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Eat This Now for the Week of 08/04/15

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Eat This Now | August 4th, 2015

Local Yellow PeachesHeirloom TomatoesRed Seedless GrapesChili PeppersCauliflower

Best if used by 08/11/15

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Local Yellow Peaches

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

What’s your all-time favorite fruit? That’s a question I’m commonly asked when people learn that I’m the “Produce Geek.”  Year after year, I ponder my answer and come back to the same conclusion: Yellow Peaches allowed to ripen on the tree from small orchards in Lancaster or Berks County, PA during August… the kind that drip juice down your chin when you take a bite, causing you to slurp, and with fuzz that reminds your lips that this is a really fresh, intensely flavored piece of fruit.

Local Peaches are like summer picked from a tree. A juicy-sweet Yellow-flesh Peach, ripened to perfection for the ultimate balance of sugars and acid is an amazing treat! Seek the best, the freshest, most cared for Peaches and enjoy – be it from the roadside stand, farm market, pick-your-own orchard or supermarket that supports local farmers. Summer Yellow Peaches are perfect for snacking out of hand and for using in baking, with cereal, shakes, smoothies salsas or salad recipes.

Early August through early September marks the heart of summer, the time when the very best of the season local Yellow Peaches varieties are harvested in states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and New York. Other regions in the South, Mid-West, Pacific Northwest and California are also in their peak seasons (though, admittedly, I am quite partial to my PA local). Red Haven, July Flame, Zee Fire, Zee Lady, Flavor Crest, Sun Crest… many of these Peaches are “free-stone” or “semi-free-stone” varieties where the flesh releases from the pit, making recipe preparation easier.

Looking for Certified Organic Peaches? They’re in peak season from Washington this month and tasting nice.

Peach Tips

  • Select Peaches that feel heavy and have no soft spots and no wrinkled skin. The amount of redness on the skin can vary from variety to variety and is not a true indicator of ripeness. Some varieties are simply more yellow-skinned than others. Greenish areas, however, on the skin are a sign of immaturity.
  • Ripening: Yellow-flesh Peaches must ripen (soften) to allow the acidity to mellow and the sweetness to shine through creating a balanced sweet and tangy taste. Impatient? Have some Peaches that are too hard? Place them in a paper bag to speed up ripening.
  • Store Peaches at room temperature to allow them to get to the softness you desire for your eating preference. Then, eat them immediately! Age, plus going in and out of refrigeration can cause the dreaded MUSHY-MEALY PEACH… Oh, no!
  • Recipes? Check out this tasty-looking collection of Yellow Peach recipes.
  • Pro Tip: Don’t put peaches in the “kill zone.”  Storing Peaches at 36-50F degrees stops the ripening process (softening) and damages the fruit texture.  Most home refrigerators run at 38-42F, so your kitchen counter is best

Recipe: Peach Melba Milkshake

Instructions: Blend the following ingredients in a blender until at the desired consistency.

  • 4 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 3 Yellow Peaches, pitted (skins optional)
  • 1 heaping tsp Raspberry Preserves (or a handful of fresh Raspberries)

 

Recipe: Peach Melba Milkshake

 

When is a Peach ripe?

Kitchen Tricks for Peaches

How to Quickly Peel Peaches and Tomatoes for Recipes: Does that Peach Crisp or homemade Salsa recipe you want to make call for “peeled Peaches” or “Tomatoes with the Skins removed?” Here’s a method to speed up your prep time.

  • Bring a pot of water to a simmer.
  • Add fully ripe Peaches or Tomatoes to the hot water for 30 seconds. (Firm-ripe Peaches may require 1-3 minutes.)
  • Remove the fruit from the hot water and cool it under running water or a bowl of ice water.
  • When the fruit is cool enough to handle the skins should easily separate from the flesh by just pulling it with your fingers.

How to Control Fruit Flies in Your Kitchen: Here in the heart of summer, if you’re like me you probably have lots of summer produce on your kitchen counters and tables. And it doesn’t take long from some annoying and uninvited visitors to show up: Fruit Flies! Those little pests have a knack for finding the peach, nectarine, plum, tomato or pepper that is beginning to become over-ripe – and then they swarm, feed, grow in numbers and suddenly your kitchen feels like you’ve brought the compost pile inside! Yuck!

