As our kids grow, we realize the importance of teaching them how food gets from the dirt to their dish. It’s not just about developing healthy eating habits, but also learning about seasonality, ripeness and sustainability in a fun and experiential way.
We’re teaching them that dirt to dish means striving for a shorter distance between the farm and home, and that if they eat seasonally, their food will be ripe, fresh and at the height of flavor during its natural harvest time. This week’s lesson is radishes. They grow underground with just the leafy tops sticking up, and if you pick them in early spring, they’ll be small, sweet and crunchy – perfect for a child’s palate.
The French discovered a beautiful way to introduce children to radishes in their peak with just a touch of butter and sea salt. My brother Tony would agree that this is the perfect way for any age to eat the radishes he grows on his Michigan farm.
4 slices baguette, sliced diagonally ½-inch-thick
2 tablespoons butter, softened
A bunch of fresh summer radishes, thinly sliced
Sea salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly toast the bread for 5 minutes. Spread with butter and top with sliced radishes. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.
Makes 4 servings
Here are a few tips for other seasonal produce this month.
It’s easy to prepare fresh artichokes. Once they are cooked, you can serve them immediately, chill them to eat later, or remove their leaves and choke and slice the hearts to use in pasta and rice dishes. Fill a large pot of water two-thirds full and add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for each 2 quarts of water. Hold an artichoke on its side and make a horizontal cut all the way through about 2 inches below the tip to remove the thorns. Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon olive oil into the center of each artichoke and place in the water, cut side up. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until an inner leaf is easy to remove with tongs. Smaller artichokes will need about 20 minutes, while jumbos might take as long as 40 minutes.
Picking the perfect avocado isn’t always easy. Their bumpy green skin can hide the telltale blemishes or shiny hue that we often look for when buying produce. Still, the basic rules of selection apply. Choose an avocado that’s heavy for its size without obvious soft spots. The flesh should have a uniform firmness and give slightly when pressed with your thumb. Unless you’re planning on using an avocado on the day of purchase, buy one that will ripen in a few days. Make a bouquet of avocados, mangoes and tomatoes in a bowl to grace your kitchen countertop while you wait for the perfect moment of ripeness.
Raw garlic is sharp and assertive while roasted garlic is mellow and sophisticated. To roast a head of garlic, select one that’s firm, heavy and without sprouts. Trim off the cap of each head to barely expose the cloves. Arrange the heads, cut side down, in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and salt. Cover with foil and bake in a moderate oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until soft. Add roasted garlic to sauces, steaks, stews, stir-frys and sandwiches. It will stay fresh in your refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
Trim off both ends of the grapefruit until you see the pulp. Set the grapefruit on one end. Place the blade of your knife between the pulp and the skin. Slice off the skin by following the contour of the fruit, one slice at a time. Trim away any remaining small pieces of pith or skin. Place the grapefruit on its side while gently holding it in place. Carefully cut out the segments by slicing between the membranes.
Chiffonade is a French term for ribbons. When you chiffonade a fresh herb, you slice thinly from tip to stem. In this case, stack up 4 to 5 leaves of basil and slice. Repeat a few times until you have enough ribbons for a beautiful garnish. Sprinkle over the tomatoes and mozzarella for a colorful red, white and green Italian salad. Always chiffonade just before serving, as the ribbons will wilt quickly.
Like spinach, leeks harbor an incredible amount of sand. They’re deceiving though, because the dirt is hidden inside. Cut off the dark green top and slice in half lengthwise. Keep the root end intact or the leek will fall apart. See the sand? Wash with lots of cold water, running your fingers gently between the long layers. Begin slicing crosswise from the top to the root end. You’ll finish with half-moon shaped slices that are free of grit!
Look for more blogs coming on dirt to dish because the warm months are prime growing season wherever you live, and because we’re helping with dirt to dish snacks at the boys’ summer camp.
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