The days of your mother calling you into the dining room and placing a plate of steamy goodness right in front of you are over. You’re now what we call an “adult”, and hopefully you’re a somewhat independent one, too. You spend ample amounts of time being responsible: you go to work, pay taxes to your lovely government, and even try to take care of your health! Unfortunately, you may not have the time or knowledge to cook for yourself, so you end up hopping on your Seamless account and ordering away…
Since this is a new year, we hope that one of your resolutions is to learn to cook! We here at Gents Among Men decided to partner up with the new NYC-based personal chef startup, Eat In Chef, for a series of culinary tips and tricks designed to help you Master the Kitchen.
Modern technology makes it possible for us to eat nearly any type of fruit or vegetable during any time of year. However, produce is best enjoyed when it’s in-season. It’s more readily available, more affordable, better for the environment, and tastes better, too! Starting with winter, Chef Jose tells us all about three of his favorite fruits and vegetables for each season of the year.
When buying leeks, bigger isn’t better – leeks more than 1-1/2 inches wide tend to have tough inner cores. The top green leaves should always look fresh. Leeks don’t form bulbs or produce cloves like their cousins, but instead develop an edible round stem. The leek’s cylindrical, white, edible root can be braised whole, cut and sautéed, or made into a puree or sauce. The green tops, which are sometimes considered scraps, are actually great for adding extra flavor to stocks. If cut finely and fried, they can also be used as a garnish for any dish. Giving you an earthy, mild onion flavor, the texture of a leek is crunchy when raw and silky smooth when cooked. They are the sweetest and mildest members of the onion family. It’s peak lasts from late winter to very early spring.
Kale is a non-heading leafy wild cabbage with varying leaf types, ranging from wavy to straight and frilly. It can be prepared like spinach. You can steam, blanch, braise, or stir-fry. This vegetable pairs well with garlic, pork, and ginger. Personally, I love adding it to soups with potatoes or beans, and find that caraway and fennel seeds enhance kale’s distinct flavor. It can also be eaten raw if finely chopped. You’ve surely heard that kale is good for your health, as it’s an excellent source of vitamin C and iron.
Grapefruits look like oranges, but are larger and have thick yellow or pink-ish skin. Grapefruits are categorized as white, pink, or ruby, based on their flesh color. Some varieties are seedless, while others have up to fifty seeds. The flavor is tart and tangy yet sweet. While they can be available all year round, they’re at their best in January. They are one of the most popular cultivated fruits in the United States – popular for breakfast, but also useful in many other applications. I’ve segmented them and bruleed them, made vinaigrettes, and used them as an acid in a dish for freshness.
Kiwis are about the size of an egg with a brown thick skin and small hairs. The emerald green firm pulp is dotted with many black tiny edible seeds, giving kiwi its character. The flavor is a sweet and tart with a slight acidic touch, but mainly sweet. Making it into a puree is a great way to enhance juices and beverages. Even though the skin is edible, the fruit is usually peeled, which I recommend, too. Kiwis contain a meat-tenderizing enzyme. You can place sliced peels with some flesh directly on meat, but I’ve also made marinades and poured over the meat for a few hours to tenderize it before cooking.
New potatoes have a smooth, ruby-red skin with waxy, firm, white flesh. New potatoes are round to oval in shape and small to medium in size. The entire potato is edible. The potato holds its shape well during cooking and should be used beyond the assumed baking and frying recipes. New potatoes’ flavor and texture make them best in boiling and roasting applications. They absorb flavors well and offer a textural element in a variety of dishes. New potatoes are considered the quintessential salad potato. They should always be washed thoroughly before preparing.
Asparagus are great at maintaining their textural and flavor qualities when cooked. In case you haven’t seen one before, they have green stalks with purple scales and tree-shaped tips. The are balsam aromatics and their flavor is grassy, nutty and earthy sweet. Ideally, they should be peeled from midway down to the bottom to remove the first layer, then blanched in salted boiling water and rendered to an ice bath. Then they can be grilled, sautéed or even sliced and used in salads. They’re wonderful as a side dish but also do well as the star ingredient in soups.
