Produce report August 27: Fruit and vege buys of the week
The commercial scallop season is now in full swing and they have been on sale in New World's North Island stores for the past couple of weeks. The scallop fishery in the South Island has been closed, commercially and recreationally, for the past three years, so availability there is limited.
For those of us up north, the recreational season will open on September 1, closing again on March 31; the commercial season finishing earlier — on December 21.
Scallops are high in protein, contain virtually no saturated fat and are a good source of minerals including magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Overcooking will turn them rubbery, so sear quickly in a little butter or oil and remove as soon as the translucent flesh turns white.
Scallops love butter, creamy vegetable purees, beurre blanc sauce, bacon and Asian flavours like ginger and fresh coriander.
Scallops are also good with watercress and fennel, which are worth including in the diet now, not only for their nutritional properties but for how they cut through those wintry meats with a fresh, spring-like zeal.
Although fennel is traditionally harvested in winter, this mild, anise-flavoured vegetable is increasingly available year round. It can be steamed, baked or braised and is lovely eaten raw, sliced very finely into salads.
Try fennel as a replacement for celery in a risotto base. Don’t forget those lacy fronds: use them fresh as herbs, adding a subtle aniseed favour to mayonnaise, soups and stocks and as a bed to roast fish.
Fennel contains iron, potassium, vitamins A and C, calcium and dietary fibre. Like fennel, peppery watercress is available year-round but is also more prolific in the winter: perfect in sandwiches, soups or a winter salad.
It is high in vitamin K for bone health and has loads of vitamins C and A. Refrigerate covered in paper towels in a container. The leaves quickly wilt if left exposed in the fridge. If the roots are still attached, place in a jar of water and do not refrigerate. Use the stalks too, but keep very woody ones for soups and stocks.
Witloof is the third member of this week’s perky trio. It can be braised whole or sliced, baked (it loves cheese sauces), microwaved, steamed or even stir-fried. With a slightly bitter but nutty flavour, it makes a crisp salad vegetable, and separated, its leaves make a lovely cup to scoop up a dip.
Though it is never too overpowering, cooking will make it even milder. This pale lemon-hued vege is grown in the dark, hence its lack of colour. However, it will turn green and become much bitterer when exposed to the light for long periods of time.
Although not as mainstream as your average potato or carrot, you’ll find witloof, fennel and watercress in your local supermarket. New World sources witloof from suppliers in Masterton, Nelson and Oamaru.
Broccoli, cauliflower and leeks are good buying at New World this week, as are New Zealand navel oranges. Pick up easy peel mandarins for the kids’ lunchboxes for just $4.99kg and New Zealand lamb leg roast at $12.99kg while you are there.
Dairy note: The Whitianga Scallop Festival is taking a break this year due to the town and marina upgrade. However local restaurants have organised a celebration of seafood weekend in and around Whitianga on September 22/23 so all is not lost if you were planning to indulge yourself.