A Guide to Persimmons

fuyu persimmon

As the holiday season approaches, persimmons are reaching their peak sweetness. If you haven’t cooked with persimmons before, this will help you get started. Keep reading for persimmon recipes and tips on choosing a ripe persimmon.  

What is a persimmon?

Feature Video
A fuyu persimmon

There are over 2,000 varieties of persimmons, but there are two types that are widely available in American grocery stores: the fuyu and the hachiya. Both of these varieties originated in Japan, and are in season between October and January. This late season makes persimmons the perfect fruit to add a little freshness and sweetness to winter dinner. 

Persimmons have a delicate honey-like flavor and silky texture. They can be eaten fresh, dried, or cooked, and are very versatile in recipes. Persimmon peels are completely edible. Whether or not to peel the fruit is a matter of personal preference and the recipe that you’re using. 

How can you tell if a persimmon is ripe?

Persimmons fall into two broad categories: astringent and non-astringent. Astringent persimmons, like the pointy-bottomed hachiya, should be softer than you think. Don’t look for the gentle give of a peach, a ripe hachiya persimmon should be closer to the texture of jelly. If an astringent persimmon is eaten before it’s totally ripe, it will have an unpleasant dry texture. 

Non-astringent persimmons, like the flat-bottomed fuyu, can be eaten when they’re still slightly firm. 

How to cut persimmons

how to cut persimmons

Cutting this fruit is simple. Use a knife to cut around the base of the stem and remove it completely. Cut the persimmon in half pole to pole. Use a knife to remove the white core of the fruit and discard it. Once the core has been removed you can either slice or dice the persimmon according to your recipe. The entire peel is edible.

What to make with persimmons? 

Persimmons can be the start of sweet or savory dishes. A sliced persimmon will add a subtle sweetness to rice dishes, salads, or even sandwiches.  These are some of our favorite recipes using persimmons.

Spicy Chicken & Vegetable Stir-Fry with Persimmon Rice

Spicy Chicken & Vegetable Stir-Fry with Persimmon Rice

Fontina & Sourdough Grilled Cheese with Persimmon & Onion

Persimmons in grilled cheese

Harissa-Baked Chicken with Farro, Persimmon, & Goat Cheese Salad

Baked Chicken with Persimmons

Love cooking with fruit? Find more sweet and savory dinner ideas here.

A Trick For Better Vegetable Lasagna

There’s too much bad vegetable lasagna in the world. You know what we’re talking about: slippery noodles sitting in a puddle of their own juice, with soggy mushrooms spilling right out. It doesn’t have to be this way! Vegetable lasagna can be great if it’s made well.

The cheap, quick, painless solution? Cook your vegetables separately. Vegetables give off a lot of moisture as they cook, but that doesn’t mean your dish needs to end up watery. If you choose your vegetables wisely (our recipe has mushrooms, zucchini, onion and spinach) and prepare them ahead of time, you’ll end up with a finished lasagna that’s moist but not soggy.

It’s also important not to overload you vegetable lasagna. Having a proper amount of vegetables will help the lasagna maintain its shape, and will keep everything moist, but not watery. As you’re creating layers, don’t worry if it looks more sparse than you’d think. Even if you can see noodle showing through in some places, there will still plenty of veggies in each bite once your dish is complete. When you’re finished, you’ll have a meal that vegetarians and meat eaters will both adore.

vegetable lasagna with cous cous

Vegetable Lasagna Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 zucchini
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ lb fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 15 oz whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tbsps capers
  • 2 Tbsps tomato paste 
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 oz spinach
  • 12 lasagna noodles 
  • 1 24-oz jar marinara sauce 
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Prepare the ingredients: Wash and dry the fresh produce. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Heat a large pot of water ¾ of the way full of salted water; cover and heat to boiling on high. Thinly slice the mushrooms. Halve, peel and medium dice the onion. Halve the zucchini lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise. Peel and roughly chop 4 cloves of garlic. Thinly slice the mozzarella cheese. Season the ricotta cheese with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Make the vegetable filling: In a large pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the sliced mushrooms in an even layer and cook, without stirring, 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the diced onion, sliced zucchini and chopped garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, or until browned and slightly softened. Add the capers, tomato paste, and as much of the red pepper flakes as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly coated and fragrant. Add ¼ cup of water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and the water has cooked off. Turn off the heat. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Cook the lasagna noodles: Meanwhile, cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. The noodles should be just shy of al dente since they will cook a little bit more while the lasagna bakes. 

