Cooking with a Bounty from Melissa’s Produce
Five Amazing Recipes Included
Article, Recipes & Photos by Linda Stewart
As food enthusiasts, three of my fellow food writers and I were excited for each of us to receive a giant pantry box from Melissa’s Produce. Our task was similar to the chefs on the Food Network’s show, Chopped. The four of us would use any of the ingredients in the Melissa’s pantry box to prepare three courses – appetizer and cocktail, entrée, and dessert. Unlike Chopped, we didn’t have to use all the ingredients, and there was no prize money – although we considered our pantry largesse from Melissa’s and the fun that came along with the creative process ample reward.
Located in Los Angeles, California, Melissa’s/World Variety Produce is the paramount specialty produce distributor in the country. Founded by Joe and Sharon Hernandez and named after their daughter, the company’s warehouse has grown into a 280,000 square-foot complex. Melissa’s contributes to the community by distributing food through partnerships with nonprofits, planting school gardens, and teaching about food nutrition in the classroom.
In appraising my bounty, I decided the steamed ready-to-eat lentils, shallots, and dried mushrooms would make great lettuce wraps. The dried mushroom medley (porcini, chanterelle, shiitake and oyster mushrooms) are an ideal pantry staple. The ones I received from Melissa’s had almost a two-year shelf life. The preservative-free lentils are a good source of protein, folic acid, and dietary fiber. The vacuumed package keeps the lentils flavorful and fresh for up to six months when stored unopened in the fridge.
Lentil/Mushroom Thai Lettuce Wraps
2 Tbs. olive oil or coconut oil
1 Melissa’s shallot, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
Melissa’s Dried Gourmet Mushroom Medley (.5 oz pkg.)
Melissa’s Steamed Lentils (9 oz. pkg.)
Toasted crushed peanuts
½ cup peanut butter
2 Tbs. hot water
3 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. sesame oil
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Make peanut sauce. To reconstitute mushrooms soak them in a bowl with warm water for 30 minutes. Drain, then dice mushrooms. (Liquid can be strained and saved to add to soups, gravies, or sauces.) Sauté shallot and carrots for 5 minutes. Add lentils and mushrooms. Continue cooking and stirring over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup peanut sauce; cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Arrange butter lettuce leaves on a large plate and fill leaves with lentil/mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and serve with reserved peanut sauce.
When I saw the Sapūrana mango in my pantry box I knew immediately what cocktail I would make – a mango martini.
Spiced Mango Vodka Martini
2 oz. vodka
1 oz. triple sec
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. mango simple syrup*
Dash cayenne pepper
Mix 1 Tbs. sugar and1 Tbs. Tajin in a small bowl or plate. Rub rim of martini glass with slice of lime; dip into sugar/tajin until glass rim is evenly coated. Place ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake for 30 seconds. Strain; pour into martini glass. Makes one cocktail.
*Mango Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 mango, diced
Place water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk in sugar and stir until dissolved. Add mango and bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer 15 minutes. When cool, process in blender until smooth. The mango simple syrup will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks and is great to have on hand to add to iced tea, seltzer water, or other cocktails.
Other goodies in my coffer from Melissa’s Produce included Ojai Pixie Tangerines, a sweet, seedless pollinated combination of Kincy, King and Dancy mandarins; Baby Dutch Potatoes, golden-skinned small potatoes with creamy flesh and buttery flavor; Steamed Baby Beets, nutritious ready-to-eat sweet beets, with complex flavors influenced by their native terroir of Normandy, France; fresh Fava Beans, bright green legumes with a delightful earthy flavor and a good source of protein, dietary fiber, iron, and potassium; Dried Morel Mushrooms, oblong, earthy wild mushrooms that have an exterior that looks like a honeycomb; and four stalks of Rhubarb, firm and plump with a cherry-red color and trimmed of the toxic leaves.
With these ingredients in mind, I decided for an entrée I would make citrus glazed salmon with roasted potatoes, beets, fava beans, and morel mushrooms. The fava beans take a little time to prepare, but trust me, they are so flavorful it is well worth the investment. The colorful fresh rhubarb gave me lots of options for dessert, but I finally settled on a rhubarb and strawberry bread pudding with custard sauce.
Check out the user-friendly website for Melissa’s Produce. Their company’s motto is “Delivering the Global Market” and they deliver to all 50 states, with a few exceptions for shipping citrus. If you have any questions, you can call (800) 588-0151 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also go to #HomeCookingwithMelissas on Facebook to keep up with our group’s cooking adventures.
Herbed Citrus Glazed Salmon
8 oz. salmon filet, cut into two pieces
2 Tbs. butter, melted
2 Tbs. juice from Ojai Pixie Tangerine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. fresh chives, chopped
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Heat oven to 400°
Place salmon on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Mix together butter, tangerine juice, garlic, and herbs; spread on top of salmon. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until salmon is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Garnish with tangerine slices. Makes two servings. (Salmon can be placed in oven after potatoes and beets have been cooking for 15 minutes.)
Garlic Butter Roasted Potatoes, Beets, Fava Beans, and Morel Mushrooms
6 to 8 baby potatoes, halved
4 baby beets, halved
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
6 to 8 dried morel mushrooms
1/3 cup fava beans (10 fresh fava beans) *
1 Tbs. butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 400° To reconstitute mushrooms soak them in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes. In a large bowl, toss potatoes, beets, thyme, salt, and pepper with 2 Tbs. of the oil. Spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Roast for 15 minutes. Toss garlic, mushrooms and fava beans with remaining 1 Tbs. of oil, stir into roasting pan. Bake for another 10 minutes. Drizzle melted butter over vegetables before serving.
*Note: Open fava bean by pinching off the tip and pulling it down the seam, as you would unzip a sugar snap pea. The pod is now easy to open; remove beans and place into a bowl. Blanch fava beans in a pan of boiling water for no more than 45 seconds. Drain and put fava beans back into the bowl which you have now filled with ice water. Peel beans by placing between fingers and applying some pressure. Beans will easily slip out of their covering.
Rhubarb and Strawberry Bread Pudding with Vanilla Custard Sauce
4 cups (about 6 slices) bread, cut into 1” cubes
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups milk (or half and half)
2 cups rhubarb, cut into ½” pieces
1 cup trawberries, sliced
Spray 9” square pan. In a large bowl, beat sugar, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and salt; gradually whisk in milk (or half and half). Carefully stir in rhubarb and strawberries. Fold in bread. Place all into pan. Bake 350° for 40 to 45 minutes. Serve with Custard Sauce.
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 cup milk (or half and half)
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
In saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in milk (or half and half). Cook over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Place egg yolk into a small bowl. Beat, then gradually whisk in milk mixture by teaspoons, to temper; whisk egg mixture back into pan. Simmer for 2 more minutes.
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Note: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author did receive free produce from Melissa’s/World Variety Produce to perform a professional review. No fee was paid to the author for this review. She posts reviews only on places people and things that she finds have value for her readers. Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.