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NBC's ' Produce Pete' sits down to talk about food access issues, the New York Green Cart Initiative and his own beginnings as a street vendor. He appears in the film THE APPLE PUSHERS (www.applepushers.com).
Meet and Greet
12 noon to 3pm
Meet and Greet
12 noon to 3pm
6:30 pm to 9 pm
An evening of good taste
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Although they’re grown in other parts of the world, only in the United States do we use pumpkins to celebrate and symbolize Halloween. Many people never buy pumpkin except to make jack-o-lanterns, which is too bad because pumpkins supply more beta carotene per serving than any other fruit or vegetable. Some people use jack-o-lantern pumpkins for cooking, but they were developed specifically to be oversized and thin-walled with a huge seed pocket and a relatively small proportion of flesh. The smaller sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins, will give you more meat for cooking purposes and often a better flavor and texture. Sugar pumpkins make an especially delicious pumpkin soup. Buy an extra one, clean out the cavity, and use it as a striking tureen. If you can find it, I suggest using a variety called the cheese pumpkin for pies. It is a medium-sized to large pumpkin with a very flattened shape, a light tan shell, and orange flesh. Found most readily at farm stands and in New England, cheese pumpkins make delicious pies. Regular pumpkins—sugar and especially jack-o-lantern—sometimes make stringy filling. October through December Whatever kind of pumpkin you’re buying, select one with no bruises or soft spots. It may be greenish in color, but left whole in a cool place—not refrigerated—it will ripen and turn orange. Never handle a pumpkin by the stem because it breaks off easily. There’s a way to decorate pumpkins that’s different and colorful. Instead of cutting and hollowing out a pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern, try leaving it intact and creating a face with fresh vegetables. Depending on what you use, you can give the pumpkins a wide range of personalities. My mother decorated pumpkins this way because it preserved the pumpkin, which she could use in cooking after Halloween was over. She would use a carrot or parsnip to make a long, witchy nose. She would make lips out of red peppers, use radishes for the eyes and add string beans eyelashes. She would slice potatoes to make ears and make “hair” out of fennel tops. The result was unusual and very striking. My wife, who is quite artistic, picked up a lot of kitchen techniques from my mother and she has decorated pumpkins for my show that were really something to see.
I love apple season. There are few things better than a good apple eaten out of hand. Whether the flesh is mild and sweet or tart and winey, when you bite into it, a fresh-picked apple will make a crisp cracking sound and you’ll get a spurt of juice. There’s a season for everything and the main season for American apples starts the last half of October. I’ve probably said this a thousand times, but our problem in the United States is that we try to buy produce out of season. Many varieties will keep well late into winter, but by summer most apples have been stored for seven or eight months. No wonder they are soft, mealy, and without juice. When peaches and melons come in, stay away from apples. Come back when there’s a snap in the air, and you’ll remember what makes apples so good. Apples are one of the most esteemed fruits in the northern Hemisphere in part because they’re so versatile. They’re delicious raw, baked, dried, or made into apple sauce. They make great pies, apple butter, apple jelly, chutney, cider, and cider vinegar, and they’re a welcome addition to dozens of other dishes. A member of the rose family, apples have been known since ancient times and were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Many places grow wonderful apples now, but overall, the United States produces the finest apple crops in the world. The Northwest, the East Coast, and parts of the Midwest, regions where the seasons change, grow the best apples. They’re not a fruit for hot climates. Only a few of the thousands of varieties of apples grown today are mass marketed, but there are many more out there than Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Macs. There are very old and very new varieties you may never have heard of. If you’re north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you’re going to find the best apples at local farm markets and stands, where they’re fresh-picked, and you’re likely to find great varieties you’d never see at the supermarket.
Season The vast majority of apples are picked from September through November and either sold immediately or put into cold storage, where some keep well – some don’t. The peak of the season for domestic varieties – when most stored apples still retain their snap – is generally over by December. A few will last through the early spring, but by March it’s hard even to find a good Winesap.
