Eat This Now | September 16th, 2014

Honeycrisp ApplesAsian PearsSeedless CucumbersSpaghetti SquashKitchen Tip of the Week

best if used by 09/23/14

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Honeycrisp Apples

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Attention Apple Lovers: Honeycrisp Apples are back in season!

Explosively juicy. Crackingly crisp. Brightly flavorful – an amazing blend of sweet and tart that keeps you interested with every bite. Something to really look forward to each September through November – a seasonal treat. This is what Honeycrisp Apples are all about. Honeycrisp season has started locally here in Pennsylvania and across most apple growing regions, and the fruit is tasting fantastic. Organic Honeycrisp Apples from Washington are available too.

Indeed, Honeycrisps are more expensive than other varieties because of high demand and they’re a little tricky to grow, but the delectable eating experience is worth it for those with a passion for texture and flavor. So far this season the Pennsylvania Honeycrisp have been sweet with a noticeable tangy backend flavor, while Washington grown Honeycrisp Apples have had more red color and leaned more to the sweet profile. Both origins have had excellent juicy-crunchy-crisp texture. Sure, you can bake and cook with Honeycrisps, though why would you when they’re so darn good for eating out of hand. There are plenty of other varieties that are perfectly good baking that cost half the price right now – like Ginger Golds and McIntosh.

Tips & Hints

  • Select Apples that feel heavy for their size and are free from wrinkled skin, obvious punctures or large flat bruised areas.
  • Honeycrisp don’t need to have all red skin to be delicious, but if they’re completely green they’ll likely be more tart.
  • For the best shelf-life and texture, keep Apples in the dry-fruit drawer of your refrigerator until the day you’re ready to eat them.
  • Be gentle! Honeycrisp Apples can bruise easily, and bruises cause brown areas of flesh inside. They’re not rocks – they’re a fruit damageable cells. Treat them with care and ask the check-out clerk to do the same.

It is hard to beat the explosive juiciness and exciting flavor found in a slice of peak season Honeycrisp Apples.

 
 

Asian Pears (Apple Pears)

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Enjoy the best of both worlds. Asian Pears have the texture of a very juicy apple yet taste like a sweet, ripe pear – earning them the nickname “Apple Pears.” Asian Pears are collection of Pear varieties that originated in Asia hundreds of years ago, but are now grown all over the world. Varieties include the Hosui, Kosui, Ichiban Nashi and Olympic. Their shape is round and, depending on the variety, their skin color is pale yellow, gold, tan or russet brown. Here’s the best part: the cream-colored flesh is crisp and crunchy like an Fuji Apple, at the same time extremely juicy like a ripe Bartlett, nicely sweet and has a familiar Pear flavor.

Asian Pears are perfect for eating out of hand as a delightful snack. They’re also ideal for enjoying with sharp cheese, slicing into salads and slaws or simply sharing for dessert since a sliced Asian Pear is naturally slow to oxidize, or brown. Tender-skinned and sweet Yellow Apple Pears and super-juicy russet-skin Brown Apple Pears from California and Washington are beginning their peak season. Keep an eye out for locally grown supplies from VA, PA and NY now through November too!

Tips & Fun Facts

  • Asian Pears may thicker skin than other pear varieties, but their juicy flesh bruises easily. Handle with care!
  • Select Asian Pears that feel heavy for their size, have no wrinkled skin, punctures or large bruises.
  • Asian Pears do store well and fresh ones will keep for a few weeks in the fridge and over a week at room temperature.
  • They’re excellent for cheese trays or fruit trays since the sliced flesh is slow to oxidize or brown.

Eats like an Apple, tastes like a Pear! Slices are slow to turn brown. Have you tried juicy, crisp and sweet Asian Pears?

 

Seedless Cucumbers (Hothouse Cucumbers)

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

What a value! Yes, there are still some late summer local field-grown Cucumbers in season.  But Seedless Cucumbers from Canada are at ridiculously low prices here in September due to an over abundance. Keep an eye out for in-store specials on this premium, versatile veggie.

