Cooking with: Beets

Beets present a delightful vegetable transition from summer to fall. On the one hand, their bright yellow or red hues bring us back to sunny days on the beach, while on the other, their essential sweetness and earthiness give a nod towards the root vegetables soon to overwhelm our shopping baskets.

Unlike, say, a cucumber, which really requires no cooking instruction (1. pick. 2. wash. 3. eat), beets put up a barrier to enjoyment. They’re a little ugly. Remnants of dirt cake onto their skins. You probably don’t just want to bite into them. So that you can appreciate all that beets have to offer, we put together this guide to making the most out of the super nutritious root vegetables with the enviable Russian pedigree. Here you go!

**How to Cook with Beets**

First Cook, Then Peel

The skin of the beet is hard to remove when the vegetable is raw. If you use a peeler, you’re apt to lose half the beet as you attempt to sever the skin from the vegetable. We have a better technique. Cook the beets first–then the skins will slide right off. You can boil for 25 to 30 minutes in a big pot of water, until they’re tender. Set in a bowl of cold water ’til cool enough to handle. You can also bake skin-on beets on a foil-lined baking sheet at 450°F for 45 minutes, or until tender.

Either way, once the beets are cool, you should be able to slip the skins right off with your fingers. You can also use a paper towel to rub the skin off if you don’t want to turn your pinkies pink (see next tip).

Don’t Dye Your Kitchen Pink

When we talk about discoloration, we’re usually referring to ripe avocados turning brown when left out. Here, there’s no problem with the beets’ appearance. No, we’re talking about the fact that beet prep can turn your fingers, arms, shirt, counter, cutting board, hand towels, and knives a gorgeous shade of hot pink. If you weren’t in the mood to repaint, use a paper towel to remove the skin from the cooked beet and choose one easy-to-clean cutting board for all your beet prepwork. If you really hate the hue, opt for yellow beets, which don’t stain. (And, if your fingers do turn pink, don’t worry–a shower or two and they’ll be back to normal.)

Balance Beets’ Flavors

The intense earthiness beets bring to the table calls for two balancing flavors: rich or creamy and tangy. You’ll often see the vegetable tossed with a vinaigrette even before being added to a salad–that helps neutralize the sweetness. Most of all, we love to top the finished beet dish with goat cheese or walnuts, or pair the beets with creamy avocado. You can check out all our beet recipes here.

Mixing Spices: Essential Flavors of India

To us, the best way to get to know a culture is through its food. And while unique ingredients can help shape individual dishes, it’s really the different combinations of spices and flavors that give a cuisine its distinct character–especially when they’re freshly roasted,  ground, and delivered.

Today, we bring you the flavors of India. Indian food is incredibly unique, influenced by the nation’s many years as a trade hub between Europe, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. The flavors are not necessarily fiery hot, but are almost always warm and complex, the result of a multitude of spices sprinkled into each dish. Many of us have grown to covet this spiciness in favorites like Chicken Tikka Masala, but which spices are really responsible for crafting these flavors?

We describe some of the most common Indian spices here, to bring you the essential flavors of one of our favorite types of cuisine.

**Essential Flavors of India**

ASAFOETIDA
Asafoetida has a unique acrid quality that softens into a mellower garlic flavor when cooked. Certain groups in India who avoid onion and garlic for religious reasons will use the spice to replicate those flavors in their cooking; more generally, though, asafoetida is used in vegetarian dishes, like this North Indian potato dish, to add depth and balance to other flavors.

CORIANDER
The coriander plant provides two essential flavors in Indian cooking: the first comes from the seeds, which have a warm, citrusy sweetness often found in curries; the second comes from the coriander leaves, more commonly known as cilantro. That’s right – love it or hate it, cilantro is actually the leaf of the coriander plant, used in many Indian dishes for freshness. When dried and ground, even cilantro haters might not recognize the spice, especially when mixed with other spices and used to season our cucumber salad.