Here is a natural method for controlling fruit flies that my Mom recommended to me a couple of years ago. Where she learned it, I don’t know, but it works! It has kept my kitchen free from fruit flies on my Heirloom Tomatoes and Peaches that are ripening on the kitchen island. The sweet, ripe aroma of Cider Vinegar seems to attract the fruit flies into the jar. Then the acidity of the vinegar and mild viscosity added with the dish soap trap them in the liquid. Brilliant!

  1. Fill a small jar or cup halfway with Cider Vinegar
  2. Add a drop of dish soup
  3. Cover the jar with plastic stretch wrap
  4. Poke several small holes in the plastic wrap (about 1/8”, bigger than a toothpick, smaller than a pencil)
  5. Place the jar near your room temperature produce

Quickly Peel Peaches and Tomatoes for Recipes

 

Control Fruit Flies in Your Kitchen

 

Heirloom Tomatoes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Summer Vine Ripe Tomatoes are awesome because they have flavor.  For those that what even more intrigue for their taste buds, August is prime time for Heirloom Tomatoes. Earthy, robust Russian Black Krim Tomatoes wedges sprinkled with a touch coarse salt and cracked black pepper plus shredded fresh Basil is hard to beat. Maybe a large, meaty slice of juicy, sweet and tangy Pink Brandywine or German Johnson Tomato with a slice of sharp cheddar on a potato roll could top it. And homemade Peach Salsa made with Purple Cherokee Tomatoes plus a variety of other Heirloom Tomatoes is sublime.

What exactly are Heirloom Tomatoes?

Most conventional, round Tomatoes have been hybrid-bred for consistency of size, shape, color, shelf-life and firmness – all so that they can safely make it through the supermarket supply channel and into your kitchen without getting soft or going bad. Heirlooms, on the other hand, are old and diverse varieties that have been around since WWII. Some have been passed down over the years by a family and others were created through natural cross-pollinations, still others were commercially produced by a seed company or university ag program ¾ of a century ago. With Heirloom varieties you can take seeds from this year’s fruit and plant it year after year and get the exact same tomato plant. Each Heirloom variety has its own special taste, texture, shape, size and color characteristics that make them unique and wonderful in their own way.

Heirloom Tomato Tips

  • Soft Tomatoes? Straight-talk: Heirloom Tomatoes are soft to begin with – you should expect them to have a little give. Since they are not “bred” for shelf-life, do not expect a long shelf-life. Use them quickly. Handle them with care.
  • Appearance? Oh, and they’re ugly by most normal standards, …but the flavor, whether sweet, earthy, bold, tangy or bold – is always beautiful!
  • Price? Since Heirlooms are not bred or hybridized for maximum production or disease resistance – yields are typically smaller and they cost more to grow. That is part of why you can expect to pay more. What is flavor worth to you?
  • Selection: Select Heirloom Tomatoes that are free from punctures, water blisters or large decay spots. Avoid Heirloom Tomatoes with open flesh splits or cracks that have not healed over into a scar. Otherwise, buy them and eat them!
  • Storage: Store Heirloom Tomatoes at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Do not refrigerate Tomatoes since it blunts flavor and makes them soft.

This is the best time of the year to enjoy a variety of Heirloom Tomatoes at the pinnacle of flavor and quality.

 

Discover Heirloom Tomatoes

Red Seedless Grapes

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Seedless Grapes from California are in peak season now through October. Green ones I’ve tried recently have been good, but my kids and I have particularly been enjoying the crunchy and sweet Red Flame variety – small and round, but tasty!  Stay tuned for more fresh Grape updates this summer.

Speaking of summer and grapes – my kids have been rocking out to this catchy tune on some recent road trips. I’ll admit I like it too. One listen, and they’re craving fresh Grapes to snack on. Song: Grapes by Andrew & Polly.

Grape Tips

  • Select Grapes that feel firm to a gentle squeeze. Lift up the bag or container and look at it from all sides.
  • Look for Grapes with stems that are still green at the thickest parts and appear to still have life in them.
  • Choose packs that have most of the berries still on the vine.
  • Avoid bags that are wet and sticky – a sign that some of the Grapes are going bad – or have berries with splits or cracks.
  • Go ahead… ask the produce clerk for a sample grape or two. Tasting is believing!
  • Keep your Grapes refrigerated until you’re about ready to eat them, since they lose their crunch much quicker at room temperature.
  • Wash Grapes with a cold water rinse just before serving them.

Select Grapes that feel firm to a gentle squeeze. Lift up the bag or container and look at it from all sides.