Assemble the lasagna: Spoon about ½ cup marinara into the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish and spread into an even layer. Evenly top with 3 lasagna noodles, ⅓ of the cooked vegetable mixture, ⅓ of the seasoned ricotta* and about 1/2 cup marinara*. Repeat the layers of noodles, cooked vegetables, ricotta and marinara twice. Top with a final layer of 3 lasagna noodles and the remaining marinara. Evenly top with the sliced mozzarella cheese and half the grated parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. 

*Chef’s Tip: Dollop a little bit of ricotta by the spoonful across the layer in the baking dish, top with the marinara and then use a spatula to smooth both out into an even layer. It’s more than okay if the layers mix a little as you go.  

Bake the lasagna & serve your dish: Bake 15 to 20 minutes**, or until lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with the remaining parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

**Chef’s Tip: You can assemble the lasagna up to a day ahead. However, if you bake the lasagna after taking it straight from the refrigerator, it may need to bake a few extra minutes to warm all the way through.

This recipe comes from Blue Apron Chef Lisa Appleton, a noted expert when it comes to baked noodles.

Different Types of Potatoes: Your Guide to the Potato Rainbow

sweet, white, and purple potatoes
Sweet, white, and purple potatoes

When it comes to picking our carbs, we can never say no to a potato. Whether we’re feasting on tater tots at a diner, mashing up Russets at home, or adding potatoes to our sautés and salads, we’re truly potato people at heart. With so many types of potatoes to love, it’s impossible to get tired of eating them.

The potato doesn’t start at the French fry and end at the loaded baked potato. Check out a local farm stand and you’ll find dozens of types of potatoes in every color. Every time we visit a potato vendor, we’re struck again by the immense variety. The colors, shapes, sizes, and textures range from waxy little fingerlings to sweet orange yams that make us yearn for Thanksgiving.

List of Types of Potato Varieties

Multicolored Baby Potatoes

Multicolored Baby Potatoes

These tri-colored, tiny potatoes are both delicious and adorable. They have thin skins and a waxy interior. They’re well-suited for roasting or boiling, but their waxy flesh isn’t ideal for mashing. The thin skin doesn’t need to be peeled if you’re roasting or boiling, which makes preparation easy. We love using these tiny potatoes to make incredible salads. Simply boil them, toss with a tarragon and cornichon dressing, and eat warm with a dinner like our Chicken Paillard and Tomato Salad.

Purple Potatoes

Purple Potatoes

Purple potatoes are a type of fingerling potato native to South America. Their flesh is fluffy, starchy, and moist, with a medium-thin skin. They’re rich in antioxidants, and have an earthy and slightly nutty flavor. We love them roasted or smashed. They’re the perfect side dish to serve them up with similarly earthy Brussels sprouts and crispy chicken legs in this fantastic fall chicken dish.

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Yukon Golds are known for their thin skin and golden interior. These popular potatoes can range in size from pretty teeny, to nearly baked-potato size. If you’re looking for bite-sized pieces, you can always cut down a large one. Yukon Gold potatoes work in a wide variety of recipes. They’re excellent roasted, smashed, or tossed with a creamy dressing in dishes like Trout with Creamy Potato Salad and Wilted Spinach.

Heirloom Fingerling Potatoes

Heirloom Fingerling Potatoes

Some of our favorite heirloom fingerling potatoes have whimisical names like “Russian banana potatoes,” or “red thumbs,” but that’s not the only reason we like them. Because of the thin skin, you can peel heirloom fingerlings easily after boiling. That’s how we prepare them for our Potato-Pepper Hash.

types of fingerling potatoes

Baby Red Potatoes

baby red potato

These little red cuties are white as snow in the inside with a beautiful bright red skin that doesn’t need to be peeled off in most preparations. Like Yukon Golds, these are really versatile. We especially love them crisped up, as in our Flat Iron Steaks with Artichoke and Potato Hash.

Russet Potato

russet potato

Russet potatoes, the hero of the potato family, are widely known. If you close your eyes and picture a potato, we bet you’re seeing a Russet. They’re popular for a reason. Nothing replaces their fluffy, starchy interiors when you’re making mashed potatoes or potato wedges to go with one of our homemade burgers. For creamy mashed potatoes, we recommend peeling your russets, but if you crisp it in the oven, the skin can be delicious.

