sec­ond and third-​generation fam­ily farm­ers con­tinue to farm and pro­duce America’s favorite fruit.

The agri­cul­ture boom hap­pened in Cal­i­for­nia right along­side the gold rush. Peo­ple were immi­grat­ing to Cal­i­for­nia to chase their dreams and find per­sonal suc­cess.

Straw­ber­ries made it pos­si­ble for fam­i­lies to set­tle in a sin­gle loca­tion where they could live and work instead of fol­low­ing the in-​season crops around the state. Some of these immi­grant farm work­ers started in irri­ga­tion or pick­ing straw­ber­ries. Many went on to build their own straw­berry farms and busi­nesses.

While con­sumers enjoy straw­ber­ries nearly year-​round, they may not rec­og­nize or fully appre­ci­ate the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion required to pro­duce them.

Read more: Berry Good →

The pan­demic, for all its unique dif­fi­cul­ties, has served to high­light and inten­sify some ongo­ing indus­try chal­lenges.

No mat­ter what lane of the food indus­try a com­pany is in– grower, packer, proces­sor, retail, food­ser­vice, distributor-​there is an acute need for good work­ers to fill the voids.

This long-​term prob­lem has been exac­er­bated as the slow return to “busi­ness as usual” unfolds.

Worker scarcity, worker safety, tough con­di­tions and high turnover have all been height­ened by the COVID cri­sis.

Long term, com­pa­nies will have to sort out how to man­age the on-​going issues of lack of labor.

The entire U.S. econ­omy needs work­ers. Employ­ers hired nearly a mil­lion peo­ple in March. Job list­ings are surg­ing, with open­ings on career sites well ahead of top­ping their pre-​coronavirus lev­els. Gov­ern­ment stim­u­lus money has allowed some peo­ple to stay home longer than they oth­er­wise would have.

The hottest jobs sec­tors are those areas that “make or move” things. Con­struc­tion, ware­hous­ing, fac­to­ries and phar­macy are areas that can­not fill the demand. The num­ber of ware­house jobs listed on Indeed as of early April was 57% above what they were before the virus struck.

Retail gro­cery deliv­ery through the pan­demic has increased sig­nif­i­cantly. FMI reports that e-​commerce for gro­ceries grew by 300 per­cent dur­ing the pan­demic. The same peo­ple who may have held or taken jobs at retail or ware­houses before, now have mul­ti­ple types of newly cre­ated job oppor­tu­ni­ties. A con­tribut­ing key fac­tor is bet­ter or more flex­i­ble work­ing conditions.

Read more: Worker Scarcity →

Anthony Bour­dain cov­ered a lot of ground in his book Kitchen Con­fi­den­tial.

One hot topic that res­onates with all line cooks is the Mise-​en-​place. The orga­nized work sta­tion, unique to each cook, keeps the kitchen ready for every order mov­ing smoothly through the line.

It houses all of the essen­tials– sea salt, rough-​cracked pep­per, cook­ing oil, wine, but­ter, gar­lic, pars­ley, and so on.

One item in par­tic­u­lar that Tony claimed as a Mise-​en-​Place essen­tial for all pro­fes­sional kitchens is shal­lots. His kitchen staff used about twenty pounds daily.

A “take-​away” from Bour­dain to home cooks look­ing to ele­vate dishes, is to keep shal­lots on hand for turn­ing out tastier ver­sions of most any prepa­ra­tion.

Shal­lots are one of those fresh ingre­di­ents that we notice parked next to fresh gar­lic and the onion sec­tions at the gro­cery store. We fre­quently see them, but bypass them for reg­u­lar onion vari­eties.

Their del­i­cate, mild onion fla­vor (with a hint of sharp­ness) is pre­ferred for clas­sic dishes, vinai­grettes, sauces, soups and fry­ing when a hot­ter onion isn’t the right fit.

Read more: Shal­lot Woes →

Aspara­gus is a mem­ber of the lily fam­ily and is related to onions and gar­lic. The spears are usu­ally not har­vested until the third or fourth year planted to allow the crown to develop a strong root sys­tem.

After that, the healthy plants will then pro­duce spears for about fif­teen years.

Cal­i­for­nia pos­sesses sev­eral micro-​climates ideal for aspara­gus pro­duc­tion. The 250 farms that grow the favored spring crop deliver on the promise of local, fresh and hand-​cared atten­tion.

Sev­eral regions through­out the state are ideal for grow­ing “grass”, includ­ing the Cen­tral Val­ley, the Cen­tral Coast and the Stock­ton Delta.

Nearly sev­enty per­cent of the nation’s fresh mar­ket aspara­gus is pro­duced in Cal­i­for­nia. Har­vest sea­son is about ninety days long, start­ing in March and run­ning through May.

