How to keep your fruits and vegetables tasting as they should.
In a perfect world we’d shop daily and prepare what we purchased for that evening’s meal. But, we all know it’s just not that easy to get to the market every day. So, you go to the market and buy everything on your list making sure that you pick the freshest fruits and vegetables possible.
But, then you get home and the indecision sets in. You begin to ask yourself – does this belong in the refrigerator or should it stay on the counter? Will this spoil quicker if I leave it out? Will it taste the same if I refrigerate it as it would if I just left it on the counter?
The answer is: some produce needs to be stored in the refrigerator but some do significantly better if left out on the counter! Here are the 8 fruits and vegetables that you should just leave out.
- Tomatoes – in season or out they will ripen perfectly if left on the counter. When you put them in the refrigerator their texture becomes mealy and really not very appealing. If you’ve waited until tomato season (May through October with some differences depending on where you live) to enjoy their amazing flavor – do NOT refrigerate them!
- Garlic, Onions, and Shallots – these alliums do best in a cool, dry, dark place where they can breathe. Do not leave them in the plastic bag you used to bring them home from the market. The only alliums that actually should be stored in the refrigerator are spring onions and scallions.
- Thick skinned squash – like Acorn, Butternut and Kabocha should stay at room temperature. Thin skinned summer squash like zucchini are the exception and should go into the refrigerator.
- Potatoes – of all types (including sweet potatoes) – like alliums like cool, dark, dry places. Sunlight and moisture facilitate ‘sprouting’ which is something you want to avoid. The sprouts won’t kill you but they taste terrible and will need to be trimmed off before you use the potatoes.
- Fresh Corn – this one is a bit tricky. If you’re going to use the corn within a day or two then leave it on the counter and save some space in the fridge. But, if you need to keep it longer than 2 days then it needs to be in the refrigerator to keep its freshness.
- Stone Fruit – like peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, etc. are in season now. Just like tomatoes their flesh will go mealy if stored in the fridge so keep them on the counter.
- Pineapples – a little secret – once picked they will not continue to ripen so buy one that is ripe and ready to eat the day you’re purchasing it and then just leave it on the counter until you cut it. The refrigerator will have absolutely no effect on its ripeness.
- Melon – this one is strictly a preference. If you keep your uncut melon on the counter at room temperature the flesh remains as soft as possible. When you refrigerate it, the flesh become more firm or crisp, so it really depends on how you like it.
And now you know the ‘rules’ on which fruits and vegetables to refrigerate and which to just leave on the counter!
A fabulous “quick” preparation for a favorite… wait a minute… what IS garlic anyhow?
Here’s a fun fact about garlic. While it’s probably easy to call it a vegetable it’s actually an allium like onions, shallots and leeks and is rarely, if ever, eaten on its own LIKE a vegetable. But, as a friend of mine likes to say, the discussion is merely academic.
Botanically speaking, garlic is actually part of the lily family and has been spicing up human food for thousands of years. Archeologists have found garlic among a list of favorite food flavorings and traditional medicine for Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Babylonians, and Greeks. These days, 80% of the world supply of garlic comes from China. I buy mine at my local Farmer’s Market. It can grow almost anywhere it is dry and warm.
There used to be a little restaurant – I forget the name – on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, right across the street from the famous “Hollyvine” office building where John Wayne once had his office. The restaurant served one of the best bowls of creamy roasted garlic soups I’ve ever had. And if that sounds delicious to you, you’ll want to know how to roast a head of garlic.
There’s nothing sweeter than roasted garlic – especially for spreading on crostini or if you’re making garlic bread, or as an ingredient in a creamy soup. You can serve it on your charcuterie board or on a separate board with some tasty sourdough. And the thing is, it’s so simple to do if you follow the recipe I found by TheKitchn.com. To emphasize the point (how easy it is), you can watch me make this on my own video.
- The first step, preheat your oven to 400°F and place a rack in the middle of the oven.
- Peel off the loose papery layers of the head of garlic. Don’t worry about the skin – keep that part intact so that it holds the “head” together.
- Cut straight through, about one-quarter of an inch off from the top of the head – not the root end.
- Place the head on a piece of aluminum foil–cut side up. Include the small tops of the heads that you cut off.
- Drizzle about 2 tsp of olive oil on the cut ends. Don’t skimp on the olive oil. Flavor is important, see “How to pick olive oil.”
- Roll up the foil into a closed packet. Make sure that the foil will hold the oil and not let it drip out. Place the packets directly on the oven rack and roast until soft–about 40 minutes.
- If you’re worried about oil dripping in your oven, place a baking sheet UNDER the packets.
Serve warm and savor the taste of this most ancient of delicacies.
Sophisticated but incredibly easy: smash some olives, crush a bit of garlic, shred some bread, and you’re good to go!
Want to bring something different to your 4th of July party that DOESN’T need refrigeration or special care? A while back, I found something genuinely fabulous in my favorite place to find fabulous things – Bon Appétit Magazine. It’s a perfect recipe for things like 4th of July parties where light, savory snacks with friends really hit the spot.
There’s only one part of this recipe that needs a bit more explanation – smashing olives and crushing the garlic. I know that there are all sorts of ways to do this, but my video gives you some easy ways that work for me. The rest is that simple.
- 4-5 ounces of drained green (I prefer Castelvetranos for their flavor) unpitted olives
- 3 medium-sized cloves of garlic
- 1 lemon
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil – essential to get the “good stuff” for this recipe.
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 3-4 ounces of crumbly feta cheese. I use President Cheese.
- 1 loaf of crusty bread
- Preheat oven to 400-degrees F
- Rip up your bread into bite-sized pieces and place them on a baking sheet. When the oven is ready, bake the pieces of bread for 5-8 minutes, or just long enough to make the them a bit crispy and golden.
- Lightly smash (by pressing the side of the knife blade directly on top) the olives to just break apart the skin and flatten slightly.
- Smash (using the same technique as for the olives – you don’t want them completely flat!) and peel 3 cloves of garlic.
- Use a vegetable peeler (this will give you nice wide strips) to peel the zest from the lemon. Remember – only the yellow, not the white which will be bitter.
- Place lemon peel, smashed olives, crushed garlic, ½ cup of good Extra Virgin olive oil, and ½ tsp of red pepper flakes into a small saucepan over med-low heat. Swirl every so often and cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until the garlic is golden around the edges.
- Crumble feta cheese into a shallow serving bowl.
- Pour the olive oil mixture over the feta and let it sit at least 10 minutes. Longer if possible, perhaps an hour or more, before serving.
- Serve together with your crisped bread pieces.
You can always double or treble this recipe for a larger crowd.
Some last DO’s and DON’Ts – DO remind your guests that the olives are unpitted, but DON’T worry about letting this sit out for as long as your guests are nibbling. It will go fast! A Negroni is the perfect adult beverage to accompany this appetizer.
Happy 4th of July, America!