Archive for the ‘fruit’ Category

Virginia Grown: Apple Picking at Stribling Orchards

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

#foodietotsapplefest

We were recently in a small market in our neighborhood picking up one or two things, when the boy picked up a shiny red apple and tossed it in the basket. I admit I felt more than a little silly telling him to put it back — but we had a bag full of fresh, local apples at home. The last time we were in the same market, I let the kids buy two of the waxy, Grown in Washington labeled apples, only to have them take a few bites and toss the rest. My kids are apple junkies, but there’s no time like fall in Virginia to appreciate the difference between supermarket fruit and fresh, local varieties. There are a number of orchards within an hour or so drive from Washington, DC, but we tend to return to Stribling Orchard just off I-66 in Markham, Va.

picking apples at stribling orchard

Stribling has a couple perks that make it the ideal apple picking destination for the 5-and-under crowd:

  • You can pick up bags, but then drive into the area of the orchard where you want to pick.
  • Sticks. Sure, the small trees have plenty of fruit within easy grabbing reach, but these cool picking sticks can be used to reach the primo fruit up high. If you have boys, you know what a powerful draw this is!
  • Bathrooms. Actual running water bathrooms — for the essential hand washing before picnicking.
  • Food. On the weekends they set up a grill offering burgers and hot dogs, and sometimes full barbecue (ribs, chicken and pulled pork). There’s also the bakery and store where you can find fresh baked cider doughnuts, pies and preserves.

apple picking sticks at stribling

Of course, it can also be quite crowded on the weekends so try to arrive early and be prepared for lines at check out and those bathrooms. Here are a couple tips gleaned from our annual apple-picking adventures.

Tips for a Happy Apple-Picking Outing:

1. Hats and sunscreen are essential. Stribling, and many other local orchards, are on top of hills which offer gorgeous views — and full sunshine.

2. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting mucky and put kids in long pants. There’s a lot of spoiling fruit on the ground and the kids will be traipsing through tall grass and other brambly undergrowth.

3. Try to find the variety you most want first. Once kids get on a roll picking, there’s no slowing them down and they may fill their bag at the first tree.

favorite find at stribling orchard farm store

apple by nikki mcclureGIVEAWAY: So you’ve gone apple picking and now you’re wondering what to do with all those apples? I’ve started an Apple Fest board over on Pinterest. Pin your favorite apple recipe, then share a link in the comments here so I can repin it to the board — or tag your pin #foodietotsapplefest & I’ll find it!

Every apple recipe posted below or tagged on Pinterest will give you one chance to win a copy of the gorgeous book Apple by Nikki McClure. You can “like” FoodieTots on Facebook and leave an additional comment below for an extra entry (or note if you’re already a fan). Contest is open to US residents only and will close at 11:59pm Eastern on September 30. Good luck, and happy apple eating!

blue skies at stribling orchard

Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

I once had the fortune to ride out a Florida hurricane at my great aunt’s house. How was this fortuitous, you may ask. Well for starters, I was with my uncle and aunt. Like any good son of an Italian mother, my uncle cooked up a storm as long as the power held out — there was pasta, scallops, and more. And in the backyard of the house, there were avocado trees. The fruits were strewn across the yard after the storm passed (thankfully, there was no serious damage in the neighborhood), and I flew back home several days later with a suitcase partially filled with fresh fallen avocados. If you’ve never had a Florida avocado, they are quite different than the standard Californian/Mexican Haas avocados found at supermarkets. They are several times larger, lighter colored and smooth skinned, and I find they have a fruitier flavor.

Once home with my hurricane souvenirs I set about to recreate a salad I first fell in love with on our honeymoon in Puerto Rico: the grapefruit avocado salad. The salad is simple to throw together, full of bright flavors to add cheer to cold winter days, and the healthy fats in the avocado help make it deceptively filling. Sometimes I just drizzle my grapefruit and avocado slices with straight olive oil, but it doesn’t take much longer to whisk it with lemon juice for the dressing.

Even when I have to make it with California avocados, it still serves to boost my mood during the dreary days of January.

grapefruit avocado salad

Recipe: Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 1 large Florida avocado or 2 Haas avocados
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • sea salt

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil to make dressing. Set aside.
  2. Peel grapefruit and separate sections.
  3. Halve avocado(s) lengthwise and remove pit. Cut into thick slices, still in the skin, and gently scoop the slices out with a spoon.
  4. Arrange grapefruit segments and avocado slices in bowl or serving dish. Drizzle dressing over salad and then season generously with sea salt.

Makes 2-4 servings.

There are a number of ways to build upon this recipe — adding fennel or seafood, for example. Do you have a favorite version?

