Quite Possibly the Sweetest Apple Ever: Kiku


(photo courtesy of

On a recent shopping trip, I picked up a bag of apples that I'd never tried before. The Kiku was advertised as the sweetest apple ever. And it is. I thought Honeycrisps were sweet but they pale in comparison to the Kiku.

Originally grown in Japan, Italian apple grower Luis Braun discovered the Kiku in 1990 when he noticed a sport or mutation of a Fuji. He bought the rights to the apple and took cuttings home to propagate. The red-striped apple is licensed by the Braun family and only select growers produce its fruit. It was introduced to the U.S. in 2010. The name Kiku is Japanese for chrysanthemum.

The Kiku has firm flesh and are excellent for snacking or cooking. They are available almost year round, from mid-fall to late summer.

Strawberry season is here

I sat in my backyard this afternoon watching the chickadees flit back and forth to the feeder.  A dove stood in the birdbath, periodically dousing its wings.

The grape hyacinths are a crush of purple.  I have to finish turning the soil for a small bed devoted to Italian string beans and lay a small path of rocks to line the space where the wildfowers will be sown.

 I saw a waxy white bloom on my strawberry plants. Berries will soon be ripe and red, ready to be enjoyed. My plants are more for show than anything else. I might get a cup or two if I'm lucky and the squirrels aren't greedy. Juicy strawberries  are my favorite spring dessert.  And the cool weather means a longer strawberry season.

Most of the berries I'll use for desserts and snacking will come from local farmers.  In North Carolina,  the strawberry crop is expected to total nearly 20 million pounds, with a value of a little over $1 per pound.

That's a whole lot of berries! I'm ready.


Bring on the figs with homemade ricotta!

This recipe combines three of my favorite tastes treats - figs, honey and cheese.  Ah!

Ricotta with honey roasted figs recipe - photo courtesy of Zabar's Zabar's recipe blogs present food fans opportunities to cook with some of the best recipes around, featuring chefs Lidia Bastianich and Edward Brown as well as food experts Ina Garten and Mark Bittman.

Today's featured recipe comes from Timeless Entertaining: Four Generations of Creative Kosher Cuisine.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to live near the fantastic food emporium, Zabar's, but thanks to technology, you can bring a bit of Zabar's into your home kitchen every day.

Bagging up Honeycrisp, Suncrisp and Mutsu apples at the greenmarket


Fruits other than grapes (seedless, please and thank you) rarely pass through the lips of my 10-year-old.

Imagine my delight when he agreed to an impromptu apple tasting at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket.

We tried Honeycrisps, Sonatas, Suncrisps, Mutsus or Crsipins, Fuji, Gala, and Asian Pears, which technically speaking are a cross between an apple and a pear. And this really only represented a portion of the selection available for purchase. 

I could barely contain my delight - both with the flavor, quality and variety of fruits as well as my son's interest in eating said fruits.

We decided to buy Honeycrisps, Suncrisps and Mutsus.True to their name, the Honeycrisps went straight into individual tarts. The Suncrisps, while not lovely to look at, are  juicy, crisp and a little spicy - good for cooking.  A Japanese variety, the Mutsus had a firm flesh and the most interesting flavor - hints of herb and spice - good for eating with a sharp cheddar.

I was in the mood for something sweet when I got back form the market (when am I not).  But since I've got the boy in the mood for apples, I think it might be a good idea to try tempting him with something savory.

Anyone for an apple, sweet sausage, and goat cheese tart?

Blood oranges: beautifully sweet and good to eat

Beautifully sweet and oh-so-good to eat

When I was a little girl, it was a huge treat to have Florida oranges in January. My mom would make this amazing ice-box cake -- Scoopity-out Orange Cake -- with fresh oranges, a dense yellow cake and a buttery rich coconut icing.  After flourless chocolate cake, it remains my favorite.

The world is quite a bit smaller today. It's nothing to see fruits and vegetables in the market from the farthest reaches of the world. But I still get excited by big beautiful oranges in winter.  The ones I love the most are blood oranges and I'm pretty impatient to see them in stores. 

This weekend I picked up a bag of gorgeous Sicilian grown Tarocco oranges.  If I were in Italy, the fruit might come wrapped in an attractive paper wrapper that for collectors has become as much a prize as the fruit itself. 

For once, I was delighted that my son is a picky fruit eater.  I knew that these thin-skinned beauties would be mine alone to savor.

The largest of the blood oranges, the elongated Tarocco thrives on the volcanics ashes and sunny, warm climate of eastern Sicily where it is grown almost exclusively. With very few seeds, it is tart-sweet with delicious berry overtones. Low in calories, the Tarocco is an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber.

Most of all, the Tarocco is simply wonderful to eat.