With mobile devices always in hand, we’re able to shop, order food and entertain ourselves any day, month or year. But Mother Nature still runs the show when it comes to growing seasons, so there are some delicious fresh items that are only available during a short window each year. Take advantage of “limited time produce” by featuring these items on your menu.
When people line up around the block to buy a variety of chiles, you know they are there for something special. That’s what happens in New Mexico and other parts of the Southwest region at the end of every summer, when Hatch chiles come into season in early August. They’re grown only in the Hatch Valley, just north of Las Cruces, New Mexico and are available for about six weeks. In addition to their exceptional flavor and meatiness, they’re especially prized because, unlike other chiles, they come in a range of heat levels, from mild to very hot.
“In the Southwest, Hatch chile roasts are a great end-of-summer tradition, and Melissa’s has been bringing that tradition to the rest of the country,” says Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations at Melissa’s Produce and “Produce Guru” for Cooking Light magazine. “People buy them by the case, then line up to have them roasted in oversized roasters. Once they get the chiles home, they’re frozen and used throughout the year in recipes for holidays and special occasions. They’ll actually freeze fine for two years, but most people only buy a one-year supply.”
While the poblano pepper is the typical choice for chile rellenos, Schueller swears the Hatch chile variety is even better. His favorite way to eat them? “I love what’s called a ‘poor man’s burrito,’ which is a tortilla spread with cream cheese, layered with roasted hatch chiles, and sprinkled with Hatch chile powder, salt or garlic salt. It’s a traditional Southwestern dish.”
Cotton Candy® grapes
There is no grape sweeter than Cotton Candy grapes, which are available organically through July, then conventionally in August through September. “They’re a mixture of different sweet varieties that were noncommercial, and they then were brought into commercial production,” Schueller says. “They’ve really developed a cult following. People can’t believe how sweet they are.”
Most people eat the grapes out of hand, so they’re perfect as a garnish or on a cheese or charcuterie platter. “You can also grill a bunch of them right on the vine,” Schueller suggests. “Or go the other direction and freeze them in a sorbet or use them in place of ice cubes for cocktails.”
Dress up Hatch chiles with a drizzle of Marzetti® Tropical Habanero Sauce or Marzetti® Smoky Honey Chile Sauce for an extra pop of heat and flavor. Try adding Cotton Candy Grapes to veggie or chicken salads, dressed with Marzetti® Slaw Dressing or Apple Vinaigrette.
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