CURRY LEAVES
As it turns out, curry leaves have nothing to do with curry powder – the glossy leaves come from the curry tree and have a fragrant, citrusy flavor delicious in dishes like Dal Bhat. (Curry powder is actually a blend of spices created by the British in the 1700s.) The leaves themselves are edible, and are generally sizzled in oil with the other aromatics before the remaining ingredients are added.

MUSTARD SEEDS
Indian cuisine typically uses the dark black variety of mustard seed, which has a more intense flavor than its white and yellow counterparts. Like curry leaves, mustard seeds are generally fried in oil (you’ll also see this technique in Dal Bhat) to release their nutty, pungent flavor before being added to curries, lentils, or other vegetable dishes.

GARAM MASALA
Garam masala is actually a mixture (or “masala”) of spices, rather than a single spice. The word “garam” translates to “heat” in English, referring not to the spiciness of the blend, but to the intensity of the spices. We use the mixture in many of our south Asian and Indian recipes – the combination of cloves, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and black pepper gives a warmth we love to dishes like Palak Paneer.

TURMERIC
Turmeric belongs to the ginger family, which explains its warm, almost peppery flavor. Beside adding a deep golden color to curries, the spice is also used as a dye in many commercial products, including yellow mustard. That means be careful when seasoning with turmeric: it will stain your cutting boards or light-colored counters! Unlike its color, turmeric’s flavor is actually pretty mild, which means it’s best used as part of a spice mixture rather than on its own.

TAMARIND
Tamarind is the long, bean-shaped fruit from the tamarind tree, often pressed into a thick, sticky paste. It has a similar flavor to a date, though less sweet and more sour. Tamarind is often used to brighten curries and chutneys, but also pairs well with meat and fish, as in this tamarind sauce for flounder. Or, try it in a cocktail – the earthiness of the fruit pairs perfectly with tequila!

The Pasta Shapes Every Foodie Should Recognize

…so you never confuse capellini with cavatelli ever again.

At Blue Apron, we love Italian food. It’s romantic. It’s heartfelt. It relies on the best seasonal ingredients. While we’ll never turn down a lovely chicken cacciatore or a plate of osso bucco, it’s pasta that really has a special place in our hearts.

Yet with all the different shapes of pasta available, it can be tricky to separate one from another, let alone know which noodle to pair with which sauce. Here, we go through the basics, distinguishing the rigatoni from the radiatore and the spaghetti from the spaghettini, as well as sharing some delicious recipes to take your pasta beyond the traditional marina sauce. Buon appetito!

Pappardelle
Pappardelle pasta gets its name from the Italian verb pappare, which means “to gobble up.” A broad, flat noodle, pappardelle are generally about two centimeters wide and stand up well to thick sauces like our lamb Bolognese. You’ll find both fresh and dried pappardelle; while both are good, fresh are really extraordinary. Tagliatelle is a slightly thinner version of pappardelle; fettucine is even thinner.

Spaghettini
Thinner than its traditional namesake, spaghettini means “little spaghetti” in Italian. The finer texture means that the noodles have less of a bite than spaghetti does, which makes it a better option for lighter, less saucy dishes.

Lasagna
The word “lasagna” refers not only to the classic baked dish, but also to the broad, flat noodles themselves. Layered with different sauces and cheeses, there’s no end to the variations on this hearty comfort food—the classic uses béchamel and Parmesan cheese for creaminess, while other versions often rely on ricotta and mozzarella.

Rigatoni
Rigatoni is named for the riga, or ridges, that line the outside of the tube-shaped noodle. This makes them great for holding on to the thick sauces of central and southern Italy where the noodle originated. They’re our noodle of choice in alla Norma, too.

Radiatore
Modeled after an old industrial radiator, these noodles are short, thick spirals with a ruffled edge. The distinct shape actually maximizes the surface area of the noodle, which makes it great for retaining thinner sauces like our arugula pesto.

Jumbo shells
This large, shell-shaped pasta originates from southern Italy, where stuffed pasta dishes are common. Also called conchiglioni, the name shares the same root as the English “conch,” and also the same concave shape. Fill the large pocket of the shell with meat, vegetables, or cheese for a hearty, savory dish.

