The Produce Alliance Market Report is a weekly outlook into the industries top fresh produce commodities. We focus on availability, overall quality, pricing, & trends in the industry as well as 'Good Buys,' local product, & fun facts.
Stephanie Goldfarb is the Chicago-based Corporate Chef for Produce Alliance. Goldfarb is a national food television personality specializing in seasonal, globally-inspired cuisine. Recognized as the winner of Food Network’s America’s Best Cook competition, and a celebrity chef on Kitchen Inferno and NBC’s Food Fighters, Goldfarb delivers unique and relatable culinary experiences to discriminating and casual diners alike. As the owner of the successful Seven Species Supper Club & Catering, she enjoys the challenge of building brand new menus each month that inspire both repeat clients and newcomers, and seeks opportunities to utilize new ingredients, techniques, and approaches in accessible ways.
Chef Goldfarb has many roles as Produce Alliance Corporate Chef such as: creating unique dining experiences for PA partners, growers, and clients; highlighting unique and accessible produce items in widely-distributed publications; and publicizing partners’ innovative culinary and growing techniques. However, Goldfarb’s most favorite PA work involves collaborating one-on-one with restaurant concepts on menu innovation and recipe consultation. Able to adapt to the specific goals and needs of each concept, Goldfarb affords PA concepts expert insights on menu trends and unique, market-tested culinary approaches that help concepts to remain relevant and competitive in ever-evolving industry standards. Whether it’s utilizing her celebrity to promote new menu items on local news shows, visiting restaurant headquarters to personally develop new recipes, or simply talk through client experience, Chef Goldfarb is here to help. Professional, creative, and accessible, Chef Goldfarb is honored to contribute to the Produce Alliance mission of providing the highest quality consultation possible, and her services are baked into the benefits of PA membership, free and easily accessible to all PA clients.
What are great ways to use lime and citrus flavors in fan-favorite fall and winter dishes?
Cold weather months are all about citrus! Try making a simple granita with grapefruit juice, agave syrup, and a touch of tequila for a gorgeous palate cleanser or light dessert. Limes and lemons are also classic stuffed into chicken and turkey while they roast, and the juices that come out make gorgeous gravy. And of course, Meyer lemons are my favorite guest stars of the season. Try slicing them whole and baking them directly onto halibut steaks.
What are some unexpected ways you’ve used cauliflower as a substitute in a dish?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a side of sautéed cauliflower, but I love using it in unconventional ways. One of my favorite dishes is roasted cauliflower mashed with white beans, Parmesan cheese, and whole gloves of deeply roasted garlic. Move over mashed potatoes! I’ve also used cauliflower seasoned with hoisin and chili paste as the filling for Chinese bao. Delicious.
How do you stay up-to-date on growing culinary trends and innovations?
I read everything I can get my hands on. I read industry magazines like Food Arts, and I follow the blogs and social media accounts of the most inspiring chefs I know about. But I don’t just wait to see what other people are doing. I’m always in the kitchen developing and testing new ideas based on the ingredients that are local and seasonal to me!
What winter produce are you looking forward to using? Why and how will you use them?
Winter squash like Delicata, Acorn, and Carnival are my favorite delicacies of the cold season. There are endless possibilities with them, both sweet and savory. I especially love squash for breakfast sautéed until golden brown with a fried egg on top. Meyer lemons are also up there for me. They have a super short window of availability, but I can’t get enough of them. Those thin skins are very sweet, and I use them whole in tarts, stuffed into chickens, or pulverized into elegant lemonade.
What specialty produce items are your go-to ingredients?
Fresno peppers are one of the specialty items on my “go-to” list. They are visually so beautiful, and the heat level they pack is both present and tolerable to many different palates. I also lean on micro greens quite a bit as both garnish and as add-ins to gourmet salads and wraps. They are dozens of unique varieties that all have their own flavor profiles, and those lovely tendrils really make my dishes pop.
During the holiday season, many staple dishes will circle back around into menus and onto dinner tables. What are some produce-heavy recipe options to include in a spread or use as an alternative for others?
