With a knock-your-socks off recipe for crispy crunchy Oven-Fried Okra
By: Head Wine Chix, Linda Kissam
|What did consumers look for when they shopped for fresh fruits and vegetables in 2015? Specialty produce guru Melissa’s/ World Variety Produce, Inc. knows. According to Melissa’s Public Relations Manager Robert Schuller, 10 trends defined the 2015 marketplace. It also gives us a peak into what will be hot in the future.|
|Why turn to Melissa’s for this information? Because with over 1000 items available at any given time, Melissa’s imports and distributes exotic fresh fruits and vegetables from around the globe. Located in the Vernon district of Los Angeles, California, World Variety Produce began as a source of specialty produce, selling to retailers in the Southern California region. Over the years the company’s Food Service Division has become a full-service operation that supplies culinary professionals with staples, exotics and Melissa’s full line of organic produce. It is currently the largest distributor of specialty produce in the United States.|
|Consumers are much more attuned to the health benefits of fruits and vegetables than in past decades. They continue to have a keen interest in knowing where their food comes from, and that trend shows no sign of slowing. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan recently told the Associated Press that the local food movement is “the biggest retail food trend in my adult lifetime.” Over the years Melissa’s Food Service Division has kept their finger on the culinary pulse, understanding that local rocks, but there is also a huge market for national staples, worldwide exotics and a full line of organic produce. You will see that reflected in the top ten produce items for 2015. They winners represent fresh produce grown locally to nationally to worldwide.|
|Make sure you have all ten in your pantry. Your best source of these items in my opinion comes from Melissa’s. Look for their brand tag on all the items listed below.|
|1. Coconut: Best used for their sweet, flaky meat. Delightful eaten out of hand or as an essential ingredient in baked goods, curries, Thai food, beverages and desserts. For fresh coconut water, search out young coconuts which are prized for their refreshing, nutritious water.*|
|2. Mini Cucumbers: Once known as “Persian Cucumbers,” the brilliant Melissa’s team has re branded them into “mini cucumbers.” Since doing that sales have soared. Mini Cucumbers have a thin skin which does not require peeling. They are available year-round out of California, are “burp-less,” a bit milder, and practically seedless.*|
|3. Turmeric Root: Who knew? This was the surprise of the unveiling. Widely used as a spice in Indian and South Asian cooking it is related to ginger. Turmeric root gives food a golden color and has a distinct peppery flavor. Peel grated or mince. Use sparingly in rice and vegetable dishes, chutneys, curries and pickles.*|
|4. Passion Fruit: Wrinkled and dimpled the aromatic, jelly-like golden flesh of this tropical fruit is sweet-tart in flavor and filled with edible seeds. It is egg-shaped and has a thick, hard shell that is deeply wrinkled when ripe. New Zealand Passion Fruit is purple while the Hawaiian variety is yellow. Passion Fruit is generally eaten fresh but may be cooked for use in sauces and fillings. Simply halve fruit and scoop out the pulp and seeds with a spoon.|
|5. Brussel Sprouts: Stop rolling your eyes. These babies are trending! They look like miniature cabbages and are eye-catching. Tasting similar to regular cabbage, these fresh nutty-flavored sprouts have a solid and dense texture. Baby Brussels Sprouts are great when lightly steamed and served as a healthy side dish. They are grown in Holland.|
|6. Tree Ripened Mango: Another international favorite, make sure your beauties are from Mexico. This allows for the fruit to stay on the tree longer in the ripening process allowing for sweeter sugar content in the fruit and overall better flavor. Choose fruit that is firm with a slight give, has unblemished skin and a fresh scent. Ripe mangoes can be refrigerated for up to a week.*|
|7. Dragon Fruit: Did you know this is an exotic cactus fruit? It has a delicately sweet and mildly acidic flavor, reminiscent of watermelon, cactus pear, and kiwi. The fruit itself is round and its exterior ranges in color from a hot pink to red. The interior color of dragon fruit ranges from white to pink to magenta. All three types have tiny, edible black seeds (very similar to those found inside Kiwi). This fruit does not grow well in winter cold or summer heat, so its availability is limited, making it a highly prized treat. The melon-like texture of the Dragon Fruit makes it ideal for blending in drinks as well as using in sorbets.*|
|8. Hatch Chilies: Hatch chile peppers are grown exclusively in the Mesilla Valley near Hatch, New Mexico. They are considered to be some of the most flavorful peppers in the world. If you blink, you’ll miss the fresh version. It is available fresh for about a month in late summer. Most cooks use the dried form, both mild and spicy hot. Product of Hatch, New Mexico.*|
|9. Chestnuts: You can roast your own chestnuts at home or use the pre-packaged ones. Melissa’s Chestnut Roasting Kit is the ideal kit for home roasters. It contains all you need including an 11” Chestnut Roasting Pan, 2 pounds of fresh Chestnuts, as well as detailed roasting instructions. The pre-packaged version lends itself to soups, sweet chestnut spread, mousses, ice creams, cakes, soufflés, and a multitude of other desserts. Use them in casseroles too.|
|10. Okra: Yup. No eye rolling please. Newer recipes makes this into a tasty treat. Someone once said if you want to introduce a new green vegetable into your family’s diet – fry it first. These little suckers make a crisp treat.*|
|On page 141 of Whitney Miller’s New Southern Table cookbook, you can find a Spiced Roasted Okra recipe that will spice up your day, or here’s a knock-your-socks off version of Oven-Fried Okra from Okra: A Savor the South® Cookbook (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) by Virginia Willis See it here.
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* photos courtesy of Melissa’s/ World Variety Produce, Inc.
All others by Allan Kissam.