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More tips about picking out fresh produce
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Last week I gave you two of my four keys to shopping for fresh foods. I hope you put them to use at the local farmers' market, fruit stands, the grocery or where ever you are getting your fresh foods. This week - the final two plus the bonus key. (If you did not read last week's column, go the paper's online site,

3. Touch. No one wants their produce rock hard nor marshmallow soft. Most fruits, when ripe, give to slight pressure, whereas vegetables are firm when ripe. Yes it is O.K. to give produce the squeeze test; however please do not squeeze the goodness out of it! In other words, not too hard.

4. Season. Buy what is being harvested now. Remember there are four seasons. In January, tomatoes are not in season in the U.S., so don't expect summer flavor in the dead of winter. Also buy produce grown as close to home as you can.

5. Get to know your produce person. He or she can tell you so much about the vegetables or fruits you buy, such as where they were grown, when they came in and, in my case, how to prepare them.

 As I said last week the four keys plus one have stood the test of time, and can be used when buying all fresh foods meats, chicken and fish. Over my 30-plus years in the fresh food business, I have been blessed to have learned from some wonderful people. My mom Laura C. Aikens, Joe Carcione, the Greengrocery, Julie Child and Frieda Caplan - she brought the kiwi fruit to our tables. I have worked with and learned from great chefs such as Jacque Pippin, Emeril, the Two Hot Tamales (Susan and Mary Sue) and Michael Lomonaco, just to name a few. Wow, I miss seeing them on TV. In coming weeks, I will share more of the lessons learned over the decades. Next week I will tell you what I learned about a Whistle Post, from Linda Moulton owner of the Tavern of the same name in my hometown of Conyers, plus a recipe from her chef, Edwin Lazdans.

Grilled Barbecue Leg of Lamb
with onions and herbs

3 to 4 pound boneless leg of lamb
1 each medium red and white onion diced fine
4 green onions chopped fine
10 cloves of roasted garlic
1 / 2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons each fresh mint, rosemary and thyme chopped fine
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Butterfly leg of lamb (or have butcher do it) and trim excess fat. Set aside. To mixing bowl add onions, and roasted garlic. With a fork mash together. Add half the olive oil, mix well (forming a paste) add herbs, rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper plus remaining olive oil. Mix well. If you paste is to thin or runny add more onions or herbs.

Lay out the butterflied leg of lamb skin side down, spread half the paste on this side of lamb. Next roll lamb back in to form and tie with twine. Spread the rest of the paste over outside of leg of lamb. You are ready to grill or the lamb can be refrigerated for later in the day or next morning.

About 30 minutes before grilling take the lamb out of the refrigerator. After the coals or gas grill is ready, place the leg over indirect heat and cook two and a half to three hours. After removing for grill allow lamb to rest about 10 minutes before slicing, and serving.

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