Summer’s bounty: Winter squash

In the final installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting winter squash in fresh, well-spiced meals as summer turns into fall!

Frontier Co-op Winter Squash

By Tom Havran

Winter squash are time capsules of summer’s bounty that you can enjoy all through the autumn and winter months. These hard rind fruits contain richly colored and flavored flesh that is a power house of beta-carotene laced nutrition. Because they lend themselves so well to both sweet and savory side dishes and main courses, there’s no reason not to enjoy winter squash as much as possible!

Some of the most popular, readily available and versatile varieties include acorn, delicata, butternut and spaghetti. Learn more about each type’s characteristic color, texture, flavor and application here.

How to prepare it: Thick-skinned squash, such as acorn and butternut, lend themselves to storage, while thin-skinned, small squash like delicata should be used as soon as possible. The simplest, and arguably best, way to prepare squash is to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with oil, adorn with spices and roast until fork-tender.

Spices and herbs to complement: Squash offers a balance of starchy, neutral flavors and nutty sweetness that allow it to work well with both sweet and savory seasonings. Classic pairings include cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and maple for sweet, and cayenne, sage and thyme for savory. Try creating mashed squash flavored with garlic, thyme and black pepper, or immerse tender boiled or roasted cubes of squash in a smoldering curry dish or creamy corn chowder seasoned with cayenne.

For a different flavor twist this fall, season your squash with Simply Organic’s new Crazy Awesome Veggies Sweet Cinnamon Chili seasoning mix. Continue reading

Summer’s bounty: Potatoes

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

Summers-bounty-potatoes

By Tom Havran

Based on genetic testing of the potato, humans have spent as much as 10,000 years cultivating and perfecting this irreplaceable vegetable staple. Throughout this history, the starchy, waxy tubers have offered real stick-to-the-ribs nourishment and are the perfect compliment to virtually any meal, from entrée to sandwich to salad. Potatoes come in five basic varieties:

  1. Russets: Starchy, dry-fleshed, oval-shaped classic baking potatoes with russeted skin.
  2. Whites: Versatile potatoes which have crisp, snow white flesh and usually offer a balance of starchiness and waxiness.
  3. Reds: Red-skinned, often round potatoes with firm, waxy flesh that lends itself to boiled potatoes and potato salad.
  4. Yellows: Yellow-fleshed (due to the presence of betacarotene), creamy-textured, versatile potatoes with a balance of starch and wax.
  5. Purples/Blues: Crisp-fleshed potatoes that are usually starchy when cooked. The purple color (resulting from the antioxidant anthocyanin) holds better if these potatoes are boiled or baked with their skins left on.

How to prepare it: Choose starchy or versatile varieties for mashed and baked potatoes, chips and fries. Choose waxy or versatile potatoes for boiled potatoes and cold potato salad. The skins add texture, flavor, fiber and nutrients but whether you peel them or not depends on the dish and your personal preference. You should definitely leave the delicate skin on new potatoes. It may be wise to peel non-organic potatoes which are heavily sprayed and treated with an anti-sprouting chemical. Generally, simply washing and scrubbing organic potatoes should be sufficient, but consider peeling green, sprouted and blemished potatoes which can have elevated levels of the potentially toxic solanin alkaloid.

Spices and herbs to complement: The neutral flavor of potatoes will accept virtually any savory herb and spice seasoning from plain old sea salt and pepper to parsley, dill, garlic and more. Try adorning your mashed or boiled potatoes with a vibrantly green “gravy” made from fresh parsley or basil pesto to which you can add herbs like chives or rosemary.

Pairs well with: Almost every kind of meat, vegetable and cheese you can imagine. Dress with gravies, sauces, sour cream, yogurt, butter or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

5 Tips for enjoying potatoes:

  • Try boiling potatoes in their skins and peeling them afterwards. Doing so will preserve more flavor and nutrients while producing a creamier, less watered-down texture.
  • Don’t miss the brief, summertime new potato season! Fresh, newly dug potatoes are sweeter, more delicate and creamier than winter potatoes which have been cold-conditioned for storage.
  • Leftover potatoes don’t reheat well as they become rubbery and grainy. Try them in a new cooking application such as fried potatoes or potato pancakes.
  • Save the cooking water from peeled, boiled potatoes to bake richer-flavored bread and smoother handmade pasta.
  • Add potatoes to cold, salted water for more even cooking.

Recipes to try:

Simply Organic potato salad

Purple Potato Salad with Dijon Dill Dressing

Potato Stew-3 (1)

Irish Potato Stew

 

Tom-HavranAbout the author: Tom is communicator of natural living for Frontier, Simply Organic and Aura Cacia brands. In other words, he’s a very imaginative copywriter. A local boy, raised on a farm just down the road from the company’s headquarters in Norway, Tom enjoys drawing, plant hoarding, cooking and living the simple life in the beautiful state of Iowa.

 

Summer’s bounty: Tomatoes

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

Summer’s bounty: Melons

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

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

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

Summer’s bounty: Greens

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

Summer’s bounty: Rhubarb

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

Summer’s bounty: Radishes

The second installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce. Learn simple tips for highlighting summer’s bounty in fresh, well-spiced meals this summer!

By Tom Havran

The peppery, refreshing crunch of summer radishes belie this root vegetable’s relationship to spicy horseradish and mustard. All are members of the Cruciferae family, named for the cross-like shape of their four-petaled flowers. Radishes are some of the first spring-sown vegetables available in fresh markets, and the earlier you get them, the milder and more tender they are.

radishes

How to prepare it: Gently scrub radishes clean and trim away roots and tough leaves. An hour soak in fresh, iced water can improve the crunch and tame the overly peppery taste of particularly hot radishes. Radishes are best eaten fresh as crudités, sliced to adorn salads or onto sandwiches. A classic way to serve them is sliced onto soft, generously buttered bread, topped with flaky sea salt and freshly-cracked pepper. Continue reading

Summer’s bounty: Asparagus

This kicks off our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce. Learn simple tips for highlighting summer’s bounty in fresh, well-spiced meals!

By Tom Havran

Could there be a better-tasting or healthier vegetable to kick off the fresh produce season at your local market than springtime asparagus? These emerald green spears burst from the ground containing a complex flavor of earthy, sulfurous minerality and vibrantly green vegetal sweetness.

asparagus

Simply Organic Garlic ‘n’ Herb and Grind to a Salt make perfect seasonings for simple, grilled asparagus.

How to prepare it: There’s simply no wrong way to enjoy asparagus — except overly boiled into mush! Steam and adorn with butter, salt and pepper, grill with olive oil and garlic, broil with balsamic vinegar, or munch raw with a seasoned creamy yogurt dip.

Spices and herbs to complement: Try asparagus with delicate, green herbs like parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil. Continue reading