Types of Sweet Potatoes

Garnet sweet potatoes

There are actually several varieties of the classic sweet potato—sometimes conversationally referred to as yams. Garnet sweet potatoes are one of our favorite types of potatoes. Garnets are hearty and full of vitamins, and contain a good bit of protein. When roasted, they cook up sweet and fluffy. We like to peel and chop them, then sauté with other ingredients like onions and orzo in Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potato Orzo Risotto.

Japanese Sweet Potato

japanese sweet potato

Japanese sweet potatoes have a dark reddish purple skin and bright white flesh. They’re sweeter and starchier than orange sweet potatoes, and just as delicious when roasted, steamed, or baked. We love slicing them into wedges or rounds and roasting in s very hot oven with just a little salt and olive oil. The edges with caramelize, creating the perfect sweet and savory snack or side dish.

Jewel Sweet Potato

sweet potato

Jewel sweet potatoes are widely available in supermarkets. They have orange/brown skin and bright orange flesh. They’re well-suited for both boiling and baking, and they’re the variety we reach for when we’re roasting up sweet potato fries.

Purple Sweet Potato

Purple sweet potato (right)

This purple sweet potato, also known as Okinawan sweet potato, isn’t even a member of the potato family—it’s part of the same family as morning glory, or water spinach. The plant is native to the Americas and landed in Japan sometime in the 1500s. It grew so well there that it became popular in many Japanese dishes and now can be found throughout Asia and the Pacific. We pair it with Five-Spice Pork Chops in this popular recent dinner.

Find all of these potato recipes, and more!, in the Blue Apron cookbook.

List of Spicy Foods That Aren’t for the Faint of Heart

Spicy foods

Would you like your puttanesca with a dose of red pepper flakes, your udon noodles with chili garlic sauce, your fish sandwich with tons of Tabasco? No thanks, you say? Hold the spice? Many cuisines boast a high degree of spice in their dishes—and while many eaters love hot food, whether or not they grew up with it—some people simply can’t tolerate spicy ingredients.

Though scientists don’t fully understand the biological background for liking, not liking, or merely tolerating spice, they do pinpoint our spice sensitivity to the trigeminal system, according to Popular Science. That means we register spice as a sensation—like pain!—not as a taste. In this case of spicy peppers like jalapeños, the pain comes from capsaicin.

If your goal is to have your meals taste delicious and be painless, bookmark this list and leave these spicy ingredients out of your recipes. (If you love spicy food, it’s a different challenge: try as many as you can!)

spicy sauces

Pepper sauces

Vinegar-based hot sauces and chili pastes are some the the most popular spicy ingredients in Blue Apron dinners.

Harissa

A North African hot sauce made with garlic and oil–and hot red peppers, of course.

Red chili paste

From Southeast Asia, this paste comes already equipped with Thai flavors, like lemongrass.

Sriracha

There’s a seaside town in Thailand called Si Racha–and that’s where this beloved sauce with the rooster on the bottle originally hails from.

Tabasco

All-American Tabasco is made on Avery Island, Louisiana, delivers a slightly vinegary punch along with its heat. We love tiny Tabasco bottles!

Spicy Brassicaceae

Spicy Brassicaceae

Mustard, horseradish,  and wasabi are all part of the brassicaceae family. In small quantities, even spice-haters can tolerate ginger and mustard, but ramp up the amounts and you’ll be running for a cold beer.

Wasabi
Real wasabi is related to horseradish and cabbage and delivers a short-lived heat similar to horseradish. Most of the wasabi you see in your Japanese take-out,  however, isn’t actually wasabi; rather, it’s a mixture of horseradish, mustard, and food coloring.

Horseradish
Pungent horseradish is usually served grated and mixed with vinegar, as a condiment for roasts or fish. The root has a peppery punch, though the spicy feeling doesn’t last all that long in your mouth.

Whole Grain Mustard
Mustard is enjoyed worldwide, in all kinds of preparations, and with all kinds of pairings. The spiciness doesn’t always come out, however, but the warm heat comes through in large quantities, in whole grain mustard, and in mustards labeled clearly as hot.

Ginger 
Ginger root can contribute a mild heat to stir-fries and teas, but using a lot of minced fresh or dried ginger will make spice-haters pucker in pain.

Mustard Powder
Like whole grain mustard, mustard powder has the warm heat of the other brassica plants–horseradish and wasabi–and is a great way to balance out rich dishes, like macaroni & cheese.

