If Professional Athletes were Fruits and Vegetables: Part Two – NFL QBs and Squash

(ed. note – This is part two of a two-part series comparing professional athletes to fruits and vegetables. Part One was about basketball players and citrus. It is here)

Not exactly sure what crossed my friend Lisa’s mind when she thought of comparing NFL quarterbacks to squash, but here it goes; we’re comparing NFL quarterbacks to squash. I suppose I can see why squash; autumnal, hearty, the backbone of any good cornucopia. Because squash. It’s go time.

  • Russell Wilson = Kabocha – Lisa gets credit for this one. Kabocha has an awesome name. Russell Wilson is awesome. It’s overlooked by the more well-known squash (butternut, pumpkin, spaghetti), but it has its own style and personality, yet can fit in any scheme. Like Russell. And we love both. Added bonus for the underdog status both have. #GoHawks
  • Matthew Stafford = Pattypan – A pattypan squash looks cool; bright yellow, funky shape akin to a flying saucer, fun name, fits in your hand. But it really sucks. No flavor and it just ends up taking space in your CSA. Just like how Matthew Stafford takes up space on your fantasy football team.
  • Tony Romo = Pumpkin – We know the Tony Romo narrative; brilliance balanced by boneheadedness. There are two camps; Romo Haters and Romo Apologizers. One side thinks he’s the greatest QB ever. The other thinks that he’ll never be good. Just like a pumpkin. And what happens in that fairy tale when the clock strikes midnight? Sorry Romo fans.
  • Colin Kaepernick = Spaghetti – You want to like the idea of spaghetti squash. It’s a vegetable that you can carve out to replicate spaghetti noodles. But you know what? It’s not spaghetti. And it’s barely even a vegetable. Just like Colin Kaepernick is barely a quarterback.
  • Peyton Manning = Butternut – If you look at the word enough, butternut is goofy. But it’s also excellent. Impressive body of work. You can find it in Costco. Best in warm dishes. Ergo, Peyton Manning.
  • Drew Brees = Acorn – Diminutive in size, but more than makes up for it in ability. Adaptable and squeezes every ounce out of its ability. Much respect for Acorn.
  • Aaron Rodgers = Delicata – A near perfect squash. Fine on its own. Yet the rare squash that is complete and comfortable in its skin. Stayed in the background and bided its time while a much more boisterous (and annoying) squash took the limelight; zucchini.

There you have it. A quick rundown comparing NFL quarterbacks to squash. And not to leave out Tom Brady as he’s a buttercup. #GoHawks

The myriad of questions with asparagus

Asparagus by outsideoslo from the Seattlest Flickr Pool

This post originally appeared on Seattlest.

As spring arrives in Seattle, there are a few things that are like clockwork with the season. There will be the lament of the weather (really, this is an every season thing), the underachieving debut of our home nine Mariners, and the arrival of asparagus. There are few foods that signal the arrival of spring like seeing asparagus at your local market. It’s a uniquely wonderful vegetable, but it always raises questions. As in, how do I prepare it? What wine goes with it? And the biggie, why does it make my pee smell? Well dear readers, join us as we try to find some answers.

Asparagus is a great vegetable to work with as it is amenable to several different cooking techniques. Shave it raw as a salad. Toss it in olive oil, salt, and pepper and throw it on the grill. Do the same treatment and place it in a skillet. Heck, put a fried egg on top. Take a big batch and roast it. Drench it in a hollandaise or another rich sauce. The folks at Gilt Taste launched their new website with a recipe for salt & sugar cured asparagus poached in butter. It’s a versatile vegetable; steamed, boiled, pickled; asparagus can do it all.

But first things first, you’ll need to pick it out. You’ll find spears of pencil-width or those of finger-width. Some people say that the thinner ones will be more tender, while some find the thicker spears more flavorful. Next, you’ll need to take off the base of the spear. This is often woody, fibrous, and not tasty. Don’t eat this. Break it off by holding the base and the body of the stalk; it’ll snap at its natural breaking point. Now you can get cooking.

