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How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table
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Manufacturer: Houghton Mifflin
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 641.35
EAN: 9780547053806
ISBN: 0547053800
Label: Houghton Mifflin
Manufacturer: Houghton Mifflin
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 432
Publication Date: 2008-05-01
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Studio: Houghton Mifflin

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Editorial Reviews:

"Eat locally, eat seasonally." A simple slogan that is backed up by science and by taste. The farther away from the market something is grown, the longer it must spend getting to us, and what eventually arrives will be less than satisfying. Although we can enjoy a bounty of produce year-round -- apples in June, tomatoes in December, peaches in January -- most of it is lacking in flavor. In order to select wisely, we need to know more. Where and how was the head of lettuce grown? When was it picked and how was it stored? How do you tell if a melon is really ripe? Which corn is sweeter, white or yellow?

Russ Parsons provides the answers to these questions and many others in this indispensable guide to common fruits and vegetables, from asparagus to zucchini. He offers valuable tips on selecting, storing, and preparing produce, along with one hundred delicious recipes. Parsons delivers an entertaining and informative reading experience that is guaranteed to help put better food on the table.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: An excellent reference for finding high quality fruits and vegetables
Great food always starts with great ingredients. According to my teachers at the Culinary Institute, the aspiring home cook can make delicious foods simply by picking great ingredients and then not making mistakes in cooking them. The CIA spends a great deal of time focusing on quality.

My paperback copy of How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table by Russ Parsons captures much of that information in a very handy volume. Parsons is a staff writer and the former food editor for "The Los Angeles Times." His approach is similar to that of Harold McGee (see On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, for example): direct, practical, informed and very readable.

Parsons recognizes the reality of many grocery aisles: "tomatoes that taste like cotton; peaches that will never drip; strawberries that could bend a fork." He has written short chapters on fruits and vegetables from apples to winter squash, together with over a hundred recipes. His writing shines: "With its overlapping rows of hard prickly petals, [an artichoke] seems only one step removed from a stick with a nail stuck in it."

The book covers 42 categories of fruits and vegetables arranged by season. The organization is a little confusing, but the excellent Index makes navigation easy and accurate. The index is particularly helpful in distinguishing the several biographies of the ingredients and the practical hints to choosing high quality ingredients.

Parson's recipe for parsnip soup is particularly good and representative of his style:

"This is a somewhat plainer version of a recipe by the San Francisco chef Jeremiah Tower. (He garnishes his version with shaved white truffles.) It's also really, really good with sour cream.

1 lb. parsnips
1 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 medium boiling potato, peeled and diced
~ Salt
3½ cups water, plus more if needed
1 sprig tarragon
1 sprig parsley
¼ cup sour cream


1. Working lightly with a vegetable peeler, peel the parsnips, then cut off the bottoms and tops. Continuing to use the vegetable peeler, cut away and save the rest of each parsnip down to its woody core, catching the thin slices in a wide pot. The color of the vegetable will change from creamy white to ivory when you get to the core. Discard the core.

2. Add the butter, onion, potato, and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot, along with cup water. Place the pot over low heat, cover it tightly, and cook slowly, "sweating" the vegetables until they begin to become tender, about 15 minutes. Stir from time to time to keep the vegetables from sticking and scorching. If necessary, add a little more water.

3. Add the tarragon and parsley and continue to sweat for another 5 minutes. Add 3 cups water, increase the heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are completely tender, about 10 minutes.

4. Discard the tarragon and parsley sprigs and, using a slotted spoon, transfer as much as you can of the solids from the pot to a blender. With the lid of the blender removed, pulse to chop the vegetables. If necessary, add a little water. Once the vegetables are chopped, blend on the lowest speed and gradually work your way up to the highest. At first the vegetables will jump up the sides, but then they'll subside and remain at much the same level no matter the speed of the blender. With the motor running, add the rest of the liquid and any vegetables left over in the pot and purée until completely smooth.

5. Wipe out the pot to remove any bits of vegetables, then pour the puréed soup back into it. Heat through over low heat. Taste for salt.

6. Beat the sour cream with a spoon to soften it. Divide the soup among four warmed soup bowls, drizzle in a bit of sour cream in a decorative pattern, and serve.

And here are a couple of samples of Parson's hints on finding great ingredients:

A good watermelon should "sound hollow when thumped lightly." The reason: large cavities form inside the ripened fruit. An additional personal hint: if you buy a watermelon already cut, perhaps covered with clear plastic wrap, pick watermelons with large cavities, not the ones that are smooth and completely flat.

When selecting citrus and tomatoes, go for items that feel heavy for their size; lighter ones will have lost moisture and have a pulpy mouth feel.

"Mature fruit that hung on the tree long enough to develop the sugar will have a distinctive orange cast . . . trust your nose: fruit that is ripe and delicious will always smell that way." In particular, "When you buy [peaches] at the right time of year, however, when the local farmers have filled the markets with them, these fragrant treasures go for pennies. They'll even be cheap enough that you can afford to buy the very best. And that's the time you want to pick a peach."

Altogether, I found this a very handy book to refresh my memory of what constitutes excellent ingredients, particularly handy in the paperback size when shopping.

Robert C. Ross 2008

Customer Rating: Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5
Summary: Not the "Best Pick" in the Field
Comment: This book has a few interesting chapters but overall it misses the mark. Each chapter describes a different fruit or vegetable along with a few recipes. Any food lover will be disappointed and not learn much.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Great resource for taking advantage of fresh produce
Comment: As others have mentioned, this book is a nice reference and fun to read. I have tried only a few recipes, but they have all been WONDERFUL. To me, they give the ideal kinds of insights for simple ways to prepare food more effectively which can be extrapolated beyond the exact recipe. After trying the beet/cuc/feta salad, and not having much experience with beets, I continued to make a cold beet salad for my 3yearold all summer, at her request! Also, after preparing eggplant in ways I was accustomed and accepting that my daughter didn't like it, I tried his recipe for steamed eggplant (go figure!) and again my 3yearold loved it! (So did I. It's now my favorite eggplant preparation as well.)

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: With Juice Running Down Your Arms and Mouth Watering Taste
Comment: I've heard that the juice of a really good peach will run down your arms all the way to your elbows. One acturally did make it almost to my elbows the other day. Not the kind of peaches you most often find in a supermarket, with only one peach in many having any juice or flavor.

The question is, "How do you select and store fresh fruits and vegies to insure the mzxium excllence in taste and texture?" The answers are found in Russ Parsons' well written book, "How To Pick a Peach." He classisfies each fruit and vegetable by season and not only tells you how to pick the best ones, but also how to store and prepare them. Russ also gives you several simple receipies for using each fruit and vegetable.

Some fragile vegies such as peas, corn and green beans should be eaten right after they are purchased. Some vegies, such as potatoes, onions, tomatoes and winter squash should never be refrigerated. When refrigerated the starch in potatoes turns to sugar and they lose flavor. This was new to me.

He gives an intersting short history of each fruit and vegie. He also gives a history of industrial farming and the cost of compromise when big farmers take over the production of our porduce, which I really enjoyed. Now that I have read "How To Pick a Peach" it will make a valuable referance tool.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Help in selecting fruit
Comment: This is a useful book that has given us advice on picking as well as storing fruits. Clues not previously known

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