Harvesting fall's freshest
Alex Guarnaschelli picks out just the right apples at the Union Square Greenmarket
For many New Yorkers, grocery shopping is a chore.For Alex Guarnaschelli — executive chef at Butter and the host of the new Food Network cooking show “Alex's Day Off" — it's a passion. "Shopping should be fun," she said. "It should make you feel good. When you open your fridge, you should be excited." That excitement doesn't come from a cookbook, Guarnaschelli said. It comes from the gut. "It has to do with using your animal instinct — when you see something you like, you've got to go for it," she said. "People are always like, 'check for blemishes, make sure there are no bruises,' but I'm looking for something that looks like it's still alive." Though she believes that shoppers at farmers markets will make the best selections by relying on their eyes and hands, Guarnaschelli — who has visited the Union Square Greenmarket twice a week for the past seven years — urged buyers to befriend food sellers. "If you have relationships with people — whether it's at 7-Eleven or a Greenmarket — they start to save stuff for you," she said. "I had a guy call me to say that he found a pork chop and immediately thought of me. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be insulted or flattered." Guarnaschelli — whose show airs 9:30 a.m. Sunday— also shared a few other pointers about what’s in season now.
Kirby cucumbers ($2 per pound) aren't just for pickling. Though Guarnaschelli often puts these unwaxed cukes in brine, she also serves them sautéed in butter with salmon, fluke or flounder, topped with a splash of lemon juice. "This is one of those things that is so delicious and so easy to make," she said.
Crosnes These unusual tubers are a gourmet chef's best friend — but they can also bring an unmatchable flavor to your home kitchen. Crosnes ($14 per pound) are a root veggie native to China that boasts a nutty taste that some say is reminiscent of artichokes. That flavor lends itself to simple dishes such assalad with arugula and goat cheese, or a saute with olive oil and thyme. Guarnaschelli recently purchased an entire crate of the tiny tubers. Apples
Whether you're considering stocking up on Macoun, Empire, Mutsu or Winesap apples (all $2 per pound), it's crucial to separate the good ones from the bad. "Apples are like people — each one is different," said Guarnaschelli. "If you give an apple a little grope, you can feel if it's going to be mealy." For a seasonal and healthy dessert, Guarnaschelli suggested rolling sliced apples in brown sugar and dropping them in a hot pan filled with apple cider for about 15 minutes, until the fruit turn stender. Foodies who aren't counting their calories can serve that apple dessert atop a scoop of ice cream. Watermelon radishes
Watermelon radishes (3 per pound) are bulbous veggies with a flavor that's sweet, peppery and perfect for salads. "I'm crazy about them," said Guarnaschelli, who suggested peeling these pink-fleshed root veggies and serving them raw in a salad with apples.