Organic Picks | February 25th, 2015

Brussels SproutsMurcott MandarinsBroccoliLeeksKitchen Tip of the Week

Best if used by 03/04/15

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Organic Brussels Sprouts

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Ahh, nothing quite like a properly cooked or prepared fresh Brussels Sprouts dish! A quick blanch and then sauté or roasting them in high heat are great ways to bring out the best smooth and sweet flavors. They taste nutty and rich, but if you over-boil or over-steam Brussels Sprouts you’ll actually bring out a sulfur nastiness that is the number one reason people don’t like them in the first place. Brussels Sprouts can also be enjoyed raw in salads or slaws if shaved thinly like lettuce. Their flavor raw is a little like cabbage. Shaved Brussels Sprouts go great with sweet-creamy dressings or sharp vinaigrettes that can balance the bitter edges of the raw flavor.

Great news! Here late February and early March there is an abundance of high quality, great tasting fresh Organic Brussels Sprouts from southern California and Mexico. That means you find some of the most affordable prices of the year – so get cooking!

Recipe: Roasted Brussels & Broccoli with Smoked Gouda

Smoked Gouda is kinda like the bacon of cheeses – smoky, salty, savory – and it pair great with Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli. This recipe taste luxurious!

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450F
  2. Veggie Prep
    • Wash and trim 1 lb of fresh Brussels Sprouts, halving the large ones for even cooking times
    • Wash and cut 1 bunch of fresh Broccoli into evenly sized florets
  3. Toss the veggies in a large mixing bowl with 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  4. Season with 1 tsp coarse salt, ½ tsp black pepper and ½ tsp garlic powder – retoss to coat
  5. Arrange seasoned veggies on a baking tray and roast at 450F for 12 minutes
  6. Flip the Broccoli florets and Brussels Sprouts with a spatula and roast for an additional 15 minutes until the veggies are browned and fork-tender
  7. Place the roasted veggies in a small casserole dish and top with 1-½ cups freshly grated Smoked Gouda Cheese
  8. Allow the Smoked Gouda Cheese to melt over the roasted veggies in the oven then serve. (Steps 7-8 can be done in the microwave instead, using a microwave-safe serving bowl)

Brussels Sprout Tips

  • Select Brussels Sprouts that are nice and green, and have tight, firm heads. Avoid Brussels Sprouts with heavy black discoloration on the ribs at the base or ones that have evidence of bug damage. Size, large or small, does not affect flavor, but it will impact the cooking time.
  • Store Brussels Sprouts in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator in a plastic bag or container.
  • Prepping: Trim the bottom ¼” off the bottom stem end of the head. Peel off the loose outer leaves with your fingers, usually 1-2 layers.
  • For Even Cooking Time: Slice larger Brussels Sprouts head into halves or quarters, slicing along the stem direction, while leaving the smallest ones whole.

Roasted Brussels & Broccoli with Smoked Gouda

 

Organic Murcott Mandarins

Peak Season    Best Flavor

What’s a good organic citrus fruit that’s highly snackable, easy to peel and sweet? Well, Organic Clementines from California are out of season. And Organic Gold Nugget Mandarins are still just now coming into season, so they’ll be bigger, sweeter and easier to peel in a by mid-March. But before you shed any tears, there’s some exciting news! A few flavor-minded organic citrus groves in California are now harvesting the next Mandarin variety to be in season – W. Murcott Mandarins, aka Honey W. Murcotts.

Small and slightly flat, Organic W. Murcott Mandarins are bright orange inside and out. They are sweet and extremely juicy, feature a rich citrus flavor and are mostly seedless. The thin skin peels simply and becomes even easier peel by hand as the season progresses into mid-March. Look for Organic Murcott Mandarins at natural food stores, organic markets and food co-ops that carry a broad variety of citrus. They’re often displayed loose and be sold by the pound, though many stores have also offered 2 and 3lb pouch bags this year. Try a few this week while they’re at their best!

