Down & Dirty Articles

Down & Dirty: Bell Peppers

By • October 12, 2012 • 1 Comment

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Recently, we learned all about hot peppers. Today we turn to their mild-mannered cousin, the bell pepper. Crunchy when raw, meltingly sweet when roasted, bell peppers come in a rainbow of colors. And unlike other peppers, which vary in heat depending on factors ranging from their species to the weather, you'll never find a hot bell pepper: due to a recessive gene, they don't produce capsaicin, the chemical that causes spiciness.

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Down & Dirty: Grapes

By • October 5, 2012 • 2 Comments

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How many types of grape are there? If you answered two -- "red" and "white," aka purple and green -- well, you're not the only one. In reality, there are hundreds of grape varieties used in wine-making, but even at the best farmers' markets you'll only find a handful of different types of "table grapes," as the snacking varieties are called.

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Down & Dirty: Hot Peppers

By • September 28, 2012 • 10 Comments

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To the uninitiated, spiciness is binary: just hot or mild. When you look closer, though, you'll find that "spicy" can encompass fruity, meaty, and citrusy flavors. Today we're looking at 9 spicy members of the plant family Capsicum -- hot peppers -- and how they differ from each other.

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Down & Dirty: Radishes

By • September 21, 2012 • 0 Comments

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Radishes -- peppery, perky, and dependable -- are easy to take for granted. They're among the first green vegetables to appear in the spring and one of the last to disappear come winter, so it's easy to pass them up in favor of other more glamorous brassicas, to say nothing of lettuces and nightshades.

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Down & Dirty: Tomatillos

By • August 31, 2012 • 3 Comments

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Although tomatillos are only a distant relation of the tomato -- they're actually in the same genus as cape gooseberries and husk cherries -- it's true that the similarities between the two can't be missed. Their affinity for salsa, for example, or the complex flavors they take on after roasting. After all, they're both members of the nightshade family. But the similarities end there.

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Down & Dirty: Okra

By • August 29, 2012 • 7 Comments

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They're beautiful, they're rich with history, and...they're slimy. For many, memories of okra begin and end with their signature mucilage, caused by the sugars and proteins inside the plant that are activated by heat. (Don't worry: we'll be discussing the best ways to avoid okra's goo. Unless it's gooeyness you're after, of course.)

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Down & Dirty: Eggplant

By • August 27, 2012 • 3 Comments

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The nightshades we know best are tomatoes and potatoes, but eggplant has its own rightful spot on the list. Bulbous with waxy, shiny skin, eggplant can be a little daunting -- and that's not mentioning the spikes that can grow on its top stem! Beneath that tough exterior, though, lies creamy white flesh waiting for you to blitz into dip or simmer into sauce. Today we tackle eggplants -- also called aubergines, also called delicious.

 

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Down & Dirty: Corn

By • August 24, 2012 • 0 Comments

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Like tomatoes, corn takes on sacred status in the summer -- we herald its arrival and gobble it up cooked into polenta, salads, soups, and even just on the cob. And like tomatoes, corn isn't exactly what it seems to be. It's a grain, not a vegetable! The corn we know and love is actually harvested far ahead of its starchy, dry mature stage -- think of the dried-out stuff you see at the hardware store or in birdseed that is so different from the fresh, milky, just-picked ears that we crave. Harvested after the kernels have been pollinated but before they reach physiological maturity, corn is late summer's sweetest treat.

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Down & Dirty: Tomatoes

By • August 17, 2012 • 8 Comments

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Tomatoes are the beauty queens of summer: beautiful, a bit high-maintenance, and occasionally prone to bursting. And they're not afraid to break your heart: tomatoes just aren't worth eating in any season but the summer. As red as a hothouse tomato looks, it can't compare to the juicy, intense flavor of a sun-ripened sungold at farmers' market.

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Down & Dirty: Summer Squash

By • August 10, 2012 • 6 Comments

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Summer squash -- from zucchini to pattypans -- get a bad rap. They grow like crazy (what home gardener hasn't discovered a baseball bat-sized squash hiding in their garden in late August?) and produce squash for as long as the weather holds, which means the harvest keeps on coming. Jokes about ditching baskets of zucchini on your hapless neighbors' doorsteps aside, there's a lot to love about the much-maligned cucurbit.

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