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Crunchy corkscrews

October 18, 2006|Russ Parsons

Just in

Crosnes: For more than a year, Alex Weiser of Weiser Family Farms has been telling anyone who will listen about this tuberous vegetable. Now they're finally ready. Looking like "delicate seashells" or "petrified grubs," depending on whom you're talking to, these ivory corkscrews have been popular in France for quite a while and have been turning up on menus in New York City for the last few years. However, they've been scarce in Southern California. So, at the request of some local chefs, Weiser planted them. When eaten raw, crosnes (pronounced crones) are crunchy and rather bland -- kind of like jicama or a Jerusalem artichoke (in fact, one of its nicknames is Japanese artichoke: the plant was originally imported to France from Japan in the 1880s and supposedly was first planted near the Parisian suburb of Crosne).

It was when I sauteed them in butter that the crosnes really shone. They have a slight bittersweet edge that complemented that sizzling butter flavor perfectly. Then I added some fresh lima beans that I'd simmered. The crunchiness of the crosnes was the perfect counterpoint to the creamy green beans. These tubers have unexpected depth.

\o7Weiser Family Farms, $4.25 for 1/4 pound.


Last chance

Muscat grapes: It is so hard to find grapes with real character anymore. The Muscat, with its wonderfully flowery flavor, is the variety I dream about all summer. If you're a wine lover, think of a spicy Italian Moscato or Bonny Doon's heavenly Muscat Vin de Glaciere. This fall I didn't find my first Muscats until just recently, and now there's only a week or so left in the season. The reason Muscats are so hard to find is that they have seeds. And the presence of seeds is basically a death sentence for any table grape these days -- shoppers won't buy them, so most farmers have stopped growing them. Plant breeders are working on seedless Muscat varieties, but so far they haven't found one that has reliably convincing flavor and is commercially viable (the new types have tended to be light producers). Grab a taste of the real thing while they are still available.

Elmer Lehman, $2 a pound.

Russ Parsons


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