Other Organic Mandarins in season from California during late February and March:

  1. Organic Gold Nugget Mandarins: The skins are deep orange in color and appear pebbled and bumpy – like a nugget of gold, I suppose, and peel fairly easily. Inside this virtually seedless mandarin the orange-gold flesh is sweet and juicy. They’re acidic enough to be bright, yet richly sweet, making them an excellent snacking variety for both kids and adults.
  2. Organic Royal Mandarins: This variety is a cross between an orange and a tangerine, technically making the fruit a “Tangor.”  Royal Mandarins have robust citrus flavor. Their juicy flesh is tangy and sweet.
  3. Organic Tango Mandarins: While not very prevalent in stores, this variety is very similar to the Murcott Mandarins described above. They’re quite delicious! Yum!

Select Mandarins that feels heavy for its size, since they’ll have more juice. The fruit’s skin can feel a little puffy – those will likely peel quite easily – but avoid Mandarins with soft, squishy spots which are a precursor to decay.

Easy to peel, Sweet with deep Mandarin flavor, Organic W. Murcott Mandarins are at their best right now.

Organic Broccoli

Peak Season    Value Priced

Organic Broccoli and Organic Broccoli Crowns are in a peak season harvest flush at farms in southern California and Mexico, allowing for affordable advertised and in-store specials for many stores. Eat smart and save money? Awesome! Raw for veggie trays, dipping and snacking; steamed as a healthy side; sautéed for richness; stir-fried with other vegetables or roasted for great flavor – Broccoli’s versatility keeps it interesting. And since it is low calories, high in fiber, packed with plant protein, and loaded tons of nutrients and phyto-nutrients; we should all be eating lots of Broccoli!

Broccoli Tips

  • Select Broccoli that has tight beads on the crown, is firm and has fresh, green cut ends.
  • Avoid Broccoli that has a strong odor or is flabby and limp.
  • Keep your Broccoli refrigerated in your crisper drawer or in a plastic bag.
  • Smart Move: Make it convenient for yourself! Cut your Broccoli into florets as soon as you buy it and store it in plastic baggies or small tubs on an eye-level shelf in your fridge. With the prep work already done it will be ready to enjoy. With it highly visible, you’ll be more likely to eat more of it more often!
  • Stems? You don’t need to throw those Broccoli stems in the trash or composter. You can julienne cut them for Broccoli Slaw or to add to a stir-fry or pasta.

 

Select Broccoli that has tight beads on the crown, is firm and has fresh, green cut ends.

Organic Leeks

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Ever use Leeks in your home-cooking? Somewhat chive-like and somewhat mild-onion-like in flavor, Leeks are sweeter than shallots, garlic and scallions. Leeks are used as the back-bone flavor in many recipes and can be braised, steamed, boiled or roasted to soften their texture. They can be used in soups, stews, mashed potatoes and casseroles, or can be served as a side. Flavorful Organic Leeks from California are in peak season right now.

Recipe Ideas

  • Check out this collection of 10 Vegan Leek Recipes.
  • Leeks are a St. David’s Day Welsh tradition (Sunday, March 1): 10 Best Leeks Recipes for St. David’s Day
  • Or if you indulge in some meat from time to time: sear a salted/peppered London Broil or Flat-iron Steak in olive oil 2 min each side, add 2 leeks chopped + 3 minced garlic cloves + 1” fresh ginger (minced), braise it all in a bottle of beer in a Dutch Oven over low to medium-low heat for 2 hours.
  • Roasted Leeks are Easy! Leeks halved, washed then roasted at 425F for 25 minutes with olive oil, salt and pepper.

 

Roasted Leeks are Easy! Leeks halved, washed then roasted at 425F for 25 minutes with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Kitchen Tip of the Week

How to Cut and Prepare Leeks

Since Leeks tend to pick up lots of dirt and sand-grit between the leaves as they grow, here’s a helpful video on how to cut and clean Leeks in preparation for use in your recipes. Below are the 6 essential steps and some pictures from my cutting board:

  1. Trim roots off the base of the Leeks
  2. Cut the tops off the Leeks where the leaves begin to turn dark green and fibrous
  3. Slice the Leeks length-wise
  4. Pull off any fibrous outer leaves
  5. Wash Leeks in a bowl or deep baking dish (dirt and sand will sink, leeks will float)
  6. Chop and use in recipes!

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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