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Shop the sale: Pears


A very simple pear-blue-cheese-and-pecan salad  was one of the most popular dishes on my menu when I owned a restaurant in Cozumel, Mexico.

No one ever seemed to figure out the secret ingredient in the dressing (maple syrup!) but everyone loved the texture and contrast of sweet, juicy, crisp pears to the salty, savory cheese and nuts.

Both green D’Anjou and Bosc pears are at special prices this week at your neighborhood store, so when you’re buying some for lunchboxes, get a few extra for this salad. You can use either one, as it’s a matter of taste and appearance preferences. Personally I find the brown-skinned Bosc tend to be a little sweeter, so you may find they present a little better contrast to the strong blue cheese flavor.

Pear, Blue Cheese and Pecan Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 small container spring mix lettuces  (or any lettuce mix of your choosing)
1 large or two small pears, halved, cored, and sliced thinly lengthwise
4 to 6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup salted or candied pecans
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, optional

For dressing:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup lime juice, fresh only (do not use bottled)
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
For dressing: In a squirt bottle or sealable plastic container, combine maple syrup, lime juice and olive oil. Seal container and shake well to combine. Season with salt and fresh pepper to taste. Shake again and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

In a med.-large mixing bowl, combine spring lettuce mix, pear slices, blue cheese and pecans. Toss to combine. Remove dressing from refrigerator and shake well to recombine.  Add about ¼-1/2 cup of dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Divide onto salad plates and serve immediately.



Product Talk: Yukon Gold potatoes


Restaurant consultants and food writers are calling 2012 the “Year of the Potato.” Well, personally, I think pretty much every year is the potato’s year, at least in the United States. Year in and year out, we eat more potatoes than any other vegetable.

Of all the potatoes out there, however, the one that is probably getting the most attention right now is the Yukon Gold. And there’s a good reason for that. These yellow-skinned, yellow-fleshed potatoes are naturally buttery and creamy, and are good just about any way you cook them.

You may have just heard of these golden potatoes in the last few years, as chefs and restaurants have discovered them, but they are not all that new. In fact, in much of the rest of the world, yellow potatoes have been the gold standard for centuries.

In the U.S., however, we have traditionally preferred potatoes with white flesh. That began to change only about a generation ago, after Canadian researchers developed the Yukon Gold by crossing North American white potatoes with yellow varieties from South America.

The result was a yellow-fleshed potato with skin so thin you don’t really have to peel them, and a tender flesh that is especially good for pan-frying, boiling, and mashing.

That probably has a lot to do with the unique texture and starch content. Yukon Golds do not have quite as much starch as a traditional baking potato like an Idaho or a russet, but they have a little more starch than a red potato, which is often boiled or mashed. They cook fairly quickly, so you do have to watch them, as they can get too soft and fall apart if overcooked.

Also, unlike some potatoes, they don’t turn grayish when cooked. In fact, they often turn a little more golden, so your mashed potatoes will have a pretty golden hue, even if you don’t use much butter to flavor them. 

Which, right there, is part of the reason potatoes are popular again in some circles. Now that the “low-carb” diet fad has died down, more people have realized that potatoes can actually be pretty good for you, as long as you don’t overload them with fat and salt. (A medium uncooked potato has only about 100 calories, but good chunks of Vitamin C, potassium and fiber.)

And that is where the Yukon Gold really stands out. You may find you that Yukon Golds have a richer flavor and creamier texture than other potatoes, so you can get by with less butter, cream, cheese or bacon in your favorite potato dishes. 

 

 



Product Talk: Darling clementines


Don’t confuse a clementine with an orange.

Yes, they’re part of the same family; a clementine is just a tiny type of mandarin orange, small enough to eat in just a few bites. But they are very sweet, juicy, have virtually no seeds and a very thin edible membrane. Plus, their thin peel just slides away with almost no effort. They are the perfect citrus fruit for kids – small enough to fit in little hands, and so easy to peel that children can do it themselves.

Only a few years ago, clementines weren’t that easy to find in supermarkets. Up until about a decade or two ago, most clementines we got here were imported, often from Europe, where their growing season is short and sweet.

