Caring for and Cooking

Carrots

STORING:  Cut off the bulky leaves before storing.  While the carrots will last a long time, the greens will wilt and decay and drain the roots of their flavor and moisture.  Refrigerate carrots in perforated or open plastic bags in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator.

Cauliflower

STORING:  Place a cauliflower stem side up on a paper towel (to keep the crown moisture-free) and slip inside a perforated or open plastic bag.  Store in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

PREPARING:  Remove any outer leaves and cut off the protruding stem flush with the base of the head.  You can leave the head whole or divide it into florets.  Use nonreactive pots and skillets, such as stainless steel or enameled cast iron.  If cookin in unlined cast iron or aluminum, add a squeeze of lemon, a splash of vinegar, or a cup of milk to the water to keep the cauliflower from turning brown.  If cooking whole, submerge the head, stem side down, in boiling salted water.  A whole head (depending on size) will cook in about 15 minutes; florets will cook in about half the time.

Eggplant

Slice open an eggplant and you will expose a flavorless, greenish white flesh.  But cooking transforms this bland interior, turning it supple, meaty, rich, unctuous, and silky.  Eggplants figure prominently in the cooking of South Asia, southern Italy, and in the Middle East, where cooks claim to know a thousand ways to prepare them.

STORING:  Slip eggplants into a plastic bag with a wet paper towel to provide humidity and store in a cool place, neither too hot nor too cold (50 degrees is ideal).  Don’t put them in the refrigerator.  It’s too cold and their flesh can quickly turn spongy and bitter.  Handle carefully, as bruised or punctured flesh will spoil quickly.  Try to use eggplants within 3 days.

PREPARING:  An eggplant may be cooked and eaten with or without its skin.  The skin of smaller, younger eggplants is typically more tender, so there is no need to peel it.  Use a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler to remove the tough skin of older, larger eggplants.

Eggplants can be grilled, fried, saute’ed, baked, roasted, or steamed.  If baking whole, pierce the eggplant several times with a fork to make small holes for the steam to escape, then place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15-25 minutes, depending on size.  You can test for its readiness by gently inserting a knife or fork to see if it passes through easily.  Halve the baked eggplant and scoop out the flesh.

Peas

STORING:  Store all peas unwashed, and unshelled in the case of English peas, in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator for up to 2 or 3 days.  Or, store them in brown paper bags to keep the peas from “sweating.”  Their natural sugars quickly turn to starch even under refrigeration, so cook and eat them as soon as possible after purchase.

PREPARING:  To shuck English peas, pinch off the stem and pull the string down the side of the pod, pushing out the peas with your thumb as you go.  Discard the pods or add them to stock to add a “green” flavor to a soup.  To prepare sugar snap peas, remove the stems and any strings that run up the side of the pod.  Most young, tender snow peas need only the stem removed.  All these peas can be eaten raw,  or they can be steamed or parboiled briefly to preserve their delicate sweetness and bright color.

Source:  The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market Cookbook; by Christopher Hirsheimer and Peggy Knickerbocker.

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