Gnocchi
Gnocchi wasn’t always made with potato the way we usually see done today—before the potato’s introduction to Europe in the 16th century, cooks relied on chestnut flour, squash, breadcrumbs, and other starches to supplement the wheat flour in the dough. It’s common to see gnocchi dressed in just a light butter sauce, like we did here, but it’s also delicious with thicker sauces.

 

From Radish to Eggplant: August Produce to Savor

Ah, August. The month of weeklong vacations, beach barbecues, the stillest heat there ever was, and the last few weeks of summer freedom. Luckily, the winding down of summer doesn’t have to mean the winding down of vegetable season, and plenty of our July favorites–corn, cukes, and tomatoes–are still widely available.

Here, we add to our list of seasonal summer vegetables to bring you some of the later bloomers—these vegetables are all available in the second half of summer, even continuing into fall. We’ve also shared some of our favorite ways to cook them, as well as yummy recipes that highlight these delicious summer vegetables.

Gorgeous Seasonal Produce for August

Wax Beans
Known for their distinct pale yellow hue, wax beans have a sweet, nutty, mild flavor. Prepare them as you would regular green beans—blanching is a great option to keep the beans crisp and fresh, or try roasting them en papillote (French for “in parchment”) for a deeper flavor.
Try: Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Wax Beans & Red Quinoa en Papillote with Shallot Butter, Barley-Wax Bean Salad with Golden Beets & Heirloom Cucumbers

Sugar Snap Peas
Sugar snap peas, like snow peas, are classified as mangetout, or French for “eat all.” This refers to the edibility of the shell of the pea, unlike the English peas that have a tougher, more fibrous shell. Sugar snap peas add a crunch and a freshness to any summer dish—try sautéing them with shiitake mushrooms for a vibrant side to any meat or fish.
Try: Poached Salmon with Sautéed Shiitake Mushrooms, Sugar Snap Peas & Red Rice

Radishes
Radishes are generally classified as either ‘spring/summer’ or ‘winter’ radishes, depending on when they’re harvested. Summer radishes are most commonly thought of as the small, round European radishes that are best eaten raw or lightly cooked—crisp and peppery, these roots add a clean bite to summer favorites like our seared chicken paillard.
Try: Summer Corn & Vegetable Chowder, Chicken Paillards topped with Endive, Radishes & Haricots Verts

Summer Squash
Summer squashes include crookneck, patty pan, and other heirloom varieties, ranging in color from yellow and orange to deep greens. You can also eat the squash blossoms, the beautiful orange flowers available only in the summer months; these have a delicate flavor that’s complemented wonderfully by brown butter, as in our  gorgeous gnocchi dish.
Try: Fresh Gnocchi with Squash Blossoms and Lemon Brown Butter, Stuffed Squash with Caesar Chicory Salad

Pea Shoots
The tendrils and leaves of the traditional garden pea plant, pea shoots are harvested just a few weeks after sprouting, when they’re still tender and bursting with the flavor of fresh peas. Pea shoots make a great base for salads, and are delicious in sandwiches, pastas, and even as a substitute for basil in pesto. For an Asian twist, try them sautéed in garlic, as is often done in Chinese restaurants.
Try: Baked Quinoa “Falafel” with Radish & Pea Shoot Salad

Eggplant
Though many of us are only familiar with deep purple eggplants, they actually get their name from a white, egg-shaped variety. You can also find green and purple- white striped eggplants, which are sometimes referred to as “graffiti” eggplants. Be sure to check out the Japanese and Chinese varieties, which are in season now, too—skinnier than globe eggplants, these are a little firmer and the best type for grilling.
Try: Grilled Shrimp Cocktail with Eggplant, Eggplant Rollatini with Lemony Ricotta & Garlic Bread

Mixing Spices: All About Za’atar

Next week, za’atar spices up our Middle Eastern bowl of shrimp, green beans, cherry tomatoes and couscous. Vegetarians last devoured the spice as a sprinkling atop our socca, or chickpea flatbread.

