Finding the Ideal Vegetable: Tips and Tricks

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When grocery shopping, look for vegetables that are firm and attractive. The color must be deep and vibrant. If a vegetable looks limp and wilted, it’s the equivalent of a flabby man. Select the vigorous and young. (This may explain why I’ve been demoted again.)

Asparagus

The spears of asparagus should be thin and firm, with closed, dark green or purple tips.
Asparagus has the finest taste if used within a day or two of being purchased. Refrigerate the asparagus with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel, and keep it in the darkest part of the fridge. Before using, wash in cold water and remove the bottom.

Asparagus, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, and chicken would be delicious sautéed together.

Asparagus, olive oil, and fresh herbs like thyme, tarragon, and rosemary are perfect for tossing with freshly cooked pasta.

Asparagus with a tangy lemon vinaigrette is a great idea.

If your recipe asks for cold asparagus, swiftly drop the cooked stalks into cold water to stop cooking and avoid sogginess.

Beets

If the beets still have their tops on, you may tell if they are fresh by inspecting the leaves. The primary root, or tap source, should be thin and firm.

Broccoli

Select broccoli that has tightly packed, undamaged floret clusters. They need a uniform dark green, sage, or purple-green hue with no signs of yellowing, which will vary by variety. Furthermore, no yellow flowers should be in bloom. Stalk and stem integrity are crucial. Broccoli is highly perishable and has a shelf life of no more than a week when kept in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper.

Toss lightly steamed broccoli with some lemon juice and sesame seeds.

IDEA: Combine spaghetti, pine nuts, and broccoli florets in olive oil and toss. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Sprouts of Brussels

Their appearance is that of miniature, bright green cabbages. Brussels sprouts should be stored in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer if they have not been washed or trimmed. They have a 10-day shelf life when sealed in a plastic bag.

Quarter-cooked Brussels sprouts and combine with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped red onion, walnuts, and whatever mild-flavored cheese you choose (we recommend goat or feta).

Cabbage

Cabbage is divided into the green smooth-leaf variety, the green crinkly-leaf Savoy kind, and the red cabbage variety. Coleslaw with red cabbage in it is aesthetically pleasing. The tops should be dense and robust, with few or no floppy leaves. Cabbage’s freshness and vitamin C levels are both preserved by refrigeration. Save time by storing the entire head in a plastic bag in the fridge’s crisper drawer. You may store red and green cabbage like this for up to two weeks, whereas Savoy cabbage will keep for no more than seven days.

To give traditional coleslaw an Indian spin, try mixing shredded red and white cabbage with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander, and black pepper.

Carrots

They must be well-shaped, smooth, evenly colored, and solid. If they are wearing tops, they shouldn’t be limp and lifeless.

Carrot roots can be kept fresher longer if as little moisture is lost during storage. Putting them in a plastic bag or wrapping them in a paper towel and placing them in the coldest part of the fridge will help prevent moisture from forming. They should be good for at least two weeks after being stored properly. Carrots, like apples, pears, potatoes, and other crops that give off ethylene gas, will turn bitter if kept in the same storage area.

Cauliflower

The “curd” refers to the edible white part. Jacket leaves are the outermost set of green leaves. The main body ought to be tight and robust. When the white part seems spotted, that’s not good.

Cauliflower with garlic, ginger, and tamari in a sauté pan.

Celery

The stalks should be crisp. The stalks should feel sturdy, and the leaves should look recently shed. If you remember buying celery while it was fresh but can’t find it in the fridge, try submerging the connected end in a bowl of ice water. That will revitalize it if it isn’t too far gone. Keep celery fresh in the fridge by storing it in a plastic bag, a moist towel, or a sealed container.

Adding chopped celery to your preferred tuna or chicken salad dish is brilliant.

Put peanut butter or cream cheese in the middle of celery sticks.

Corn

The best time to find sweet corn is between May and September. Most maize varieties have yellow kernels. However, white seeds do exist.

Cold storage is recommended for freshly gathered corn. Corn will maintain its quality for several days if stored in a relaxed, humid environment after harvest. That’s why it must go in the fridge immediately and be kept wet until it’s time to utilize it. Try to find husks that are still green and unripe. Avoid drying out the silk ends.

Cucumbers

Good quality cucumbers will be bright green along their length and firm. Cucumbers that are drab in color and have dried-out ends should be avoided.
Cucumbers less in diameter tend to have fewer seeds than their bigger counterparts.

