The quality of the ingredients used to make a recipe can make or break the meal. This is particularly true when it comes to making recipes that call for fresh produce. Fresh produce is packed full of natural flavors that can take a meal from good to over-the-top amazing!
During the holiday season, our family entertains many guests for dinner. It’s particularly important for me to ensure that the ingredients I’m using to make our meals are fresh. For me, this means knowing when our local grocery store stocks the produce or visiting a farmer’s market on the weekend. Once the fresh produce is brought home, it’s vitally important for everything to be stored for optimal freshness.
Some of the fresh produce I buy goes in my KitchenAid® French Door Refrigerator, such as: broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, beets, berries, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, leafy greens, Brussel sprouts, and parsnips. The ExtendFresh™ Temperature Management System maintains the perfect temperature in the fridge for my fresh-from-the-farm produce. This system uses special sensors to make sure everything, from produce to meat, remains at an ideal temperature.
Some produce items shouldn’t go in the fridge such as: potatoes, bananas, hard squash, and onions. These items are kept in a tiered basket system on my dinning room table.
Along with purchasing fresh ingredients and storing produce in their proper places in the fridge or at room temperature, I’ve also learned a few tips and tricks to keeping ingredients fresh:
1. Use produce savers like the KitchenAid® FreshFlow™ Produce Preserver to absorb ethylene gas in the produce boxes of the Refrigerator. This will help extend the life of fresh produce ingredients.
2. Clean your Refrigerator regularly. Old, moldy food may cause fresh ingredients to go bad.
3. Keep the Refrigerator organized, and store ingredients and leftovers in clear containers. This helps you easily identify the contents in your Refrigerator.
4. Separate fruits and vegetables into their own individual produce bins. In our Refrigerator, I reserve one produce bin for fridge-friendly vegetables and the other one for fridge-friendly fruits. Fruits give off high levels of ethylene, which may cause vegetables to ripen too quickly if they’re all stored together. This also allows me to regulate the specific humidity for fruits and vegetables using the humidity control choices located on the produce bins in the Refrigerator.
5. Have a plan. A (meal) plan allows me to visualize and know exactly how I’m going to use fresh ingredients. This ensures that everything is put to use and nothing goes bad.
One of my favorite ways to use fresh ingredients, particularly when entertaining for the holidays, is to make a colorful Winter Panzanella Salad. This salad is always a crowd pleaser thanks to a variety of fresh ingredients!
Traditionally, a panzanella salad is made with bread and fresh summer tomatoes. In the winter, tomatoes are hard to come by, but this salad may still be enjoyed by using seasonal vegetables and kale (a seasonal leafy green). I’ve included a few veggie suggestions in the recipe that I love to include in my Winter Panzanella Salad along with a few other veggie options. Just keep the ingredients fresh, and you’ll create a stunning, crowd-pleasing salad!
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Winter Panzanella Salad
Makes 4 servings (as a side)
For the vegetables and bread
1 medium sweet potato, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 large parsnip, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 medium beet, halved and sliced
4 cups bread, cubed (about 1/2 of a fresh baguette)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
For the greens
4 cups lacinato kale, chopped (about 1 head of kale)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh herbs, chopped (like parsley and basil)
For the dressing
3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cup parmesan or asiago cheese, shaved (if desired)
For the vegetables and bread
Preheat the oven to 425° F.
Arrange the sweet potato, parsnip, and beets on a baking pan, and drizzle them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle the vegetables with two pinches of salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables in the oil and spice, then spread them in a thin layer on the pan.
Place the vegetables in the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until soft and slightly crispy on the edges.
While the vegetables roast, arrange the cubed bread on a separate baking pan. Drizzle the bread with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, minced garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the bread in the oven, and toast for 10-15 minutes, until crispy and fragrant.
For the greens
In a large bowl, add the kale and salt. Massage the salt into the kale, for about 30 seconds, until the kale breaks down and softens. Add the chopped herbs to the kale.
For the dressing
To make the dressing, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, honey, shallot, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
To assemble the salad, add the freshly-roasted vegetables to the massaged kale (they should be warm) and the toasted bread. Toss the ingredients to combine.
Finally, pour the dressing over the salad, and toss the salad to coat all the ingredients in the dressing. Add the cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.
I chose beets, parsnips, and sweet potatoes for my panzanella salad, but you can try cubed or sliced butternut squash, sliced delicata squash, halved Brussels sprouts, cauliflower or sliced kohlrabi. The possibilities are endless.
If you don’t have parsley or basil on hand, try other fresh herbs like rosemary, dill or thyme.
*The Contributor of this post has been compensated by KitchenAid for this post, but this post represents the Contributor’s own opinion.*