It’s pretty. It’s popular. Its name starts with a z. But what is za’atar?

First off, za’atar refers to a varietal of wild thyme  that grows in the Middle East. Second, za’atar is also a spice blend eaten in Middle Eastern countries, especially popular in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.

Cooks use za’atar for seasoning meats and other main courses, but the most popular form of consumption is as a dry dip for bread. Vendors sell the mix in little paper cones, along with fresh bread for dipping. If you try this method at home, we definitely recommend that your bread make a pitstop in olive oil to help the za’atar stick to it.

Each Middle Eastern region–even each household–has its own mix for za’atar. At the most basic, za’atar contains thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and some salt, but some traditions have the cook throw in pistachios, turmeric, or hazelnuts, according to Heidi of 101Cookbooks.

As you can imagine, the thyme offers a wonderful earthy herbiness. To that, sesame seeds bring their rich nuttiness. Sumac, made by grinding the dried berries from the sumac shrub, contributes a slightly sour, citrus-like flavor to the mix, with a similar effect on the final dish as a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Salt, of course, brings out each of the individual flavors.

We grind together these ingredients in the fresh za’atar mix we use in our shrimp and socca. For our Blue Apron touch, we throw in some oregano for some added earthiness. If you have any za’atar left over from your meals, try sprinkling it on your morning toast, half an avocado, roasted chicken, or a simple green salad. We’ll be back to demystify some of our other spice mixes soon!

 

How to Choose and Store Your Summer Tomatoes


All summer long, we gorge on tomatoes. We eat them raw, with olive oil and salt, in thick slices on burgers, baked in a crostata, chopped and seasoned in a panzanella, and on top of any salad. We feast our eyes and our stomachs on yellow cherry tomatoes, giant multi-colored Mr. Stripeys, and heirloom Jersey tomatoes. Many farms now grow many heirloom varieties of tomatoes, which come from older seeds and over have more flavor than the newer brands. Those are the kind we look for to send to you.

While it’s hard to go wrong with summer tomatoes, here’s your summer guide to help ensure that your tomato consumption is very, very right.

What’s your favorite way to eat summer tomatoes? Tell us in the comments!

The Look

Tomatoes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The most traditional look is round, red, and medium-sized. But don’t shy away from trying tomatoes that are less apparently perfect. Some heirloom strains look positively ugly–brown-ish, cracked, and uneven. Yet those are often the tastiest types, and you don’t want to miss out. Whether yellow, red, orange, or purple, a tomato’s skin should always lie firm on the surface, with no mushy parts. Beyond that, stay open-minded when assessing the aesthetics of a tomato and make it a point to sample any fine- or ugly-looking specimen you see.

The Scent

While the look of tomatoes has a huge range, all excellent tomatoes have one characteristic in common: they smell great. The scent of a perfectly ripe tomato will make you think of summer: a combination of grass, dirt, sunshine, and fruit. If you don’t get a summery whiff from your tomato, especially right around the stem, the flavor may be lacking too. Head to the next farmstand.

Storage

Keep your tomatoes on the counter in a cool, shaded spot. Never put tomatoes in the refrigerator. We’re serious! Never. When tomatoes go in the fridge, their flesh chills and becomes unappealingly mealy. At the same time, their flavor vanishes. This is not good. You’ll need a whole lot of salt to spruce up a refrigerated tomato. Don’t make the sacrifice. The optimal temperature for tomato storage is 60 to 65°F. Since that range can be hard to find in the summer time, we recommend you look for the coolest spot in your kitchen apart from the fridge and store the tomatoes there. Then, plan to eat them within two days, while they’re fresh.

Preparations

Recipes for tomatoes abound! We’ve already shared tomato jam, panzanella, tabbouleh salad, crostata, and salmon burgers, We’ll be sending out many more wonderful tomato recipes all summer long. If your tomato craving can’t wait for your next Blue Apron box, here’s what we recommend: take a great tomato, slice it, sprinkle on salt, pepper, and olive oil and eat with a slice of fresh mozzarella. There is hardly anything better.