Refrigerating cucumbers will extend their shelf life by several days. Wrap the remaining cucumber tightly in plastic wrap or store it in a container with a tight lid to prevent it from drying out if you don’t eat it all at once. Cucumber is at its peak freshness when consumed within two days of purchase. Cucumbers lose their crisp texture and become limp when left out at room temperature for too long.

Rice wine vinaigrette can dress a salad of diced cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and mint leaves.

Eggplants

Both dark purple and white eggplants are possible. They need to be solid and spotless of browning. To keep eggplant fresh for a few days in the fridge, place it in a plastic bag before cutting it open.

If you want to keep the eggplant from becoming black while chopping it, use a knife made of stainless steel instead of carbon steel. First, you should wash and trim the ends of the eggplant.

A delicious salad is made with cubed roasted eggplant, grilled peppers, lentils, onions, garlic, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Garlic

Look for garlic that is firm and has a smooth peel while shopping. Check that the garlic bulb is dry and healthy by squeezing it gently between your fingers.

In a loosely covered or uncovered container, the garlic should be kept cool and dark, out of direct heat and light. It will stay fresh longer and be less likely to sprout, which is terrible for taste and wasteful. Garlic can be kept at room temperature.

Whole garlic bulbs can be stored for up to two months in a cool, dark place, depending on their age and variety. Cloves that have dried out or become moldy should be removed from the bulb as often as necessary. The shelf life of garlic is drastically shortened to just a few days once the head has been broken.

Garlic Preparation Hints:

Except when roasting the entire bulb, the first step in utilizing garlic is to remove the cloves from the head. Putting the bulb on a chopping board or other hard surface and applying gentle but firm pressure with the palm of your hand at an angle is a quick and straightforward way to do this. The bulb’s skin layers will unwind as a result of this.

You can use the flat edge of a wide knife to gently tap a clove that is smooth-side down on a cutting board, causing the skin to peel off. Afterward, you can peel off the dead skin with your fingers or a knife. If there is a green sprout in the middle of the clove, you should carefully remove it.

Marinate crushed garlic in olive oil to add flavor to salads and marinades.

A quick and straightforward hummus dip can be made by blending some fresh garlic, canned garbanzo beans, tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice.

STEP 1: Steam the spinach and chop it into bite-sized pieces.

Incorporate garlic into your soups and sauces.

To create tasty garlic mashed potatoes, purée roasted garlic cloves, cooked potatoes, and olive oil. Season with care.

Beans, Green

Beans devoid of brown spots or bruises have a decent green color, and have a smooth texture are the best to buy. There should be a satisfying “snap” when you break one.
Fresh bean pods should be kept in a plastic bag in the fridge’s crisper drawer. This method should extend the shelf life of whole beans by roughly seven days.

Toss roasted green beans with roasted red peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices.

Lettuce

There is a wide range of options available. Iceberg lettuce is by far the industry standard. The outside leaves are medium green, while the interior leaves are a lighter green, and the heads are big, spherical, and solid. The foliage should have a healthy, vibrant appearance. Steer clear of weirdly shaped noggins.
Compared to iceberg lettuce, butter-head lettuce (including Big Boston and Bibb kinds) has a more compact head. The leaves are feathery and have a pale shade of green.

The leaves of romaine lettuce are crisp and dark green, and the head is folded loosely.
You won’t find leaf lettuce in a neat little head. The leaves can be any of several colors and are broad, soft, and smooth.

Boston lettuce doesn’t need to be cleaned before being stored in the fridge, while Romaine and leaf lettuce should be washed and dried to remove extra moisture. Try using a salad spinner to speed up the drying process for lettuce and other salad fixings. Put these lettuces in a plastic bag or a moist cloth and put them in the crisper drawer of your fridge.

Salad greens like arugula, watercress, and other varieties sold with their roots still attached should be stored by placing the entire bunch into a plastic bag and wrapping the seeds in a damp paper towel.
Greens like arugula and watercress are delicate and are best served the day they are purchased, although romaine lettuce can keep for five to seven days, Boston and leaf lettuce for two to three days. The leaves of any variety of lettuce can quickly turn brown if kept near apples, bananas, or pears, all producing the gas ethylene.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are typically broken down into three parts: the cap, the gills (the rows of paper-thin tissue visible underneath the crown as it opens), and the stem.
Small to medium-sized young mushrooms are what you’re after. The caps should be completely closed around the stem or only slightly open, and the gills should be pink or light tan. If the hat is white, creamy, or brown, it should be a consistent golden brown. Caps that are too open and have dark gills underneath should be avoided.