But  once U.S. consumers started getting their hands on clementines, the demand grew. U.S. growers began planting more, especially in California. Today, at Brookshire’s, we carry two main brands of clementines:

Bagu: These are Spanish-grown clementines, and come in a five-pound wooden crate. Consistently sweet, and you’ll almost never run across a seed. Their season, however, is shorter, lasting only through January or February.

Cuties: California-grown, these are mandarin oranges, available in three-pound bags. Cuties have been developed to have a slightly longer harvesting season, and will likely be available through April. (Later in the season, Cuties are actually Murcott mandarins, which have the same small size, sweet flavor, thin skin and virtually seedless interior as the clementine.)

Which type you like better is largely a matter of taste. I’m partial to the Spanish ones, because I think they’re slightly sweeter, but either type makes a great snack or light dessert, especially this time of year, when you may be trying to atone for weeks of holiday indulging.

As a matter of fact, clementines are a great fruit to add to your diet. They are low in calories and high in Vitamin C. Eat three of them (and believe me, that’s not hard to do) and you will take in only about 100 calories, but you’ll meet your daily recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.



Shop the Sale: Apples galore


It may be almost Christmas, but apple season is still in full swing, and we’re still bringing in the best of the fall’s crop.

Just in time for last-minute baking or stocking stuffers, we’re offering special prices this week on some of our most popular varieties.

There’s an apple to suit every taste among this selection:

Jonagold: A cross between the Jonathan and the Golden Delicious, this apple carries the best traits of both its “parents:” It’s big like the Golden Delicious, but has a nicely tart flavor and crisp texture like the Jonathan. Particularly good in applesauce, but they also make a fine pie.

Gala: Originally developed in New Zealand, these are firm, crisp apples with a lot of juice and a flavor that’s on the sweet side of sweet-tart. To me, these are best eaten fresh, or made into a Waldorf salad with grapes, walnuts and a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing.

Ambrosia: These are very sweet, firm apples which are not as acidic as many other varieties, so children often particularly enjoy these. A good all-around apple for snacking, baking or cooking.

Pink Lady: Thought to be a cross between the old favorite Golden Delicious and a Lady William, an apple popular in Australia but not in the United States, this is the brand name for a variety also known as Cripps Pink. The Pink Lady is more sweet than tart, but juicy and very firm. They’re best eaten out of hand or tossed into a salad, but they make a perfectly respectable pie.



Shop the Sale: Hass Avocados


Hass avocados are the Mercedes of avocados – beautiful  and consistently high-quality. But they’re also an affordable luxury, especially this week, as we’ve just started a special 5-for-$5 deal on large Hass avocados in our produce sections.

These avocados are highly recognizable because of their dark green, pebbly skin, sometimes with a deep purple or blackish tinge. But the color of the rind isn’t the best way to choose them, according to the experts at the Hass Avocado Board.

Instead, you should gently squeeze the avocado in the palm of your hand, without using your fingertips (to avoid bruising the fruit), to determine if it will be ready when you are. (You don’t want the disappointment of bringing home a bunch of beautiful avocados and realizing they haven’t ripened enough for the guacamole you planned for supper!) Here’s their guide to choosing:

Firm avocados: If the avocado will not yield at all to gentle pressure, they’re not ready to eat. They will ripen at room temperature in up to four-five days, so buy these if you’re not planning to eat right away.

“Breaking” avocados: Avocado isn’t rock hard, but doesn’t quite yield to gentle pressure. These will be ready to eat in two or three days.

Ripe avocados: These yield to gentle pressure, but don’t feel too mushy or soft. You can eat these right away. Store them in the fridge to keep them from softening too much.

Hass avocados make great fresh guacamole, of course, but there’s so much else you can do with fresh avocados. Make a BLA sandwich – bacon, lettuce, and slices of creamy avocado.  Puree them into soup or salad dressing. Make a chunky pico de gallo for fish or shrimp, or just to serve with chips.

Or try this recipe for an out-of-the ordinary vegetable dish, an interesting side dish idea for the holidays, from the Hass Avocado Board. (They have lots of other recipes, which you can find here. (hyperlink to http://www.avocadocentral.com/avocado-recipes)

Holiday Vegetable and Hass Avocado Saute

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ripe fresh Hass avocado, seeded, peeled and cut into chunks (about 8 ounces)

Directions:
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallot and thyme, sauté for 3 minutes.