Ask any wine guy/girl a good wine pairing with asparagus and be prepared for some hemming and hawing. Why? Because of those green bitter flavors that are so prevalent. Couple this with their strong scent and you have a food that makes wine people freak out. In trying a wine with asparagus, look for something that can match the green herbal notes, something like Sauvignon Blanc or a bright Gruner Veltliner would step up to the challenge. Riesling or a Spanish Albarino would be good too. Or don’t try to get cute with wine and just have beer with it.

Ultimately, when the subject of asparagus comes up, the conversation will inevitably turn to why it makes your pee smell. When the mega-food guy Mark Bittman was on the Today show recently, Matt Lauer couldn’t resist and asked why it makes your pee smell. Basically, it comes down to some chemical compounds that are present in asparagus. Here is where it gets tricky; not all people will create the smelly pee. In studies, the ratios of smelly versus not varies. And it gets even trickier; in studies, some people can’t even smell the nastiness. Lucky them. If you’re in doubt, try some asparagus and get thee to the water closet. Asparagus has been known to make things stinky in 15 minutes.

There you have it. You now have ideas of what to eat with asparagus, what to drink with asparagus, and what your body does with asparagus. So head on out to your local farmer’s market and take in spring. Get some asparagus, grab a coat, and hope for the best with the Mariners.

Seattle’s Farmers Markets

Another thing that I love about summer besides grilling, is the abundance of local neighborhood farmers markets that sprout throughout the city. Search here to find the market closest to you. In the past few weeks Capitol Hill and Wallingford have ushered theirs in, while Queen Anne and a few other start up in June. I love farmers markets for what they are; a chance to get great stuff from our local neighbors, support the community, and best of all, be outside!

What’s great about all the farmer’s markets around town is that each of Seattle’s distinct neighborhoods have their own. Live in Columbia City? You’re good. Phinney Ridge? Of course. Magnolia? Another reason to never leave your enclave. They roll throughout the summer and you’ll pretty much be able to go to a farmer’s market every day of the week at almost every hour of the day. Don’t believe you could get fresh local produce from a farmer at 11am on a Tuesday? Go to Pike Place Market.

I also love farmers markets because they truly enrich our area. Of course they are local businesses, but they also help support our local restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores. Farmers markets are pretty much the farm’s retail face. A great chance for them to showcase their goods to us, but they also supplement a large part of their income by providing produce, cheese, meats, etc to our local restaurants and food shops. The food scene around town is very insular and circular; everyone pretty much helps out everyone else, and I love it! That’s why I like going to these markets; I always feel that I’m part of something bigger, all for the quest of good food.

The funny thing about my favorite farmers markets is that my favorites are the three that are year round. The market’s in Ballard, West Seattle, and the University District are those that I most often frequent, and a big part is that they are the homebase or the places I can always turn to. I do look forward to visiting some of the seasonal markets, but I’ll always stand by the Big Three. Here are the reasons why I like them so:

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Hearts of Palm

I’ve been noticing hearts of palm on more and more local menus. And why not? It’s delicious, pretty to look at, and healthy. But I was conflicted, I remember having a breakfast last year with a gardener and she was mentioning that when eating hearts of palm, the entire tree gets harvested. Well, in this green world we can’t allow for this! So why are restaurants using it so much? I’m on the case.

In my relentless quest for information, I knew there had to be more to the story about hearts of palm and how it’s obtained. And in the case of hearts of palm, there is a fair bit of debunking. It is true though, wild hearts of palm, when harvested will kill the entire tree. However, there is a cultivated hearts of palm tree, also called the ‘peach palm,’ which has stems that grow off and are eaten and allows the mother tree to live on. It’s also grown in Hawaii and has become a major crop for our friends in the Pacific Ocean.