From Corn to Cukes: A Guide to July’s Produce

Who doesn’t love #summer? Days at the beach, nights at the bonfire, fireflies, fireworks, barbecues, and sunshine. And, of course, the wonderfully fresh produce.

Grown locally instead of imported, the fruits and vegetables of summer taste even better having been harvested practically in your own backyard. And there’s no better place to find what’s in season than your local farmers’ market or farm stand, where not only can you see what’s being grown, but you can meet the people who plant and gather the vegetables you’re about to eat up.

Here, we bring the farm stand to you, rounding up the best of what’s in season, and sharing some delicious dishes you can cook up with these July favorites. All that’s left is to fire up the grill—summer is finally here!

Gorgeous Seasonal Produce for July

Cucumber
The saying “cool as a cucumber” is especially true in summer, when the cucumber’s high water content (96 percent!) can provide important hydration. Cukes are best eaten raw, especially in light salads—be sure to store them in the refrigerator to keep them crisp and cool. You can also easily turn them into delicious homemade pickles. Look for short, slightly prickly cucumbers known as kirby cucumbers–they’re sweet and crunchy and our favorites. 

 

Zucchini and Summer Squash
A quintessential summer vegetable, zucchini just screams to be grilled—the flesh becomes smoky and tender, the skin burnishes, and the natural sugars caramelize. Give zucchini the center stage in grilled zucchini tacos, or dress in a vinaigrette for a simple summer side dish. Zucchini fall within the summer squash family–one of our favorite families, ever. And summer squash come in shapes and colors beyond green zucchini: you’ll see long yellow squash, squash light green squash–known as gray squash–and pretty little bright yellow sunburst squash.

 

Corn
Corn is another great grilling vegetable, though we often don’t think of it as being so. You can place the cobs directly on the grill to char the kernels (like we did here), or wrap them in either foil or their own husks—either way, you’ll have a sweet, smoky, delicious treat to enjoy all summer long. Corn is also an essential ingredient in succotash–a summery vegetable sauté. Fields of corn grow higher and higher through July and August, the yellow or white kernels getting ever sweeter. Then you’ve got tons of options: cut the kernels off or leave them on; grill the corn in the husk or outside of it. Top with butter or with mayo and Mexican cheese. Yum.

 

Shallots
A member of the onion family, shallots actually grow in bulbs like garlic, and it’s easy to find them fresh from the field this time of year. Their subtle flavor is great for dressings and sauces, like in our shallot tarragon butter, or try them in the place of an onion, for all the sweetness without any of the kick!

Tomatoes
From teeny cherry tomatoes to sprawling heirlooms, the variety of tomatoes available in the summer months is astounding. Tomatoes will generally be sweeter, firmer, and more fragrant than they are in other months, making them a great option to eat raw, like in our panzanella salad. When buying tomatoes, look for ones that gift off a strong tomato-y scent–they’ll have the most flavor. And, though it’s not intuitive, the uglier the tomato, the tastier it will be, so look for ones with crags, dark colors, and not-perfectly-round shapes.

 

Green Beans
Summertime calls for crisp, crunchy green beans, perfect when mixed with flawless summer basil into pasta with pesto. The best way to achieve this is through blanching, which will keep the beans perfectly fresh, crisp, and a beautiful bright green in color; blanching also retains the multitude of vitamins that green beans boast, including vitamins A, B6, and C.

Here’s How: Pick a Ripe Avocado

HERE’S HOW is a series where we share the best useful tips from our cooking adventures. We’ll answer questions before you have them and illuminate food mysteries with a blend of science and legend. Today, we’re talking avocados–how to know when they’re perfectly ripe.

In this week’s vegetarian box, we adorn Grilled Zucchini Tacos with delicious homemade guacamole. If you’ve ever dipped a corn chip into a bowl of fresh guacamole, you know why the dip is so good: it contains avocados, the most satisfying vegetable we know. (It is, however, really a fruit.)