 

Chili Peppers

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Heighten your senses. Get a rush. Spike your endorphins levels this month with some natural heat. Chili Peppers are in peak season at local farms so there’s no better time to try spicing things up! Fresh salsa, relishes, sauces, salads, grilled, roasted and stuffed – go for it!

Chili Pepper Guide

Here’s a rundown for some of what you may find at the farm market or in your favorite produce department, ranked from most mild to most hot:

  1. Cubanelle: aka Frying Peppers, crooked-cone shaped, lime green, thin-walled and mild – great for stuffing, frying, grilling and roasting
  2. Banana: sweet, yellow-green – make sure they’re sweet banana instead of hot yellow wax
  3. Poblano: sometimes called Pasilla, dark green, wide-flat cone shape, just a little spicy, great for Tex-Mex, roasting, grilling and stuffing like in my favorite Poblano recipe: Chile Rellenos!
  4. Anaheim and Hatch: green, red when mature, mild to medium heat, ideal in Southwest cooking and salsa, awesome for roasting. New Mexico Hatch Chili Peppers are similar – the quintessential roasting chili.
  5. Long Hots: long, slender, crooked, dark green, medium heat but hot when you get to the seeds they pack some slow, sweat inducing burn. When allowed to ripen on the plant longer Long Hots turn red and become sweeter, but still have full hotness.
  6. Hungarian Wax: sometimes called Yellow Wax Peppers, long lime-yellow color, crisp, brightly spicy, ideal for pickling in sliced rings to top salads and sandwiches. Can be roasted or stuffed too,Eastern-European-style. Don’t confuse them with mild Cubanelle or sweet Banana Peppers that look similar.
  7. Jalapeno: small, dark green, immediately spicy; perfect for salsa, pico de gallo and kicking anything up a notch; smoke them and Jalapenos become… Chipotle. “Easy Jalapeno Poppers” recipe via InspiredTaste.net.
  8. Serrano: like Jalapenos except lighter green, thinner and 2-3x Hotter
  9. Scotch Bonnet and Habanero: Holy Cow! you better know what you are doing with these green, red or orange little gnarled-cone shaped mega-hot peppers – Watch out!

HOT to Mild (Top image, Left to Right) Orange Habanero, Serrano, Jalapeno, Long Hot, Poblano, Banana Pepper (or wait.. is that one a Hot Hungarian Wax Pepper!)

Hot Pepper basics

Cauliflower

Peak Season    Value Priced

Cauliflower during mid-summer? Why not! Raw Cauliflower florets are great for snacking and dipping. Cooking outside? You can cut a Cauliflower head into 1” slabs to throw on the grill for “Cauliflower Steak.” This AMAZING looking recipe for Chipotle Lime Grilled Cauliflower Steaks which inspired my own easy grilled BBQ Cauliflower Steak recipe below. Or try out something from this collection of Cauliflower recipes!

Here in early August, Cauliflower is in peak season from farms in Quebec, Canada as well as from the Salinas Valley of California. Keep an eye out for affordable ads or in-store specials on conventional Cauliflower since there is an abundant supply right now.

Cauliflower Tips

  • Select Organic Cauliflower that looks fresh and has no soft or slimy spots or excessive black spots. But don’t get too worried if you see small brown spot on a few florets here and there – those discolored spots are easy to trim off with a knife when you are cutting up the head.
  • Store Cauliflower in the refrigerator and rinse in water before cutting.
  • Slice Cauliflower into planks with the core intact so it holds together when you throw it on the grill. Or trim the short stems off the core to make traditional florets to eat raw or use in recipes.

Recipe: BBQ Cauliflower Steaks

Grilled Cauliflower will give you flavorful experience like never before with this cruciferous veggie!

  1. Pre-heat your grill on high.
  2. Trim the green leaves from the base of a washed Cauliflower head, trim the base of the stem too
  3. Place the head of Cauliflower stem down and make two (or more) 1” thick center cut plank slices with the core left in to hold the florets to it – totally grill-able like a steak.
  4. Brush the Cauliflower Steaks with Olive Oil on both sides then season them with salt and a generous dusting of your favorite BBQ rub or seasoning on both sides. (I used Penzy’s BBQ 3000 seasoning blend)
  5. Grill for about 4 minutes on each side over high heat, grill lid down. The “steaks” are done when they can just be pierced with a fork yet still have some texture.
  6. Garnish with finely chopped fresh Parsley and Basil.

Grilled Cauliflower will give you a flavorful experience like you’ve never experienced before with this cruciferous veggie!

 

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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