You’ll notice hearts of palm from it’s eggshell white hue and delicate flavor. Lots of cooks like to use hearts of palm because it doesn’t discolor when cut, provides a nice crunch to a dish, and for many is known as a fancy-pants food ingredient (some call it millionaire’s salad). You’ll notice hearts of palm jarred in oil at the the grocery store and you’ll also notice it on many menus throughout town.

The easiest way to eat your veggies: Kale Chips

One of the chief takeaways when I read The Amateur Gourmet‘s book was in the section about shopping for groceries. The biggest tip was to buy what looks good to you, especially when it comes to produce. Buy what looks good – it can be seasonal or a bit curious looking or something that you’ve heard about and really want to try. This was the case with our last visit to the store when we saw the array of kale. Inspired by a write-up in a recent issue of Bon Appetit, we bought a bunch and were ready to roll.

What’s kale? In a nutshell it’s a hearty green that rolls around during wintertime. It’s full of vitamins and nutrients, which makes it really good for you. Kale has a flavor that is not like most other greens, so it’s a great change of pace to your cooking routine. Try it in salads, saute it with butter or bacon fat and garlic, or throw it in with pasta. Sometimes kale can be chewy and hearty, just be careful to cut the stems off and slice the leaves into thin strips, especially if you’re making salad – put on a vinaigrette and some Parmesan cheese and you’re done!

You can also make chips out of kale! It’s a really fun and easy way to incorporate healthy food to your plate. The February 2009 issue of Bon Appetit’s feature on kale offered some great recipes, but my favorite was the one for Tuscan Kale chips. Tuscan Kale is a tall flat leaf version of kale that is a rich deep green. To create this recipe, fire the oven up to 250, cut off the stems, toss them into a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and salt & pepper. Lay them flat on to a baking sheet, throw them in the oven until crisp (about 30 minutes) and you’ll have the easiest, tastiest way of getting one of the healthiest vegetables into your diet. Isn’t that easy? The recipe comes to us from Dan Barber of New York’s Blue Hill and it’s definitely a winner.

Give the recipe a shot, you won’t be disappointed. I like to freestyle on the recipe a bit by using Grains of Paradise in lieu of pepper; the floral kick provides a nice counterpoint to the chips. Enjoy kale and go out and eat your greens! The Tuscan Chip recipe is so easy you’ll find yourself doing it often and it’s a good show-off dish for when you have dinner parties.

Photo by Jamie Chung for Bon Appetit

Kale Chips on Foodista

VeggieTales

Today we went to the West Seattle Farmer’s Market in search of Mangalitsa. Sadly it wasn’t to be, we were able to grab some Berkshire jowl bacon (stay tuned…). We didn’t let this deter us as this gave us an opportunity to try some new things. Farmer’s markets are always fun in that you’ll walk around aimlessly, but you’ll know you’re in for something good. Produce, meats, flowers, baked goods, etc., basically everything has a chance to be good and ultimately you’ll be supporting small local business, something we should all do.

As we strolled through the market we happened across the Stoney Plains Organic Farms spot with their beautiful array of vegetables. We stood and absorbed the whole scene, figuring out what to do. They happened to have beet greens. My friend Kendall mentioned that beet greens are edible and are excellent! With this knowledge we grabbed a bunch and thought about what else to have for dinner.

Patrick stepped in and suggested trying some kale. He made this an active endeavor to talk about other greens, like lamb’s quarter, kailan and tsoi tsim. He suggested that we try them by tearing off leaves and trying them in the raw. This was so much fun! Trying the product is always a key to creating action. We ended up getting some kailan and tsoi tsim plus a few other items.

At a farmer’s market you can learn about the food, learn about who makes it, how to prepare it, and how to enjoy it. It’s a fuller experience than just going to the grocery store and getting the same ol’ same ol’, you’re able to try something new and feel better for doing so.

Don’t forget to bring a bag. Mayor Nickels would love that.