17. May 2008 20:39
I’ve only recently realized I am a big fan of purple food.
I really enjoy eggplant, figs, grapes (raisins, too) and plums. I mostly prefer the purple variations of standard green food: purple-tinged artichokes, purple-tipped asparagus, purple-colored cabbage and purple string beans. Then, there are the unusual purple variations I enjoy: purple tomatoes, purple bell peppers, purple broccoli, purple carrots, purple basil, and even purple potatoes. Now, I’ve added a new product to my growing list of purple foods – purple rocket.
Rocket is a generic name for the increasingly popular salad green, which is also known as arugula, roquette (to the French, and probably why the English call it rocket), rucola, rauke and senfkohl. The purple rocket is one variety from the dozens of other types, which are either cultivated or found wild throughout the Mediterranean region and central Europe.
I’m actually quite surprised at rocket’s growing popularity in Switzerland, because the Swiss palate tends to be…well neutral. The sharp or pungent flavor of the rocket comes from being a member of the mustard family. The flavor intensifies as the plant matures through warmer months. More...
13. May 2008 12:30
May brings us vegetables masquerading as fruits, and fruits which are more comfortable in savory dishes. But of course…the month is not merely limited to confused roles. May is also the best time of year to enjoy locally produced asparagus, plenty of colorful young root vegetables, a large selection of fresh greens, delicious Italian tomatoes and increasing amounts of fresh fruits.
Here are a few products to definitely look for…some to avoid…and even a few to hunt for in the wild.
Asparagus in May should always occupy the top of anyone’s shopping list. The best choices for white asparagus are those which come from Southern Germany, the Alsace and Provence regions of France, and the Donau region (Austria/Slovakia). White asparagus from Switzerland are showing up increasingly more at the market, and as a result, prices for imported asparagus are also on the rise. There is a scam to be aware of while shopping for white asparagus. Some vendors intentionally label lower grade (and lower priced) Greek or Hungarian asparagus as higher priced Donau or German asparagus. You can check for absolute freshness by rubbing two spears together…they should produce a noticeable screeching sound. Look for green asparagus coming from Italy, Spain or Switzerland. As a general rule, asparagus should be consumed as close to harvest time as possible to experience the fullest flavor. There are also multiple opportunities to purchase asparagus directly from the farmer throughout most of Switzerland. Around Zürich, consider taking a short drive to Flaach about 20 minutes away to visit the Spaltenstein family farm, or check out Jucker Farms, where you can harvest your own asparagus daily until the end of June. More...
1. May 2008 08:46
Spring inspires creativity. I am reminded of that four times per week as I make my way to the market.
I think about tomatoes and artichokes. I consider the traits of green asparagus versus white asparagus. I wonder how the cucumbers are doing right now and if they are ready. I contemplate the weather and try to determine if this year’s April rains were a benefit or a curse. I see sprouts of fresh nettles bursting through the ground, and I marvel at the abundance of fresh food that surrounds all of us…at least if we look.
I love the simplicity of spring.
But, the foods of spring enter the world with a scream and demand individual attention. They are an alarm clock going off sooner than we hoped for. They have flavors which can be assertive and difficult to understand. They seem to somehow shout inside our mouth and know just which bitter taste buds to massage. But after the initial shock…well…I think it’s nice to get back to those fresh flavors.
I’m awake and inspired…ready to shop.
I spot some green asparagus at one of my favorite vegetable stands, which appear too imperfect to be mass-produced. I am told they were harvested just several hours earlier. I buy them without hesitation, and automatically imagine matching them with some very young thyme growing on my balcony…and perhaps a small amount of butter. I move on, weaving my way through the growing number of bicycles and find myself in front of my preferred meat vendor. I spot some porc noir filets…and bistecca Fiorentina…but it’s the Irish lamb filets that win me over - a perfect companion to the asparagus I believe. Yeah…a bit of rosemary on that lamb and I think the meal is complete. Nothing more is needed.
I can’t wait to get cooking.
Finding and eating fresh food is always satisfying, and you know - it’s not that difficult. The world is one big garden. Let’s eat!