Getting the Best Value From Fresh Vegetables

At Augustine’s Farm in Greenwich, purple eggplant, red beets, large shiny Granny Smith apples, and feathery green and red leaf lettuce are ready for you to take home.


How to Store Tender Lettuce and Keep them “Good Looking” To the Last Bite

A favorite of chefs, these curly leaves are versatile and very tasty and hold themselves well in a salad with other components. They contain more nutritional standards than other varieties of lettuce. Easily bruised and somewhat delicate, they maintain a hidden strength. Each 1-1/2 cups of shredded long wavy lettuce leaves has only 15 calories and is high in calcium, dietary fiber, iron, vitamin A, C and K, beta carotene and lutein making it a perfect fit as a “power food”.

To Store Lettuce: You’ll need only paper towels and the plastic bag you received with your purchase. Gently remove the tender lettuce head, place on a sheet of dry paper towels and roll up as snug as you can without washing or damaging the leaves. No need to moisten the paper towels, since the lettuce will give out its own dampness. Place back into the plastic bag and store in the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator. Plastic wrap also works well as an alternative to using a plastic bag.

To Make a Salad: When ready to make your first salad, remove whatever leaves you need by hand. Cutting lettuce with a knife will prematurely create browning. Gently tear the leaves into bite size pieces into the bowl of a salad spinner. Fill the bowl with cold tap water, swish around, give a dunk then place into the strainer part of the salad spinner. Empty the water from the bowl; insert the lettuce filled basket into the bowl and put on the top cover. Spin until the excessive water is removed from the leaves into the spinner bowl; pour out water and repeat 2 to 3 times if necessary to produce a somewhat dry leaf. Wet leaves will weaken your salad dressing and make it mislay its full flavor.

Result: The 2 heads of lettuce lasted for 2 weeks of daily salad making for 2. Only the broken edges at the stem starting to turn brown. Each salad was as fresh as the first salad with absolutely no browning on the leaves.

Dressing Idea:

Fast and Simple Lemon Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Place all in a small bowl and whisk. Toss over approximately 2 or 3 cups washed and spun greens such as romaine, tender green or red leaf lettuce, arugula, mesclun, baby greens, spinach or any combination you love.

Using Every Morsel of Purple Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomatoes

Feeding just yourself is tougher than it sounds. Eating healthy foods is what motivates me but I’m better at cooking for a crowd and tend not to fuss when cooking for myself.

Healthier Eggplant Parmigiano: I love eggplant cut into thick meaty slices. To prepare this dish I cut off the stem then cut a small purple eggplant into somewhat same-size thick slices removing and saving the round edges. Then a tablespoon of olive oil went into a hot non-stick pan to coat. The eggplant slices were placed in the heated pan left to cook without touching them for at least 2 or 3 minutes to caramelize and brown. Lower the heat and cover the pan for a few minutes if you are using thick slices. The slices were carefully flipped over with a spatula to brown the other side, then removed to a plate.

While eggplants were browning, 1 medium tomato was sliced into as many slices as eggplant, using 2 tomatoes if necessary; saving the generous rounded ends. The thick tomato slices were caramelized using the same method as the eggplant. As the tops start to cloud up on the thick tomato slice, it was time to flip over gently and brown the bottom part.

Season eggplant and tomato with salt and pepper. Place the cooked tomato slices on top of the eggplant, sprinkle with oregano. Return the eggplant, topped with tomato to the pan, sprinkle with grated Parmigiano, add a slice of mozzarella, cover the pan to melt the cheese and you have Healthier Eggplant Parmigiano.

Vegetable Stew: Meanwhile, the rounded edges of the eggplant and tomato along with 1 small zucchini were cut into chunks. A small clove of garlic was smashed and chopped.

If your pan is big enough, add these vegetable chunks to the same pan with a teaspoon of olive oil. The vegetables were sautéed until they were softened and browned; seasoned with salt, pepper and the chopped garlic and cooked just for 1 minute more. Use as a side dish to roasted chicken, hamburger, steak, pork chops or simply with warm crusty garlic bread.

Other ideas for Vegetable Stew: eat as is or chop smaller and place on a sandwich with ham and Swiss cheese; add to cooked pasta or rice; add to cooked white beans.

Beets: Cut the beet greens about 1-inch above the beet root to avoid "bleeding".The beets were boiled unpeeled for 1 hour. Test for doneness by inserting a skewer through the center of the largest beet. Peel with disposable rubber gloves on a sheet of waxed paper; slice and toss with extra virgin olive oil, oregano, basil, salt and a splash of vinegar or lemon. The addition of fresh garlic or sliced onion are optional.

Beet Stems: The beet stems were thoroughly washed, cut into 1-inch pieces and boiled until tender. They were drained and then tossed in hot sizzling garlic and oil and seasoned with salt.

Green "Granny Smith" Apples: I prefer these firm tart apples but any firm apple will do. I prepared a Crustless Apple Pie by peeling, coring and slicing the apples into a 8-inch pie pan. Next toss the apples with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg and bake for half hour in a preheated 425 degree oven.

While apples are baking, mix together with a fork 1/2 cup flour, 1-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 tablespoons softened butter to form crumbs. Remove pie pan from oven. Place crumbs on top of apples and bake for another half hour or until apples are cooked and top is brown. This is a small pie made with only 4 apples, so total timing can be less than an hour.

Buon Appetito! from Amelia's Kitchen



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