Not to sound like a broken record, but Winter squash is totally the way to go. You can halve them and stuff them with savory fillings like stuffing, wild rice, and even soup. I also love sweet potatoes during the holiday season because they are delicious without much effort. Just roast them with a little maple syrup, some chili flakes, and maybe a touch of miso paste!
How do you avoid getting tired of items with longer produce seasons, such as squash and apples?
Great question. The trick to enjoying these items throughout the season is to thing beyond “traditional” or Americanized recipes. Squash is a perfect candidate for Japanese applications like tempura, or in Italian recipes like rich risotto. Apples take a new twist when they are treated like a savory vegetable in African ground nut stew, or shredded into slaw for a garnish on tacos.
What conventional produce items are your go-to ingredients?
If I didn’t name onions as my top conventional go-to produce item, I’d be pulling one over on you. Caramelized, grilled, deep fried, or raw on tacos, onions are the flavor base of all my favorite dishes, and add extra bite when I need it. Mushrooms are also staples in my kitchen because the impart automatic flavor and depth into my food. I love drying big batches of them because their flavor get really concentrated, and then I can throw them easily into soups and stews.
On October 5th, 2016, the Produce Alliance office in Chicago temporarily transformed itself into an intimate 5-course tasting menu concept, to launch the PA Pop Up Dinner Series. The PA Pop Dinner Series is a culinary initiative dedicated to celebrating creativity and innovation across the produce industry. With the goal of re-imagining culinary boundaries these Pop-Up Dinners showcase a vast array of innovative dishes, bringing together the excitement and enjoyment of the fresh produce industry and the Chefs and Growers that help set the bar for the future.
The first PA Pop Up Dinner featured a wide variety of Mann Packing products in every course, including their brand new Tenderbite® Green Beans and RomaCrunch® lettuce. The menu was curated by an A-List team of Chicago Chefs, led by PA’s Executive Chef, Chef Stephanie Goldfarb, Chef Nariba Shepard, line cook at Greenriver, and Mixologist Yolondra Yarborough, Bar Chef at GreenRiver and distiller at CH Distillery. Chef Stephanie worked with her collaborators to create an unforgettable event to kick off this series.
Produce Alliance is delighted to be a part of these boundary pushing events that will continue to bring together the industry’s best and brightest in setting new trends and re-inventing old standards. Stay tuned for information about our next PA Pop Up Dinner.
Featuring recipes curated by Stephanie Goldfarb, Corporate Chef Produce Alliance, from the First #PAPopUp Dinner.
What are Growing Regions?
A growing region is an area suited by climate and soil conditions to the cultivation of a certain type of crop or plant group. Most crops are cultivated not in one place only, but in several distinct regions in diverse parts of the world. Cultivation in these areas may be enabled by a large-scale regional climate, or by a unique microclimate. Growing regions, because of the need for climate consistency, are usually oriented along a general latitude, and in the United States these are often called "belts". In the cooler areas of North America, specifically the Northern regions of the United States and Canada, the growing season is observed between around April or May through October. This period is longer in the southern regions of the United States, where the growing season can start as early as February or March and continue all the way through November or December. These rough timetables vary significantly by areas that are in higher elevations and also closer proximity to the ocean.
Because of relatively long growth requirements of several crops grown in the United States, growing season extension practices are commonly used as well. These include various types of row covering techniques such as using cold frames and garden fabric over crops. Greenhouses are also a common season extension practice, particularly in higher elevation regions that only enjoy 90 day growing seasons. In California, there are 3 to 4 seasons, depending on your location, in which vegetables can be grown. Some items that are year round from California are but not limited to: Beets, Carrots, Fennel, Kohlrabi, Lettuce and radishes.
What are USDA Grades?
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) develops descriptions for fresh produce quality and condition called U.S. Grade Standards. U.S. Grade Standards provide the produce industry with a uniform language for describing the quality and condition of commodities in the marketplace. In partnership with industry members, Agricultural Marketing Service develops and revises these documents so that they always reflect modern business practices. Here are most grades, U.S. Extra Fancy, U.S. Fancy, U.S. #1, U.S. #2, U.S. #3, U.S. Utility, Combination Grade, and Unclassified. Grades will be product specific and not all product will have all grades attached.