Loose button mushrooms should be stored in the refrigerator, either in a paper bag with a damp towel over it or set out in a glass dish with a cloth covering it. These techniques prevent them from drying out while keeping them moist for several days. Prepackaged mushrooms have a shelf life of up to a week in the fridge when stored in their original packaging.

TIP – Mushrooms are highly absorbent, so avoid exposing them to large amounts of water. Therefore, cleaning mushrooms with minimal or no water is the best approach to preserve their texture and flavor. Use a moist paper towel or kitchen cloth to quickly and easily clean them.

Thought: Meat dishes benefit significantly from having sautéed mushrooms and onions as a side.

Onions

A delicious veggie. Yellow, white, and red are the available colors.
The yellow onion’s robust flavor complements a wide variety of dishes. When properly cooked, they take on a deep, chocolatey hue. This is the onion you want to use for French onion soup. Pick onions that are spotless, uniform in size and shape, closed at the neck, and have dry, crisp skins. If there are symptoms of mold or sprouting, don’t buy it.

Onions should be kept at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and full of air circulation. You can achieve this by suspending them in a wire basket or placing them in a perforated bowl on an elevated base. The length of time an onion can be stored depends on the variety. Yellow onions, for example, have a longer shelf life than white onions because the molecules that give them their intense flavor also help to preserve them. Onions will quickly rot if kept near potatoes due to their absorption of moisture and ethylene gas. Onions that have been chopped should be stored in plastic or a sealed container until utilized.

Grilling or using fresh red onions is a delightful experience. The majority of Mexican meals call for white onions. White onions have a sweet, caramelized flavor when sautéed. Onions that have sprouted should not be purchased.

Onions that are green in color should have fresh green leaves on top. These are just ordinary onions picked at a very tender age.

The best scallions to buy are those with bright green, healthy-looking tops that are crisp but still soft. Two to three inches of the base must be a pale, almost white hue. If the tops are wilted or yellowed, don’t buy them. Scallions can be kept in the fridge for up to a week if packed in a plastic bag.

Mix chopped onions, tomatoes, avocados, and jalapenos to make a quick and easy guacamole salsa dip.

Green onions (or scallions) and sesame seeds are a great way to add flavor and texture to simple white rice.

IDEA – Snack on some sliced onions, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese in a little olive oil dressing and call it an Italian salad.

Parsley

Fresh, brilliant green leaves are a good indicator of this. Parsley can be revived by placing the wilted leaves in a bowl of cold water with the stem ends trimmed off. Don’t buy bunches that have turned a yellowish color.
Refrigerating parsley in a plastic bag is the best way to preserve its freshness.

Parsley is quite delicate and should be washed carefully before use. Cleaning it is as simple as washing spinach. Submerge it in cold water and swish it with your hands to clean it.

If you find yourself with an abundance of flat-leaf parsley, you may dry it quickly by spreading it out in a single layer on a clean kitchen towel. After drying, store in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.

TIP – Freezing curly leaf parsley is preferable to dry it. It’s best to use it in dishes straight from the freezer, as thawing it can cause it to lose some of its crispness and flavor.

Italian flat-leaf parsley is typically used for hot recipes due to its robust flavor and ability to withstand cooking. The taste of flat-leaf parsley is more robust than that of curly parsley. Adding it near the end of cooking time is preferable so that its flavor, color, and nutrients aren’t lost.

The green color of pesto sauce can be made more visually attractive by adding chopped parsley to it.

An excellent chicken, lamb, and beef rub combines chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon zest.

Peas

Try to get garden peas that have solid pods that feel velvety and smooth to the touch. They ought to be a moderate shade of green. Avoid those with a green hue that is too pale or dark, or that is instead yellow, white, or flecked with gray.

Snow pea pods are flat, unlike the spherical pods of garden peas. The peas’ form should be discernible within the pod. Pick the smaller ones since they have more flavor.
Peas kept in the refrigerator for several days in a bag or open container do not need to be washed or shelled. The peas should be quickly rinsed under running water before being removed from the pod. The “thread” that lines the seam of most peapods can be readily withdrawn by snapping off the top and bottom of the pod and then gently pulling it off.