Selecting In most cases look for very firm, bright-colored fruit with no bruises and with the stem still on – a good indication that you’ve got an apple that’s not overripe. The apple should feel heavy in the hand for its size and have a good shine on it. A dull look usually means the fruit has been in storage too long, although some excellent varieties like Winesaps and eastern Golden Delicious have relatively rough skin with little or no sheen. As always, use your nose. An apple that smells great is going to taste great.
Honeycrisp: Sometimes the name of an apple says it all. Honeycrisp apples are honey sweet (with a touch of tart) and amazingly crisp, some say “explosively crisp.” It’s easy to see why this new variety continues to grow in popularity since its 1991 introduction in Minnesota. Supplies are limited for now but more Honeycrisp trees are being planted every year.
Empire: With the popular Red Delicious and McIntosh for parents, Empire apples were destined to be a hit. It’s a sweet-tart combination that’s great for everything. The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva Introduce3d this new variety in 1966.
McIntosh: Nothing evokes Fall better than the aromatic fragrance of McIntosh apples. People have enjoyed this apple since 1811 when John McIntosh discovered the first seedling. McIntosh apples grow particularly well in New York’s cool climate!
Macoun: Want a perfect no-fat dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth? Macoun may just be your apple, but, hurry, these special apples are only available in the Fall. Macoun was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1932. It’s named for a famous Canadian fruit breeder.
A unique union and a family tradition takes place in California in the fall with the growing of baby seedless from Thompson seedless grapes. This happens by letting the grapes grow naturally and not thinning them out. This process is usually done for the making of raisins, but over the past few years they have discovered that the fresh market for eating out of hand has come to enjoy the sweet tender taste of these grapes.When they want grapes for raisins they usually just let them grow, not thinning them out, this produces a small deep yellow grape with high sugar content.I got hooked on these grapes a couple of years ago and find them to be one of the sweetest and best eating grapes of the fall season. This is really a seasonal grape, usually only produced in the fall when the sun is still strong and the weather starts to turn cool. Treat them like you would any other seedless grape and enjoy but remember they are full of sugar so they won’t last long – so eat them – don’t store them!!!Grapes symbolize the good life. Commercially grown mainly in California, this late spring to early fall crop is now also available throughout the winter at good prices, thanks to imports from Chile, which has a season opposite to our own. Despite some negative press, Chilean grapes, in my experience, are high in quality and offer a welcome way to add fresh fruit to the table during the winter months.There are basically three types of seedless grapes - white, red, and black. California Pearlettes usually arrive in early May. They're round, very light green, and have a firm and crisp texture. Look for grapes that have a golden-yellow undertone to the green - they're sweeter. The ones that are very green are very, very tart - they'll make your mouth pucker. The season is six to eight weeks long, wait a week or two after they first arrive before you buy them.The familiar California Thompson seedless, another pale green grape, is America's favorite. Thompsons are larger, more oval than round, and have a sweeter taste and more tender skin and flesh than Pearlettes. Here, too, you should look for a grape that has a golden glow, which indicates ripeness. The Thompsons start coming in about a month later than the Pearlettes and stay on the market a couple of months longer.White grapes from Chile start arriving in December. They tend to have a more-raisiny look compared to California varieties. Some people pass them up because they think they're overripe, but they're not. That golden color is a sign that they're good and sweet.Red seedless grapes, which come on the market after Thompsons, are becoming one of the most popular grapes around. The Red Flame variety is relatively new, but it may soon surpass Thompsons in popularity. A cross between the Tokay (a seeded grape) and a round seedless, Red Flames are firm and sweet, with a very good crisp texture.The ruby seedless has a richer, deeper color than the Flame, but the grapes are smaller, with a shape like a Pearlette. They have a tougher skin and less flavor than Flames. They're the last of the season for seedless grapes.Black Beauty is a new variety of seedless grape with a relatively short season. It doesn't have quite the flavor that the other varieties do. The Chilean black seedless grapes are better than those we get from California. Domestic black grapes are available in June and July, while Black Beauties from Chile are available in mid-winter.Champagne grapes are probably the sweetest of all. These tiny red grapes are available virtually year round because they are cultivated everywhere, mainly for restaurant use. You're most likely to find them in gourmet or specialty markets. They're so tiny you eat them by putting a small branchful into your mouth, then pulling the stem out between your teeth to remove the grapes - sort of like eating an artichoke leaf.
