Organic Picks of the Week 10/14/13

Best if Used By 10/21/13

Organic Picks of the week for October 14th, 2013 features
Pomegranates, Asparagus, Butternut Squash, Cranberries
and Carrots


Organic Pomegranates

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

The peak season is here for Organic Pomegranates from California! The delicious prize inside a fresh Pomegranate is the juicy, sweet, bold flavored arils (seeds encapsulated with sacs of juice). You eat the arils whole. These arils are fantastic by themselves as a flavorful snack – juicy, sweet, a little tangy then crunchy. The taste is somewhere between concord grape juice and cranberry juice on the sugar to acid scale, but deliciously unique, robust. Pomegranate arils can also be used to top a salad, in yogurt parfaits, with desserts or cocktails, and of course for juicing. Here are some recipe ideas for any course.

It’s Organic Pomegranate season! …and time to find some new ways to enjoy this ancient fruit.

Super-food Pomegranates are an ancient fruit but have been in the news lately for their health benefits. The juice on the Pomegranate Arils has all three polyphenols – tannins, anthocyanins, ellagic acid.

TIPS:

  • Select fresh Pomegranates that are firm and heavy, a sign of juice content.
  • Scarring on the skin really has no impact on the internal quality of the fruit.
  • The redness of the skin can vary from variety to variety and is not a true indicator of aril quality.
  • Store Pomegranates in the fridge for best shelf-life, but they’ll last for a week or so on the counter too as an interesting, decorative centerpiece. But how do you get at those arils?

HOW TO OPEN A POMEGRANATE:

If you decide to hack open a fresh Pomegranate on a cutting board and then pry the membranes apart, get ready to clean up your crime scene – I mean, kitchen. There will be juice splattering on your cutting surface and surrounding area, and likely on you. Fun for Halloween maybe, but there are better ways.

How to open a Pomegranate… without you and your kitchen looking like a crime scene.

Aqua method:

  • You’ll need a knife, large bowl of water and a colander.
  • Slice the crown off the top.
  • Score the skin making 4 cuts from top to bottom.
  • Open the Pomegranate over the bowl of water.
  • Pull the arils from membranes under water to keep the splatter to a minimum.
  • The arils sink and the membranes float – strain and you’re done.

Deseeder Tap method: One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is the “60 Second Pomegranate Deseeder” I came across this product a few years ago. This archive video shows me testing it. I still use this thing… because it works!

  • Halve the fruit.
  • Put it face down on the deseeder grate and tap (or slap) out the arils with a heavy utensil onto a plate.  Voila.

Organic Asparagus

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Organically grown Asparagus is back! Growers are harvesting their October crop at organic farms in Mexico and Argentina. Packed with flavor, packed with vitamins and nutrients, fresh Organic Asparagus can make meals exciting in many ways. Blanch it before adding it to a fresh salad. Boil or steam it as a delicious green side dish, dressed simply with oil, butter, fresh herbs or a squeeze of lemon. Roast it in the oven with olive oil, balsamic or the juice from an orange, or even grill it!

Fresh Organic Asparagus is back in season.

TIPS:
How do you choose it?
 Avoid Asparagus bunches that have an odor, wrinkled spears, spread open tips or soft tips. Look for a healthy green color, though a little purpling is not a problem.

How do you store it?  I simply recommend wrapping a moist paper towel around the stem ends and storing the Asparagus in the refrigerator.  Asparagus is highly perishable so use it within a few days of purchase.

Is the whole spear edible? Cut the tougher bottom portion of the spear off – usually the last 3/4″ to 1-1/2″ that is lighter in color. Or grab the bottom of the stem and the middle of the spear then bend – the Asparagus will snap where the woody portion ends.

How do you cook it? Steam or blanch fresh Asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes. Grill for 2 to 4 minutes after lightly coating the Asparagus in olive oil and seasoning with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Sauté in olive oil over medium heat for 3 minutes covered. Or Microwave in about 1/4 cup of water for 5 minutes in a tightly covered container. Here is a wonderful Asparagus Recipe collection from VegetarianTimes.com

No matter how you prepare fresh Asparagus – remember this rule to avoid mushiness from over cooking: high temperature for a short time.

Organic Butternut Squash

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

In-season Butternut is the most popular hard squash variety and is ideal for soups and roasting. It’s flesh is very moist and has a nutty flavor that falls somewhere between cooked carrots and sweet potato – familiar and accessible. It’s healthy too! Rich in Vitamins, nutrients and anti-oxidants, Butternut Squash needs to be baked, boiled, roasted, micro-waved or steamed.

How do you prepare Butternut Squash?
Cut the bulb end from the neck. Stand the neck up on its flatly cut base and peel it with a knife. Peel the bulbed end, then halve it. Scrape out the seeds and pulp. Chop the flesh into bite sized pieces. Now it is ready to boil or steam or roast. Butternut Squash is cooked when the flesh can easily be pierced with a fork.

