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Eat This Now for the Week of 08/12/15

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Eat This Now | August 12th, 2015

EggplantWatermelonFresh FigsThomcord Grapes

Best if used by 08/19/15

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Eggplant

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Fresh, local Eggplant will be an excellent choice from farms in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and other Mid-Atlantic states during August as growers are into their peak summer harvests. Expect nice quality, reasonable prices and cool specialty varieties too! Eggplant is great for roasting, grilling, frying and steaming.

Eggplant Variety Guide for Summer

  1. Regular: Regular Eggplant, sometimes called Black Beauty or Black Bell Eggplant, are large in size and dark purple in skin color. They are the all-purpose Eggplant found in most produce departments.
  2. Italian: Italian Eggplant, also called Baby Eggplant, looks like Regular Eggplant only smaller and more slender. This variety is ideal for roasting and can be used in ways similar to regular eggplant.
  3. Graffiti: Graffiti Eggplant is beautiful! If features a lavender skin streaked with white stripes. Use Graffiti Eggplant the same as regular eggplant.
  4. Sicilian Eggplant: Sicilian Eggplant is a round Eggplant with lavender skin color that varies dark to light. Careful, there can be some gnarly spikes on the calyx. This variety is the very best type for making classic Eggplant Parmesan thanks to its firm texture and round shape for cutting.
  5. Asian varieties: I am not an expert on the myriad of Asian types of Eggplant other than Japanese Eggplant that is long, slender and lavender, and Indian Eggplant that is purple and has twisted ribbing and inconsistent shape. Most Asian Eggplant varieties are slightly less bitter than Mediterranean Eggplants.

Eggplant Tips

  • Selecting: Choose Eggplant that is firm, not soft, is free from brown-sunken areas, and has some green color still in calyx around the stem.
  • Storage: Store whole Eggplant at room temperature though in a cooler spot away from direct sunlight. Do not store Eggplant in plastic bags or sealed containers since the lack of respiration will make the fruit decay quicker. You can refrigerate it, but over time cold temperatures make the Eggplant lose flavor and become flabby.
  • Stop S.E.G. To avoid “Soggy Eggplant Syndrome” in your dishes, sprinkle coarse or sea salt on sliced Eggplant and let it set for 10 to 20 minutes. Rinse the slices and pat them dry with a paper towel. This process will draw out some of the moisture which carries a bitter flavor, improve the Eggplant texture and help the shape hold up better during cooking.
  • Cooking how-to? Click here to learn how to cook Eggplant perfectly using multiple methods.
  • Eggplant Recipes: Check out these 15 Easy Eggplant recipes from Real Simple.

  How to Use up the Extra Garden Produce in One Dish!

It’s August. If you have a garden, are part of a CSA, or get carried away at the farmer market or produce department – chances are you have a lot of veggies on your counter or (maybe and) in your fridge. Way too many Eggplant. A bunch of peppers. Maybe zucchini too. Oh, and all those fresh Chili Peppers. Uhhh… hmmm. What to do? Grilling provides a solution and pasta seals the deal. Time for Spicy Grilled Veggie Pasta! This is a dish that does not need to be precise. Three components are the foundation: grilled vegetables of any kind, some heat, some fresh tomatoes and herbs, and some pasta. Here’s how I usually make it.

Spicy Grilled Veggies Pasta Recipe

This recipe works great with a variety of affordable local veggies. It’s also a delicious way of using up extra garden or CSA bounty. Feel free to mix or match based on what you have. The hot peppers make it spicy, the grilling makes it smoky, the raw tomatoes and herbs cool your and add fresh flavor to the pasta.

Veggies for grilling

  1. Wash and Prep the following ingredients for grilling:
    • 1 Eggplant, sliced into 1/2″ thick cuts
    • 3 Green and 3 Yellow Zucchini, sliced on the bias into ½” thick rounds
    • 2 Red Bell Peppers, cored and cut into length-wise into 1 to 2″ wide strips
    • 2 Sweet Mini Peppers, seeded and halved length-wise
    • 3 jumbo cloves of peeled garlic, whole (optional, don’t let them fall through the grill grates)
    • 2 Jalapeno and 2 Serrano Peppers, whole (or use other chili peppers for your spiciness preference)
  2. Toss above veggies in 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a large mixing bowl
  3. Re-toss with favorite grill seasoning – I used Penzy’s Galena Street Rub (coarse salt, black pepper and garlic powder could be used instead)
  4. Grill over high heat until veggies have nice grill-marks – about 3-4 min. per side
  5. Place grilled veggies in bowl

Note: If using Chili Peppers, de-skin once grilled wearing plastic gloves or with paper towel; and de-seed with knife and tongs.

