January: seasonal vegetables and fruit – Italian Cuisine

January: seasonal vegetables and fruit

With the beginning of the new year, in the heart of winter, the fruit and vegetable stalls are certainly not stingy with products, far from it! It's time to fill your shopping bags with vegetables and fruit in January. To be interpreted in a rich, tasty and always varied cuisine that enriches the daily diet with vitamins, mineral salts, fibers and antioxidants, so precious for the well-being of the body and the immune system.

Triumph of leaves
Among thistles and fennel, broccoli and cabbage, undoubtedly those are to excel over the many vegetables of the moment leafy: spinach, beets, ribs white or colored, they cook quickly and give the diet mineral salts and lots of fiber, with an undeniable detox effect useful after the festive "big binges". They are eaten raw or cooked envy as the Belgian or the escarole, both good in salads as well as in the stuffed and stewed versions. They are part of the large family of chicory, among which it is necessary to mention the late radicchio from Treviso. The one on the market now has uniquely shaped tufts, with a thick stem and long, thin, slightly spread leaves that roll towards the tips in graceful curls. The taste is gentle but characteristic, to be enhanced with quick cooking or in the most classic of winter risottos. The stems are not discarded: well scraped and julienned, they will give a crunchy note to the preparations. Their texture is reminiscent of another seasonal vegetable, the celeriac, also called of Verona. It is actually a large rounded root with an irregular and brownish surface. Once peeled, it reveals a whitish and intensely aromatic pulp. Raw it is the protagonist of two famous salads: the American Waldorf with apples and walnuts and the local capricciosa with gruyère and cooked ham, both tied with a mayonnaise-based sauce. It can also be cooked in the oven or boiled to make a puree, like a potato. About potatoes: have you noticed that those on sale are getting bigger, with thick skin and dirty with soil? They are old potatoes, perfect for gnocchi!

At the greengrocer's
Many think that the winter orchard pales in comparison to that of the warm months. In fact, there are many ready-to-eat varieties. Between pears, for example, it's time to buy Abbot And Kaiser but also an exotic specialty, the Japanese Nashi, which ends its season in recent weeks and surprises with its juicy, delicate, very fresh pulp: it can be bought in Asian stores with the fruit and vegetable department, in organic ones and in well-stocked supermarkets. Looking at the vast world of citrus fruits, it's time for cedars of which the peel, the albedo (the white part, not at all bitter) and the central pulp, little but very aromatic, are consumed. The best way to serve cedar is, therefore, cut into thin slices like a carpaccio, to be enjoyed in salads together with fennel, raw shellfish, flaked cod. While diced it can finish both a risotto and a fruit salad. Other citrus "mangiatutto" (peel apart) are le clementines, cross between mandarins and mandarin oranges: small and juicy, they are characterized by the lack of seeds. The wedges are immediately inviting, so much so that one leads to the other … that the cherries are envious of! In addition to being an excellent source of vitamin C, essential for preventing seasonal ailments. Among the fruits rich in antioxidants, one cannot forget the pomegranate, which has certainly made a splash on the holiday menus but deserves a place at the table even these days: superfood for the well-being of the body, super ingredient to give an elegant and crunchy touch to many dishes.

Francesca Romana Mezzadri
January 2022

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