19 July 2011

Produce Confidential: Zucchini

A massive zucchini dwarfs a tiny tyrannosaurus rex.
Zucchini is incredibly versatile in the kitchen. You can bake it, fry it, steam it. Make it into cakes, wear it as headgear. My favorite way to prepare zucchini? Saute with butter, add garlic, smother in Parmesan cheese, eat.

This absolutely gorgeous zucchini (why, yes, that's my sink in the background. Sorry!) came from my lovely friends over at Cooking with My Girlfriend. I thought that, in honor of that glorious squash, I would post about the care and maintenance of one of my favorite members of the squash family.

Before we begin, I also wanted to mention a blog I stumbled upon that has a recipe for Chocolate. Zucchini. Cake. The blog is called Chocolate and Zucchini and is run by a French woman (she writes in English, so don't be scared away!) whose cooking journey began while she was still a software engineer.

Random Facts

Growing Season: April-August
Origin: North America
Other names: Courgette, summer squash
Classification: Botanically, zucchini considered a fruit; however, chefs generally treat it as a vegetable and prepare it in savory dishes.


Choose zucchini that is firm and unblemished with a fresh, green color. The younger the squash is, the more tender it will be (the plants around here are rather vivacious at the moment, though!). A zucchini that is about 6–8 inches long should yield the best results.


Store zucchini either at room temperature or in a perforated bag in the refrigerator. Wash directly before using but not before then.

You should not freeze whole zucchini because it tends to turn mealy. If you wish to freeze your zucchini, I've located several ways to prepare it, all of which involve blanching the zucchini. You can cut it into 1-inch slices, then blanch for three minutes, or you can grate the zucchini and blanch for 1–2 minutes.


I found quite a few different web sites as I had my way with zucchini information. Many of them are filled with awesome recipes, so you should definitely check them out!

06 July 2011

Produce Confidential: Watermelon

As I wandered down the aisles of the grocery store, a 15-pound watermelon rolling about in my cart (myself wondering how in the world I was going to carry it the half-mile home), it suddenly struck me as funny that I was paying less when the fruit was at its best, its tastiest. You can say this about produce, but what other types of food follow this trend?

Oh, here—filet mignon; best it's ever tasted—half off!

That wine is one of the best vintages around, sir. I can get it for you at a fraction of the cost.

Nope. Fruits, veggies, herbs—everything that's seasonal and tastes best at a certain point.

But 15 pounds of watermelon is a big commitment, especially when you're single and going to eat the entire thing alone. So, to help my curiosity and perhaps also spritz yours, I decided to find out the best ways to care for seasonal fruits and veggies.

And I'm starting with watermelon.

Peak Season

Regardless of the fact that you can find this rather hefty fruit year long (thanks to science), watermelon's peak growing season is from May to September, so that's when our favorite green-and-pink (or yellow!) fruit is at its sweetest.

Picking Your Watermelon

As far as picking the perfect watermelon, try to choose one with a dull rind and a slightly sweet smell. The rind should also be free of cracks or bruises. The fruit should have a yellow underside from where it ripened on the ground. Thumping on the side should result in a nice, resonant thunk.

Preparation and Storage

Watermelon can actually be stored on your counter for 7–10 days before slicing. So, if you're having a BBQ but the sale at your local grocery store ends a few days beforehand, don't fear buying the fruit a few days early. When you begin slicing into that lovely hunk of fruit, I recommend only preparing half of the watermelon while placing aluminum foil around the unused portion (leave the rind intact) and placing that half in the fridge. You can cut the portion you'll eat the soonest into wedges, cubes, or even balls, but don't forget to refrigerate after "opening" and to use air-tight containers or aluminum foil to keep the fruit from becoming mushy or mealy.

Do not freeze.

Watermelon Web Sites

I used various sources to create this post, so I thought I'd do the friendly (and, you know, non-plagiarizing) thing and let you know what other authorities are floating about the net. My favorite was actually an article from the Weight Watchers Web Site. The were very straightforward, and I used quite a bit of information from their article.

Want to learn more about watermelon or see some really neat watermelon carvings? Try watermelon.org. It's filled with tasty tidbits about nutrition, and lots of fun recipes!

Want to see some general rules on keeping fruit fresh? SparkPeople has created a handy list to let you know what fruits, veggies, and herbs you should store in what conditions (although I found some of them not as explanatory as they could be)

01 July 2011

Coming Clean

I knew, coming into this project, that one of the biggest challenges I would face was actually coming to terms with all of the food that I don't eat. I've always been a food waster. I buy food, especially produce, then get distracted by something else delicious so I don't eat what I bought. Eventually, I forget what I have in my fridge so that, two months later, I rummage about only to find soggy, spore-ridden zucchini or bread or cheese. It's a problem.

So, I'm not hiding from what has, on occasion, amounted to several trash bags worth of wasted food (of course, I was living with two roommates, so they helped, but...). When I started thinking about my long-term goals with this, I had to decide what to do about this problem when it comes to trying to live under a certain amount per month.

My solution was two-fold: I would, once a month, clean my fridge of anything past its best-by date and add together approximates of what I had spent. Then, I'd add that to the totals for the month and see if I still remained under my goal.

Secondly, the amount that the wasted food was worth would go into a jar. Closer to the end of the year, I'll go on a shopping trip for whichever local food bank is collecting near me!

Like I said, I've realized that this is enough of a problem that I will have enough to make a substantial contribution at the end of each year (although, hopefully, it will diminish with time!).

This past fridge cleaning, I put away $5.20 in my jar. Considering that half of the contributions were only about $0.10 a piece...that's quite a bit.

I'm working, very slowly, toward reducing what I waste, but knowing what I waste is another first step.