Peppercorns & chilies

In addition to heat, peppercorns and chilis can have beautiful floral and herb flavors.

Dried Thai Chilies

Thai cuisine makes fantastic use of bird’s eye chilies in noodles, soups, and stir-fries, and though fresh chilies can really enliven the dish, these whole dried peppers are easier to keep around.

Jalapeño

You probably already know the jalapeño from its frequent appearances, well, everywhere. You can actually control the heat of the medium-sized green pepper by preparing it in slightly different ways.

Peppercorns

So many recipes call for freshly ground pepper that we forget peppercorns can be more than an everyday spice. In fact, those black peppercorns, once thought of exotic because they came all the way from India, have a complex and delicious heat. So, once in a while, try using more than a sprinkle to flavor your food.

Red Chili Flakes

A pantry staple, the flakes are made of dried, pulverized red chilies–a pinch is all you need to spice up pizza, pasta, or any dish that needs a kick.

Szechuan Peppercorns

Despite their name and appearance, Szechuan peppercorns aren’t related to black, white, green or even chili peppers. But rather than spice, the peppercorns deliver a quintessential tingly menthol feeling.

Gochujang

A sweet-spicy soybean-based chili paste often used to garnish the Korean rice dish bibimbap.

Aleppo Pepper

These flakes deliver a bright, light spice, complex and slightly reminiscent of cumin.

Why You Need Kitchen Tongs

kitchen tongs and potatoes
Kitchen tongs ready for duty

Stop burning your fingers! If you cook a lot, it may occasionally be tempting to reach straight into a hot pot or a pan of cooking food. We understand the impulse, but we must advise against it. A good pair of kitchen tongs is an essential tool. Use them frequently, and they’ll spare you many kitchen accidents. 

silicone-tipped kitchen tongs

Our favorite set of tongs is this smooth silicone-tipped pair, available in both 9 inch and 12 inch (we have both). The soft silicone tip won’t scratch up your non-stick pans, and it’s heat resistant up to 430°F. The locking mechanism and handle loop are designed for easy storage. Lock them in a closed position and place them in a drawer, or hang them on a hook using the silicone loop. 

These are some of the ways we love using our tongs

Grab pasta out of a pot of boiling water

Set your colander aside. You can use tongs to grab noodles right out of pasta water. Just reach in, gently grab, and transfer them to a bowl or a pan of sauce. This method only works for long noodles like spaghetti or fettuccine.  

Flip foods

Whether you’re roasting vegetables or grilling chicken, tongs are the easiest way to lift and rotate pieces of cooking food. Just gently grab and keep turning until whatever you’re cooking is brown on all sides. 

Grab ice 

Hate the feeling of ice sticking to your fingers? You’re not alone. Use tongs to reach into your freezer drawers and grab ice for your favorite cocktails. 

Toss salads 

Don’t leave all the tasty salad toppings resting on the bottom of the bowl. Combine ingredients in a large bowl, add your dressing, and use tongs to vigorously mix a salad. 

Serve…everything 

Grab tongfuls of salad, pick up chicken legs, or lift a few spears of asparagus. Tongs are an easy way to serve food. Just set them in the bowl and let everyone help themselves.

Making Vegetable Stock From Kitchen Scraps

Vegetable Stock Using Kitchen Scraps

It’s just a guess, but I’m betting that vegetable consumption across the U.S. is at an all-time high.

When you eat lots of veggies, you end up with lots of veggie scraps. I always strive to reduce food waste in my kitchen, so instead of throwing those scraps in the garbage, I use them to make delicious homemade vegetable stock.

I first started making stock in culinary school. My school processed hundreds of pounds of veggies a day, which, in turn, created mountains of scraps. There was always an industrial-sized batch of stock in the works. It was simple to take what I learned in school and adapt it for home use. Now, I bring the wisdom to you.

