Last week Aimee introduced us the farmers market at the Great Park. Today she is sharing with us some of her favorite tips on choosing, cleaning & preparing some of her favorite winter produce…

Now, I know that winter produce isn’t as sexy as some of its summer counterparts.  Let’s face it; it’s hard to compete with exotic fruits like papaya, guava, and dragon fruit.  But, if you’re willing to give it a chance, I promise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  The secret to enjoying a winter bounty is simple; know how to pick it, and know how to cook it.

ARTICHOKES

How to Pick Them: Look for artichokes that are dense with tight leaves.

How to Clean Them:  Chop off the stem at the base of the artichoke.  Using kitchen scissors, go row by row, snipping off the thorny tips of each of the petals. Finally, sit the artichoke in a pot add enough water to cover about half of the artichoke then add some salt and other desired flavors to the water.

How to Cook Them: Keep it simple, this recipe is all you need.

Lemon, Basil & Garlic Steamed Artichoke Recipe

Ingredients
2 medium sized artichokes
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tsp of salt
2 tbs of lemon juice
15–20 fresh basil leaves

Directions
Trim artichokes and place in water
Add lemon juice, and salt to the water.
Slip about half of the pieces of garlic and basil leaves in available openings in the artichoke and drop the rest into the water.
Cover and boil for 35–45 minutes.
When petals can easily be removed, your artichoke is done

CAULIFLOWER

* How to Pick Them: Look for cauliflower that is not too white, a slight yellow is color is better.  It should be heavy for its size and try to avoid picking one with any brown spots.

* How to Clean Them: Run under cold water to remove any debris that may be on the top.  Remove the core by cutting through the center of the cauliflower once and then make a v cut on either end.  This will loosen the flores and making removing the core easy.  Also remove any extra leaves that may still be on the cauliflower

* How to Cook Them: I’ve included two recipes that I love.  The mashed option is a great way to get kids to enjoy cauliflower, and the roasted cauliflower with pancetta is a crowd pleaser (for everyone!)

Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan and Pancetta

BEETS

* How to Pick Them: Look for beets with nice firm stock of green leaves on top.  The beet itself should be firm to the touch and a deep reddish purple color.  Red beets have the sweetest flavor profile.

* How to Clean Them:  Remove stems and root ends but cutting the leaves and the root of the beets.  Peal the beet with a potato peeler to remove the tough outer skin, if you are roasting the beets it is sometimes easier to peel them once they’ve been roasted.

* How to Cook Them: Some beet inspired recipes are time consuming, but I like this one because the hands on time is minimal and the result is fantastic.

Roasted Beets and Sauteed Beet Greens

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Once again, thank you Aimee! Aimed with these tips & tricks, suddenly a trip to the farmers market doesn’t seem so overwhelming!

xoxo, K

p.s. To read more from Aimee, or to get to know her better… read her post HERE.

image via the Great Park.