Produce report September 24: Fruit and vege buys of the week
Although available year-round, the variety of fresh herbs increases in supermarkets at this time of year.
Spring’s flourishing line-up includes oregano, parsley, chervil, dill, borage and sage. (Peter Gordon recommends sauteing sage in butter with chopped walnuts and tossing it through fettuccine for an easy but delicious meal.)
Perennial chives are more prolific now and woody-over-winter thyme and rosemary are transforming themselves with soft, perfumed new growth. With a bit of a hunt, you should be able to find Vietnamese mint and Thai basil too. Fresh lemongrass, for Southeast Asian dishes, is also available in New World supermarkets. Alternatively, frozen stems can be bought in Asian and specialty stores.
Later, in what we hope will be end-of-year warmth, basil will come into its own and there will be tarragon to look forward to. Look for more subtle lemon thyme as well as standard thyme when shopping for herbs. As the name suggests, lemon thyme may be added to any dish where lemon would work too: poultry, seafood, dressings, marinades, stews, soups, sauces and stuffing; fresh sprigs are also good in green salads or fruit salads, even in icecream and in baked goods like shortbread.
Remember the rule: Add 'hard' herbs such as bay, rosemary or thyme at the beginning of cooking and 'soft' herbs such as chives, parsley and coriander, at the end.
Although always in the supermarket, coriander is spurting ahead outdoors now too. Try to use those roots, as well as the leaves and stalks, if still attached. The gnarly roots make a great addition pounded into a Thai curry paste or added to dressings and marinades. They are also useful in Mexican dishes. The roots usually have a little soil clinging to their matted ends but plunge them into a bowl of water and rub them before scraping carefully with the edge of a knife to get off the remainder and to remove some of the toughness.
If you can’t find coriander with roots but the recipe calls for them, use the stalks instead. Try adding, as Kylie Kwong does, a small bunch of very finely chopped coriander stalks into fried rice. They will lift the whole thing with a savoury freshness. Unused coriander roots can be sealed and frozen for later use. Don’t throw them out.
Wash herbs just before use, not before. Soft types (think parsley, tarragon, dill, mint and coriander) can be stored like flowers, the bottoms trimmed and the bunch placed in a glass of water which should be refreshed every couple of days. Cover loosely with a plastic bag, which helps retain moisture, and refrigerate. Basil should never be refrigerated.
Hard herbs with woody stems (rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage — pictured above) can be wrapped loosely in a paper towel and then placed in a sealed container like a New World pod. Hard ones can also be frozen in ice cube trays, covered in olive oil, to be added later to cooked dishes.
Vegetable buys this week include leeks, lettuces and silverbeet. Expect to pay a little more for cauliflower, cabbage, spinach and broccoli. New World fresh expert Brigit Corson says that is down to a number of weather issues including heavy rain a few months ago which caused gaps in planting.
Fruit wise, locally grown oranges still rule along with kiwifruit. Look out for sweet lemonade apples. You should now be able to find local raspberries and blueberries. Grapes from California are readily available and good eating.
THREE WAYS WITH HERBS