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Look for fruits such as apples, pears, cranberries and grapes. Vegetables include fennel, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Apples are plentiful during the autumn months. For salads, choose varieties that are sweet and crisp. Popular salad apples include Red Delicious, Fuji, and Winesap. Buy firm apples that smell fresh and have smooth skins.
It's also the time of year to sample all types of pears. Select those with even color and a slight blush. Be careful when handling pears because they are delicate and bruise easily. Although there are thousands of known pear varieties in the world, there are a handful recognized especially for their superb flavor and fresh eating qualities: Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc, and Comice.
Quick hint: To keep pear slices from browning, sprinkle them with lemon juice and place them in a water bath--or serve them immediately after slicing.
Fresh cranberries are very tart, and are usually sweetened up before they go into a salad. Dried cranberries add gorgeous color and sweet chewiness to salads.
Grapes are harvested when sweet and ripe, so look for plump clusters that are firmly attached to green stems. Once at home, refrigerate grapes until ready to use, and then rinse with cold water, halve them, and toss them in your favorite salad.
Fennel is available from fall through spring and adds a hint of fresh sweet licorice flavor to any salad. This aromatic plant is pale green with a celery-like stem and feathery foliage. Its root base and stems can be treated like a vegetable and baked, braised, or sliced and eaten raw in salads. The greenery can be used as a garnish or snipped like dill to enhance many recipes. Fennel's licorice-like flavor is sweeter and more delicate than anise and, when cooked, becomes even lighter and softer than in its raw state.
The cabbage family is wide and varied: broccoli and cauliflower are members. Some of the best heads of cabbage for salads are the crinkled-leaf "Savoy" types, also sold as Napa, January King or Wivoy cabbage. These are thin-leafed, tender, mild, and tasty. When choosing a head of cabbage, look for fresh, crisp leaves that are firmly packed; the head should feel heavy for its size.
Cauliflower and Broccoli
These vegetables are available year-round, but especially plentiful in the spring and late fall. When buying cauliflower, select one that is white or creamy white in color, firm, and heavy. Cauliflower may be stored for up to one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep it dry and any brownish colored portions may be trimmed away before cooking.
When shopping for broccoli, look for leaves and stems with dark green heads. Look for tender, young stalks that are firm with compact buds in the head. Yellow flowers in buds or very rough bumpy heads may indicate broccoli is past its prime.