Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables: A Commonsense Guideby Elizabeth Schneider
More timely than ever, the visionary volume includes produce now available nationwide -- arugula, mango, kiwi,/i>/i>
'Its' a truly invaluable trove of culinary historical, and botanical knowledge,' wrote Gourmet's book reviewer in 1997, lamenting that Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables was out of print. Now the classic has returned in its original hard cover.
More timely than ever, the visionary volume includes produce now available nationwide -- arugula, mango, kiwi, snow peas, and Swiss chard, as well as less familiar passion fruit, carambola, tamarillo, and chanterelles. Backdrops rich in culinary, botanical, and historical information set the stage for nearly 100 of these produce items. Detailed methods of selection, storage, and preparation lead to more than 400 easy-to-follow recipes designed to bring out the best in each fruit and vegetable.
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Uncommon Fruits & VegetablesA Commonsense Guide
By Elizabeth Schneider
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Elizabeth Schneider
All right reserved.
AAnise (or Sweet Anise)
(Eruca vesicaria subspecies sativa)
also Rucola, Rugula, Roquette, Mediterranean Rocket, Rocket-Salad
A friend from the South cannot believe that catfish is virtually unknown in New York City (neither can I). When I leave the city I am astonished to find that the nippy leaf I dote on is often a curiosity. Raised in Greenwich Village, where most greengrocers were Italian during the time I was growing up, I never realized that arugula (pronounced ah-ROO-guh-lah) was a specialty grown nearby for my neighbors in Little Italy. Although it has finally done some spreading out in this country, arugula has never really traveled far from the Mediterranean area and western Asia where it originated, except to accompany those who grew up on it.
The tender, mustard-flavored, bitterish green is standard salad-bowl fare in Italy, the South of France, and Greece, where it is used as the old herbals specified, as "a seasoning leaf." Arugula resembles the leaves of the radish (a close relative) in flavor and appearance. Like watercress, it is more than a leafy green, less than a strong herb. The combination of new Americancuisine and a national interest in nutritious greens has moved this member of the vast Crucifer pack out of the shadows of small Italian restaurants and into the California sunlight.
Like fresh chili-peppers, it has one of those tastes that you crave once you've adopted it -- or it, you.
Selection and Storage: Arugula is usually available year round. If your market doesn't stock it, ask the grocer to order some, as it is widely distributed. Arugula is sold in small bunches, with roots attached, and should be bright emerald, with no sign of yellowing or limpness. Nor should it appear waterlogged, which it will become if kept too long on ice.
Arugula is most perishable. Wrap the roots in damp toweling, enclose the bunch in plastic, and refrigerate for a day or two, if you must.
Use: Taste arugula before you prepare it. Like radishes, it can be quite hot, especially during the summer, and you may want to use it sparingly.
Arugula is one of the most vervy and attractive leaves (somewhere between oak-leaf lettuce and dandelion in shape) that you can add to your repertoire. It really makes a salad. In Italy it is commonly, and beautifully, tossed with radicchio and a softer pale lettuce. In Provence it appears as one of the small flavorful leaves in the celebrated mesclun salad, a toss of baby and bitter lettuces and mild herbs. In nouvelle French and American cooking it shows up as the perfect foil for mild, creamy goat cheese, whether marinated, fried or baked, warm or cold. Arugula is particularly delicious with the citrus sweetness of oranges (especially blood oranges). It contrasts eloquently with creamy avocado, sweetened with a touch of balsamic vinegar and nut oil, and adds a welcome edge to potato salad, when used as a surrounding or cradling leaf for the mixture.
Although cooked arugula loses some bite, it has much flavor. Toss in hot oil and garlic, then with pasta or potatoes. Add to stir-fries at the last minute. Puree in soups and sauces.
Preparation: Candid, clean-faced arugula leaves hide sand no matter how pristine they may appear. Do not be tempted to rinse the leaves casually tinder running water. Instead, cut off the roots and any thick stems, then dunk the leaves up and down in a bowl of cold water. Let stand a moment, then gently lift them out, so sand is left at the bottom. Rinse out the bowl and repeat; a third time may be necessary. Spin the leaves dry, then wrap in toweling and chill until serving time.
Nutritional Highlights: Arugula is a source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and fiber.
Warm Arugula Tossed With Diced Red Onion
This brilliantly colored first course is light and simple, but unusual enough to pave the way for an elegant meal. Although the few ingredients must be prepared just before serving, cooking time is under 4 minutes.
2 large bunches (½ pound) arugula, trimmed, washed, and dried (see Preparation)
2 large plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 medium-large red onion cut in ½-inch dice (1 cup)
3 tablespoons full-flavored olive oil (or 1 1/2 tablespoons each imported walnut oil and olive oil, for variation)
Cut or tear arugula in large mouthful-sized pieces. Place a tomato on a fork and hold directly in gas flame, turning until skin bubbles and splits, about 15 seconds. Repeat. (Alternatively, drop tomatoes into boiling water and let water return to a full boil; lift out immediately and run cold water over them.) Peel and halve crosswise; squeeze out seeds, then cut out stem ends. Cut into ½-inch squares.
In nonaluminum skillet combine vinegar, sugar, and salt; bring to a boil. Add onion and cook over moderate heat until onion softens slightly and vinegar almost evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add tomato dice and boil until juice begins to exude -- about 1 minute. Do not overcook; vegetables should retain texture and shape. Set aside.
Immediately heat oil in wide skillet over moderate heat. Add arugula and toss until just hot, but not wilted through -- about 20 seconds. Divide at once among 4 serving plates.
Top with tomato-onion mixture and serve.
Excerpted from Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables by Elizabeth Schneider Copyright © 2006 by Elizabeth Schneider. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Elizabeth Schneider is the author of Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference (IACP Book of the Year), Ready When You Are: Made-Ahead Meals for Entertaining, and coauthor of Better Than Store-Bought and Dining in Grand Style. Her magazine series "Produce Pro" (in Food Arts) and "Vegetable Wise" (in Eating Well) received James Beard awards. Hundreds of her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Gourmet, Food & Wine, and many other publications.
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