Making Vegetable Soup Stock

How to Save Vegetable Scraps for Stock

Choose a plastic bag or plastic container to be your designated scrap saving place. I happened to have an extra pop-top container laying around, so I put that to use. Each night, after cooking, I add scraps to the container, then store it in the freezer. Keep putting scraps in the same container until it’s full, then use the whole mess to create your vegetable stock.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Vegetable Scraps to Use in Stock

There are SO many scraps that make for great stock. Here are the ones that turn up most frequently in my household:

  • Outer layers of onions—While I don’t save onion skins (they retain quite a bit of dirt), I do save the outer layers of onion flesh for stock. Hang on to those layers that are slightly too tough to eat, but still have some moisture and onion flavor.
  • Dark green parts of leeks— Have you ever noticed that 99% of leek recipes call for “the white and light green parts only”? Ummm hello… leeks are expensive! Throwing away half of each stalk (the dark green part) breaks my heart. Into the stock bin they go!
  • Corn cobs—Not the ones that people have gnawed on at a barbecue. Just the ones you’ve cut the kernels off of for soup.
  • Mushroom stems—Making a recipe that calls for just the mushroom caps (like stuffed mushrooms)? The stems have SO much flavor – put them in the stock bin.
  • Celery and carrot leaves—These aren’t really part of my regular diet, so they go right into the stock bin.
  • Veggie peels—This one is a judgement call. If a carrot or a parsnip has REALLY dirty skin, and looks musty even after a good scrub, I won’t save the peels, as they’ll give the stock a muddy flavor. But if the peels are pretty clean, game on.
  • Herb stems—Parsley, in particular, has plenty of goodness in its stems. They’re a bit woody for using in a delicate dinner, but they’re perfect for stock.

What Not to Use for Making Vegetable Stock

While most everything is fair game, there are a few things that aren’t optimal for stock.

  • Moldy or rotten vegetables. Vegetables that are just a little bit past their prime (such as bendy celery) are fine, but if anything is REALLY old and looks terrible, it’s best just to introduce it to the garbage can or compost bin.
  • Anything with a very strong, specific flavor (or color)—Cabbage, broccoli, artichokes, and beets are a few examples.

Steps on How to Make a Vegetable Stock

Here’s the big secret: if you throw everything into a pot, and don’t measure anything, it will probably turn out fine. Who has time for measuring cups? Here are the very loose instructions.

  • Grab a big pot.
  • The base of a good vegetable stock is carrot, celery and onion, so make sure these three ingredients are well represented, even if you have to add a few whole (chopped) vegetables to your scrap mix.
  • Drop in all your precious scraps.
  • Add some herbs – A few sprigs of parsley and thyme work well. Also, throw in a couple of bay leaves.
  • Whole black peppercorns – Exactly 12. No, just kidding. A small handful is sufficient.
  • Garlic cloves – If you want. Don’t even bother chopping them. Just smash ’em and throw ’em in.
  • Pour cold water over everything until water just barely covers the veggies.
  • Simmer uncovered, over medium heat, at least 1 hour, but preferably 2.
  • Strain stock through a fine-mesh strainer; discard solids.
  • Use stock immediately for soup, poaching fish, risotto, or any vegetarian dish. Or, refrigerate stock up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Feeling inspired? Put your new stock to use in homemade chicken soup.

All About Sprouts & Microgreens

sprouts and microgreens

Have you ever sprouted your own beans? You can, in fact, grow bean sprouts with only some seeds, some water, and a small container. You don’t have to be a hippie, a health food fanatic, or a Californian to pull it off.

But, let’s be honest, in some ways we are all Californians now. Maybe we’re more hipster than hippie, but we’ve all embraced healthy, organic food. And, the next frontier, after the bulk aisle and the homemade kale chips, is sprouting.

Benefits of Sprouts

Sprouts have become popular for a reason. In our health food-obsessed culture, sprouts have a whole lot to offer. Seeds, beans, and many grains can all be sprouted, and, once they are, the sprouted seeds have up to 30 percent more protein than their un-sprouted counterparts. The vitamins in a sprout depend on the seed it is sprouted from, but almost all sprouts are potent sources of Vitamin C, Vitamin B, and iron. Sprouts are also full of phytonutrients (or phytochemicals), the many different organic compounds that help plants function and may also help our bodies function better. These include lycopene, beta-carotene, and chlorophyll along with many, many others. Increasing numbers of studies show phytonutrients serving as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and providing many other health benefits as well.

a microgreen

Although sprouts have recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the U.S., they have played a vital role in the diets of many Asian cultures for years. In the U.S., interest in sprouts began during World War II, when Cornell nutrition professor Clive McCay published an article highlighting the nutritional benefits of soy bean sprouts. It began:

Wanted! A vegetable that will grow in any climate, will rival meat in nutritive value, will mature in 3 to 5 days, may be planted any day of the year, will require neither soil nor sunshine, will rival tomatoes in Vitamin C, will be free of waste in preparation.

