Cucumber

Fruit Essentials

August 8, 2013

Fruit mosaicFruit Essentials

Have you ever come home from the market after purchasing fruit to find that you spent money for nothing?  I have plenty of times and it ticks me off every time.  Here are some Fruit Essentials that may help you have more fruit shopping success.

Did you know that many plants that are botanically fruits are not sweet?  We think of them as vegetables or non-fruits.  Avocados, beans, coconuts, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, green peppers, okra, peas, pumpkins, sugar peas, string beans and tomatoes all fall in the fruit category.  Some cookbooks make a distinction between fruit, vegetables and fruit vegetables.  Fruit vegetables are foods that are botanically fruits, but are most often prepared and served like vegetables.  These fruits are considered fruit vegetables: Aubergine, autumn squash, avocado, bitter melon, cantaloupe, chayote, chile, courgette, cucumber, eggplant, gherkin, green bean, green sweet pepper, hot pepper, marrow, muskmelon, okra, olive, pumpkin, red sweet pepper, seedless cucumber, squash, sweet pepper, tomatillo, tomato, watermelon, wax gourd, yellow sweet pepper and zucchini.

Pectin is a substance contained in some fruit which is used for making jams and jellies thicker.  High pectin fruits are apples, cranberries, currants, lemons, oranges, plums and quinces.  Low pectin fruits are bananas, cherries, grapes, mangos, peaches, pineapples and strawberries.

Low pectin fruits seem to discolor quicker than high pectin fruits ( bananas and eggplants).  Lemon juice or vinegar slows the discoloring process.  Other fruits and vegetables that discolor quickly are avocados, cauliflower, celery, cherries, figs, Jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms, nectarines, parsnips, peaches, pears, potatoes, rutabaga and yams.

Bruising:  When a fruit is bruised the cell walls break down and discoloration begins.  The process can be slowed down by refrigeration.

Cleaning:  It is important to clean our fruit and vegetables.  Rinse fruit in cold running water and scrub as needed before cooking or eating.  Soaking fruit in water for more than a few minutes can leach out water soluble vitamins.

Peeling:  The fruit skin usually contains a lot of important nutrients, but if you need to peel a thick-skinned fruit cut a small amount of the peel from the top and bottom.  Then on a cutting board cut off the peel in strips from top to bottom.  A good way to peel thin skinned fruit is to place the fruit in a bowl with boiling water and let stand for about 1 minute.  Remove and cool in an ice water bath.  You could also spear the fruit with a fork and hold over a gas flame until the skin cracks OR quarter the fruit and peel with a sharp paring knife or potato peeler.

Wax:  Oh those beautiful waxed apples that wink at us at the market.  They are beautiful because they are waxed.  I don’t know about you, but I would rather not eat wax.  Wax can be removed from the surface of fruits by washing them with a mild dishwashing soap and then thoroughly rinsing them.  This will remove most of the wax, but probably not all of it.

Purchasing Ripe:  Purchase these fruits fully ripe:  Berries, cherries, citrus, grapes and watermelon.  All of the fruits in this list, except berries, can be refrigerated without losing flavor.

Purchasing Not-So-Ripe:  Apricots, figs, melons, nectarines, peaches and plums develop more complex flavors after picking.  Store these fruits at room temperature until they are as ripe as you would like them.

Refrigeration:  You can refrigerate apples,ripe mangos and ripe pears as soon as you get them.  Do not refrigerat bananas.

Seasonal Fruit:  Winter is the season for citrus.  Fall is the season for apples and pears.  Late spring is the season for strawberries and pineapples.  Summer is perfect for blueberries, melons, peaches and plums.

Washing:  Dry fruit with paper towels or kitchen towels and then use a blow dryer on the cool setting to completely dry fruit.

Squeezing:  A microwave can be used to get more juice from citrus fruits.  Microwave citrus fruits for about 20 seconds before squeezing the fruit for juice.

 

 

Pasta Salad Ideas

June 25, 2013

VegetablesPasta Salad Ideas

Here are some super easy, but versatile Pasta Salad Ideas from Tiny New York Kitchen.  All you need to do is add 3 cups of cooked & chilled pasta (of your choice) and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to one of these inspiring combinations.  Try them all throughout the summer for a whole treasure trove of side salads.  If you want to make any of these a main dish then add 1 pound of protein such as grilled chicken breasts, grilled flank steak, grilled shrimp, grilled tuna (or canned tuna) or tofu.  All recipes below serve 4.

For the Pasta: Cook 3 Cups of Pasta, Toss With 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Then Chill Until Ready To Use.  Add the Pasta to One of the Salad Combinations Below.

Nutty Beans & Greens

1 Cup Trimmed & Steamed Haricot Verts

1 Cup Baby Arugula

3 Tablespoons Toasted & Chopped Walnuts

1 Ounce Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

 

Snow Peas & Carrots

1/2 Cup Grated Carrot

1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce

1/2 Cup Thinly Sliced Snow Peas

1/2 Cup Shredded Red Cabbage

1/4 Cup Dry Roasted Peanuts

 

Cheesy Chickpea & Pesto

1/2 Cup Cooked Chickpeas

1 1/2 Ounces Crumbled Feta Cheese

1 Cup Halved Grape Tomatoes

1 Tablespoon Prepared Pesto

 

Mediterranean Medley

1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil

1/2 Cup Thinly Sliced Cucumber

1 Cup Halved Cherry Tomatoes

1 1/2 Ounces Crumbled Feta Cheese

1 1/2 Ounces Sliced Kalamata Olives

 

Peppery & Nutty

1 Cup Arugula

2/3 Cup Thinly Sliced Radishes

3 Tablespoons Toasted & Chopped Walnuts

2 Ounces Crumbled Goat Cheese

 

Melon, Mint & Parm

1/2 Cup Fresh Cubed Cantaloupe

2 Tablespoons Fresh Mint Leaves

2 Ounces Thinly Sliced Prosciutto

1 1/2 Ounces Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Freshly Ground Pepper

 

Cherry Almond Crunch

3/4 Cup Pitted Halved Fresh Cherries

1/4 Cup Toasted & Thinly Sliced Almonds

2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Basil

1 1/2 Ounces Crumbled Goat Cheese

 

Picnic Superstar

1/3 Cup Sliced Avocado

1/4 Cup Red Bell Pepper Strips

1/4 Cup Fresh Corn Kernels

2 Cooked Crumbled Center Cut Bacon Slices

2 Ounces Quartered Fresh Baby Mozzarella Balls

 

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