Pasta

  1. Boil 1 box Rigatoni Pasta until al dente – about 12 min. while veggies are grilling
  2. Drain water and return to large pot

Uncooked Ingredients

  1. Slice two large Tomatoes into bite-wedges (I often use Heirlooms)
  2. Chop 6-9 leaves of fresh Basil (Parsley could be added too)
  3. ½ cup Parmesan Cheese

Blending

  1. Stir grilled veggies into pasta
  2. Stir in Parmesan Cheese
  3. Stir in fresh Tomatoes and Basil

*If you choose not grill your own chili peppers, simply add crushed red pepper to taste when doing the final blend.

 

Regular Variety

 

Italian Variety

 

Graffiti Variety

 

White Variety

 

Sicilian Variety

 

Spicy Grilled Veggies Pasta Recipe

Watermelon

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Summer + Sweet, ripe Seedless Watermelon = smiles for the whole family!

Seedless and Seeded Watermelons are in peak season from farms in the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West during August. Many retailers will be advertising Watermelons or promoting them in-store, plus all of the farmer markets and roadside stands will be selling local harvests, so take advantage, get some juice on your chin!

There’s no magic to selecting a Watermelon, but thump away if you like – I still do. But thumping to listen for a high pitched knock instead of a dull thud is NOT a sure-fire way to select a good watermelon. It’s up to the farmers and harvesters to pick them at the right time and for stores/distributors to inspect them well – and good news – that’s been going well this season! Still, here a few things you can do to give yourself a great chance of getting a delicious Watermelon:

Look For

  • Firm-shelled melons. The rind should be hard when you squeeze it.
  • Mostly symmetrical melons that feel heavy (watermelons are 92% water)
  • A creamy yellow spot underneath show it ripened in the sun (that’s the spot where it sat on the ground)

Avoid

  • Spongy or soft rind melons that give to thumb pressure
  • Flat, darkly discolored spots – a sign of bruising caused the flesh to be translucent inside near that area.
  • Melons with washed-out color on the whole shell and a rough texture – an indicator of poor vine health.

There’s no magic to selecting a Watermelon, but thump away if you like – I still do.

 

Fresh Figs

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Late summer means peak season for Organic and Conventional Fresh Figs from California’s sunny San Joaquin Valley. Most people have eaten Dried Figs, and likely in the form of a Fig Newton cookie. Is the flavor the same? Comparing dried Figs to fresh Figs is a bit like comparing the flavor of raisins to fresh Grapes – it’s similar, yet a very different eating experience. Ripe Fresh Figs have tender skin and a soft, gooey flesh, and can be eaten whole (except for the stem) or sliced into wedges. The fruit tastes sweet, rich and slightly earthy. Fresh Figs are excellent for eating whole as a snack, for desserts, or in sweet and savory baking recipes. Figs wrapped with bacon? Oh yea!

Fresh Figs can be found during August in three colors: Black, Brown and Green. They all taste about the same with only subtle differences. Dark-purple skinned Black Mission Figs have classic, earthy-sweet Fig flavor and are most commonly carried in stores during late summer. Light purple to black skinned Brown Turkey Figs are hearty and sweet – available into early fall. Green-skinned Calmyrnia and Kadota Figs are honey-sweet and at their best during mid-August.

Tips

  • Handling: Be gentle! Fresh Figs are delicate. A cut or puncture to the tender skin can turn moldy due to the high sugar flesh underneath.
  • Storage: You can keep them at room temperature for a day or two, but in the refrigerator is best.
  • Selection: Don’t be too concerned about skin scars, but avoid Figs with punctures or smashed areas. Figs picked at full ripeness can occasionally leak a sticky juice from the fruit.  This is a sign of sweetness and ripeness, but too much leaking can be a sign the fruit is about to go bad.
  • Ripeness: Fresh Figs are ripe and sweet when they become soft to a gentle squeeze. Soft is good. I love mine super soft and gooey-sweet!

Fresh Fig How-To

Thomcord Grapes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Do you love that classic flavor of Concord Grapes, but find the seeds and thick skins not so easy to snack on? Try Thomcord Grapes! They’re a round, thinner-skinned variety of Grape that features that rich, grape-juice or grape-jelly flavor of Concords plus the sugar levels and seedless characteristics of Thompsons. The flesh is deeply sweet and the chewable skins are just slightly tangy. Yum!

Organic and conventional Thomcord Grapes from California are in season for a short window of time during late August and into September. You might find local or regionally grown Thomcord Grapes at stores or farmer markets in the Northeast and Mid-West this during late summer too. Select packs that are free from wet spots, collapsed or shriveled berries, or stickiness. Keep the grapes refrigerated and rinse with water just before eating them.

Organic and conventional Thomcord Grapes from California are in season for a short window of time during late August and into September.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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