Are You a Routine Produce Buyer?
By Mark Mulcahy
Are you a routine produce buyer? You know, someone who buys pretty much the same 5-15 items every week except for when soft fruit season is upon us? Surprisingly, I found myself doing just that with my busy organic produce-consulting schedule. I’d come home after teaching a seminar on new dynamic customer service techniques or installing my latest produce department design to increase sales and find myself at the store buying Melissa’s organic celery, broccoli, romaine, carrots, crimini mushrooms, onions, arugula, citrus, apples, and pears week after week. Then, my wife started a diet that required her to remove certain produce items and add others that were not part of the regular routine I’d fallen into. And before I knew it, the routine was gone and shopping and cooking produce is darn fun again.
It started with finding new ways to eat organic rutabagas, turnips, and beets besides the standard steaming or roasting. So, out came the grill and I’ve fallen in love with roots again. Sliced thin on a mandolin, brushed with olive oil and seasoned with a little salt and pepper and cooked on a hot grill has me eating roots nearly every week now. I’ve also expanded the way I see the produce department where every section is an adventure and I find myself saying why not organic Bok Choy instead of Brussels Sprouts or Mache instead of Arugula. Or I wonder if cabbage could be roasted and then taking it home and doing it. Not only is my imagination renewed and revived but my taste buds are dancing in delight at almost every meal.
This past Saturday, after swimming, I went to the store and tried two vegetables I’ve had before but rarely buy. I bought baby bok choy and Japanese sweet potatoes to go along with my pasture raised NY strip and came up with an easy to make and absolutely delicious dinner that took under an hour from start to finish, including clean up. I started by turning on the oven to 425 degrees and then slicing the organic Japanese sweet potatoes in ½ inch rounds and coating them with coconut oil. I used a little more than normal, as Japanese sweet potatoes tend to be drier than Garnets or Jewels and their sweeter flavor plays really well with the coconut oil. I laid them out flat on a roasting pan and put them into the oven.
Next, I washed the baby bok choy, cut off the end (just enough to remove the hard end piece but not so much that you cut into the tender stalks) then sliced each head lengthways and tossed them in sesame oil, sprinkled them with a little salt and pepper, and laid each half cut side down in another roasting pan and cooked them for 20 minutes. While the oven was doing its magic on these beautiful vegetables, I brushed my room temperature NY steaks with olive oil, added a pinch of salt and ground pepper, seared them in a hot pan for 1-2 minutes per side and then they joined the veggies in the oven to finish. Four minutes later everything came out of the oven, I finished the prep dishes while the steak rested and we were rewarded with the most amazing dinner ever. The coconut oil sweet potatoes where divine! Crispy edges with soft centers and a delightful sweet coconutty richness. The roasted baby bok choy was perfectly cooked with warm tender stalks and caramelized greens. Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm it doesn’t get much better than this. Delicious, easy, and such a great way to break a produce routine. Enjoy all of Melissa’s springtime veggies; I guarantee it will be a good Choys!