When we send out avocados for Avocado Tartines or Cucumber-Avocado Maki, we make a point to order them “sushi ripe” from our purveyors. That means the avocados arrive ready to eat, soft but not too soft, and exquisitely creamy. Ripe avocados should be stored on the counter and used within two days.

Here’s how to investigate any avocado and tell when it is perfectly ripe. Our goal? That you’ll never try to cut into a hard, under-ripe avocado again.

The Look

You can get your first gauge on the ripeness of an avocado just by looking at it. Here’s how: ripe avocados tend to be darker in color than their lesser-ripe cousins. Hass avocados, the most common avocado at markets in most parts of the United States, have a bumpy dark green skin when under-ripe. As soon as they ripen, that green darkens and becomes almost purple. If you’re looking at a big bin of avocados, start picking up the darkest ones first, to check if they feel ripe. Read on to see how to evaluate on texture.

The Feel

Ripe avocados will feel basically firm to the touch. Pick one up and press lightly on the surface to see if the avocado flesh yields. You should be able to press down and sense a little bit of give.  But not too much! If the avocado feels soft to the point of mushy, it’s over-ripe. Throw it back. If there’s no yield, as in the avocado feels like a rock, skip that one too, or place it on the counter to ripen, and keep reading.

The Prep

You can use ripe avocados in several different ways: sliced on a sandwich, cubed in a salad, or mashed into guacamole. To prep, use a chef’s knife to cut through the stem of the avocado and all around it lengthwise. You won’t be able to cut all the way through because of the pit. Unscrew the avocado to separate the halves. Use a big spoon to scoop out the flesh. Then carefully slice it for Beet-Avocado Salad or Fish Tacos, cube it for topping chili,  or simply mash the avocado in a bowl with a fork or potato masher. A ripe avocado will smush into a guacamole-like texture easily, so if you want intact slices, be gentle.

Ripening

If you accidentally purchase an avocado from your market that isn’t ripe, there are a few tricks to get the vegetable soft and creamy. The first is simply to wait. Push your avocado dinner to later in the week. That may sound low-tech, but this can help with planning, especially if you do all your shopping on Sundays. If you want the avocado ripe sooner, legend has it that storing in a paper bag with a banana will quicken the process!

On the opposite end, if you’re worried about the avocado becoming too ripe, store it in the refrigerator once it’s ripe to freeze the ripening process and preserve it at the perfect ripeness.

The Zing of Zest

Zesty means fresh, invigorating, or stimulating. In cooking, one way to brighten food is to put actual citrus zest into your ricotta filling or chicken marinade. With that in mind, oranges, lemons, limes, and even grapefruits offer two distinct ways to flavor your food. There’s the juice, which we use all the time in salad dressings or to finish off fish dishes with a hit of acid. Then there’s the zest, which packs tons of citrus flavor with less sharpness.

Restaurants use zest as an essential ingredient to perk up flavors in everyday dishes, and we’ve brought that professional technique to you a few of our recipes, like Eggplant Rollatini and Orange Chicken Thighs with Cherry Salsa.

You, too, can increase the zing of any dish that calls for fresh lemon or orange juice without adding an extra ingredient to your shopping list, simply by repurposing the peel from either fruit. Here’s what to do:

If you own a sturdy cheese grater, you should have good luck using the smallest setting to peel the thick outer skin of the lemon or other citrus. Don’t press too hard against the grater, since you want to avoid getting the underlying white pith into your bowl of zest. (The pith can be a tad bitter.)

For those of you who absolutely love zesting, you may want to pick up a Microplane, which is a tool specifically engineered to remove the zest from lemons or oranges in beautiful long strands. You won’t have to worry about catching any of the zest. (Microplanes are also unbeatable for crushing ginger root or garlic.)

Last, if you have a vegetable peeler or paring knife, you can still get zesty! Use the knife to remove the outer lemon peel, trying not to pick up any of the white zest in the process. Then pick up your chef’s knife and finely mince the peel to make zest. Add to your chicken, cherry salsa, ricotta filling, or anything else that needs a zingy kick!

