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Issue Date: June 2009


Farm Fresh - Foods


Laura Taxel
editorial@clevelandmagazine.com
Northeast Ohio growers have something new for our tables every month — and Marilou Suszko knows just what to do with this seasonal produce. She’s the author of the cookbook Farms & Foods of Ohio: From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate and host of cooking segment From My Ohio Kitchen on WVIZ. Suszko shares her advice for selecting, storing and serving a few farmers market favorites.
 
Peas
Peak Season: May

Select: Bright green, glossy pods that look fat and full

Avoid: Limp, wrinkled or yellowing pods Store:Best eaten the day of purchase, but otherwise, store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator and use within a few days.
Prepare: You must remove English peas from the pods. Snap off the stem end and pull the string to open the outer shell. The pods of sugar snap peas are edible.

Try: “Peas and mint are among the first to market in the spring, so buddy them up. Sauté the peas in olive oil until crisp tender, toss in fresh mint and season with salt and pepper.”
Strawberries
Peak Season:June

Choose
: Firm berries with full red color and leafy caps. Small to medium berries tend to be sweeter than large ones.

Store: For best flavor, do not refrigerate, and use as soon as possible after purchase.
Prepare: Do not wash until just before serving. Remove caps.

Try: “For an amazing finish, serve fresh strawberries with a sprinkling of dark brown sugar, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a grinding of fresh black pepper.”
Bell Peppers
Peak Season: July to September

Choose: Firm, brightly colored, thick-fleshed peppers

Store
: Place in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator and use within a week.
Prepare: Wash and remove seeds and white fibrous inner membrane.

Try:“Sauté a mix of colored peppers and fresh oregano until soft. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and crumbled goat or feta cheese.”
Eggplant
Peak Season: July to August

Choose
: Firm, smooth eggplants. Smaller is better, as they’re less bitter, have fewer seeds and don’t need to be salted before cooking as the larger ones do.

Avoid
: Those with bruises and brown or blue streaks.

Store: Loosely cover in plastic wrap, refrigerate in the crisper or on the shelf and use within a week.
Prepare: For larger-size eggplants, sprinkle cut pieces with salt and let them sit for an hour before cooking to help sweat out excess moisture. Wipe off salt with a paper towel before using.

Try: “Sauté half-inch-thick slices of eggplant in olive oil until soft. Top with sautéed onions and a generous grating of Parmesan cheese, then place under the broiler until melted and bubbly.”
Peaches
Peak Season: August to September

Choose
: Look for firm, fragrant fruit with a deep all-over soft yellow to golden color. The reddish blush is not an indicator of ripeness but of variety.

Store: Peaches will ripen at room temperature. Once ripe, they can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week, but the flavor is better if kept unrefrigerated.
Prepare: Dip slices into cold water mixed with a splash of lemon or lime juice to prevent browning if not using immediately.

Try: “Grilled peaches are my favorite. Simply halve, remove the pit, brush cut sides with butter and grill over medium heat until soft. Then stuff with blue cheese and top with chopped walnuts and a drizzle of honey.”
Sweet Corn
Season: August to September
 
Choose: Evenly filled ears with fresh green husks and silk showing at the top. Kernels should be plump, moist and brightly colored.
 
Store: Best if not refrigerated and eaten on the day of purchase. If refrigerated, store in an open plastic bag for up to a week, but the flavor will diminish.
Prepare: Shuck and then cook, uncovered, just two minutes in boiling, unsalted water.

Try: “This is an easy, foolproof method for microwaving corn. Put four ears in a resealable plastic bag. Add a splash of water and partially seal. Microwave on high for eight minutes (two minutes per ear). The ears stay hotter longer using this method.”
Brussel Sprouts
Peak Season: October to November

Choose:
Firm, bright green, compact heads one to one-and-a-half inches in diameter

Store: Refrigerate unwashed in an open plastic bag for up to five days. Flavor gets stronger over time, so it’s best to use soon after purchase.
Prepare: Wash, trim stem end, remove loose leaves, cut a shallow X in the top of each sprout for quicker, even cooking

Try: “Take cleaned sprouts, trim the ends and slice in half. Toss gently with olive oil and cook, cut side down, in a large covered skillet over medium heat for 10 minutes until browned and soft. Dust with a grating of good Romano, season with salt and pepper, and be prepared to share.”
Parsnips
Season: September to October

Choose: Small to medium roots that are firm and straight with a white to cream color

Avoid: Oversized, shriveled or spotted roots yellow to tan in color
Store: Unwashed in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for up to two weeks

Prepare: Peel and trim ends

Try: “Roast parsnips to a candy like finish. Peel and chop into one-inch chunks, coat lightly with olive oil and a little melted butter. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until just soft and golden. Drizzle with honey, add chopped fresh thyme and roast for 10 minutes more.”


 

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