Jeff Tiedeman: Cooking freshYou just can't beat in-season vegetables.
I couldn’t survive without fresh vegetables in the kitchen. Just about everything that I cook contains at least one fresh veggie — and usually more.
The other night, for example, I made a shrimp and pasta primavera. Its ingredients included fresh carrots and broccoli. Just two days before that, I had some homemade soup simmering on the stove that featured at least three fresh vegetables — carrots, cabbage and onions — as well as a few of the frozen variety.
Nutritionally, frozen vegetables rank right up there with the fresh ones. (Canned vegetables usually are the least nutritious because of the extensive heating process that is used in order to process them safely. They also are usually is higher in sodium.)
But tastewise, in-season vegetables can’t be beaten, although the ones that are frozen shortly after they have been harvested can be better than the fresh produce that has been improperly stored in transit in or in-store.
And if they are prepared the right way and by using a little creativity, fresh vegetables that are in season make everyday meals something special.
I’m a little spoiled when it comes to cooking with fresh vegetables because of being a gardener. With the weather turning warmer this week and small green sprouts of some perennials starting to show themselves as the days continue to get longer, I can’t help to start thinking about planting my garden. I’m especially pondering the seeds that traditionally can go in the ground earlier than when you would put out transplants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. (Radishes, onions, lettuces, spinach, peas, spring onions and seed potatoes or potato eyes can go into the ground as soon as the soil can be worked. Within six weeks, you will be enjoying the bounty.)
If you’re not a gardener or don’t have access to a farmers market, there’s no reason to fret. These days, most vegetables are available year-round, said Loren Kartes, produce manager at Hugo’s in East Grand Forks.
But there are some veggies that come around to supermarkets only at certain times of the year, when they’re in season. In spring, those include asparagus and artichokes, two of the most nutritious vegetables around.
Asparagus, which I like steamed and creamed as well as broiled (with salt, pepper, garlic powder and drizzled with a little olive oil), contains 114 percent of recommended daily allowance per 1-cup serving of vitamin K, which is important for bone health, and nearly 66 percent of RDA of folate, which helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
Artichokes, which in this country are grown in California, are low in calories, are an excellent source of fiber (more than 10 grams per artichoke) and vitamin C and a good source of folate, magnesium and potassium. In addition, a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found artichokes have more antioxidants than all other vegetables.
I’ve only eaten artichokes a couple of times, and both were steamed and served with a dipping sauce. (For some tips on how to cook and eat artichokes, go to http://artichokes.org/, or go to www.oceanmist.com, which shows 11 different ways to cook an artichoke, including steaming, baking, grilling or cooked quickly in a microwave.)
An old friend of mine always teases me when I talk about making a dish that contains fresh vegetables because of the chopping motion of my hands during our conversation.
I don’t make any apologies for my response. I just like chopping things.
Plus, I’m French.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.