Best if Used By 10/01/13
Eat This Now for the week of September 24th, 2013 features
Bosc Pears, Red Beets, Acorn Squash, Shiitake Mushrooms and Carrots
PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR
The long, slender neck, the rustic appearance with golden-brown russeted skin over a green base: a classic. Organic and Conventional Bosc Pears are now in peak season from orchard slopes of Oregon and Washington. Local harvests are Bosc Pears are in season too! Time to enjoy a wonderful fall flavor. Their honey-sweet flavor and delightful juicy-crisp texture make them perfect for snacking, salads and desserts.
Unlike many other Pears, Bosc do not need to ripen as much to taste sweet. So, even a little “give” near the stem will mean ripe flesh. Or you can eat a hard Bosc as a crunchy treat as soon as you buy them.
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The Fall crop of Red Beets is now in season from rich, sandy soils of southern New Jersey. Bunched Red and Gold Beets are sold with the tops on them, while loose beets are usually bigger but sold without the tops. Either way, this nutrient-packed root needs to be washed and peeled first. Beets are typically steamed or roasted and served over salad greens, paired with goat or flavored cream cheese, or matched with other roasted root vegetables. Those Beet greens (the tops) can be braised or sautéed just like a tender version of Chard.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Beets have a forward, earthy flavor that people tend to love or loathe. I’ve been in the “loathe” camp since childhood, but have tried them a few times recently to make sure my taste buds (or my mind) haven’t changed. The taste of Beets has been described as “sweet dirt” – that is about as polite as I can be when talking about then. But for your sake, I hope you love Beets and can enjoy some this month! I actually do wish I liked them.
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Ah, Fall is here! Time to put away the shorts and get out the jeans, maybe fire up the oven. Speaking of Fall, Fall Squash – aka Hard Squash – aka Winter Squash – is in peak season!
Acorn Squash is an easy to use Fall Squash variety. And local harvests of Organic and Conventional Green Acorn Squash are plentiful here at the start of Fall from farms on the Eastern Seaboard, Mid-West and elsewhere. Fiber-packed Acorn Squash is dark green with patched of orange, has deep ribs and is shaped like… well, an acorn nut. The flesh is yellow to gold, slightly fibrous and has a sweet, slightly nutty vegetable flavor. Select Acorn Squash that is hard and has not pitting. Store it for several weeks at room temperature. The easiest way to prepare Acorn Squash is to slice it in half side-ways, scoop out the seeds and pulp, place the halves face down in 1” of water and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the flesh can easily be pierced with a fork.
RECIPE: Cider-baked Acorn Squash – A pleasing mix of fall flavors come together for this easy side dish.
- Cut one Acorn Squash in half, scoop out seeds and pulp with a spoon
- Spray a large glass baking pan with no-stick olive oil
- Place Acorn Squash halves flesh-side down in pan
- Bake at 350F for 30 minutes
- Flip Acorn Squash up right
- Fill both squash halves with Apple Cider and 2 tbsp Butter each
- Season squash halves with Ginger Powder, Cinnamon and Cloves
- Bake at 350F for 20 minutes more or until flesh can easily be pierced with a fork
- Cut halves into quarters, serve with pan drippings
Shiitake Mushrooms are an ancient variety that originated in East Asia. This brown capped Mushroom with white gills underneath has a flavor that is rich and smoky. The stems are a little tougher and take longer to cook, so usually the caps are the prized portion. Shiitakes are best enjoyed sautéed, braised, steamed or in soups. Organic and Conventional Shiitakes Mushrooms are grown indoors on logs or blocks of wood chips and are in season all year long from top mushroom growing states like Pennsylvania.
SHIITAKE MUSHROOM TIPS
Cleaning: Shiitake Mushrooms are picked from the logs or wood fiber they grow in and packed right away. Dirt is simply part of the equation. So, what is the best way to clean them? It is important to know that Mushrooms are porous and soak up water easily. Gently wipe the caps a damp paper instead of rinsing them with water. Don’t peel Mushrooms, since it’s way too tedious and you end up peeling away flavor.
Preparation: After cleaning Shiitake Mushrooms, cut the stems off. The stems tend to be tougher than the caps, though they can be saved for making soups. Gill side up, slice the caps into ¼ inch strips for sautéing and stir-frying. Whole Shiitake Caps are good for roasting.
RECIPE: Roasted Shiitake & Sweet Potato Warm Spinach Salad
- Pre-heat oven to 450F
- Peel 2 Sweet Potatoes and cut into 1 inch pieces
- Toss cut Sweet Potatoes in a mixing bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil
- Season with coarse salt, cracked black pepper and favorite roasting seasoning (I like Penzy’s Northwoods seasoning)
- Arrange seasoned Sweet Potatoes on a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes
- Clean and trim stems of 3.5oz of Shiitake Mushrooms
- Peel two cloves of Garlic and Slice one Red Onion
- Toss Shiitakes, Garlic, Onion with 2 tbsp olive oil – season with same as above
- Add these veggies to the Sweet Potatoes and roast for 12 minutes at 450F
- Flip and rearrange with a spatula, roast for 5 more minutes or until Sweet Potatoes are soft
- Combine roasted vegetables with 5oz Baby Spinach
- Toss in a bowl, allow the Baby Spinach to begin to wilt for serving
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It’s a great time to cook, juice or snack with fresh Carrots. Why? Well, here in late September and October there are multiple growing regions – California, Michigan, Canada – shipping their harvests of Carrots, both whole in bags or cut and peeled (Baby Carrots). This extra supply will keep prices low for some in-store or advertised specials.
RECIPE: Cinnamon-Balsamic Glazed Carrots
- Pre-heat oven to 450F
- 1 lb whole Carrots, ends and tips trimmed
- Peel the Carrots the slice in half length-wise
- Stir 2 tbsp Olive Oil, 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar, ½ tsp Cinnamon
- Pour over Carrots in a Mixing Bowl, toss to coat
- Arrange Carrots on a baking tray without touching each other
- Roast at 450F for 20 min. flat side down
- Flip Carrots, Roast for 7-10 more min.
- Carrots are done when showing caramelization and can be easily pierced with a fork
Eat in season. Choose fresh.
The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy