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Monday, August 4, 2008

Common underrated veggies

I'm going to recommend five fruits and vegetables that are underused in American cooking, but often available at grocery stores and absolutely delicious.

1. Jicama - like a carrot, but sweeter and juicier. Can be deep-fried like a healthier french-fry, or just eaten raw with or without dip. Makes great salads and stir-fries as well.

2. Habanero peppers - I spent all last summer making salsas, and habaneros were my favorite pepper not because of their legendary hotness, but just due to the sheer amount of flavor they pack. Carefully remove seeds and the whitish lining inside before using, and use sparingly since they have an awful lot of flavor (and some residual spice), but put it in omelettes, stir-fries, sauces, or anything that you want a summery mexican feel to.

3. Olives - Kalamatas have a very acquired taste to them, and even I really can't stand eating them plain (though canned black olives are fine for me). But like a habanero, they just have a very concentrated flavor and need to be added sparingly - in proper quantities they will add a new dimension to omelettes and salads - another great summer fruit.

4. Artichokes - one of these days I'll use the leaf scrapings as a curry base. These were always my favorite vegetable as a kid - I demanded to have them for my 6th birthday dinner. The hearts are well-known, but the full vegetable makes a great meal - simply steam/boil for an hour, let cool, then pull off leaves and use your teeth to scrape the meat off the inside of each leaf. Finally, you get to the heart and the very best treat at the end. Serve with butter or mayo.

5. Avocado. Christ, need I say more? It's not so underrated, but I may have to spend a month in Mexico this year just so I can eat them every day. Use in everything in large portions. Hell, just plop one on my plate for dinner, I don't care!

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