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Summer’s bounty: Tomatoes

20 Aug

In this installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting tomatoes in fresh, well-spiced meals.

tomatoes

By Tom Havran

Fresh, local, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes may be the highest incarnation of summer produce bliss. Nothing matches the juicy texture and flavor of a fresh tomato with it’s balance of acidic tang and musky, fruity sweetness — unless it’s the concentrated and mellowed flavor of a perfectly home-canned tomato, or the sticky, fig-like, chewy-sweet density of a lovely sun-dried tomato.

Tomatoes come in three main varieties:

  1. Slicers/beefsteak: Great for fresh use on sandwiches and in salsas.
  2. Paste/plum: Fleshy with few seeds — great for canning, drying and sauce-making.
  3. Salad/cherry: Great to snack on and for adorning salads.

Tomatoes also come in a rainbow of colors from red to orange, yellow, green, purple, pink and white. In general, lighter-colored and green tomatoes can be dramatically less acidic and fruity (or dramatically tart and fruity). As the tomato’s color darkens, the richer and more complex the flavor becomes.

How to prepare it: How NOT to prepare tomatoes is the question. Slice and serve them with fresh mozzarella, sweet basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill them whole with onions, jalapenos and garlic, and coarsely puree the mix for an unforgettable fire-roasted salsa. Puree and strain a selection of dense, meaty tomatoes to use fresh as tomato juice.

Spices and herbs to complement: Oregano and sweet basil are both referred to as the “tomato herb,” as they both complement the sweet, tart, vegetal properties of tomatoes. Garlic, likewise, adds a much-needed aromatic, sulfurous depth to the bright zing of tomatoes. Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Coriander

15 Aug

organic coriander seed

By Tom Havran

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this first installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning capabilities of coriander and get tips for awakening it in your next cooking endeavor.

What it tastes like: Coriander seeds are the fruit of the same plant that gives us cilantro leaves. If you are one of the rare individuals who has a natural aversion to the flavor of cilantro, you may want to try coriander in its place because it lacks the soapy aldehyde flavor of the cilantro herb. Instead, it contains the flavor constituents of limonene and linalool — which also happen to be the primary constituents in the spicy rind of the bergamot orange. Coriander adds an aromatic, fruit-like and mildly spicy lift to foods. Continue reading

From cooking for one to cooking for a crowd

12 Aug

By Kailee Meskimen

It took me until I was 23 to start cooking dinner. Not that I couldn’t pick up a whisk, spatula or ladle if needed, I just didn’t have the experience or know-how to regularly cook wholesome meals that also tasted good. A few years (and a few burnt pans) later, I’ve finally converted cooking from burden to pleasure. Whether you’re cooking for one or cooking for a crowd, it doesn’t have to be a chore. By stocking up on wholesome, organic foods and pantry staples, you can make homemade meals a part of your routine.

Simply Organic spices

Every pantry needs at least a few basic spices.

Cooking for one: Stock your pantry

Building your pantry with quality, organic ingredients can be expensive and time-consuming, but this is the foundation of cooking well. As a newly-wed and recent college graduate, I certainly empathize with those just starting out. A well-stocked pantry doesn’t need to be filled with fancy ingredients — or even a lot of ingredients, especially if you’re cooking for one or two people most of the time. You simply need the staples that will form the basis of a variety of meals.

Although staple foods differ among households due to preferences, ethnic backgrounds and dietary restrictions, nearly every pantry starts with flour, sugar, olive oil and a cooking oil with a high smoke point, such as cold-pressed grapeseed oil. Next, stock up on basic seasonings like garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, basilcrushed red pepper flakes, cayenne, cumin, coriandersea salt and black peppercorns. Nuts, beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as locally-farmed eggs, meat, milk, butter and cheese are also great to have on hand.

Once your pantry is fully loaded, your culinary creations can commence. Turn mediocre meals into memorable ones with these helpful tips: Continue reading

Summer’s bounty: Melons

6 Aug

In this installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting melons in fresh, well-spiced meals!

melons

By Tom Havran

Juicy, fragrant and fleeting, melons come in a variety of glorious flavors and forms when they appear at your summer market. The popularity of the big four — watermelons, muskmelons/cantaloupes, honeydews and casaba/crenshaws — have never waned (for good reasons), but there are also a host of heirloom and specialty melons that you should grab up as well, including galias, charantais and canaries.

How to prepare it: Clean the surface of the melon with a veggie wash and plenty of cool water, and pat dry. Using a heavy chef’s knife, remove a small oval of rind to create a flat spot to stabilize the melon for slicing in two equal halves. The sweetest flesh surrounds the seeds, so very carefully remove them without damaging too much flesh. Melon should be served cool but not overly chilled so that the flavor and aroma nuances are fully available to the senses. Continue reading

Summer’s bounty: Kohlrabi

23 Jul

In this installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting kohlrabi in fresh, well-spiced meals.

FR WEB Cayenne Room - Kohlrabi

By Tom Havran

What if you took the flavor of the sweetest cabbage and put it in a crisp, juicy, round shape? That’s what kohlrabi is. Kohl-rabi, German for cabbage-turnip, is like kale and Brussel’s sprouts in that it is a specially selected variety of the common cabbage, bred for its succulent, tender stem, which can be eaten raw or cooked. The dark green leaves of kohlrabi also are edible with a taste similar to mild, sweet kale.

