Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean there is a lack of great produce available at your grocery store. Check out what citrus, potatoes, cabbage and hardy greens have to offer your dinner table this season!
Of course oranges, lemons and limes have a permanent place in the produce aisle, but our citrus choices expand greatly during the month of January and through the late winter months: easy-to-peel mandarin oranges (sometimes called Clementines), ruby red grapefruit, marble-sized kumquats, fragrant Meyer lemons, scarlet-fleshed blood oranges and juicy Key limes are just some of the citrus fruits at their prime right now.
The challenge of choosing citrus is that you can’t always tell the quality of the fruit inside simply by looking at its outer peel. But, in general, choose fruit that’s heavy for its size and evenly colored with rind that is glossy and firm with no signs of shriveling. Citrus keeps for up to two weeks when stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Fresh oranges, mandarins and grapefruit segments make delicious additions to salads – try any of them with fresh arugula tossed in a vinaigrette made with the juice of the citrus you’re using. And the minced zest is a great way to add intense citrus flavor to foods. Simply remove the colored outer layer of peel with a zesting tool or a vegetable peeler, taking care not to remove the bitter white pith underneath, then mince the zest with a knife before adding to salad dressings, cookie dough or cake batter.
Because potatoes are such a staple in our kitchens, it seems hard to believe that they have a “season,” but winter is a great time for enjoying super-fresh spuds. Over 1 million acres of potatoes are planted in the United States each year, making potatoes the leading vegetable crop in the country.
Potatoes are classified as either a “starchy,” meaning the flesh is dry and fluffy when cooked, or “waxy,” which tells you that the flesh is smooth and somewhat creamy. The most common starchy potato is the brown-skinned russet (also called Idaho and baker), and it makes excellent baked potatoes, French fries and potato pancakes; russets are also the best choice for mashed potatoes because their dry interior can absorb a lot of milk and butter. However, because starchy potatoes tend to crumble when cooked, they’re not the best choice for salads or soups because they tend to fall apart during mixing. Instead, use a waxy variety, like red- or white-skinned potatoes, or one of the many heirloom varieties, like fingerlings, because they hold their shape much better.
No matter which type of potato you’re buying, look for those that are firm with no signs of softening, bruising or nicks on the skin. Also avoid potatoes that have started to sprout (indicating that they’re old) or that have a greenish tint to their skin (a sign that the potato was exposed to sunlight). Stored in a cool, dark place, potatoes will keep for several weeks. It’s not recommended, however, to store them in the refrigerator because the cold temperature causes the starches to turn to sugar and changes their cooking and flavor properties slightly.
Cabbage isn’t just for serving alongside corned beef! It’s actually a very versatile vegetable and shouldn’t be relegated just to St. Patrick’s Day—here are some tips for choosing and using it.
You’ll find both green and red (purple) cabbage in stores. When buying green cabbage, look for heads that are firm and heavy for their size with leaves that lay tightly on the head. Check the stem end of the head to make sure there’s no cracking at the base, which is a sign of age. And avoid any cabbage that’s pale yellow-green in color—another indication of lengthy storage. Instead, look for heads that have a dusty green color to them. Heads of cabbage can be refrigerated for up to two weeks; if you plan to eat it raw in salads or coleslaw, use it within three or four days of purchase. And don’t cut or slice cabbage until you’re ready to use it—it will discolor and wilt if prepared too far in advance.
Because cabbage is so sturdy, it handles long simmering well, making it a flavorful addition to soups and braises. And because the leaves are often quite large, they’re perfect for wrapping around fillings of ground meat, rice or vegetables. Thinly sliced, cabbage can also be eaten raw —it’s traditionally served inside Mexican-style fish tacos and is, of course, a necessity for coleslaw.
Frosty weather is the perfect time for greens like kale, collards, turnip greens and chard, which actually benefit from cold temperatures – the dip in mercury helps sweeten their leaves. That said, though, these greens are typically thick and leathery and grow on sturdy, tough stems. Because of that, they’re usually cooked (sautéed, braised or roasted) rather than eaten raw in salads.
When choosing any type of hardy greens, look for bunches that have crisp, well-colored leaves with no signs of yellowing, wilting or shriveling. The stems should also be crisp and rigid. Don’t wash greens until you’re ready to cook them, and then be sure to wash them well as they’re often quite sandy. Store the greens in plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the fridge and plan to use within a day or two of purchasing.
Citrus is a great way to perk up the taste buds with tart flavor that’s bound to make any day seem brighter!
Baked, mashed, roasted, shredded, sliced—there are so many ways to “peel” a potato! Give these sides a go—we think they’re spud-tacular!