Mix in zucchini, bell pepper and lemon peel, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Lower heat and cover, cooking for 3 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice with avocado. Add to skillet and gently mix. Cook for 2 minutes to allow flavors to blend.



Product Talk: The gift of fruit


The tradition of giving fruit as a holiday gift is an old one, but it’s just as good an idea today as it was 50 years ago. In these days, when everybody seems to be avoiding sugar, developing food allergies, or going on a diet, fruit is one food gift that just about every person on your gift list will appreciate.

We are making it even easier this year to finish your holiday shopping, by carrying fruit gift packs that are ready to give to family, friends, clients or neighbors. Most of our stores have several gift ideas available, so look for these in your neighborhood store or ask your produce manager to see what gift packs may be available this season:

Spanish Clementines: Sweet, seedless and easy to peel, clementines have a smaller window of availability than most other citrus fruits. They’re at their peak from about November through January – which might be why they’re sometimes called “Christmas oranges.” Available in five-pound gift crate.

California Navel Oranges:  Perhaps because they were once available only to the wealthy, oranges continue to be associated with prosperity and luxury, and remain a traditional Christmas treat. Of course, oranges are also at their peak, and most delicious, at this time of year.   Available in gift crate, approximately 24 to 36 count.

Texas Rio Star Grapefruits: Texas’ shining contribution to the citrus industry, these are the sweetest, juiciest grapefruit you can find; the kind that even people who swear they don’t like grapefruit end up loving. Available in holiday gift pack, approximately 12-18 count.

Red Delicious Apples: Shiny, picture-perfect red apples are always a good gift-giving choice; have you ever heard of anyone who didn’t like apples?  Didn’t think so. Available in holiday gift pack, featuring Washington-grown apples, approximately 18-22 count.



Product Talk: Pomelos


If you’ve noticed the giant, greenish pomelos in the produce department, you may have just thought these citrus fruits were just freakishly large, unripened grapefruit.

Actually, the pomelo is just a distant cousin of the grapefruit – but you may find you like them even better.  Most people will find them juicier, sweeter and milder than most grapefruit.

In fact, if it weren’t for pomelos, we probably wouldn’t even have grapefruit today. Pomelos (sometimes called “pummelos” ) are native to southeast Asia, and were particularly common in  Malaysia, Indonesia and southern China, even as far back as thousands of years ago.

According to the authoritative Oxford Companion to Food, food historians believe that sailors brought pomelos to the Carribbean West Indies in the 17th century. There, they were cultivated, cross-bred and refined until the modern grapefruit was produced.

Only in the last few years have pomelos been common in U.S. supermarkets again. Maybe that’s because of appearances: The pomelo does look like an ungainly stepsister to more common, petite citrus fruits. Its skin is usually green or yellowish-green, and slightly rough.  Pomelos are usually at least an inch or two larger in diameter than even the largest grapefruit.

The skin, or rind, is also very thick and soft, with a thick white pith. Rather than eating it on the half-shell like a grapefruit, it’s easier to eat a pomelo like an orange, by peeling away the rind and separating the fruit into sections. The flesh doesn’t have the tart edge of a grapefruit or the high acidity of other citrus fruits.

You can use pomelo in just about the same way as you would a grapefruit, in a salad or by itself. Peak season is now through late winter.



Shop the Sale: Texas grapefruit


Everything is bigger and better in Texas – even the grapefruit.

I’m talking of course, about Texas Rio Star grapefruit, which are just now coming into their peak season, and which you’ll find on sale starting today at Brookshire’s.

To me, Rio Star grapefruit are just better than other kinds out there. The deep-red flesh is sweeter and juicier than the typical pink or white grapefruit from other parts of the country. Much of that is because these grapefruit have been bred to have a high sugar-to-acid ratio, but it also is due to the way they are handled. They are allowed to ripen on the trees down in south Texas, and then picked at peak freshness and rushed to the store.

You probably eat grapefruit by themselves, or maybe squeezed into juice, but this Vietnamese-inspired salad is a really interesting fusion of sweet, spicy, savory and tart, all in one refreshing salad. 

