Wondering what to do with the latest seasonal foods? Here’s a partial record of what we’ve been eating ourselves.
The first time I encountered a watermelon radish, I confused it with a turnip. For weeks, I raved about this unusual turnip — the one with the creamy exterior and the rosy middle — to produce-enthusiastic friends. Finally, one Sunday at the farmers’ market, I pointed them out to my friend Kate.
“Oh, these?” she laughed. “They’re radishes. But yeah, they’re great!”
In my defense, sturdy watermelon radishes — one of many heirloom radish varieties, in this case a type of daikon — arguably have more in common with turnips than with the more familiar dainty French breakfast and cherry belle radishes.
Continue reading Winter radishes »
At markets throughout the Southeast, you find okra piled into two-toned heaps of mossy green and magenta, so vibrant that passing it up feels downright ungrateful. I never do. Instead, as okra reaches its seasonal peak in late summer, I start worrying about whether I’ll find the time to cook everything I have planned for it.
This might sound loony to anyone whose sole experience with the stuff has involved a fryer bubbling with peanut oil, or who, disenchanted with okra’s mucilaginous tendencies, just can’t get past eating it any way except fried.
Continue reading Okra »
I once knew a cook who called herself “The Bean Queen.” I admired her diligence: Every week, she cooked up a batch of dried beans and built her meals around them. But I could never find the inspiration to cook beans myself on a regular basis.
A few years ago, however, I discovered heirloom beans — and any ambivalence I had about legume cookery vanished.
Heirloom beans — distinctive varieties that have been saved and cultivated for generations — are easily interchangeable with conventional varieties. Baked into a simple bean gratin or worked into a bowl of pasta e fagioli, their taste and texture can be a revelation in comparison with ordinary dried beans.
Continue reading Heirloom beans »
I’ve always had a soft spot for funny-looking vegetables, whether mutated (forked carrots, bell peppers with piggyback twins) or quirky by default (gnarly celery root). So, naturally, I was smitten with kohlrabi from the start.
Its exotic looks can be intimidating, to be sure. A member of the cabbage family, kohlrabi is prized for its bulbous stalk, which swells to peculiar proportions above ground, sprouting unwieldy, collard-like greens.
But its appearance belies its nature; pared down to its bulb, kohlrabi is remarkably low-maintenance and adaptable. Raw, it is crisp, sweet, and clean, strikingly reminiscent of raw broccoli stalks. Cooked, it touts a mild, nutty, cabbage-like flavor that adapts beautifully to cooking styles as polar as Indian and German, two cuisines in which kohlrabi has long been beloved (kohlrabi translates to “cabbage-turnip” in German).
Continue reading Kohlrabi »
As a kid, I found celery the most unappealing snack food imaginable: fibrous, stringy, and unforgivably bland. Even in recent years, I could appreciate its workhorse utility in the background of a soffrito or a stock, but I seldom found myself lavishing it with praise.
Which is a shame, because celery is remarkably versatile as a main ingredient. At its best, celery is strikingly crisp and clean when raw, tender and gently sweet when cooked. Paired with ingredients that accentuate its best features, such as lemon and honey, celery is something not just to be relied upon, but to be celebrated.
Continue reading Celery »
Every time I spot chervil’s feathery, kelly-green leaves at my farmers’ market, I feel a silly little rush of glee. Perhaps it’s because chervil makes itself available to me only a few temperate months a year, or because it signals the arrival of the rest of spring’s luxuries. Regardless, I can scarcely get enough of it before the heat scares it away until fall.
Chervil isn’t widely adored in the U.S., but it’s a fixture in French kitchens, where it’s a component of the classic fines herbes quartet (chervil, chives, parsley, and tarragon). But where parsley is zippy and bold, chives onion-tinged, and tarragon aggressively seductive, chervil offers a simple, grassy clarity and just a tease of delicate, anise-tinged sweetness.
Continue reading Chervil »
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