Lighter, Leaner and Looking for New Foods

Copywriter Chris Allen

Yep. I know it’s cliché, but I’m definitely trying to make my footfalls a little lighter this New Year. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a new parent and I spent all my time trying to keep the food off the floor and into my little monster’s mouth that got me a little lazy about healthy eating in late 2018. But that’s all gonna change in 2019…right?

Dragon Fruit Totally Slays in your Smoothies

Our Produce and Bulk sections are always stuffed with fantastic fuel for your smoothie blender. Lots of organic greens, vitamin-packed fruits, and nutrient-rich nuts, often from Washington-based growers and producers. But as the calendar flips to 2019 and our tummies start begging us for a break from heavier foods, there’s one item that’s got us excited — the tropical pitaya fruit, more commonly known in the U.S. as dragon fruit.

With its purple flesh, mildly sweet flavor and crunchy little seeds, it’s pretty cool looking, right? Demand around the world for this gorgeous fruit is skyrocketing, with some eaters comparing it to the avocado as another must-have “super fruit” for the kitchen. It’s easy to see why — the pitaya is packed with vitamin C, fiber, iron and antioxidants, too, and the frozen fruit cubes and smoothie packs we have in stock from Pitaya Plus are a smoothie maker’s dream. Pitaya Plus only harvests the purple pulp variety of dragon fruit, which has more vitamins and richer flavor than the white pulp variety. They’re also USDA organic, non-GMO verified and free from preservatives and added sugar! If you’re looking for something new and tasty to shake up your smoothie recipes, breakfast bowls or salads, this is it.

The pitaya fruit grows on tall, climbing cacti, with flowers that only bloom at night, inspiring its other nickname: “moonflower.” Its origins are most likely Central America, although it’s now grown in many tropical climates, including Vietnam, Israel, the Philippines and Hawaii. The original 15 farmers who founded Pitaya Plus got their start in Nicaragua.

A Sweet Bainbridge Island Tradition

As we mentioned last week, we’ve been thinking about food culture more than usual lately, and we’re always looking for opportunities to take deeper dives into foods we’ve already tasted, savored and prepared for others, but might have origins or traditions that we want to explore further. Our Asian/World Foods departments have long had a varied and well-stocked supply of Asian-style foods and staples, including mochi, that mildly sweet, wonderfully bouncy Japanese rice dough. It’s very popular all through the holidays, but the clever shopper can still find some dessert-style mochi in many of our Asian/World food departments through January.

The pleasure of eating mochi is wrapped up in its wonderfully chewy, bouncy texture as much as its flavor or filling. There are lots of ways to prep it: filled with sweet red bean paste, frozen and filled with ice cream, or ground into flour, called mochiko, and used in dessert recipes, like our super tasty, Blueberry Mochi dessert. (Make some at home and leave a comment telling us what you think!)

Many of our long-time customers know that Town & Country Markets got its start on Bainbridge Island in 1957 by brothers Mo and John Nakata and Ed Loverich. And even though we’ve opened a few other markets across the Puget Sound, our ties to Bainbridge will always be unique. One of our favorite New Year’s island traditions has been the annual Mochi Tsuki, a Japanese celebration dating back nearly 1000 years where mochi is prepared in a traditional style. The steamed rice is put in a large wooden or stone bowl, called an usu, and repeatedly pounded by one or more mallets, called kine, until it becomes a giant blob of yummy, sticky dough. Then it’s covered in sweet rice powder, shaped and filled with sweet bean paste or other ingredients.

The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community organizes the Mochi Tsuki every year, and this Saturday, Jan. 5 is their 30th anniversary! More than a dozen of our culinary and market managers will be attending this weekend. Click here to learn more about the Bainbridge Island Mochi Tsuki and maybe we’ll see you there!

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Cheese Corner

Our very own cheese whiz, Shauna Howell, offers up a cheese worth discovering.

After all the rich foods of the holidays, it’s a pleasure to enjoy Solara Ibérico, a Spanish, semi-soft cheese made with a blend of sheep, goat, and cow’s milk. This rindless, very creamy, slightly tangy cheese is one of the mightiest crowd-pleasers I’ve ever served. Don’t be fooled by its “blocky” look, the flavor is full and complex, a testament to the precise three-milk blend. You can taste each one individually as the cheese virtually melts in your mouth! This Ibérico is best served cubed on a cheese board, rind intact, with fresh grapes and Marcona almonds. It’s also the quintessential melter for a toasted cheese sandwich with a smear of quince paste. The perfect winter warmer!

Chris Allen is a copywriter and assistant marketer with Town & Country Markets. He’s a former contributing editor, radio anchor and producer, and an Air Force veteran. He’s also mastered the art of chopping red onions with one hand while sipping a dry Tempranillo in the other.

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