Organic Picks of the Week 02/10/14

Best if Used By 02/17/14

Organic Picks of the week for February 10th, 2014 features
Asparagus, Lemons, Minneola Tangelos, Eggplant, and Kumquats


Organic Asparagus

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

It is definitely not Spring yet, but we can get a taste of it now that Organically grown Asparagus from Mexico is beginning it’s peak season. Packed with flavor, packed with vitamins and nutrients, fresh Organic Asparagus can make meals exciting in many ways. Bake it into casseroles. 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!

Sunny Citrus Asparagus: Lightly boiled Asparagus tossed with Minneola Tangelo juice, Olive Oil and spices.

RECIPE: Sunny Citrus Asparagus
Asparagus cooked al dente, brightened with sweet Minneola Tangelo juice and spiced with some pepper. This is a simple way to bring out the best in Asparagus.

  • 1 bunch (about 1lb) of Standard-size (medium) Asparagus washed and ends trimmed
  • Slice Asparagus into 2″ pieces, bias cut
  • Add Asparagus salted boiling water in a medium deep pan
  • Boil for only 2 minutes only then strain from water (2.5 – 3 min. if extra thick spears)
  • Toss partially boiled Asparagus in a mixing bowl with
    • juice from ½ of a Minneola Tangelo (our substitute Lemon for more acidity)
    • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
    • ½ tsp salt, cracked black pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes

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 fibrous portion ends.
  • How do you cook it? Steam or blanch fresh Asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes at most. 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.
  • Golden Rule for Cooking Asparagus: High Temperature, Short time.  This will highlight the flavor without bringing on the mushiness.


Organic Lemons

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Good news: Organic Lemons are in a period of steady harvests during February on certified organic ranches in Southern California. Start something delicious in your kitchen this week with Organic Lemons while they’re easy to find and reasonably priced! Bad news: some Organic Lemon growers lost 70% of their crop for this year to the December 2013 San Joaquin Valley freeze and irrigation-water scarcity is make it even harder for others. The long-term outlook is that Organic Lemons will become very expense and difficult for stores to keep in stock starting later in the Spring and especially this summer.

Organic Lemons are a great choice now but will become scarce this summer.

Here are some of the best uses for Lemons:

  • Flavor your water with fresh Lemon.
  • Add Lemon juice to homemade salad dressings and vinaigrettes
  • Brighten up fresh salads, cooked vegetables, chicken or fish with a  squeeze of fresh Lemon as an alternative to salt
  • Zest the yellow part of the skin for use in baking for citrus flavor and clarity
  • Clean your cutting board with the end fresh Lemons with their natural acidity and essential oils
  • Make Homemade Lemonade!
  • Balance the flavor of vegetable juice blends with semi-peeled Lemons.

Sweet and tangy Kiwi and Lemons shine through the juiced, nutrient-dense greens.

JUICER RECIPE: Green Kiwi Lemonade
Juice the following ingredients in a Juice Extractor:

  • 3 stalks of Kale or other hearty green (here I used 2 fist-fistfuls of Organic Cut N Clean Kale/Collard blend)
  • 1 Cucumber mostly peeled
  • 3 ripe Kiwi Fruit, peeling is optional
  • 1 whole semi-peeled Lemon
  • 2 whole Sweet-tart Apples

Lemon Pepper Broccoli Blast

RECIPE: Lemon-Pepper Broccoli Blast

  • Pre-heat oven to 500 F
  • Rinse and cut 2 Organic Broccoli Crowns into large florets
  • Cut 1 Organic Lemon into slices
  • Squeeze the juice from the lemon ends onto the florets
  • Toss the florets and lemon slices in 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Season the florets with Lemon-Pepper seasoning (or just coarse salt and cracked pepper)
  • Roast at 500 F for 7-10 minutes until seared yet still al dente

By the way, Organic Broccoli from Arizona and California is plentiful, high quality and priced low than usual this February – take advantage!


Organic Minneola Tangelos

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Nothing brightens a cold winter day and boosts your immune system with Vitamin C quite like a refreshing Minneola Tangelo. A cross between a Tangerine and a Grapefruit, Tangelos are juicy and have a vibrant, mostly sweet orange flavor with hints on tangerine tanginess. Minneolas are easy to spot – they have that goofy knob at the stem end, which actually makes them easier to peel. Their flesh is super juicy, has few to no seeds and delivers a sweet and tangy citrus flavor. Organic Minneola Tangelos are ideal for on the go snacking, slicing onto salads, making smoothies and are fantastic for fresh squeezed juice. Try my Minneola-Ginger Broccolette recipe! Select Minneolas that feel heavy for their size and are free from soft spots. Skin scars, where the fruit rubbed against the leafs and stems on the tree, have no impact on eating quality.

Bright and juicy: Organic Minneola Tangelos are at their peak this month.

Dark orange-skinned Organic Minneola Tangelos from California are at the peak of their growing season now through mid-March. The fruit is exceptionally juicy right now and fairly easy to peel. The only bad news is that much of the crop was damaged during a freeze in December, driving prices higher than normal on the fruit that survived.

An excellent way to enjoy seasonal citrus, use the extra fruit you can snack on in time, or to take advantage of deals on scarred up fruit or lower grade fruit – is to turn it into delicious, fresh-squeezed juice! Learn more with our 3 minute Citrus Juicing VIDEO.


Organic Eggplant

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

Eggplant Parmesan Pizza? Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip? It’s a great time to experiment with healthy Eggplant recipes since Certified Organic Eggplant is in peak season from farms in both Mexico and Florida. The Mexican-grown Organic Eggplant is affordably priced right now too. Fresh Eggplant is great for Mediterranean, Italian and Asian-inspired dishes. You can roast it, bake it, grill it and add it to stews and pastas.

What will you make with some fresh Organic Eggplant?

TIPS:

  • Select Eggplant that is firm, not soft, is free from brown-sunken areas, and has some green color still in calyx around the stem.
  • 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.
  • To avoid “soggy Eggplant” 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 to the Eggplant texture and shape holds up better during cooking.
  • 15 Easy Eggplant recipes from Real Simple.


Organic Kumquats

BEST FLAVOR | PEAK SEASON

Kumquats? Well, in spite of being the one of smallest citrus fruits, Kumquats are big on flavor. Bursting with citrus intensity, these mini, bite-sized citrus fruits have sour-sweet flesh with edible skins. Yep, you eat them whole! – rind, flesh, small seeds ‘n all for a rush of sweet-tart zippiness. I like to call ‘em nature’s “Sour Patch Kids.” Organic Kumquats from small organic citrus groves in Southern California in peak season during the winter months. Just given them a rinse under cold and your ready to use them!

If you’re a fan of citrus flavor – you’ve gotta try peak season Organic Kumquats. Yep, you eat ‘em whole!

10 ways to use Kumquats

  1. Snack on them whole – Intense but good!  This is what they’re best for.
  2. Spa Water: Halve 3 of them length-wise.  In a glass, pour cold Seltzer Water over them.
  3. Add Kumquat ring-slices to a salad like this Kale-Kumquat Salad recipe.
  4. Dice them to use in a marinade for fish, pork or chicken.
  5. Halve them length-wise to add to a fruit salad.
  6. Chop them up to use in a Kumquat Chutney.
  7. Make a Kumquat Marmalade or Ginger-Kumquat Marmalade.
  8. Slice them to a fresh flavor to Ginger Ale or Lemon-Lime sodas.
  9. Make homemade Candied Kumquats as a sweet-tart topping or condiment.
  10. Halved Kumquats drop nicely into a bottle of Wheat Ale or Hefeweizen Beer.

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, healthy food.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy