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Late Winter - Starters and Light Bites

DK Publishing logoDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
© Provided by DKBooks

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© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

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© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Season’s best winter leafy greens

Asian greens is the catch-all name for a number of different brassicas, such as bok choy and the leafy mustard greens, all with varying degrees of pepperiness. Kale (both red and green) has descended from the wild cabbages of southern Europe; and dark green cavolo nero initially came from Italy. Both have a chewy texture and a slightly bitter, cabbagey flavor. Enjoy all with garlic, soy sauce, chile, ginger, and nuts.


Curly kale

Exceptionally nutritious, the leaves of curly kale have a rich, robust flavor and coarse texture. Boil or steam until tender and bright green. Overcooked, they turn gray.


Cavolo nero

Also known as Tuscan black cabbage or Dinosaur kale, this member of the kale family is a popular gourmet vegetable. The puckered leaves have a rich, strong flavor. Lightly steam, or sauté.


Bok choy (pak choi)

Also known as Chinese white cabbage, the crunchy, mild-flavored stalks are almost sweet, while the leaves taste slightly mustardy.

Small heads are delicious braised whole; larger ones shredded and stir-fried, or added to soups and stews.

Cavolo nero and kale, with their sturdy leaves, are popular crops thriving in cold to warm climates. Peppery Asian greens are originally from that continent, but today grow worldwide.


Essentials

Varieties available

Red and dark green curly kale, dark green cavolo nero, and various Asian greens such as bok choy (pak choi), joy soy, mustard spinach, leaf mustard.


Buy

Look for firm stalks and fresh-looking leaves. Avoid any that are yellowing, limp, or have brown spots.


Store

Best eaten fresh, or store unwashed in a plastic bag in the fridge for 3–4 days. Kale becomes bitter if stored too long. Do not put near fruits that give off ethylene gas, such as apples, or the leaves will turn yellow.


Cook

Boil, steam, braise, stir-fry, or add to soups and stews.


Preserve

Blanch and freeze.


Recipe ideas

Beef and greens

Filo pie with spicy kale and sausage

Wasabi beef and bok choy


Season’s best avocado

Also called avocado pears because of their shape, avocados are at their best in the winter months and into spring. They are loaded with potassium, fiber, and exceptional levels of monosaturated fat (the good kind). They have a mild, somewhat nutty, flavor and a smooth, oily texture. Good flavor pairings include Parma ham, shrimp, tomatoes, grapefruit, lime, pineapple, sugar, and balsamic vinegar.


Fuerte

An easy-peeling variety with a mild flavor and creamy, pale yellow flesh that slices well. It is ideal for salads and salsas.

Unlike the Hass variety, the skin of Fuerte is smooth and remains green when ripe.


Hass

This variety is a good choice for dips and spreads. The creamy flesh is silky smooth and the flavor wonderfully rich and nutty.

The pebbly skin becomes almost black as the fruit ripens.

Unlike most fruits, avocados ripen off the tree. Originally native to Central America and the Caribbean, there are over 500 cultivars planted worldwide.


How to pit and peel avocado

Using a knife to remove the avocado pit is clean, quick, and surprisingly easy. The avocado must be just ripe to taste rich and luxurious. If underripe, the flesh is tough and slightly bitter. If overripe, it becomes black and “soapy.” Rub the flesh with lemon afterward to prevent it from browning.

With a chef’s knife, slice straight into the avocado, cutting all the way around the pit. Gently twist the halves in opposite directions and separate.

Strike the cutting edge of your knife into the pit and lift the knife (wiggling if necessary) to remove it from the avocado.

Use a spatula to remove the flesh cleanly from the skin if you want to keep it whole. Cut into slices or wedges, or mash for dips and spreads.


Essentials

Varieties available

Hass, Fuerte, and Sharwill are the most popular varieties.


Buy

The shiny, green varieties, like Fuerte, should “give” slightly when gently squeezed. Others, like Hass, must be black and should “give” slightly at the stalk end but not feel too soft.


Store

Unripe at room temperature. If ripe, keep in the fridge and eat in a day or two.


Cook

Eat raw; cook, stuffed and baked, or in a soup.


Preserve

Mash the flesh with lemon juice, then freeze.


Recipe ideas

Avocado and spinach soup

Avocado, grapefruit, and Parma ham salad

Crispy bacon and avocado wraps


Season’s best oysters

Oysters are a delicacy and differ in flavor and shell color, depending on their location. Mostly found in temperate coastal waters, they are harvested from the wild from autumn to spring, and farmed all year. Oyster tasting is an art, with many gourmet terms for its varied flavors. Pair raw oysters with shallots, red wine, vinegar, Tabasco, and lemon juice; cooked oysters go well with anchovy paste, butter, cream, and spinach.


Native oyster

Also called the European flat oyster, it is often served raw on a bed of crushed ice, dressed with lemon juice, Tabasco, and shallot vinegar. Graded by size, from 1 to 4, the largest “royals” can reach 4in (10cm).

Native oysters have an oval, scaly shell, intense taste, and firm texture.


Pacific oyster

The taste of this widely cultured oyster varies enormously, depending on where it is grown. Flavors range from smoky, grassy, and acidic, through to milky and creamy. Usually graded by weight, a fair size would be 4oz ( 1 15g), or 4 1/2in ( 1 1cm). Store the oysters cup-side down to prevent their natural juices from escaping.

Pacific oysters are larger and less expensive than native ones and grow more quickly.

The meat of the Pacific oyster is a delicate beige in color, with a smooth, creamy texture.


How to shuck an oyster

Fresh oysters are tightly closed and hard to open without an oyster shucking knife. When shucking oysters, always protect the hand holding the oyster with a towel or oven mitt, in case the knife slips while applying pressure to pry off the top shell. Holding the oyster flat on a towel will help prevent the deliciously briny liquid from spilling out.

Insert the tip of an oyster knife into the hinge to open the shell. Keep the blade close to the top of the shell so the oyster is not damaged. Cut the muscle and lift off the top shell.

Detach the oyster from the bottom shell by carefully sliding the blade of the knife beneath the oyster. They can be served raw on the half shell (scrub the shells thoroughly before opening), or removed and cooked.


Essentials

Varieties available

The two main varieties, wild and farmed, are Native and Pacific oysters.


Buy

They should be shut tight and undamaged and smell pleasantly of the sea.


Store

Keep in the fridge, rounded sides down. Eat on the day of purchase.


Cook

Usually eaten au naturel, or fry, poach, grill, or bake.


Preserve

Can be frozen in their half shells and juice, but only if very fresh.


Recipe ideas

Broiled oysters with crème fraîche and Parmesan

Oysters with chile and lime mayonnaise

Oysters with shallot and vinegar dressing

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