Convincing, right? If you’re looking to take advantage of these near-miraculous nutritional powerhouses, here’s what you need to know.

Types of Sprouts

Let’s start with how to buy sprouts—just in case you aren’t receiving them handily pre-selected in your Blue Apron boxes. Sprouts may seem like a seasonal food, but, as McCay’s wanted ad points out, they are not. Almost all sprouts are grown in greenhouses, making them a very practical and powerful source of all the good things fresh vegetables bring you—vitamins, fiber, and phytonutrients—year round.

When you shop for sprouts, you’ll quickly notice that there are many kinds. Americans are most familiar with alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts. Alfalfa sprouts are the tangle of green yarns that you often find on sandwiches; mung bean sprouts are the crunchy white stems that you often find cooked in Asian food. These days though you can also regularly find chickpea sprouts, lentil sprouts, and broccoli sprouts in stores. Research suggests that different sprout varieties offer different health benefits—broccoli and radish sprouts appear to be particularly high in antioxidants, for example. Different sprouts also have very different textures and tastes. If a pile of alfalfa sprouts has just never been your thing, crunchy chickpea sprouts may hold much more appeal. In other words, don’t write them all off.

Whether you are growing sprouts in a jar in your kitchen or a sprout farmer is growing a crop for commercial use, the process begins the same way. First, seeds are soaked for about eight hours. After they soak, the seeds get stored in a humid, ventilated container in a relatively warm spot for about three days until they have sprouted. To prevent excessive heat build up or the growth of fungus, the seeds then have to be rinsed a few times every day.

I spoke with Barbara Sanderson from the International Sprout Growers Association who explained that this process, while fairly easy when it’s taking place in a jar in your kitchen, is quite labor intensive for commercial farmers. Sprouts can also be an expensive crop, because they require more seeds to grow. A broccoli farmer might get a number of heads of broccoli from one seed, but a sprout farmer sells each seed once it has sprouted.

Sprouts have also posed some difficulties for farmers because their growing conditions can foster harmful bacteria. The warm and humid conditions in which sprouts grow can also foster the growth of e. coli and salmonella. Of course, all raw vegetables carry some of this risk. As with all vegetables, if you are worried about bacteria you might choose to cook your sprouts. If you are eating them raw, you should definitely make sure to buy the freshest possible sprouts and, as I’m sure goes without saying, avoid sprouts that seem to have become a bit slimy or smelly.

What about Microgreens?

Microgreens pack a lot of the same nutritional punch as sprouts, but have grown for a little longer, and are harvested without the seeds. In other words, sprouts germinate in water just long enough to develop a stem and roots. When they get to your plate, you eat the seed, the sprout, and the root. Microgreens, on the other hand, are actually planted in soil where they grow for seven to 14 days before their green shoots are harvested. Research suggests microgreens, like sprouts, contain far more vitamins and phytochemicals than fully matured vegetables.

How to Use Sprouts & Microgreens

Both sprouts and microgreens are easy additions to salads and sandwiches. Experimenting with cooking them is a great idea too. However, you use them they are a quick way to add crunch, color, fiber, vitamins, and those elusive phytochemicals to a meal.

How-To: Shape Pizza Dough

Feta & Olive Pizza with Spicy Tomato Sauce

There’s no party like a pizza party! Making your own pizza at home is a fun activity and a tasty dinner. The only tricky part is shaping the dough. Follow these tips to create a chewy, bubbly pizza crust without things getting too sticky.

Before you start shaping, bring your dough to room temperature. Have you ever experienced stretching and rolling pizza dough, only to have it snap back into place? Cold pizza dough is full of tense, tight strands of gluten that make it extra springy. If your dough has been in the refrigerator, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before shaping. It will be much easier to work with. 

Bake the pizza:

Once the dough has warmed up, you can pick your method and start shaping. It’s tempting to coat your work surface and hands in a pile of flour to prevent sticking, but adding all that flour can have some unintended consequences. Incorporating additional flour into the dough can make your crust tough. Try coating your hands with a little bit of olive oil instead. 

Once you’re prepped and ready to go, try one, or a combination, of these methods to shape your pizza dough by hand. 

Stretching pizza dough by hand

shape the pizza

To stretch pizza dough, pick up the dough in your hands. Hold the edges of the dough with both hands, and let the rest of the dough hang down. Slowly turn the dough like a steering wheel, letting gravity stretch out the dough. Watch for any thin spots forming, and use your hands to support the dough and keep it from tearing. 