At Market: Watermelon Carpaccio with Chèvre

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

It’s melon season! The foodie tots and I can’t get enough of melons in every size and color — we’ve enjoyed cantaloupe, honeydew, sun melon, a melon that looked like cantaloupe on the outside but was green like honeydew on the inside, and of course, watermelon. Now, I consider myself something of a watermelon expert, having been quoted on the subject in the Washington Post (cough), but I was still shocked to spot orange watermelon at the Reston Farmers Market this past weekend.

summer of melon love

After tweeting a picture, a friend suggested sprinkling fennel pollen on the melon. I couldn’t find fennel pollen at Whole Foods (uh, where else would it be?), but remembered that Cypress Grove‘s Purple Haze chèvre is made with lavender and fennel pollen. And so this quick summer appetizer was born: extremely thin slivers of watermelon, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a heavy pinch of sea salt, and topped with crumbled Purple Haze chèvre. It’s not really a recipe as a suggestion: you could mix it up with flavored vinegars, use plain chèvre to keep it local, and/or top with fresh mint or basil or any other herbs from the garden.

watermelon carpaccio with chevre

The kids were intrigued — the boy asked for a helping of “my” watermelon alongside his straight-up slices, and the bebe nibbled a few crumbs of chèvre before turning her attention back to the melon. What’s your favorite watermelon recipe? (And you do buy seeded melons, right? Remember, Seedless is Soulless. ;-) )

Spiced Pecan, Pear and Pomegranate Salad

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

This is my favorite holiday salad — fresh pomegranate arils sparkle like little jewels to make any meal festive. It was my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner (at my brother and sister-in-law’s new home), and will likely make a repeat appearance on Christmas Eve as well. If you have time, roasting the pears makes it even better.

Recipe: Spiced Pecan, Pear and Pomegranate Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 hearts of Romaine lettuce
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 pears
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils (about 1/4 to 1/3 of the arils from a fresh pomegranate)
  • spiced pecans (see below)
  • French dressingFor the Spiced Pecans:
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Instructions: Thinly slice the onion and cook in a skillet or saute pan over medium low heat, with a drizzle of olive oil, until golden brown. Meanwhile, in another saute pan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the sugar, salt and seasonings and stir to combine. Stir in the pecans. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pecans have darkened. Remove to a wax paper or parchment lined plate to cool.

To assemble salad, tear the Romaine lettuce into small pieces and place in your salad bowl. Top with onions, sliced pears, pecans and pomegranate arils. Serve with French dressing. Makes 6-8 servings.

Note: I use the under-water technique to seed a pomegranate, as seen at Steamy Kitchen.

P.S. FoodieTots is joining other bloggers to host a holiday progressive feast for Share our Strength – sharing a virtual meal to raise awareness and funds to fight childhood hunger. Check back Friday for our official contribution, or go straight to the menu at SOS to find today’s salad dishes.

{Preserving Summer} Bourbon Peach Jam

Friday, August 27th, 2010

I mentioned we recently went peach picking at Hollin Farms in Fauquier County, Virginia. Unfortunately my preserving aspirations exceeded my hands-free time during the week (one so quickly forgets how time-consuming infants can be) so sadly we lost a few to spoilage before I got a chance to put up a batch of jam. (We did enjoy quite a few out of hand … and in smoothies … and in a pie, as well. Nothing sweetens the end of summer like fresh-picked peaches!)

The husband is a bourbon drinker, so I’d been searching peach and bourbon pairings when I came across this jam. I adapted the recipe to follow the ratios specified by Pomona Universal Pectin — if you’ve never used Pomona before, it allows you to use less sugar than regular pectin.  I didn’t weigh the peaches, but this used about 24 or so of my smaller- sized peaches.  I’d picked mostly white peaches (White Lady), but thankfully the boy had picked a few of the scarlet-tinged Red Haven orange variety — which has this brilliant reddish-orange hue beneath the skin. Aren’t they lovely?

Aside from waiting for the canning water to boil (tip: start it before you start cooking the jam), peeling peaches is probably the most time-consuming part of this process. Blanching the peaches may seem like extra work, but trust me, it does save time — and avoids wasting any of that precious peach flesh that you might lose peeling with a paring knife.

How to Peel Peaches:

Bring a pot of water — deep enough to submerge a peach — to boil. Drop peaches in and boil for 20-30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into an ice water bath, then set on your work surface. Peels will slip right off.

Recipe: Bourbon Peach Jam
adapted from Beantown Baker

Ingredients:

1 box Pomona Universal Pectin (follow package instructions for exact amounts of calcium water and pectin)
8 cups mashed peaches
4 cups organic cane sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla paste (or 1 vanilla bean, split in half)
1/4 cup bourbon

Instructions: (Before you begin, make sure all equipment is clean and ready. Sterilize jars in boiling water or the dishwasher — here are prep instructions from the National Center for Home Preservation.) Prepare calcium water according to pectin package instructions. Peel, pit and mash peaches. Measure into a large, non-reactive stock pot, and stir in lemon juice, vanilla paste (or bean) and calcium water. In a large bowl, combine sugar and pectin.

Bring peach mixture to a boil. Add pectin-sugar mixture, stirring vigorously for 1-2 minutes to dissolve the pectin. Return to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in bourbon, not leaning too closely over the pot as the fumes will be quite potent as the alcohol cooks off. (Remove vanilla bean, if using.)

Fill jars, leaving 1/4-inch headroom at the top. Wipe the rims clean with a damp paper towel and screw on the lids. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from water and set jars on a dry kitchen towel to cool. You should hear the soft “pop” sound as the lids seal — check to make sure the inner lid is depressed, indicating it’s properly sealed. Store jam in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to enjoy. (This made nine half-pints and one full pint.)

Have you joined the Canvolution? What are you preserving for winter?
canning+across+america+logo This was a grown-up-only endeavor — my just-about-4-year-old lacks the attention span for such a time-consuming project — but if you’re looking to include your children in canning, read this article first.