This peren­nial crop is labor – inten­sive from har­vest to pack­ing. Work­ers walk the rows, scout­ing for nine inch green spears to har­vest. Aspara­gus is graded, sized and packed in sheds located near the fields to assure max­i­mum fresh­ness.
Early in the sea­son, spears may be picked every four days or so. As tem­per­a­tures warm up, they may have to be picked every day. Each spear grows about seven to nine inches per day. Depend­ing on weather and growth, beds maybe cut mul­ti­ple times per day.

Spears are trimmed to lengths of nine inches and bun­dled for sales. Typ­i­cally, a one pound bun­dle con­tains about 10 to 14 spears, depend­ing on size/​thickness of the stalks.

Read more: Grass Season →

The chaos and may­hem of gro­cery shop­ping a year ago seems like a wild faded dream. Dur­ing lock­downs and stay-​at-​home orders, we found ways to com­pen­sate for long lines and hoard­ing.

As life begins to unfold post-​pandemic, new habits have emerged that retail­ers and food ser­vice providers have made invest­ments.

We may all be count­ing on new ways to feed our­selves. Online order­ing and home deliv­ery have taken the sting out of food pan­de­mo­nium. We’ve learned new cop­ing skills.

Meals can be either ready-​to-​eat or those ready to pre­pare. The pan­demic accel­er­ated ghost kitchens (also known as dark or cloud kitchens) and the wide­spread adop­tion of food deliv­ery by at least three to five years.

No doubt, food deliv­ery had the lime­light 2020. As con­sumers adopted new habits, the gig econ­omy surged in that arena. Grub Hub, Uber Eats and Door­Dash were on Smart phone “Favorites”.

The trend and adop­tion of dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and e-​commerce was greatly advanced by per­sonal health safety con­cerns as much as con­ve­nience. Com­fort lev­els now push con­sumers to pur­chase prod­ucts online with con­fi­dence.

Already on the rise in recent years, par­tic­i­pa­tion in online gro­cery shop­ping sky­rock­eted in 2020.

Read more: Pandemonium →

Restau­rants are tun­ing up menus to reflect stream­lined offer­ings and their need to do more with less. Smart oper­a­tors are not hav­ing to com­pro­mise on qual­ity food that tastes great over bet­ter effi­cien­cies.

Now, more than ever, we eat first with our eyes. This includes scan­ning menus online or using QR codes on smart­phones.

Good com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key for every suc­cess­ful busi­ness. Menu writ­ing is a com­mu­ni­ca­tions art­form and tal­ent nec­es­sary for food­ser­vice providers. Chalk­boards, ink on paper or vir­tual links help sell what’s for break­fast, lunch and din­ner.

Words mat­ter and how they are used on a menu can entice orders and impact rev­enue. The power of per­sua­sion when it comes to food descrip­tions makes or breaks ini­tial per­cep­tions.

Set­ting appetite expec­ta­tions is only a word or phrase away. Loaded cau­li­flower casse­role tells the diner to expect a hot, cheesy, gooey and indul­gent dish.

Descrip­tions regard­ing culi­nary prepa­ra­tions pique inter­est. Roasted, grilled, poached, fried, toasted, whipped or stuffed tell much about what will be deliv­ered on the plate.

Sea­son­ings and fla­vors get prime text space. Smoky, savory, fiery, nutty, tart, pep­pery, cit­rusy, zesty, and but­tery get the mouth and brain work­ing together for the selec­tion. Food and mood are strongly teth­ered together. What food crav­ing needs to be con­quered today?

Read more: Eat My Words →

The holy Easter hol­i­day cel­e­brates the res­ur­rec­tion of Jesus Christ and is of great sig­nif­i­cance to Chris­tians around the world.

This is a time for prayers, reli­gious obser­vances and gath­er­ings with fam­ily mem­bers and friends for Spring feasts.

The sym­bol­ism of spring sig­ni­fies rebirth, renewal, a new dawn, hope, awak­en­ing, and promise. Sea­sonal flow­ers are nat­u­rally asso­ci­ated with the annual Easter and spring fes­tiv­i­ties.

Aware­ness of spring bloom­ing flow­ers and their sig­nif­i­cance will guide deci­sions for bou­quets, table arrange­ments and pot­ted plants for décor. Uplift­ing, cheer­ful and some­times fra­grant, bloom­ing flow­ers are an instant mood booster.

Tulips are the ulti­mate spring flower. Beau­ti­ful and vibrant, these flow­ers come in an array of bold and sub­tle col­ors. White tulips are asso­ci­ated with for­give­ness, a com­mon theme for Easter.

The pur­ple tulip rep­re­sents roy­alty. Com­bined, they cel­e­brate the roy­alty of Jesus Christ and mean­ing of Easter.

