Week #6 Food Prep Guide + RECIPE: Quick Mulberry Compote
Mulberries are officially in season and we are so excited to have enough to share in produce boxes this week! If you've never eaten them before, they are comparable to blackberry wine in flavor. They're incredibly nutritious, being especially rich in Vitamin C and also containing some iron, calcium, and fiber. They may be more labor-intensive to harvest than other berries, but once you taste them and smell them you'll know that it's totally worth it! Simply wash them and use as a substitute in your favorite blueberry, raspberry, or blackberry recipes.
Also new this week are baby carrots and golden beets. The carrots we grow are are a baby pencil carrot that holds well in the heat, has a high sugar content, and a crisp and tender texture. Chefs tend to prefer baby-sized carrots that can be prepared whole, and we've come to prefer them in our home kitchen as well. Such a simple change cuts down on food prep time tremendously! The beet we grow, 'Badger Flame', is brought to us by Row 7 Seeds. We usually call golden beets "beets lite" in our house; Chris doesn't care for the round red ones but really enjoys the more mild gold ones, but I find they just tend to lack the depth of flavor. Bred with chefs in mind, 'Badger Flame' has the high sugar content and richness of red beets without the "polarizing earthiness" (a.k.a. the taste of the dirt) that is so off-putting to many folks. We find that their shape can be a little bit variable but the flavor is simply incomparable. I don't see a need for other beets since this seems to appeal to everyone!
Lastly, American Flowers Week is June 28 - July 4, and we're sharing the love with our veggie customers by including a free sample clamshell of edible flowers ($10 value).
We recommend that you set aside 15-30 minutes to unload your produce and do some quick preparations to help your food last as long as possible. Please consider the following preparation tips to make the most of your purchase.
*Wash all produce before use and either scrub or remove the peels.*
*Pickle or freeze anything you don’t plan to cook in 3-5 days.*
Mulberries. Wash in a 1:8 vinegar to water bath, then drain and rinse. Gently dry them with a paper towel, then store in an airtight lidded container that has been lined with a fresh paper towel. Anything you won't use in 3-5 days should be stored in the freezer. To freeze, place washed and dried berries on a lined baking sheet and partially freeze for 30-60 minutes before transferring to an airtight container.
Baby carrots. Remove the tops from the carrots, leaving about 1/2" of stem on the roots. If you plan to eat the tops, which have a peppery arugula-like flavor, we recommend that you wash, dry, and immediately food process with olive oil to be later turned into sauces like pesto or chimichurri. Line a zip-top plastic freezer bag with a moist paper towel, then place the carrots inside. Remove all of the air from the bag and put it into the crisper drawer. The carrots we grow aren't a storage variety so we recommend that you use them in 7-10 days.
Badger Flame beets. Remove the tops from the beets. Wash and blanch the greens (boil for 30 seconds, then shock in a bowl of ice water) if you plan to eat them, then store in a container in the fridge or freezer. Beets are related to spinach and chard, so their tops are very similar. To store beets for raw or pickled preparations later on, line a zip-top plastic freezer bag with a moist paper towel, then place the beets inside. Remove all of the air from the bag and put it into the crisper drawer. Beets typically store for 1-2 weeks in this way. If your recipe calls for roasted beets, you can also roast them ahead instead by placing scrubbed beets with skins intact on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and wrap in the foil before baking in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your beets. Cool and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Edible flowers. Edible flowers are as delicious as they are beautiful; some taste like cucumbers, others like cloves, some like arugula. They are highly perishable so we recommend that you use them in 2-3 days after harvest. They tend to last longer in an airtight container. You can also rejuvenate wilted flowers by placing them in an ice water bath for about 10 minutes, which will rehydrate the flower’s cells. Use them immediately after removing from the ice water bath. Edible flowers can also be candied by coating with egg white and dipping in sugar, then dehydrating; they are shelf stable for 3-6 months in this state. Use them as a salad mix component, as a fancy garnish, or to decorate baked goods.
Fennel. The fronds, or the greens, will wilt within the first few days, so we recommend that you remove them from the bulb and treat like other herbs: place in a mason jar or cup and add a few inches of clean water, just enough to cover the bottom couple of inches of the stems, then drape a plastic bag loosely over the top of the leaves, allowing some air to circulate and store in the fridge. If you won't use them within a few days, freeze chopped fennel fronds in ice cube trays topped with olive oil, hang to dry, or make some salad dressing. Like kohlrabi, when stored without the leaves, fennel bulbs have a long storage life in the refrigerator; store in a plastic zip-top bag lined with a paper towel in the crisper drawer - but we recommend that you use them as soon as you can so they have the strongest flavor. Fennel bulbs are an excellent seasonal replacement for celery both when cooked or when raw. Though they will lose some flavor, they can also be frozen by blanching and storing in airtight bags or containers.
Scallions. Untie the bunch. Place in a mason jar or cup (5-8” in height) and add a few inches of clean water, just enough to cover the roots and bulb of the scallion. Drape a plastic bag loosely over the top of the leaves, allowing some air to circulate. Scallion bulbs can be replanted in your garden or even in a small indoor pot and will regrow.
Kale. Remove thick, woody stems. Briefly submerge the greens in cold water to remove any residual soil and to refresh the leaves. We recommend blanching kale right away in preparation for cooking later. To do this, lower the greens into (optional: salted) boiling water for 30-60 seconds until their color becomes very bright and vibrant, then immediately plunge into an ice water bath. Gently lift the greens into a colander to drain excess water. The cooking liquid contains some nutrients and may be stored as a base for homemade chicken or vegetable stock. Refrigerate in a lidded container for up to 3 days or freeze. Substitute for raw greens in recipes or smoothies by using half as much as is called for (i.e. ½ cup blanched greens in lieu of 1 cup raw greens).
Summer crisp lettuce. Cut the root end away to make loose leaves. Briefly submerge the greens in cold water to remove any residual soil and to refresh the leaves. Gently lift the greens into a salad spinner to remove as much excess water as possible. If you don’t have a salad spinner (though we really do find a big difference in storage time when a salad spinner is used instead) you can also place the greens on a paper towel-lined cooling rack, then pat dry with more paper towels. Store in a lidded container lined with a layer of dry paper towel.
Quick Mulberry Compote
Compared to jam, which is more of a spread, compote typically contains whole fruit. This makes it the perfect seasonal topping for pancakes, yogurt, ice cream, or pound cake.
2 c mulberries, washed and rinsed, stems removed
1 lemon, both zest and juice
1/4 c sugar (or preferred sweetener), more or less to taste
1 cinnamon stick
Stir the berries, zest, juice, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, then bring to a simmer on medium heat. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring gently but often, until the sauce begins to thicken but the berries are still mostly whole. It can be served either warm or cold, so feel free to make it ahead to keep in the fridge or even stash it in the freezer for the next time you have company coming for brunch.