Pressing pizza dough

shape the dough

Place your dough in the center of the pan. Use the tips of your fingers to lightly press down and out, gently working the dough towards the edges of the pan. We love this method for deep dish and sheet pan pizzas. 

Shaping pizza dough with a rolling pin 

Don’t be afraid to turn to a rolling pin (or even a wine bottle!) for a little help. Place the dough in the center of a working area, like a cutting board or pizza peel. Flatten the dough into a disk with the tips of your fingers, and then lightly work the dough with the rolling pin. For a round pizza, start in the center, and roll out in every direction. For a sheet pan pizza, work into a rectangle and then transfer to the pan.  

Watch a Blue Apron chef demonstrate how to shape pizza dough with a rolling pin.

How to Cook Cauliflower Rice

grating cauliflower rice
Grating cauliflower rice

Cauliflower rice is a beloved secret weapon for those looking for low-carb or low-calorie dinners. The neutral flavor of cauliflower makes it a perfect vessel for stir-fried vegetables or savory proteins.

Making your own cauliflower rice at home is an easy, money-saving option. You don’t need any specialized equipment to do it. Sure, it’s a little faster with a food processor, but our box grater method works just as well. 

How to make cauliflower rice at home 

Start with a head of cauliflower. Use a chef’s knife to remove the exterior leaves. Cut the cauliflower into quarters, cutting through the core. 

Using a food processor

To use a food processor, cut out and discard the core of the cauliflower.  

Cut the body of the cauliflower into large pieces, just large enough so that all of the pieces will fit in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until coarse crumbles form. 

Using a box grater

Riced and ready to cook

If you don’t have a food processor, don’t stress. 

Using the large side of a box grater, grate the quartered cauliflower onto a large plate. Grate until you reach the core, and then discard the core.

How to cook cauliflower rice 

Cauliflower rice cooks quickly. Using this method to cook the cauliflower on its own will prevent overcooking it while you wait for proteins and sturdier vegetables to cook. Follow this technique, and then combine your cooked cauliflower rice with the other elements in your dish. 

In a large pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat the 1 Tbsp of oil on medium-high until hot. Add the cauliflower rice in an even layer. 

Cook, without stirring, 2 to 3 minutes, or until slightly softened.

Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened. Transfer to a bowl. Taste, then season with salt and pepper if desired. Cover with foil to keep warm. Wipe out the pan. 

Recipes with cauliflower rice 

Once you’ve riced your cauliflower, it’s time for the fun part. These are some of our favorite recipes with cauliflower rice.

This hearty stir-fry brings together a savory mix of ground turkey, bok choy, and cremini mushrooms with an umami-rich duo of spicy sambal and our soy-miso sauce. It’s all served on top of fluffy cauliflower rice.

This spin on a Chinese takeout favorite, swaps cauliflower rice for the white rice. Its tender texture complements a flavorful combination of pork, vegetables, and scrambled egg.

These lettuce cups are loaded with juicy pork and sweet peppers—seasoned with sesame oil and savory coconut aminos for punchy, satisfying flavor.

Find more recipes like these on the Blue Apron Cookbook.

7 Types of Pear Varieties

Get to know the humble pear. From smooth-skinned Bartlett to leathery looking (but very delicious) Bosc pears, we’re here to help you pick the best pears for eating, baking, and salads.

When are pears in season? 

In general, pears are in season from August through October, although there may be some variations depending on where the variety you have in mind is grown. In the U.S., over 90% of the pears available in supermarkets are grown domestically. 

Types of Pears

Asian pear
Asian pear

Asian pear

Asian pear trees are native to East Asia, but today they’re grown across the world, including in the U.S.. Asian pears are large and juicy. They have a higher water content than most European pear varieties. This water content gives the fruit a delicious texture when eaten raw, but makes them less suitable for baking and jam making. 

bosc pear
Bosc pear

Bosc pear

The Bosc pear, sometimes known as the Kaiser pear, is native to France and Belgium. It is named after Louis Bosc, a French horticulturist. Bosc pears are a deep brown color and have a slightly rough peel. Their flesh is firm and juicy. This texture makes the Bosc pear well-suited for baking or poaching. 

bartlett pear
Bartlett pear

Bartlett pear

The Bartlett pear, sometimes called the Williams pear, ripens from green to yellow. To tell if these pears are completely ripe, press lightly on the pear near the stem. If the fruit gives slightly under pressure, it’s ready to eat. Bartlett pears have a buttery texture, and are the pears most often used in canning in the U.S..