Easter Lilies and Lilies of the Val­ley, both white flow­ers often sym­bol­ize purity and inno­cence. This purity and inno­cence is asso­ci­ated with Christ. Lilies also have reli­gious sig­nif­i­cance from being men­tioned in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments.

Read more: Bloom­ing Color →

Amer­i­cans can thank the ancient Greeks for the orig­i­nal waf­fle. While they may not have tasted like what we enjoy today, those “obelios” or wafers were cooked in much the same fash­ion.

The Greek hot cakes were cooked between two hot metal plates attached to a long, wooden han­dle. The Dutch get credit for the deep grids in waf­fles that hold our pre­ferred culi­nary accou­trements.

Sweet or savory, the ver­sa­tile waf­fle is enjoyed around the world as a per­fect street food or snack. In the U.S., we rely on them for a quick toaster break­fast or more lux­u­ri­ous one when time allows us to make a big­ger fuss.

Dur­ing COVID, we don’t need an excuse to glam up break­fast or din­ner. Start plan­ning for a fam­ily waf­fle date. In or out, home or restau­rant, waf­fles make every­thing feel bet­ter.

Made from scratch, an ordi­nary day turns spe­cial by whip­ping together a batch of waf­fle bat­ter. Most of the ingre­di­ents are ready pantry sta­ples. What we choose to slather into the crevices makes them per­son­al­ized and favorites.

But­ter, hot maple syrup or whipped cream are just the gar­den vari­ety start­ing points. Pow­dered sugar, almond but­ter, and fresh fruit purees are the sec­ond wave of good­ness. Pecans, banana slices and a driz­zle of choco­late trans­forms week­end brunch into an extra­or­di­nary occasion.

Read more: Waf­fles Baby →

As restau­rants gen­tly lean back into indoor din­ing, they likely will keep take-​out and deliv­ery busi­ness in their wheel­house.

Those seg­ments were sup­ple­ments to Amer­i­can meals and a wel­comed break to cook­ing and eat­ing at home.

Over the past year, the improved per­spec­tive on eat­ing left­over foods has shifted to very favor­able.

Research from The Hart­man Group reports that 28 per­cent of all eat­ing occa­sions involve left­overs (vs. 22 per­cent in fall 2019). Sig­nif­i­cant increases of left­over eat­ing hap­pens dur­ing morn­ing snack and lunch occa­sions. Eat­ing restaurant-​sourced left­overs has become a more com­mon­place behav­ior dur­ing the pan­demic, with 67 per­cent of left­overs occa­sions involv­ing at least some food or bev­er­age sourced from a restau­rant.

This is abun­dantly clear as con­sumers are even upping food orders to pur­posely plan for future meals or snack­ing. Left­overs. Yay!

As the pan­demic con­tin­ues, con­sumers’ new­found love of left­overs sug­gests great oppor­tu­nity for meals-​oriented food­ser­vice providers and brands to mar­ket towards evolv­ing snack­ing occa­sions and eat­ing approaches.

Every­one has dif­fer­ent types of food stored in their fridge or freezer. Stay­ing on top of it before spoilage can be a chal­lenge. If hoard­ing was part of the plan to stay a step ahead of pan­demic food scares, now might be a good time to take inven­tory of the freezer or pantry.

Read more: Yay! Leftovers →

Cab­bages are from the “cole crop” fam­ily. Other mem­bers in this hearty tribe include broc­coli, Brus­sels sprouts, kohlrabi, col­lard greens and cau­li­flower.

We can sep­a­rate cab­bages in to four main types: green, red (or pur­ple), Savoy, and Napa cab­bages.

In com­mon are the sexy lay­ers of alter­nat­ing leaves, each cup­ping the next, form­ing a firm, dense head. Spring is the per­fect excuse to explore using all four types of cab­bages in a myr­iad of ways.

Braised, boiled, charred, sauteed or raw; rolled, slawed or casseroled– cab­bage is happy at cen­ter plate or assum­ing a sup­port­ing cast role.

From Ger­many to Asia, schnitzel to stir fry, world cuisines know how make cab­bages some­thing we crave. Com­fort dishes made by grand­moth­ers give mod­ern recipes a run for the money.

Selec­tion: Choose firm, heavy heads of green, red and savoy cab­bage with closely furled leaves. Color is an indi­ca­tion of fresh­ness. For exam­ple, green cab­bages stored for too long lose pig­ment and look almost white. To ensure fresh­ness, check the stem ends of cab­bage heads to make sure the stem has not cracked around the base, which indi­cates unde­sir­ably lengthy stor­age. Chi­nese cab­bage leaves should be crisp, unblem­ished and pale green with tinges of yel­low and white.

Read more: All in the Family →