They’re crisp and juicy, plus Seedless Cucumbers have mild flavor. But the biggest reason I’ve come to appreciate them so much is that the skins are tender and free from bitterness so no peeling is needed – 100% usable. Field Cucumbers are often coated with a food grade wax to extend shelf-life – not so with wrapped Seedless Cucumbers. You just wash ‘em and cut ‘em to use in salads, sandwiches and for snacking. If you’re into juicing – Seedless Cucumbers are ideal for adding nutrients and liquid volume to green juices without needing to remove the skin.

Tips

  • Identity Crisis? Seedless Cucumbers go by many aliases: Cello Cucumbers, Hothouse Cucumbers, European or Euro Cucumbers and English Cucumbers.
  • Select Seedless Cucumbers that feel firm and have a fresh green color. Avoid ones with soft ends or wet, slimy spots under the wrapping.
  • Store them in your vegetable crisper and use them within a few days to avoid wilt.
  • Seedless Cucumbers are idea for juicing since the skin doesn’t need to be peeled and has little to no bitter flavor.
  • Here are some Seedless Cucumber recipes to inspire you.

Premium Seedless Cucumbers at usually low prices, thanks to plentiful late season harvests.

 

Spaghetti Squash

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

So why do they call it Spaghetti Squash? You really have to make it yourself to believe it, but the flesh of Spaghetti Squash comes out like pasta strands when it is cooked. How cool! The flavor is sweet and mild, and the texture is just slightly crunchy (al dente). It doesn’t taste like pasta, but you can use cooked Spaghetti Squash in recipes just as you would for pasta –only this squash will offer more nutritional benefit, fiber and only about 40 calories per cup Spaghetti Squash.

Spaghetti Squash is in peak season in many growing areas of the country like the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Mid-West and more now through November, making it one of the best time of the year to enjoy this unique hard squash at affordable prices and great quality. Organically grown Spaghetti Squash is at its best pricing and availability too! Select Spaghetti Squash that is firm and has a nice yellow skin color. Spaghetti Squash is prone to scarring while it grows, so do not be too concerned about those so long the squash is hard. As with other Hard Squashes, fresh Spaghetti Squash can stay good for up to several weeks at room temperature.

Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Casserole

This is a comforting and cheesy vegetarian dish without the carb-laden pasta guilt. Try it for Meatless Monday!

  1. Pre-heat Oven to 375 F
  2. Slice 1 Spaghetti Squash lengthwise, scoop out seeds and pulp
  3. Spray rimmed baking tray with olive oil cooking spray, place Spaghetti Squash cut-side down
  4. Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes or until tender
  5. Meanwhile, fold together the following in a large mixing bowl
    • 1 egg beaten
    • 2 cups Ricotta Cheese
    • 1 clove Garlic chopped finely
    • 6 fresh Basil leaves chopped finely
    • 3 cups Baby Spinach
  6. Season with ¾ tsp coarse salt and ¼ tsp black pepper
  7. Pull apart the Spaghetti Squash with a fork, gently stir it into the other ingredients
  8. Empty the contents of the bowl into an 8×8 casserole dish, spread evenly
  9. Layer 1 cup of Pasta Sauce evenly on top
  10. Top the casserole with 2 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  11. Bake at 375 F for 25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown

 

Kitchen Tip of the Week

How to cut and peel Butternut Squash

These two methods will help you enjoy delicious, low-calorie Spaghetti Squash as a side dish or prepared have it ready to use in a recipe.

Option 1 – Oven

  1. Cut the Spaghetti Squash in half lengthwise with a large sturdy knife on a stable cutting surface
  2. Remove the seeds and pulp from the center with a spoon
  3. Bake cut-side down in a rimmed baking tray at 375 F for 45-50 minutes until the squash is tender.
  4. Use a fork to gently pull out the spaghetti-like strands of flesh.  You may need to hold the hot squash in a towel or with tongs.

Option 2 – Microwave

  1. Cut the Spaghetti Squash in half lengthwise with a large sturdy knife on a stable cutting surface
  2. Remove the seeds and pulp from the center with a spoon
  3. MICROWAVE each half wrapped in plastic wrap for about 7-8 minutes, and then allow it to cool for a few minutes so you can handle it.
  4. Use a fork to gently pull out the spaghetti-like strands of flesh.  You may need to hold the hot squash in a towel or with tongs.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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