February’s a Month of Hidden Gems
By Mark Mulcahy
It’s that time of year when one can become a little uninspired with our choices for dinner. We’ve relished the fall harvest, feasted during the holidays and many are quietly waiting for the advent of spring with all of its new organic greens, tropical fruit availability, and the onset of California organic strawberries set to emerge in the marketplace. While waiting is one option, I’d like to offer another, such as looking at what is here and abundantly available at your favorite produce department in a whole new way.
Let’s take Melissa’s organic pears for instance. You’ve seen them displayed in many different ways for months. You’ve tried Bartlett’s, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Seckle and maybe even a few Asian pears along the way. You may have even poached or baked a few. Let’s stretch our imaginations and see what we can come up with.
How about pear hummus? Yep, that’s right, pears and chickpeas blended together for a lovely mid-winter spread that works on sandwiches, wraps or as a dip with a slight sweet rich flavor. It’s easy to make and will awaken your taste buds and your sense of food fun in February.
1 cup (250 ml) of Melissa’s Peeled and Steamed Chick Peas
4 organic Bosc pears
Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
Coarsely chop pears and blend all ingredients in a blender.
Serve with your favorite pita, breadsticks, or grissini!
Or how about roasted organic parsnips? Yes parsnips! Fresh parsnips that range from pale white to beautiful beige have a soft texture and sweet, earthy flavor when cooked. They will keep for weeks stored in the fridge. Scrub don’t peel them, as the goodness lies just underneath this smooth root’s jacket and roasting brings out the natural sweetness which has been known about for ages.
In the Middle Ages, growers developed a tastier, less woody parsnip variety that was prized for many reasons. Sugar was rare and honey expensive in Europe, so the root provided a welcome sweetener, they were also used medicinally for toothaches, stomach aches, and provided nourishment through the meatless fasting periods. They’re packed with nutrition and low in calories. A 9” parsnip is high in fiber, and a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and Vitamins C and E, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.
Early US settlers and Native Americans evaporated the root juices and used the sweet brown residue as honey. This lasted into the 19th century when the sugar beet became the sweetener of choice. I wonder why they didn’t call it honey root? It may have jump started a whole new appreciation for this produce staple.
Try this wonderful roasted parsnip recipe adapted from epicurious.com. They may even take over for oven baked potato fries.
2 1/2 pounds organic parsnips, scrubbed not peeled, cut into about 3 x 1/2" strips
1 organic lemon
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus 5 sprigs rosemary
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix parsnips, juice of one 1 lemon, chopped rosemary, garlic, and oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread out in a single layer. Scatter rosemary sprigs over.
Roast for 10 minutes; turn parsnips and roast until parsnips are tender and browned in spots, about 10- 15 minutes longer. Crumble leaves from rosemary sprigs over; discard stems and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste.