Seasonal Cooking Tips

2747603970_f9bfbc7bd2_n.jpgIn the last few weeks, I have been asked questions at the market that reminded me that we have curious and creative shoppers who really do want to try something new each week, as I often advocate. You might like to hear the answers to some of those questions and also benefit from some of the kitchen wisdom floating around out there.

First of all, you can eat greens. Not just the greens that are sold to be eaten, but the greens on the tops of radishes, beets, and turnips. In fact, it is only at farmers’ markets where you can find tops that are fresh enough to eat. Sometimes the root veggies in the grocery store are so old and look so bad that that they have been removed.

I have found that kohlrabi greens are usually too big and tough to be palatable, but beet greens are great sauteed in a little butter and oil and then added to the beets themselves that you have roasted or steamed. And radish greens can often be washed thoroughly, patted dry, and added to salads. For all the others – kale, mustard, turnip, and collard greens – you can start with our Guide to Greens.

Second, don’t wash any produce, especially lettuces and berries, before storing them when you get home. It is always best to store first and wash later with one exception: If you are planning to use that lettuce within 24 hours or so, you may separate the leaves, wash them off carefully, and either dry in a spinner or pat dry with paper towels. Then roll up in a cotton or linen dishtowel before refrigerating. With soft leaf lettuces especially, this will help keep them crisp for a short while.

Lay the towel open and, starting at one end, make a single layer of leaves, then fold over and make the next layer on top of the first but on the new towel layer you have created with the fold. Keep doing that, and when you have completed rolling the towel, fold it over in the middle. You can then place it in a plastic bag, but do not seal the bag. This takes some time, but if you are planning to impress with a lovely summer salad, you will succeed with this method.

Lastly, I have a great way to preserve garlic and to have it available indefinitely to add to sauces, vinaigrettes, marinades, and mayonnaises. The garlic in the market is wonderfully mild and sweet at this time of year, and it is well worth your time to preserve it. I am lifting this recipe directly from my favorite cookbook, Not Afraid of Flavor by Ben and Karen Barker of the Magnolia Grill in Durham, N.C.

Roasted Garlic Puree

  • 4 heads of garlic, separated into cloves, unpeeled (not elephant garlic)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the garlic with the bay leaves in enough olive oil to coat thoroughly. Transfer to an ovenproof pan large enough to hold the garlic in one layer and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 30–45 minutes until the garlic is soft and aromatic. Cool slightly.

Pass the cloves through the fine blade of a food mill or press them through a strainer and then transfer the puree to a container. Cool completely, cover with a thin film of olive oil, and seal the container. Refrigerate until needed. This keeps indefinitely as long as it is covered by the thin film of oil.

I will try to do this occasionally throughout the year. There are so many kitchen tricks out there – Julia Child was famous for throwing them out during her early TV shows. And there are many good cookbooks written by chefs who have them buried in the recipes. I hope to share more from my own repertoire, and some that I will just try to find for you. Try them! You’ll like them!

Photo by clayirving