How To

How to: Pick Tomatillos

by Anne Maxfield on January 27, 2012

Accidental Locavore Tomatillos - CopyThe Accidental Locavore shows you what to look for in choosing tomatillos. Tomatillos should be smooth, firm and bright green in color. Avoid any that are shriveled or have soft spots. Unlike their tomato cousins, they’re fine refrigerated. To use them, peel off the papery skins and rinse well. Try them in my tomatillo salsa.



How to Pick Lettuce

by Anne Maxfield on August 18, 2011

Accidental Locavore LettuceWhile there are many different varieties of lettuce, picking good lettuce is pretty universal. Look for unblemished heads, with no brown or rust colored spots. Pick heads that are tightly packed and heavy in the hand. Make sure lettuce isn’t wilted and that it doesn’t have any slimy leaves (especially important with mesclun). Use a crisper lettuce like romaine or iceburg to use with more assertive, creamier or richer dressings and as a sandwich or burger topping. Softer lettuces like Boston, bibb or mesclun (pronounced may-cloon, not mescaline), need a lighter vinaigrette. Bibb and Boston lettuces make a great wrapper for food like chicken salad.

Wash all lettuce thoroughly, there’s nothing worse than gritty lettuce, and dry it on a towel or in a salad spinner. Store it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. If you’re curious about the best storage for lettuce, check out my test of various bags.



How to Pick Corn

by Anne Maxfield on August 9, 2011

Accidental Locavore Fresh CornThere is a lot to love about summer, and corn and tomatoes have to be at the top of the list. What should you look for when picking out corn? First of all, never buy already husked corn and don’t husk it or peel back the husk at the market. There’s no need, you just make a mess and you’re removing the corn’s protective wrapper. The husk should be green, tight fitting and fresh looking, it should look moist and not dried out at all. The silk at the tip will range from a light to a dark brown. Corn loses sweetness quickly, so only buy what you can eat right away. Store it in its husk in the coldest part of the refrigerator. If you have extra corn that you’re not going to eat in time, just cut it off the cob, put it in a freezer container (I use a zipper bag) and put it in the freezer.

How to cook corn:Accidental Locavore Corn on the Cob

  • Grill it. Keeping it in it’s husk (you can remove the silk if you want, but it’s not necessary) just toss it on a hot grill. When it starts to get nice and brown, about 5 minutes, turn it. Keep cooking until the husk is brown all over, about 15 minutes total.
  • Microwave it. Trim off the top and bottom of the corn and peel off all but the last two layers of husk. Microwave for 2 minutes per ear depending on the strength of your microwave and number of ears. This works best for 1-4 ears of corn.
  • Boil it. OK, now you can husk the corn, drop it in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
  • For special effects points: when the corn is cooked and shucked, fire up a blowtorch and “brulé” the kernels until they’re dark brown. It makes the corn taste sort of like popcorn and impresses your guests.


How to Pick: Green Beans, Wax Beans, Haricots Vert

by Anne Maxfield on July 7, 2011

Accidental Locavore Green & Wax BeansGreen beans, wax beans and haricots vert (or French beans) are all members of the snap bean family. For all of them, look for fresh, brightly colored beans, with no brown spots or signs of decay at the tips. Beans should be crisp, firm and snap easily (snap bean family, remember?). Haricots vert will be a darker, duller green color than their green bean cousins and they will cook faster due to their thinner size. Beans will keep in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

To prepare, trim the stem ends of the beans. You can leave them whole or cut them into small pieces (on the diagonal if you want to get fancy).  Most beans are steamed or boiled, to blanch them, then sauteed in oil or butter with garlic and herbs. Nuts, pine nuts and sesame seeds are often added. Click here for some bean recipes.