A Short History of Warm Goat Cheese Salad


“Take some rounds of goat cheese. Press them into breadcrumbs. Fry the rounds in a little oil, or bake them at 400°F.”

Those instructions could have come from this week’s recipe card for Frisee and Farro Salad with Warm Goat Cheese, a tasty vegetarian main. But in fact the words are paraphrased from a 1983 New York Times article about the ascendance of goat cheese, written by Craig Claiborne, then the paper’s food critic. After this piece, warm goat cheese salad jumped from the tables of fancy French chefs and landed on stoves in American home kitchens, thanks to Claiborne and to Alice Waters, who put the dish on her Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse.

When he wrote this article, Claiborne had just tasted Waters’ salad. He called goat cheese consumption a trend.

“One of the public’s present predilections is goat cheese,” he wrote, “better known in France as Chevre.”

Claiborne was right to publish the recipe for warm goat cheese, but he was wrong about one thing. Warm, breaded, melty goat cheese simply does not go out of style. This salad was not a trend. By the 90s, the salad seemed to be on every menu, often paired with nuts and fruit, and the dish persists in bistros and fine restaurants to this day.

We wanted to make sure the phenomenon made it to your kitchen, too, with a thoroughly modern twist. Favas, frisee, and farro distinguish our version.

In the original French concept, salad au chevre chaud, rounds of goat cheese are sliced and melted onto pieces of bread, which then rest on a bed of greens. But in the Alice Waters interpretation, the style that inspired our salad, breadcrumbs actually coat the cheese, lending crispness to every bite, in contrast to the creamy interior. It’s important to be sure that the breadcrumbs stick to the cheese, so we dip the rounds in flour, milk and panko.

For our salad, we’re sending customers goat cheese already sliced into rounds, but if you make the recipe on your own, try this unusual tip: use unwaxed dental floss to cut neat rounds of goat cheese from a log.

Another helpful practice, if you have a few extra minutes, is to freeze the breaded rounds for a few minutes before frying them. This helps to keep the breadcrumbs on the goat cheese as you cook.

See the recipe here and sign up to have all the ingredients in the salad delivered straight to you!

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The Magic of Garlic

When we make dinner, we put garlic in everything. That’s no accident. European, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisines all have used the alium bulb to season food for millennia, in dishes from Merguez-Style Brochettes to Beef Pad See Ew. Yet recipes include garlic for different reasons. Raw garlic adds spiciness; gently cooked garlic becomes fragrant, developing flavors in the dish; roasted garlic becomes sweet and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Here’s a primer for how to prepare garlic for each of these purposes.

Raw Garlic: Spicy.

Vampires beware: raw garlic adds extraordinary flavor and a little bit of bite to salad dressings, so our vinaigrettes often feature it. Likewise, guacamole would simply taste hollow without raw garlic stirred in. But we’re not talking about chomping on uncooked whole cloves here. To make garlic spicy, not overwhelming, we start by mincing each clove, then keep chopping until the cloves resemble a paste. Sprinkling some coarse salt over the garlic as you chop helps speed along the process.

Sautéed Garlic: Bright.

When we sauté garlic, we mince it so that lots of surface area is exposed to the hot pan–but none of the sugars are released (they would burn when cooking). That means slicing crosswise, then making perpendicular cuts to form strips of garlic, then, finally, cutting crosswise again into tiny squares. We usually add onion and garlic to to the pan at the same time, cooking in olive oil for a couple of minutes, until the vegetables are fragrant and softened. In our Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Meatballs, our garlic cloves do double duty, adding savoriness to both the meatballs (which cook up in the oven) and to our authentically Italian tomato sauce.

Roasted Garlic: Sweet.

