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October, 2010

Cooking is Cool Again

By Mark Mulcahy

Since many of us are cooking more at home these days (82% of specialty food consumers are cooking more at home due to the economy), it probably comes as no surprise that the type of meals served at home are becoming more ethnically diverse and varied. Asian, Indian, and Mexican foods are on the rise, which means trying new recipes with different spices and condiments
.

Cooking at home can also vary in the degree of prep and cooking time. For some it can mean using a new recipe found on a cooking channel or radio show like www.anorganicconversation.com, others may feel the need to make everything from scratch, while a whole other group considers picking up an organic rotisserie chicken or fresh ravioli, some potatoes or green beans, for a nice dinner at home. Whatever your cooking ability, it makes sense that we are always looking for quality ingredients to make our meals just a little nicer. So once again, the produce department is the perfect place to start.
Beets
Melissa’s Organic Root Vegetables, Greens, Potatoes, and Winter Squash are all at their best right now and here are a few tips for selecting these for your next meal.

  • When choosing Melissa’s Organic Root Vegetables such as beets, turnips, rutabagas or parsnips, choose small to medium sized roots that are smooth, heavy, firm, and are free of cuts and bruises.
  • When choosing Melissa’s Organic Greens such as chard, kale, or spinach, look for bright-colored, perky-looking greens with damage-free stems and leaves.
  • When choosing Melissa’s Organic Winter Squash, look for squash that are heavy for their size, brightly colored and free of spots, bruises and mold.
  • When choosing Melissa’s Organic Potatoes, look for potatoes that are firm and smooth. Avoid potatoes with wrinkled or wilted skins, soft dark areas, cut surfaces, and those that are green in appearance.
When selecting fresh potatoes, choose red or white potatoes for boiling and for making salads. If you need several potatoes for a recipe that you are making, choose ones that are similar in size for even cooking. Do you hear the kitchen calling? Good! Why not put a new spin on some winter staples to add some pizzazz to your winter meals or gatherings? You could make a butternut squash tart, sweet potato butter or even Roasted Pumpkin Salsa (adapted from www.anorganicconversation.com,

If you’re wondering how this will go over, try it with a small group of friends first and if you get the rave reviews I think you will, then you’ll be ready to make it for a larger gathering.

Roasted Organic Pumpkin Salsa

Ingredients

3 lbs. Organic Winter Squash (sugar pumpkin or butternut squash) peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2" chunks
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 lg. zucchini, diced to ½-inch pieces
3 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 cup corn
2 fresh Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, shelled, toasted and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400°F, lightly oil a baking sheet and toss the squash with 2 Tbsp. of oil and spread on sheet. Roast about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Squash will be browned and tender.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. of oil in saucepan on med.-high and add onion, red pepper, garlic and jalapeño. Stir and cook about 8 minutes until onion is golden.
3. Stir in chili powder. Add tomato, zucchini and cilantro. Cook about 5 minutes until zucchini is crisp-tender.
4. Add corn and fresh Roma tomatoes.
5. Stir in the roasted squash and cook 5 additional minutes to blend the flavors.

Cool completely - may be made up to 3 days ahead. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving.

A nice taste of summer and fall As the fresh organic corn season winds down, October is a perfect month to freeze fresh corn and make some of your favorite recipes before the last flavors of summer disappear. For mid summer I like just about anything with corn and tomatoes mixed together, such as corn and tomato pie (see my August column), corn, quinoa and tomato salad, or fresh corn salsa, but for autumn I like something warm to end my day with, which is why creamed corn from fresh corn can’t be beat.

During the autumn, I love to combine corn with more earthy flavors like Melissa’s organic leeks, mushrooms or dried beans. This quick and easy to make recipe can be used as a side dish with mashed potatoes or as a wonderful filling for lunchtime wraps or dinnertime quesadillas. Heck, you may even just dish up a large bowl full with a slice of hearty multigrain bread and call it a meal.

Roasted Corn & Shiitake Mushrooms

Roasting brings out the sweetness of the corn and savory flavor of the shiitake mushrooms.

Ingredients
4 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps, rinsed
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 large ears)
3 tablespoons Shao Hsing (or Shaoxing) or dry sherry
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 scallions, minced

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Toss mushrooms with 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes.
3. Stir corn and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into the mushrooms; spread the mixture in an even layer. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast for 10 minutes more.
4. Meanwhile, combine Shao Hsing (or sherry), soy sauce and scallions in a small bowl. Add the mixture to the vegetables and stir to combine. Return to the oven and continue roasting until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are beginning to brown, about 10 minutes more.

Makes 4 servings, about 3/4 cup each | Active Time: 30 minutes | Total Time: 40 minutes

I can hear the stove a-calling!