The fresher the food, the better the flavor, and the greater the nutritional value. That's why it pays to use these hints for freshness when shopping.
Look for plump, crisp, brightly colored vegetables. They should be heavy for their size, a sign that indicates moistness. They should also be free of shriveling, mold, cuts, or other blemishes.
Artichokes: Pick firm globes with large, tightly closed leaves. Darkened leaves do not affect the quality.
Asparagus: Choose firm, straight stalks with compact, closed tips. Avoid stalks that are either very thin (less than 1/8 inch) or very thick (more than 1/2 inch), because they may be stringy.
Green beans: Find long pods that snap crisply when you bend them.
Broccoli: Look for firm, tender stalks bearing small, crisp leaves. The dark green buds should be tightly closed and show no sign of flowering.
Corn: Check for bright green husks and well-filled, even rows of plump kernels.
Fennel: Bulbs should be smooth and have no cracks or brown spots. Stalks should be crisp and leaves bright green and fresh looking.
Mushrooms: Select plump and firm mushrooms. Avoid mushrooms that are spotted or slimy.
Potatoes: Find firm, smooth potatoes with shallow eyes. Avoid those with sprouts or patches of green.
Fruits should be plump, tender, brightly colored, and heavy for their size. They should also be free from mold, mildew, bruises, cuts, or other blemishes. To ripen apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines, pears, or tomatoes, place them in a paper bag and let stand at room temperature for a few days. Store ripe fruit (except tomatoes) in the refrigerator. Follow these hints for selecting fruits:
Apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines, and pears: Pick plump, slightly firm fruit that is not too firm, excessively soft, or bruised.
Avocados: Choose firm-ripe avocados that yield to gentle pressure for slicing and chopping. Very ripe avocados that feel soft are perfect for guacamole.
Melons: Smell the fruit. It should be sweet scented, heavy for its size, and well shaped.
Strawberries: Select plump, red berries with bright green caps.
Tomatoes: Look for well-shaped, plump, firm tomatoes. For best quality, keep at room temperature.
1. Trim off fennel stalks; discard. Reserve leaves forgarnish. Cut a thin slice from fennel base; cut fennel bulb into quarters lengthwise. In a saucepan, bring water and chicken bouillon granules to boiling. Add fennel. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. In a skillet, toast bread crumbs, oregano, and pepper in melted margarine or butter. Add Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
3. Drain fennel, reserving 1/4 cup liquid. Combine reserved liquid, light cream or milk, cornstarch, and paprika in a saucepan. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly; cook 2 minutes more. Stir in wine. Spoon sauce over fennel; top with bread crumb mixture. Garnish with fennel leaves. Makes 4 side-dish servings.
Nutrition facts per serving: 142 cal., 9 g fat (3 g sat. fat), 8 mg chol., 430 mg sodium, 13 g carbo., 0 g dietary fiber, 4 g pro. Daily Values: 23% vit. C, 10% calcium.