Eat This Now | February 24th, 2015

StrawberriesCara Cara OrangesBok ChoyBrussels SproutsKitchen Tip of the Week

Best if used by 03/03/15

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Strawberries

Peak Season    Value Priced

Yay! Strawberries on Sale this week!

But wait, are they any good? What can I expect?

Here’s what I’ve found in tasting samples right off the truck the past several days and eating lots of berries with my kids for evening snack. Flavor is decent and the berries are firm, but if you compare them to local summer berries or to premium late spring Strawberries from California – you’ll be disappointed, no doubt. On the other hand, if what you want is an affordable, fresh berry to throw in your yogurt, cereal, smoothie or salad – go for it, especially if they’re on sale and looking fresh!

Suddenly, Strawberry supply is outpacing demand as growers in Florida and Mexico hustle to move their last harvests of the season just as California growers are beginning to start theirs. Most of what you’ll find at stores in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast right now will be Florida grown fruit. Watch for good advertised and in-store specials during late February the first half of March.

Smart Tips

  • Look for plump, fully red berries with healthy looking, green calyx.
  • Inspect the packages from all sides, avoiding containers with mold, sunken spots, wetness on the berries or bottoms of the containers.
  • Keep them cold in the fridge and use them within two days of purchase this time of year.
  • Wash Strawberries under cold water just before use.

Flavor can’t match summer local or premium California spring berries, but if you find Florida Strawberries on sale this week – go for it!

Real Strawberry Oatmeal.

Cara Cara Oranges

Peak Season    Best Flavor

If you’re an Orange fan, then Cara Cara’s are worth a try for tasty snacking and exciting recipes. I love ‘em! Why? They’re Navel Oranges…with upgrades!

On the outside Cara Cara Navels look exactly the same as regular Navels. Inside the beautiful and exciting differences are revealed. Pink-fleshed Cara Cara Oranges are seedless like normal Navels, but the straight-forward sweetness is balanced by a mild Strawberry to Cranberry-like finish. Cara Cara’s tend to be quite juicy and that pink flesh is an excellent source of Lycopene. They’re perfect for snacking or fun for salads, desserts and prepared with fish. Cara Cara Navel Oranges continue to be in the peak of their season from California citrus groves now through March. Enjoy them while they’re at their best!

Cara Cara Tips

  • Select Oranges that feel heavy for their size – a sign of juiciness. They don’t have to be hard, but the orange should not feel so soft that it is squishy either.
  • Skin scars and shape do not impact the internal fruit flavor, but oranges with sunken areas, black spots or extra soft areas should be avoided.
  • Keep Oranges refrigerated to extend shelf life, especially here in the later part of the season when sugars are running higher. Room temperature is fine for a day or two, but will cause dehydration thereafter or allow decay to happen.

 

Pink-fleshed Cara Cara Oranges are like regular Navel Oranges with intense sweetness and notes of cranberry.

Bok Choy

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Bok Choy is a popular Asian vegetable from the Cabbage family that has smooth crunchy, white ribs and green leaves. Right now most Bok Choy is coming from California and South Texas. The quality has been excellent with large-sized heads, heavy weights and vibrant leaves. Bok Choy is steamed, stir-fried, used in soups or for Kim Chee.

Bok Choy Tips

  • Select Bok Choy that feels firm and heavy, and has healthy-looking leaves free from wilt or bruised areas.
  • Rinse the leaves and ribs thoroughly to make sure to get all of the dirt and sand out that may have been trapped there as it grew.
  • Check out these straight-forward Bok Choy recipes.

Recipe: Chili-Garlic Bok Choy

  1. Rinse one head Bok Choy
  2. Cut out root bulb at base
  3. Chop Bok Choy ribs into large, bite-size chunks, and leaves into 1×2″ strips
  4. Heat 2-3 tbsp oil on HIGH in a large frying pan adding three cloves diced garlic and 1 tsp Chili Pepper Flakes
  5. Add in Bok Choy ribs, stir for 1-2 min. until translucent, cover for 1 min.
  6. Add Bok Choy leaves, stir for 2 min.
  7. Season with coarse salt before removing from pan

Chili-Garlic Bok Choy

Brussels Sprouts

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Ahh, nothing quite like a properly cooked or prepared fresh Brussels Sprouts dish!  A quick blanch and then sauté or roasting them in high heat are great ways to bring out the best smooth and sweet flavors. They taste nutty and rich, but if you over-boil or over-steam Brussels Sprouts you’ll actually bring out a sulfur nastiness that is the number one reason people don’t like them in the first place. Brussels Sprouts can also be enjoyed raw in salads or slaws if shaved thinly like lettuce. Their flavor raw is a little like cabbage. Shaved Brussels Sprouts go great with sweet-creamy dressings or sharp vinaigrettes that can balance the bitter edges of the raw flavor.

Late winter is an excellent time to enjoy fresh Brussels Sprouts which are in season from southern California and Mexico. The flavor and quality has been very good lately. Check out these recipe ideas!

Recipe: Brussels & Bacon

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F
  2. Wash, trim and halve 1lb of Brussels Sprouts
  3. Toss halved sprouts with 2 tbsp olive oil in a mixing bowl
  4. Season with ½ tsp coarse salt and cracked black pepper. Re-toss to coat.
  5. Spread Brussels Sprouts into a casserole dish.
  6. Dice 4-6 pieces of uncooked Bacon and spread it on top of the Brussels Sprouts
  7. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes. Flip the product with a spatula. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the Brussels Sprouts are fork-tender.

 

Brussels & Bacon

Kitchen Tip of the Week

How to Trim Fresh Brussels Sprouts

Always wanted to try making fresh Brussels Sprouts at home, but weren’t sure how to get started?

First, select Brussels Sprouts that are nice and green, and have tight, firm heads. Avoid Brussels Sprouts with heavy black discoloration on the ribs at the base or ones that have evidence of bug damage. Size, large or small, does not affect flavor, but it will impact the cooking time. Store Brussels Sprouts in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator in a plastic bag or container.

You’ll spend about 5-7 minutes properly prepping 1 lb of fresh Brussels Sprouts for use in recipes. Here’s what to do:

  1. Trim the bottom ¼” off the bottom stem end of the head.
  2. Peel off the loose outer leaves with your fingers, usually 1-2 layers
  3. Slice larger Brussels Sprouts head into halves or quarters, slicing along the stem direction, while leaving the smallest ones whole. This will even out the cooking time.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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