How to cut and peel Butternut Squash.

TIPS:
Keep your fingers, cut the squash.
 Use a sharp, sturdy knife for peeling, cutting and chopping hard squash. Dull knives will cause you to press to hard and risk slipping off the vegetable and onto your fingers or hand. And be sure your cutting board does not move by placing a silicon mat or towel underneath it.

Warm it up to peel it up. By nuking your whole Hard Squash in the microwave for 2-3 minutes the skin will soften a little and become easier to peel with a knife. Try it!

Pre-rinse the squash in running water and wipe the skin with a clean rag or paper towel. This keeps your cutting surface clean and your knife (which goes into the flesh) clean.

Save some for later. Chopped hard squash, like Butternut, that is uncooked will last for several days in the fridge packed in a plastic bag or container.

Selection and storage. Select Hard Squashes that are solid, free from stem-mold and feels heavy for their size. Because they’re so firm, they can be often be kept at room temperature on your counter for a few weeks.

Avoid the work.  Many natural foods stores and food co-ops now offer a “cut and peeled” pack of Organic Butternut Squash that is ready to use as soon as you buy it.

Spiced Butternut Squash, Apples and Kale.

RECIPE: Spiced Butternut, Apples and Kale

  • Boil 1 peeled and cubed Butternut Squash (about 2 cups or 20oz) for 4-5 minutes
  • Drain the water then add 2 large apples, peeled and cubed to the cooking pot
  • Add 3 tbsp Olive Oil and 3 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Add 1 bunch Kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
  • Cover cooking pot tightly with lid and allow to simmer over medium heat for 3 minutes
  • Remove lid and season with
    • ½ tsp Coarse Sale
    • ¼ tsp each: Cracked Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Ground Ginger, Ground Cloves
  • Re-cover and simmer for another 3 minutes
  • Stir gently and serve

Organic Cranberries

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Fresh Organic Cranberries from Wisconsin and Canada are now in peak season! Time to “think Autumn”, dust off your recipe cards and go to the web for some new recipe ideas to take advantage of these healthy, intensely tangy berries. What a fantastic fall flavor! Can you eat Cranberries raw? You can, but they’re quite tart. Fresh Cranberries are best used in recipes for: appetizers, relishes, sauces, chutneys, relishes, breads, muffins, drinks and desserts.

Fresh Organic Cranberries are in season. Add a punch of tart flavor to your fall cooking, baking and juicing.

RECIPE: Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce is way easier than you may have thought. If you want to skip the canned stuff this season

  • Boil a cup of water and a cup of sugar
  • Add roughly 12-14oz of rinsed Fresh Cranberries (most organic cranberries come in 7-8oz packs, so just over a pack and a half will do, depending on how sweet or tart you prefer it)
  • Simmer for about 10 minutes stirring often
  • Pour it into a bowl to cool at room temperature and you’ve done it!

Fresh Cranberry Sauce is easier to make than you think! Plus, it tastes more like dried cranberries than artificially flavored Jell-O.


Organic Carrots

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

Sweet, crunchy Carrots offer flavor and texture for your taste buds, plus lots of beta-carotene for antioxidant benefits and emerging research on cardio-vascular risk-reducing benefits for your body. Fall is the time of year when Carrots, both whole and peeled baby-cut, become even more popular in family fridge for snacks, lunches and cooking. And the timing is perfect since the sweetness becomes even more pronounced, particularly on organically grown Carrots.

With Organic Carrots from California in peak season right now, expect some ads and in-store specials on whole Organic Carrots and peeled baby-cut Organic Carrots. Whole Organic Carrots sold in 1lb, 2lb, 5lb bags are typically medium to large in width – ideal for raw and cooked recipes, for slicing, chopping, sticks and juicing. Cut and peeled Organic Baby Carrots are made from slightly thinner Carrots and are fantastic for snacking and steaming.

Cinnamon-Balsamic Glazed Carrots – pleasingly sweet and flavorful!

RECIPE: Cinnamon-Balsamic Glazed Carrots

  • Pre-heat oven to 450F
  • 1 lb whole Carrots, ends and tips trimmed
  • Peel the Carrots the slice in half length-wise
  • Stir 2 tbsp Olive Oil, 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar, ½ tsp Cinnamon
  • Pour over Carrots in a Mixing Bowl, toss to coat
  • Arrange Carrots on a baking tray without touching each other
  • Roast at 450F for 20 min. flat side down
  • Flip Carrots, Roast for 7-10 more min.
  • Carrots are done when showing caramelization and can be easily pierced with a fork

Find more interesting Carrot recipes HERE.

What is Organic Produce?

Certified Organic Produce meets a set of standards for growing, handling and labeling that is governed by the USDA’s National Organic Program. Organic fruits and vegetables are grown without the use synthetic chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers. The terms “Natural” and “Local” are not the same as “Organic.” Learn more about Organic.

Eat in season. Choose organic. Enjoy good food.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy