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Find comfort in winter fruits and veggies

Jan./Feb. 2007 California Country magazine

Produce pro Andy Powning says winter produce can be exciting and delectable. Discover his wintertime favorites.



While hunkered down in the cold days of winter, console your soul by savoring California-grown root crops, hearty greens, cruciferous vegetables and sweet citrus.

"Winter produce can be exciting and delectable," said Andy Powning, produce specialist at GreenLeaf Produce in San Francisco and a reporter for "California Country," the California Farm Bureau Federation's weekly television program.

"Farmers' markets are still operating during the winter. The choices may be less diverse than during the summer, but choices there are, and eating close to the season means you're eating produce grown close to home. This ensures freshness and optimal nutrition, plus the advantage of getting the best value."

Powning's recommendations for this time of year include:

Citrus: Navels, grapefruit and Minneola tangelos add sparkle to the winter menu.

The navel orange, grown primarily in California's Central Valley, is a seedless variety with a fairly thick skin that peels easily. No lunch box should be without one!

A tart grapefruit tastes great on its own, but to add some sweetness, use a paring knife to cut in half crosswise and around the individual segments. Top each half with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Place on a baking sheet and broil for 3 to 5 minutes until the sugar bubbles. Cool a bit and serve.

The Minneola tangelo, a tangerine/grapefruit hybrid, is a delicious piece of fruit. It is easily identified by the distinct nub on the stem end and its deep orange-red skin. It is delicious juiced or eaten fresh.

Root vegetables: Turnips, rutabagas and parsnips are all in fine seasonal form. Pick your favorites (mixing/matching encouraged!) and peel and cut into 3/4-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and roast at 425 to 450 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes until they are browning nicely. Check regularly and turn with a spatula once or twice for even cooking.

"This roasted root combo will give french-fried a run for the money, and they're a very healthy alternative," Powning said.

Celery root is an often overlooked root crop that shines this time of year. Powning suggests serving cooked and mashed alongside potatoes.

Winter greens: With so many types of Swiss chard available now, it's hard to choose. Beyond your basic green and red, there's a rainbow of colors, and they're all delicious. Since the stems take longer to cook, cut them out and steam or sauté first, adding chopped leaves when the stems are fork tender. Finish off with a spritz of lemon juice or your favorite vinegar. Add butter or olive oil if desired and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Try any number of different types of kale and mustard greens. A long, slow braising works best on the kale, Powning says, while a fast sauté works equally well for the mustard greens.

Broccoli, cauliflower: Brassica family members are year-round favorites. This group includes broccoli, cauliflower and broccoflower, a tasty cross between the two. Look for different colors of cauliflower now hitting the markets—lime green, light orange and even purple!

"Steaming florettes of all three gives you a gorgeous tricolor dish. I love them simply dressed with butter and a healthy thwack of garlic and fresh-squeezed lemon juice," Powning said. "For a more rib-sticking application, pull out your favorite gratin recipe and add some cream, cheese and bread crumbs into the mix."


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