Down & Dirty Articles

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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Down & Dirty: Melons

By • August 3, 2012 • 6 Comments

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Did you know that melons are in the same family -- Cucurbitaceae -- as cucumbers, winter squash, and zucchini? Their leaves, flowers, and stems are all similar, though of course the end product is very different. (And no, you can't cross-pollinate a pattypan squash with a honeydew!) Today we're talking all about melons, to give you plenty to think about next time you lug one home from the farmers' market.

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Down & Dirty: Peaches, Plums, Apricots

By • July 27, 2012 • 1 Comment

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This week we're celebrating stone fruit -- any fruit with a fleshy exterior surrounding a shell that harbors a fruit seed. Does that sound complicated? Just think of peaches, apricots, plums, and nectarines: delicious flesh on the outside, hard pit on the inside, tiny seed inside of that. (Cherries, which we got down and dirty with last week, are also technically stone fruit!)

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Down & Dirty: Garlic Scapes

By • July 13, 2012 • 9 Comments

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Garlic is a funny -- and extremely versatile -- plant: it's planted in the late fall, after most other plants are done for the season, and sleeps all winter long before sprouting come springtime. The bulbs aren't ready to harvest until summer -- and even then they need a weeks-long curing period to dry them out for long-term storage. Fortunately, there are other ways to get your garlic fix in spring and early summer. Young garlic is one -- the bulbs are soft, mild, and not yet hardened into cloves -- and garlic scapes are another.

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Down & Dirty: Fava Beans

By • June 28, 2012 • 5 Comments

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Fava beans aren't afraid to give you a hard time -- what other vegetable needs to be shelled twice? But they're worth it. Their intensely green pods are used in spring dishes all over the Mediterranean world, from Italy (in the spring stew la vignarola) to Iran (blanched and tossed with angelica). FOOD52er innoabrd's Besara -- think of it as Egyptian hummus -- is another classic preparation.

As you blanch and peel your fava beans to tender perfection, here's more about them, both inside and out.

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Down & Dirty: Strawberries

By • June 21, 2012 • 3 Comments

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Strawberries are nuts! Actually, they're fruit -- and despite the name, they're not berries. Whether you're eating them plain or with clotted cream, stacking them sky-high with meringues, or using them to top a spinach salad, here's everything you need to know about buying, storing, and eating everyone's favorite all-American fruit (literally -- the Pilgrims had them at the first Thanksgiving)that's versatile, delicious, and as good for snacking as it is for sherbet, ricotta, or roasting.

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