Red Anjou Pear

Anjou

Anjou pears are well-suited for baking, poaching, or roasting. When eaten raw, they have a subtle sweetness and light lemony flavor. Anjou pears can be red or green. They have a short neck and a bell-shaped body.  

Comice 

Comice pears were originally cultivated in France. They’re known as the sweetest pear variety, and are often the variety shipped in gift boxes. Because of this, they’re sometimes given the nickname “the Christmas pear.” Comice pears have light green skin with a blush of pinkish red. 

Taylors gold

Taylor’s Gold pears were first discovered in New Zealand. Their name is a nod to their golden brown skin. Taylor’s Gold pears may be a mutation of the Comice pear. Taylor’s Gold pears are good for cooking, baking, or eating raw.

Seckel pear

Seckel Pears

Seckel pears trace their origins to Pennsylvania. These pears are small with a short neck and round body. Their flesh is sweet and crunchy. The fruit has a larger grain than most European varieties. It is harvested in the fall, but stores well, and can be eaten throughout the winter.

After you stock up on your favorite pears, try our recipe for spiced pear butter. 

How to Cook with Capers

If capers aren’t already your secret weapon in the kitchen, they should be. If you know how to cook with capers, these tiny green buds will add a bright pop of briny flavor to whatever you’re making. Think of them like a shortcut to flavor. These are some of the recipes that made us fall in love with capers. 

What are capers?

Capers are small, unopened flower buds. They’re harvested from the caper bush, or Flinder’s rose, a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean. After harvesting, the bud is pickled and kept in either salt or a salt-vinegar mixture. During this process, the capers release mustard oil, giving them a distinct, savory flavor.

What do capers taste like? 

Capers have a lot of the same brine and saltiness that you’d expect from an olive, but with brighter lemony and floral flavors. They are, after all, a flower bud.

How do you use capers?

Capers can be eaten raw, but they’re most often incorporated into sauces or used as a flavorful topping for proteins. 

Recipes with capers

This simple chicken dish gets a boost from a zesty a topping made with briny capers and garlic.

Piccata is a traditional Italian dish prepared with capers. This seared chicken dish is inspired by the classic and topped with a piccata-style sauce made from garlic, lemon juice, capers, and butter.

Capers are the perfect complement to bright, acidic tomatoes in this flavorful appetizer.

In this vibrant pasta dish, we’re bringing together seared chicken and sweet peppers with a rich, creamy sauce, which gets deliciously varied flavors and textures from Calabrian chile paste, roasted red peppers, and briny capers.

Capers cooked in brown butter add a pop of flavor to this satisfying vegetarian dish made with roasted cauliflower, kale, and breadcrumbs.

How To Properly Cook Ground Beef 

Over the past few months, we’ve noticed some troubling videos featuring ground beef.  We’re here to set the record straight. Properly cooked ground beef should be browned and flavorful. If you end up with grey or dry meat, it’s time to examine your technique. You might be accidentally steaming your protein instead of gently sautéing. 

How to Brown Ground Beef 

Cook the ground beef
Properly browned ground beef

Choose the right pan 

Start with a pan that is large enough to accommodate all of your protein in a single layer. To avoid accidentally steaming, there needs to be room in the pan for hot air and moisture to escape as the meat cooks. 

If you’re working with a nonstick pan, you may not need to add any additional oil. The natural fat from the ground beef will help the meat brown and prevent it from sticking. If you prefer, you can add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan before adding the beef. 

Control your temperature 

Allow ground beef to come to room temperature for 10-15 minutes before adding it to the hot pan. If you add the cold meat directly from the fridge, it will drop the temperature in the pan and increase the cooking time. The lower temperature will make it harder for the meat to achieve a crispy brown crust.  Be sure to heat the pan and any additional oil to a medium-high heat before adding the beef. 

Don’t worry about a little fat 

After you thoroughly brown your ground beef, there may be some liquid grease in the pan. Before finishing your dish, you can drain the excess fat out of the pan, or use a slotted spatula to lift the meat out of the pan. Remember: a little bit of fat is a good thing. Fat that remains on the meat will add rich flavor. 

Recipes with ground beef

Now that you know how to cook ground beef, try some of our favorite recipes.