Fish sauce and chili sambal are available in the Asian section in many larger stores. You can substitute the more common Sriracha sauce (commonly known as rooster sauce) for the chili sambal, but it will not be quite as hot. You can skip the fish sauce entirely, if you want, but the salad won’t be as complex or interesting without it.  If you skip the fish sauce, you may need to add a bit of salt to taste, as fish sauce is quite salty.

Vietnamese Style Grapefruit Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 large grapefruit
1 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 medium size carrot, cut into matchsticks
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped, roasted peanuts 

Dressing
Ingredients:
2 Tbs Fish sauce
1 1/2 Tbs lime juice, fresh-squeezed
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp chili sambal 

Directions:
Section and clean grapefruits.

In a large bowl, toss cucumber strips with salt. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the salt to draw out excess water.

Mix together the ingredients for the dressing.

Place a small sauté pan on medium high heat and cook the shallots and garlic until shallots are caramelized, about 3 minutes, don’t burn.

Drain any excess water from cucumber and mix with carrots, caramelized shallots and garlic.

Add the mint, chopped peanuts, and dressing and toss well. Transfer to a plate or large bowl and serve.



Dine-In: Rustic Corn Chowder


I know that most people think of corn as a summer vegetable – and yes, it’s hard to beat fresh roasting ears, just steamed or grilled with butter.

But as an ingredient in other dishes, I really enjoy corn most during the fall. There is something about its sweetness and hearty flavor that goes especially well in soups and casseroles and cold-weather dishes like savory corn pudding. This corn chowder is really too thick, rich and filling for a summer supper – but it’s perfect now that temperatures have finally started to cool down just a bit.

Thanks to extended growing seasons and better shipping and handling, you can find good, fresh sweet corn-on-the-cob in the produce section year-round these days. You can substitute good-quality frozen corn in this recipe if you really must, but the taste won’t be quite as bright and the texture may not be quite as good. If you are substituting frozen corn, you’ll need about five cups; keep two cups whole and use as is, and run the other three cups through your food process or blender briefly to get a roughly pureed texture. 

Corn Chowder

Ingredients:
10 ears corn husks and silks removed
3 to 4 slices bacon, cut into pieces
1 Tbs butter
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
3 Tbs  Unbleached all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
3/4  lb large red potatoes, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Bay leaf
1tsp thyme leaves, chopped fine
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs Italian parsley, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp table salt
ground black pepper

Directions:
Stand corn on end. Using chef’s knife cut kernels from 4 ears of corn (you should have about 3 cups); transfer to medium bowl and set aside. Grate kernels from remaining 6 ears on large holes of box grater, then firmly scrape any pulp remaining on cobs with back of knife (you should have 2 generous cups kernels and pulp). Transfer to separate bowl and set aside.

Sauté bacon in Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, until crisp and golden brown. Reduce heat to low, stir in butter and onions, cover pot, and cook until softened, about 12 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add stock. Add potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, milk, grated corn and pulp; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add reserved corn kernels and heavy cream and return to simmer; simmer until corn kernels are tender yet still slightly crunchy, about 5 minutes longer. Discard bay leaf. Stir in parsley, salt, and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Makes about 2 quarts. 



German Cabbage


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Serves:8

Ingredients:
2 Tbs Food Club Canola Oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs red cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Food Club White Vinegar
1/4 cup Food Club Light Brown Sugar
4 slices turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled 

Directions:
In a skillet, over medium heat, add oil and garlic; cook garlic for a few seconds. Add cabbage and cook for about 5 minutes, or until wilted. Increase heat to high and add vinegar and brown sugar; mix until cabbage is evenly coated. Continue to cook until liquid begins to reduce. Remove from heat and add cooked bacon. 

Nutritional Information:  Calories Per Serving: 92, Fat: 4 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 5 mg, Sodium: 83 mg, Carbohydrates: 12 g, Fiber: 3 g, Protein: 3 g. 

© 2011, Brookshire Grocery Co.  Nutrient counts are rounded to the nearest whole number.  All dietary and lifestyle changes should be supervised by a physician. 

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The products mentioned in “Share, the Brookshire’s Blog” are sold by Brookshire Grocery Company, DBA Brookshire’s . Some products may be mentioned as part of a relationship between its manufacturer and Brookshire’s.

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