Corn is at its best the minute it is picked from the stalk. You want to look for tightly closed, fresh-looking husks, and fresh-cut stem ends. When harvested fresh, the flavor is sweet and so succulent the skin pops when you eat it. Be careful not to overcook it because you’ll sacrifice flavor and texture. Corn can be roasted, grilled, steamed, or pureed. It pairs well with many things, such as tomatoes, lobster, pork, cream, and scallops to name a few. It can also be dried and ground into flour for baked goods, tortillas, and used as a crust/crisping agent for dishes.
Peaches have a thin, furry skin with red, pink and gold blushes throughout. The flesh is very aromatic and extremely juicy when ripe; golden-colored with a slight red hue and a small pit in the center. Peaches are usually eaten fresh, but poaching, baking, grilling, and cooking into jams or making ice creams are great ways to use them as well. They’re perfect for salads, especially when paired well with other stone fruits, honey, arugula and cheese to name a couple. And of course, you can make peach pies, too!
Beefsteak tomatoes are named for their large size and meaty texture. They have a classic tomato flavor, but can also be slightly sweet to the taste. Their size makes them ideal for sandwiches and burgers, and their flavor pairs well with olive oils and cheeses. I love to use them to make fresh tomato sauce with garlic and basil – so fresh and so good! Roasting enhances their natural flavor. Like other tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes should be stored at room temperature until ripe, then stored in the refrigerator. This extends their shelf life. They are a good source of vitamin A and C, and also a good source of fiber.
Honeycrisp apples are mostly yellow in color, but with a red to pink blush. They have a creamy white flesh, which is exceptionally crisp and aromatic. A balance of sugar and acid gives them a pleasant sweet-tart flavor. The more mature the apple, the stronger the flavor. They’re an extremely good choice for making apple crisp or pies. You can also remove the skin and cook them down to make applesauce. I like to add them to raw to salsas for freshness.
As far as food goes, butternut squash is the most popular member of the pumpkin family. They have a beautiful, deep golden-yellow flesh and an excellent texture. Butternut squash has a smooth skin, long-necked shape, and an orange-yellowish hard rind. The rind has to be peeled with a peeler or your chef knife. It has a small seed cavity in its bigger end, but other than that, its tender flesh offers a superb creamy flavor. It yields more meat than most squashes. Part of its popularity is due to its versatility when cooking, making a great roasted accompaniment or a perfect winter soup. It goes well with cinnamon, butter, sugar and nutmeg when seasoning.
Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is actually a kind of non-heading broccoli – it looks much like tiny bunches of broccoli on long stems nested between large leaves. Very aggressive in the flavor department, this deep green vegetable delivers a bitter taste. You should not eat it raw. It should be trimmed and blanched in salted water, followed by an ice bath before the final cooking technique. Blanching mellows the flavor a bit. If cooked to long it can suddenly soften to mush, so quick cooking is required. Once blanched, it’s great steamed, stir-fried, sautéed, braised or boiled. I love adding chopped garlic and red chili flakes to enhance the flavor. It’s very low in sodium and calories, provides potassium, and is a great source of vitamins A and C.
About Chef Jose
Chef Jose DeJesus is the Chief Culinary Officer at Eat In Chef and the culinary mastermind behind the Trill Pop-Up Dining Series. He has years of experience as both a private chef and in the restaurant industry, including a recent tenure as the Executive Sous Chef at La Marina, in Washington Heights, NYC.
About Eat In Chef
Eat In Chef is a NYC-based personal chef startup building lasting relationships and memories for its chefs and food-lovers alike. Whether for a casual dinner after a long day at work, date night, or wanting a nutritional makeover, Eat In Chef gives food-lovers full access to professional chefs from any electronic device, for any occasion. Their hand-selected chefs will receive your request, pick up fresh ingredients, and cook an unforgettable meal in your kitchen.
In case you’re not ready to Master the Kitchen just yet, give Eat In Chef a try instead of going out or ordering delivery! They’re offering $10 off your first personal chef booking.
Content provided by Chef Jose for Gents Among Men