I can’t wait to get to the farmers market in the morning, even though I will not get much sleep tonight to get up early. Summer is fast approaching and just around the corner! Summer is my absolute favorite season for produce. Almost all of my favorite foods are in season in the summer and it has the most overall availability of fruits. I look forward to many of the summer offerings for the rest of the year. It’s like Christmas for me. Just thinking about the succulent, juicy heirloom tomatoes, crisp cool cucumbers, luscious berries, tangy apricots, sweet plums, gorgeous peppers and melons etc. makes my mouth water.
Well, it’s May, and some of these delicious foods are just starting to come in season. I’m getting very anxious for the cucumbers and tomatoes to arrive. Here is a list of what is in season currently for North America:
Apricots, Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Grapefruit, Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Watermelon, Peaches, Rhubarb, Avocados, Lemons, Loquats, Nectarines, Oranges and Plums.
Artichokes, Asparagus, Fava Beans, Green Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Corn, Fennel, Kale, Spring Onions, Sweet Onions, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Celeriac, Fennel, Sorrel, Spinach, Zucchini, Mustard Greens, Dandelion Greens, Arugula, Basil, Beans, Bok Choy, Chicory, Endive, Garlic, Horseradish, Leeks, Nettles, Okra, Scallions and Shallots.
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Chipotle Chili [chee-POT-tleh] is the famous jalapeno of Capsicum annum, smoke-dried to bring out the distinctive smoky and biting flavor characteristic of a lot of Mexican and Tex Mex cuisine. Chipotle is moderately hot between 5,000 to 10,000 Scoville Units and has been described as having a complex smoky sweet flavor with subtle molasses undertones. Smoked for several days in sealed chambers, the chipotles dry up like prunes. The smoke drying turns the chilies from bright green to dark brown and shriveled up, taking about 10 lbs of jalapenos to make one pound of chipotle. It is speculated that the Aztecs smoked the chilies for long term storage as drying the chilies was a difficult process due to the thick flesh.
Chipotles can add a spicy and smoky flare to soups, sauces, salsas, dips, guacamole, dressings, marinades, and even some deserts.
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I fell in love a few years ago with a new all natural liquid sweetener from the exotic agave plant – the same plant that is processed into tequila. This sweetener is a golden amber color like honey with a similar taste, yet it is subtler, smoother, and doesn’t overwhelm the palate like honey or sugar. And unlike honey it is low on the glycemic index, safe for diabetics and soluble in cold drinks. Which is probably why agave nectar is the new it ingredient showing up everywhere from smoothie and juice bars to hip cocktail bars. It’s paired with gin at the Orbit Room in San Francisco, with grapefruit vodka at Sonoma County’s Cyrus Restaurant, and stirred into the Margarita’s at Manhattan’s Employees Only. Even Coca~Cola has jumped on the scene and released a new energy drink called, Full Throttle Blue Demon in Blue Agave flavor. It’s surprisingly questionable if it has actual agave in it however. Continue Reading / See Additional Photos
Before the avocado traveled north and become the popular fruit we know today, it had quite the slanderous reputation and was banned by the priests. It was known and used as an aphrodisiac sexual stimulant. The original Aztec name for the fruit was “ahuacatl” and means “testicle”, in reference of the avocados shape.
Native to Central and South America and dating back to 8,000 B.C., the avocado (ahuacatl) fruit has become one of the most popular crops in California. Mexico is still the world’s leading producer of avocados, with Brazil and California as the second largest producers. Avocado trees from Mexico were first planted in the U.S. in 1871 in Santa Barbara. Today, with over 7,000 avocado groves in California, almost 90% of the avocados grown in the U.S. are harvested in Southern California, with San Diego County producing 60% of that. 1 avocado tree is capable of producing between 150-500 avocados per year. Despite there being over 500 varieties of avocados, only 8 of them are grown commercially in California. The most popular Hass variety is grown year-round in California and makes up for almost 95% of the avocados grown. The other varieties are Fuerte, Pinkerton, Zutano, Reed, Lamb Hass, Gwen and Bacon. Continue Reading / See Additional Photos
Preserved lemons are my new ‘it’ ingredient. I made a few batches and gave them away as gifts around Christmas time and lately I’ve been inspired to find new and creative uses for them. Traditionally, they are used in Moroccan cuisine, as a condiment and in tagines and couscous. I think they lend themselves particularly well with all of the Spring ‘greens’, like artichokes, asparagus, peas, etc, etc. My favorite restaurant in Chicago- Green Zebra- has a salad on the menu made with shaved artichokes, preserved lemon, parmesan and red pepper foam that I just had to try last time I was there.
Searching online, you’ll find tons of ideas. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse makes a relish out of preserved lemons, olives, shallots and herbs- great for the summer BBQ season. People are using them as toppings for pizza, in martinis, and even in lemony desserts. So get creative! And if you come up with something good, let me know! Continue Reading / See Additional Photos