Grapes are available year round, with the California grapes available from late spring through fall, followed by grapes from Chile, which begin in December and end in May.
Look for plump, smooth grapes with good color. They should be firmly attached to a fresh-looking green stem, with no evidence of wrinkling or withering. There should be a dusty bloom on the skin of the grape itself. Like the dusty bloom on blueberries, it's a naturally occurring substance that helps protect the grapes and is a good indication of freshness. Green or White grapes will have a golden glow when they're ripe, red grapes will be a soft, rich red, and black grapes will have a deep, blue-black color.
Grapes don't ripen off the vine, so what you buy is what you get. They're very delicate and need to be handled carefully. Refrigerate them dry in a plastic bag. Never wash them until you're ready to eat; moisture will make them deteriorate very quickly. Grapes will last up to a week properly stored in the refrigerator, but it's best to eat them as soon as possible.
Other recipes from Produce Pete. .
Sauté garlic and oil until lightly browned and add broccoli rabe; sauté until tender. Strain the broccoli rabe and garlic mixture to remove the excess liquid. Chop the mixture finely, and set aside for later use. Cook the sausage meat and the diced onions until the mixture is fully cooked. Drain the sausage mixture of any excess liquid. Make sure the sausage and onion mixture is chopped, without any large pieces of meat. Add sausage mixture to the broccoli rabe mixture. Blend well. Next, add the ricotta, mozzarella, grated cheese and egg. Stir until mixed well. Add broccoli rabe and sausage mixture to the pie crust, and distribute evenly. Add pie crust over the top. Cut a vent hole in the center of the pie. Pinch the edges of the two crusts together. Brush the top of the pie and the edges with a beaten egg yolk. Place pie on a cookie sheet, and bake at 375° for 45 minutes to an hour, or until golden brown. Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.
In a large bowl, mix together all the salad ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over broccoli and stir until well coated. Chill and serve.
Cut bottom core off escarole and rinse leaves well. In a large pot, put in escarole leaves and add 4 cups of water; steam until leaves are tender. Drain in colander and set aside. Place olive oil and garlic in the same pot and sauté garlic until golden brown. Add escarole and the remaining ingredients into the pot and stir. Heat thoroughly.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Peel, core, and slice the apples and place in a large bowl. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and tapioca and stir together until the apples are well coated. Spoon the apple mixture into the pie shell. Dot with butter and set aside. Topping Place the flour, cinnamon, and sugar in a large bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture has the texture of coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top of the apples. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
Managed and operated a family owned farm/produce business for retail, wholesale, and fruit baskets. Pete has been in the produce business his whole life, and started out selling produce off the back of a truck at auctions and at his parents' roadside stand. Pete's family has been in business since 1953 at the same location in Bergenfield, New Jersey. From 1971 - 1997 Pete owned and operated this family "seasonal" business that includes at Christmas - Christmas trees, wreaths, and fruit baskets. During Easter we sell various plants, gourmet baskets and fruit baskets - Mother's Day - plants, fresh cut flowers, fruit baskets. At Halloween - pumpkins, corn stalks, etc. The produce store is open between April and December with retail, wholesale, and fruit baskets.
In January 1998 he turned over the business to his son Peter Charles making him the 3rd generation to own Napolitano's Produce. In April of 2006, Napolitano's Produce closed it's doors after 53 years, a sad day but everything comes to an end. I would like to thank all the faithful customers who shopped my family store over the past 53 years. It was a privilege serving you. In June 2000 - he started as a Fruit & Vegetable Buyer for S. Katzman Produce at Hunts Point Market, Bronx, New York.Pete comes from a large family with his father being the 20th child - "That's why we are in the food business".