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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Next Best Thing: Savoring Summer (and other) Flavors Year Round

As temperatures dip, and snow flurries inch there way into your landscape, there's no need to say goodbye to the vibrant flavors of summer.  Here's a few ways to enjoy savor freshness year-round:

Wintertime pesto caprese pita sandwich
  1. Take advantage of seasonal produce.  Every season has it's in-season bounty and be sure to load up on the freshest flavors of each seas. From pumpkin, apples and squash in fall, to the citrus, root veggies and pomegranates of winter, to asparagus, peas and strawberries of spring, to corn, tomatoes and peaches of summer, embrace the tastes of each season.  
  2. Think beyond fresh.  Canned  produce is an excellent source of nutrient-rich produce.  Choose low or sodium free versions of canned vegetables and remember that by simply rinsing your canned veggies and beans, you reduce the sodium by 40%.  When it comes to canned fruits, opt for those canned in "100% natural fruit juice" or water.  
  3. Frozen produce is the next closest thing to fresh produce. Often we get in ruts with frozen produce and toss it all in a blender for a smoothie, or heat up a bowl of peas in the microwave for dinner.  Why not try a taste of spring by using your frozen peas in a fun recipe like Sweet Pea Crostini (and trust me, the homemade ricotta beats store bought all to pieces!). 
  4. Jazz up winter produce with flavorful sauces.  It's no secret that I'm a die-hard caprese fan.  Nothing tastier in this world than fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.  But by Thanksgiving, I'm all out of homegrown tomatoes for another 7 months or so.  Instead, I toss together a quick caprese pita sandwich for lunch to give me my fix.  To compensate for the less-than-flavorful winter tomatoes, I spread a layer of fresh basil pesto on and Yum! The sauce helps make up for my lack of garden-grown tomatoes. 
  5. Preserve as much of your own produce possible.  During the last few months of summer and   early fall, I try to fill my shelves and freezer with as much of mother nature's bounty as I can. From making freezer jam, to canning grape juice, salsa and peaches to cutting the kernels off the leftover cob of corn that no-one ate at dinner, I ensure a flavorful year-round cooking experience.  I even watch the forecast and right before it freezes, I harvest my herbs and  nasturtium leaves and freeze small batches of pesto.

Homemade Pesto: a non-recipe

In a food processor or blender, add: 
  • A large handful of herbs (basil is my favorite, but I love the pepperiness of cress or nasturtiums, parsley works better for milder palate), 
  • drizzle in a small "glug" of olive oil, 
  • A tablespoon or more of fresh minced garlic, 
  • A small handful of nuts (pine nuts are the traditional and my favorite, but walnuts and pretty much any nut would work), 
  • And salt and pepper to taste.  
When you blend it together, and adjust the ingredients to your taste and more or less olive oil until you have your desired texture.  Enjoy on sandwiches, in salad dressings, sauces of all kinds, and as the world's easiest pasta-topper.

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