Friday, December 26, 2014

Forget the Can: How to Choose and Cut Fresh Pineapples

My friend Karen has a suggestion.

"Hey, how about taking a break from writing about weirdo fruits and bizarre vegetables and write instead about something practical, like how to choose a good melon or cut up a pineapple? You know, something useful?"

Hey, I'm all about useful and practical. Was not this blog's very first entry Make It Pretty about making attractive fruit platters?

But Karen is right that I have digressed from time to time from this Useful 'n' Practical path, so I will try to heed her advice. December isn't the best time for melon tips, but it's always pineapple importing season in New York.

What should you look for in a fresh pineapple? First, you want a nice, tropical scent. Avoid pineapples with no scent, which are likely to be under-ripe and flavorless, or with fermented or rotten scents. Also avoid pineapples that are predominantly green. A bit of brown may be okay - it was in the pineapple shown above - provided the brown areas aren't spongy, soft or bruised. I personally haven't found the pull-out-a-leaf method (if the leaf releases easily, the pineapple is ripe - or overripe) helpful in determining flavor, but it is kind of fun. Just make sure you leave some leaves on for the next tester.

Now you're ready to cut up your pineapple. For about $20 you could buy a gadget that cores and slices the pineapple. Like leaf-pulling, using this tool is kind of fun. If it takes the intimidation factor out of enjoying fresh pineapple, great. On the other hand, the corer does waste a fair amount of the pineapple, and it's one more item to buy and maintain. It's not hard to cut up a pineapple using one of those nice sharp knives that you ideally already have on hand. I use my my trusty chef's knife.

1) Cut the bottom of the pineapple off. Some people cut off the crown at this stage, but I like to keep the crown as a handle.

2) Stand the pineapple up and begin cutting off the peel. Don't worry if you leave some peel or "eye" in place. You'll be going back and correcting your work.

3) Find the diagonal line on which a collection of eyes fall. Make a cut to the right of this line.

4) Then make an angled cut to the left of the eyes and remove a V shaped chunk of eyes.  

5) Repeat throughout the pineapple.

6) Vive la Revolution! It's time to cut off the crown.

7) Interestingly, the V cuts end up being a bit decorative.

8) Cut the pineapple in half, then quarters.

9) Remove the woody core. Frugalistas can use the core to make fruit vinegar, stock  and skin treatments.

10) And after that, it's off to the fruit platter. Note the decorative fins your V cuts have given your pineapple slices!

A nice change of pace from the lifesaver ring shape.

Monday, December 15, 2014

What the heck is that? Broccoli leaves

Of course, broccoli leaves = the leaves of the broccoli plant.

But who knew these leaves, now collectively dubbed BroccoLeaf, had become their own produce product?

One of my favorite fruit vendors recently had bunches of organic broccoli leaves for sale. A plastic sign tied to each bunch announced the debut of a new vegetable: BroccoLeaf: "The Broccoleaf has arrived," it (virtually) intoned. The sign, ingeniously wedded to a rubber band, declared,

With all the wonderful nutrients of broccoli, the BroccoLeaf provides even more versatility and vibrancy to your food! Add BroccoLeaf to your eggs...Chop BroccoLeaf and add to any salad...BroccLeaf is perfect for pastas and main dishes..Try BroccoLeaf in your smoothie.

It was hard not to conclude that BroccoLeaf had a bad case of Kale Envy

What's so great about you?
But I was absolutely ready to cheer on Team BroccoLeaf. Broccoli has been my favorite non-potato vegetable ever since I was Li'l Savant. I was a perfect target for the anything-kale-can-do-I-can-do-better rhetoric.

I usually steam or saute kale, so I figured I'd try something similar with the BroocoLeaf. Kale omelet fans, Power Green smoothie enthusiasts: you know what to do.

The verdict: I'm a BroccoLeaf Believer! It really did taste better than kale - to me, anyway. But I'm the first to admit my limits as a predictor of The Next Big Produce Thing.

If BroccoLeaf takes off, will the garbage areas of the Union Square Greenmarket, with their haphazard piles of cruciferous leaves, be viewed as treasure chests?

And if broccoli leaves become established, thrill-of-the-new chefs will have to go a bit further afield to impress their jaded patrons.

BrussoLeaf, anyone?