To prepare a chicken salad, combine green peas, chopped chicken, diced onion, and chopped almonds.

Peppers

Peppers should have a rich color and be firm. They might be green, yellow, or red. They should be just a tad hefty as well. Flabby peppers should be avoided. Sweet peppers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week without being washed if placed in the vegetable drawer. The pepper should be washed under running water before removing and chopping the core. You should also thoroughly clean the pepper if it has been waxed.

Tuna or chicken salad would benefit from finely chopped bell peppers.

Bell peppers are a great addition to any crudités dish (vegetables and dip) for their vibrant color and crunchy texture.

To remove the stem, cut around it with a paring knife. Peppers are versatile in the ways they can be prepared. If you want to dice, chop, or slice your peppers, cut them in half lengthwise, remove the stem and seeds, and lay the skin-side down on your cutting board. Peppers are also great for making rings with a horizontal incision.

Potatoes

Try to find heavy potatoes for their size and lack any trace of green. The harsh taste comes from the green. You can substitute potatoes for just about any other ingredient. So-called “new potatoes” are immature. Boiling or whipping are the two finest uses for them. Boiled or fried “general purpose potatoes” are ideal. Baking potatoes, such as the Russet Burbank, are a specialized variety.

To avoid a sugary aftertaste from the starch in potatoes, keep them out of the fridge. It’s also not a good idea to keep potatoes and onions in the same storage unit, as the gases they give off can accelerate each other’s spoilage. Keep them in a paper or burlap bag wherever you put them away. In a cool, dry place, mature potatoes can keep for up to two months.

Potatoes become brown when exposed to air, so cleaning and cutting them before cooking is best. Put them in a dish of cold water to which some lemon juice has been added if you won’t be able to cook them right away.

To create tasty garlic mashed potatoes, purée roasted garlic cloves, cooked potatoes, and olive oil. Season with care.

Salad Nicoise: boiled new potatoes, tuna, and green beans in a mild oil and vinegar dressing.

Dice, a steamed potato, then toss it with olive oil and fresh herbs.

Radishes

Try to find radishes that are between 3/4 and 1 inch in diameter. They ought to be complete and spherical with a firm texture. Radishes come in two colors, white and red. Large radishes are best avoided since their centers are often very bitter.

Rhubarb

Fresh rhubarb should have bright, glossy stems that are firm to the touch. Pink or red should be on the branches, while many high-quality stems will be primarily green. Check to see if the stem is fibrous or tough.

Spinach

Pick spinach entirely green all the way through, with no yellowing on the leaves or stems. There should be no signs of wilting or bruises on the leaves. Spinach can be kept fresh in the refrigerator crisper for up to five days if loosely packed in a plastic bag. Don’t wash it before putting it away because the added moisture can ruin it.

The next time you make lasagna, try layering in some cooked spinach.

Spinach cooked and tossed with garlic, fresh lemon juice, and olive oil is great. Add some grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Pine nuts are a delicious addition to spinach after it has been cooked.

Spinach is a fantastic ingredient for salads.

Squash

The best summer squash to buy is those that are hefty for their size and have smooth, shiny skin. Small punctures will lead to rot in summer squash, so handle them carefully. It can be kept unwashed in a plastic bag for about seven days in the refrigerator.

Muffin and bread recipes can benefit from adding zucchini or other summer squash; reduce the liquid by about a third to account for the extra moisture.

Due to its susceptibility to spoilage, winter squash should be thoroughly examined before buying. Pick solid ones that weigh much for their size and have soft rinds rather than glossy ones. The storage life of winter squash is substantially longer than summer squash’s. Depending on the type, its storage life ranges from one week to six months.

Yams with Sweet Potatoes

Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and smooth, with skins that are a consistent hue. The flesh of yam is juicy, sweet, and orange in color. However, the flesh of sweet potatoes is dry and white. Refrigerating sweet potatoes will ruin them. Sweet potatoes can maintain their quality for up to 10 days when kept in these conditions. They need to be kept out of plastic bags and instead kept loose. Protect them from direct sunlight as much as possible.
Tomatoes

Locally grown farms produce the tastiest-tasting tomatoes. They are let to ripen to perfection before being plucked. Most supermarket tomatoes are plucked just as they turn pink. Tomatoes that require extra ripening time should be stored in a cool, dark area. Tomatoes should not be refrigerated until they have reached full ripeness.

A. Carolyn Flesch

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