How to prepare it: Select firm, freshly harvested stems, preferably with leaves still attached. Slice away the base (root) and top (leaf) ends. Wash the stem and leaves in cold water. Peel the green (sometimes purple) stem to expose the cream-colored inner flesh. Slice it into rounds, sticks or cubes to eat raw with salt and pepper or add it to salads and slaw for sweetness and crunch. Alternatively, the stem can be quartered and boiled until fork-tender and use like potatoes. Use the leaves as you would kale. Continue reading

Summer’s Bounty: Strawberries

9 Jul

In this installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting strawberries in fresh, well-spiced meals.

Summer's Bounty: Strawberries

Like the flowers that produce them, fruits are sweet-scented —  and perhaps no fruit is more so than strawberries, whose Latin name Fragaria, means fragrant. Just thinking about fresh, summer strawberries conjures a sense of their aromatic essence and unique, luscious flavor. Don’t miss the brief season when locally grown strawberries appear fresh at your market; they won’t taste as good any other time of the year.

How to prepare it: Conventional commercially grown strawberries are a heavily sprayed crop, so opt for organic strawberries whenever possible. Strawberries don’t ripen after they’re picked so select completely red, firm, shiny, just-picked berries at your local market, or seek out a pick-your-own farm. Rinse the strawberries gently to avoid bruising them, dry on a kitchen towel, remove stems and sepals, and enjoy. Continue reading

4th of July recipe roundup: 6 undeniably American ways to celebrate

1 Jul

By Katie Staab

The 4th of July holiday is about honoring long-standing traditions and celebrating what we love about America. This holds true for the food — the centerpiece of any holiday party. While burgers, hotdogs and potato salads hold dominant places as traditional Independence Day fare, the recipes below are undeniably American for their own reasons:

Red, White and Blue Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Red, White and Blue Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Simply Organic Vanilla

How it celebrates America: The world has Americans to thank for the cupcake’s rise in popularity, and this one is decorated in a fresh, flag-inspired fashion.

Grilled Blackened Shrimp Skewers

Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Frontier Co-op Organic Blackened Seafood Seasoning

How it celebrates America: When you season your shrimp with Frontier Co-op’s Organic Blackened Seafood Seasoning, you’re helping restore America’s wetlands. One percent of sales from the seasoning line is donated to wetland restoration projects. Continue reading

Summer’s bounty: Greens

25 Jun

In this installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting greens in fresh, well-spiced meals this summer!

FR WEB Cayenne Room Greens 06-14

By Tom Havran

There’s no more immediate and dazzling gustatory experience of fresh summer produce than a big bowl of tossed, succulent, summer-fresh greens. The perfect salad has come a long way from the cellophane-wrapped and watery supermarket iceberg lettuce dressed with great globs of bottled ranch. Greens are now a feast of colors and flavors from green, red and purple to sweet, bitter, sour and spicy.

How to prepare them: Immerse fresh-picked greens in cool water and give them a gentle swish. Invest in a mechanical salad spinner or spin the greens in a dishtowel to remove all water, then immediately dress, toss and devour them for the most intense flavor and greatest nutrient uptake. How you dress greens is a matter of preference and the food that you’re serving the salad with, but it’s virtually impossible to go wrong with a classic, made-from-scratch vinaigrette. For the best flavors choose a blend of greens that awaken all the taste buds:

  • Sweet: lettuces, beet greens, mache, purslane
  • Bitter: escarole, radicchio, endive, dandelion
  • Sour: sorrels (garden, French, sheep)
  • Spicy: mustard greens, arugula

Continue reading

Homemade pizza dough for Father’s Day

13 Jun

By Alan Miles

I consider myself a good father — at least where pizza is concerned.

homemade pizza dough

Oiling the pizza stone is a lot like finger painting.

When my kids were growing up, my pizza-making was a fatherly skill that was universally appreciated. Dad’s pizza (featuring homemade pizza dough) was one of a handful of meals that all four kids agreed to like. And since more than a single pizza was required for our family of six, there could even be a degree of customization. (The one unchanging ingredient through the years has been eight ounces of tomato sauce per large pizza flavored with about 1/4 cup Frontier Pizza Seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon Frontier Garlic Powder.)

My oldest daughter decided she was “allergic” to onions in sixth grade — a condition that has persisted into adulthood — so onions were left off half a pizza. This opened the door to other special requests (within the constraints of what was in the refrigerator on pizza night, of course), and soon there was a section of pizza to suit every family member. Sliced tomatoes on top sprinkled liberally with basil always topped the list of requests. Continue reading

Summer’s bounty: Rhubarb

11 Jun

In this third installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting rhubarb!

rhubarb

By Tom Havran

How can you go wrong with a fresh summer produce item that’s nicknamed “the pie plant”? Just like the leaves of its lemony-tart botanical cousin, garden sorrel, the ruby-red and emerald-green stalks of rhubarb are also mouth-puckeringly sour, but this “fruit” also contains a remarkably luscious and unique essence that has lent its flavor to pies, crumbles, cakes, fools and cobblers for generations.

How to prepare it: Select firm, newly harvested stalks. Only the leaf stems or petioles of rhubarb are edible. Cut away the tip of each stalk an inch or two below the leaf end. Take a fresh slice off the bottom end of the stalk and wash clean in cold water. Cut the stalk up into ½- to 1-inch pieces and simply add the uncooked pieces to pies, cake batters and crisps as you would any other fruit. Alternatively, stew 1 cup of rhubarb with about 2 tablespoons of water and 1 cup of sugar until the pieces are tender and just falling apart. Use as jam on toast and scones, or as a sauce on ice cream, custards and puddings. Continue reading

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