The oven’s heat turns garlic soft and sweet. By tucking roughly chopped garlic into our foil packet with leeks and potatoes in our Haddock with Melted Leeks and Fingerlings, we make sure that none of the garlic gets too brown–which can turn it sticky and bitter. Keep in mind that you can treat yourself to roasted garlic anytime you’ve got the oven on. Drizzle olive oil on an entire head of garlic, halved horizontally, or toss a few skin-on cloves onto the baking sheet beside with whatever other food you’re roasting.

Garlic, Be Gone.

The odor of garlic can linger on your fingers for the rest of the evening after you’ve chopped it unless you know this trick for de-scenting. Here’s what you do: rub lemon or another citrus fruit on your hands to de-scent them of garlic after chopping. This works particularly well if your dish just so happens to have orange or lime in it, in which case prep the garlic first, then prepare the citrus and vanquish the garlicky odors once and for all.

Three Limited-Time-Only Vegetables to Try This Spring

We love to visit local farmers’ markets this time of year, as spring produce makes its way from the fields to the vendors’ bins. With April turning into May, we’re obsessing over the season’s fruits and vegetables, incorporating rhubarb into our pork roast, asparagus into our fried rice, and fresh peas into our pasta.

Like spring’s cool,  non-humid weather, the season’s harvest is fleeting. Just as quickly as sugar snaps, fiddleheads, and fava beans appear, they’ll be gone. (It’s not all bad: that only means summer will be here, with its tomatoes, corn, and peppers.) And since they’re as tasty as they are healthful, we’re highlighting these three favorites with tips about how to prepare, cook, and eat these green gems.

Sugar Snaps

WHAT.  Sugar snaps are hybrids of English shelling peas and thin-skinned snow peas, invented by a scientist in 1979. As a happy result, both the pod and peas are edible, the pod adding crispness and the peas bringing sweetness to every bite.

HOW. Fresh sugar snaps can be eaten completely, shell and all. Some people do remove the ends and the string, which can be a bit, well, chewy, in your final preparation. The sugar snaps in our boxes have already been trimmed and had the tiny strings removed.

MAKE. A quick sauté brings sugar snaps to life without sapping them of their signature crunch. Adding them to a hot pan for no more than 2 or 3 minutes gives the shells a nice sear while leaving the peas inside bright and fresh. Still, we can never resist snacking on a raw pea or two while we’re cooking. In our Chicken with Ramps and Sugar Snap Peas, we pair the sugar snaps with another spring favorite, early-season leeks called ramps.

Fiddleheads


WHAT. Fiddleheads are prized for their tonic-like qualities, and because they traditionally herald other signs of spring. A member of the fern family, the vegetable is most commonly harvested in the midwest, near the Great Lakes, and in the northeast, where the curled-up tendrils flourish amidst the undergrowth in damp, thick forests.

HOW. Fiddleheads always have to be cooked. Just a few minutes in a sauté pan renders them crisp yet tender, the texture a little bit like a green bean. Another method to use is blanching–a quick bath in salted, boiling water. If you’re feeling adventurous, try breading and deep-frying the fiddleheads for a serious treat.

MAKE. With gently sautéed spring onions and garlic, nutty whole grain pasta, and a handful of protein-rich white beans, fiddleheads become the focal point of this springy, light Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Fiddleheads & Spring Onions.

Fava Beans

WHAT.  Hailing from North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Southeast Asia, the buttery fava bean is an ancient staple of diets worldwide and an all-time favorite of our chef. To get your fix of food history, though, you’ll have to work for it: favas have to be shelled not once but twice. We like to think of the process as meditative.

HOW. First, shell the beans by unzipping the woody outer pods and removing the beans from within. Cook those in boiling water for just one minute. Rinse them under cold water, then break off the tip of each thin fava shell and pop the bean out from inside, collecting the doubly shelled beans in a bowl.

MAKE. Since it’s time-consuming to stockpile a big serving of favas, be sure to bulk up your fava-based meal with other hearty ingredients. Our favas star in this Spring Minestrone with Fava Beans & Asparagus, which is also packed with vegetables, pasta, and Parmesan cheese. You can also throw favas into pastas and salads; their sweet taste matches really well with sharp, salty feta.