Why does Grade Matter?
Grade provides specification with the language to get what you want. Grade provides the receiving staff quality and conditions descriptions on what produce to accept and what to reject.
Defects: Defects is a term used to identify issues with product. Quality and Condition defects are the two types of defects. Quality defects, Shape Texture, Scars, Color, Growth Cracks, Bruising, Condition defects, Sunken Discolored Areas, Shriveling, Service Discoloration, Decay.
Tolerances: Tolerances are best described as, the maximum total percentage of damage and defects allowable for the commodity to meet U.S. Grade #1 standards. The tolerances are measured as, Total, including serious and decay. For example 15-8-3 on a tolerance means 15% total damage, including 8% serious damage, not including more than 3% decay. This is item specific and may change per item, Example, raspberries Grade Standards US#1 for defects are 10% total including 5% serious including 1% mold or decay. Grade defects #2 is 10% serious including 2% mold or decay.
Quality Factors: There are a number of ways of studying the quality attributes of food products. One way is to look at the occurrence of the characteristics as the product is encountered and consumed. Using this system, quality attributes are often classified as external, internal, or hidden.
External quality attributes are those that are observed when the product is first encountered, appearance, feel and smell.
Internal quality characteristics are generally not perceived until the product is cut or bitten. Acceptable levels of these attributes often affects the consumer’s decision to repurchase a product. These internal attributes are related to aroma, taste, and feel (for example, mouthfeel and toughness).
The combination of external and internal attributes determine the acceptability of a product.
The third quality attributes, “Hidden Attributes” are more difficult for most consumers to measure or differentiate but the perception of these contribute for most consumers decision could help sell or not based on wholesomeness, nutritive value and safety.
What are Inspections? (Fresh Produce)
To begin with the explanation of inspections, you first must know common terms used when talking about fresh produce inspections. Certain terms actually mean something within inspections. Following are the terms and their definitions you may see.
Practically All 95 to 100%
Generally 90 to 100%
Most (Mostly) 55 to 89%
Approximately Half 46 to 54%
Many 26 to 45%
Some 11 to 25%
Few 5 to 10%
Occasionally 1 to 10%
These terms are used in inspections to see if the product is “out of grade”. These grading will help determining the final outcome of the purchase agreement.
Shippers of fresh produce can have their commodities graded for quality and condition at shipping point locations to establish the quality of the product. Receivers use the grading services to determine whether a shipment meets contract terms and to help select the best use for a particular shipment. Institutional buyers and government agencies use services to ensure deliveries meet required specifications. Processors have their raw commodity deliveries inspected using grading services to determine payment to growers. Industry members also find grade reports useful in determining produce storage life and choosing the best use for particular lots.
This is defined as requirement product specified agreed on by the buyer and the seller. The Specs under the USDA terms are ones defined as when is an acceptable product. A product specification is a document that provides critical defining information about a product and can include labels, rules, standards that may apply along with a visual illustration.
What Is FSMA and the Produce Rule?
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law Jan 4, 2011, requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to write standards for produce safety (Produce Rule). This proposed proactive approach to food safety instead of a reactionary approach as in the past. As a key element of this preventive approach, FDA was mandated under FSMA to establish science-based, minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce on farms to minimize contamination that could cause serious adverse health consequences or death. This proposed Produce Safety Rule is anticipated to be final October 2015.
What are Allergens?
Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by your body's immune system. Allergic reactions to food can sometimes cause serious illness and death. Although nearly any food is capable of causing an allergic reaction, only eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in the United States. These foods are: Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Milk, Egg, Wheat, Soy, Fish, Shellfish. Proper labeling of products to inform the public of safe product handling is essential and if products prepared were in contact with any Allergens.
What is HACCP?
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. In the 1960’s, the Pillsbury Corp, developed the HACCP control system with NASA to ensure food safety for the first manned space missions. The control process has been set up by the European Union to make sure the production of food entails as little hazards as possible for consumers. HACCP is a preventative food safety system in which every step in the manufacture, storage and distribution of a food product is scientifically analyzed for microbiological, physical and chemical hazards.