Prisco’s Family Market

1108 Prairie Street, Aurora, IL 60506 | 630-264-9400

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Greek Olives- Wednesday, November 23, 2016

As more and more folks seek out healthier food alternatives, many of the foods found in a traditional Mediterranean diet have increased in popularity. One such food that we have seen large growth in here at Prisco’s are the various types of Greek Olives. We thought that it might be beneficial at this time to give you a bit more information about what types of olives are so popular in that part of the world.

(Much of the information contained in this blog article was found in a web posting on, written by Nancy Gaifyllia.)

The color of olives indicates what time during the harvesting season they were picked. Harvesting runs from October to January. The greenest olives are harvested in October, the red or pink in November, the black in December, and the wrinkled black (not to be confused with olives that have shriveled due to curing in salt) in January.

picSmall Cretan Green Olives
Crete is famous for these tiny olives, which are also cultivated in Messinia and Zakynthos.  Despite their size, they are packed with oil and are the source of some of the world's best olive oil.  When green, small quantities are harvested as table olives.  When black and ripe (December, January, and sometimes February), they are almost exclusively harvested for the production of olive oil.  Most of the table olives are consumed in Greece, never reaching western markets; the olive oil, famous the world over, is consumed in Greece and exported.

picHalkithiki Green Olives
These olives are harvested in October and are grown solely on the Halkithiki Peninsula.  Recently, green olives from Halkidiki were finally granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union (EU).  A PDO product is given this designation/label to highlight the fact that it is produced in a specific geographical region, and therefore unique.  The Halkdiki green olives are huge due to the microclimate and the geography: low-lying hills, lots of flat land and the sea being nearby.  These olives have a unique flavor profile and, like all other olives, are very healthy for you.

picGreen olives from Nafplion
Harvested at the beginning of the season, in October, these olives are named after a town which is found on the seacoast and which is famous for its exotic places and nature.  The Nafplion olive is rather small and has a nutty flavor.  They are used in Greek specialties, including cold appetizers, as topping for warm main courses, and in salads or in garnishes.  These kinds of olives are sometimes used simply for decorating salads and various meals.  They may also be used in local kebabs, besides chicken, lettuce and mayo.

picKalamata Olives, Red & Black
Also known as "pink" olives, these are harvested in November.  If left on the tree longer to further ripen, the Kalmata turn black and are harvested, at full ripeness, in December.  This is the olive most recognize as the Greek olive.  Kalamata is a region in Greece, famous for its production of olives and olive oils.

Most Kalamata olives are split prior to being brined or pickled, which allows the flavor, particularly of vinaigrette, to soak into the interior of the olive.  Yet before you begin eating, be aware that these olives are usually sold with their seeds in.  If you plan to serve these, eat them yourself or add them to recipes, be sure to remove the seed first.

picWrinkled Black Olives or "Throubes"
Unlike olives that shrivel up after curing, these are fully mature olives that are not picked...They ripen and shrivel on the tree.  Nets are placed under the trees and the olives fall off when fully ripe.  The wrinkling is their natural state.  They are the only olives that can be eaten directly from the tree, but are dry cured for commercial use.  Most throubes come from the Greek island of Thassos.  Favorite ways to serve them are with Patatosalata (Greek potato salad), or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano.  They are meaty with a strong olive taste, and are not used to make olive oil.


Is cabbage part of your heritage?- Tuesday, March 8, 2016

No St. Patrick’s Day table would be complete without a bowl of boiled cabbage. If you happen to be of Italian, Spanish or Polish decent, St. Joseph Day, celebrated Saturday, 3/19, is your big patron saint day. Cabbage is the one of the most popular winter vegetables in Europe, and rightly so: It comes into season during the winter months, it's inexpensive, nutritious, quite tasty, and is also versatile, working well in, soups, as a side dish, and at times as part of the main course.

When someone mentions cabbage we tend to think of basic green or red cabbage, but in truth there are actually more than a hundred different varieties. Most cabbages will have a short, broad stem and flowers that form a distinct, compact head. The cabbage family includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale, collards, and the Oriental leaf vegetables such as Bok Choy and Napa cabbage.

Here are some of the more popular types of cabbage.

Green Cabbage

This is the most common cabbage variety. Pale in color and with tight leaves. It is used often in soups and slaws.



Red Cabbage

Actually, the color is more like a deep purple than red. And even though it looks different than the green cabbage, its taste is very similar. Red cabbage is most commonly pickled. They are also tasty in slaws and salads, bringing out color in dishes.


The Savory Cabbages

Savory cabbage is distinguished by its yellow-green crinkled leaves. It is also noticeably less compact than the common green cabbage. These cabbage types do well in stew, steamed or just as a garnish.


Napa Cabbage

These popular cabbages are a light green with crinkled leaves. Their head is compact and the stems are white in color. Napa cabbage is tasty even raw. It works well in stir-fry or steamed. You will find the Napa cabbage in almost all stir-fry dishes. If you enjoy a more delicate and milder tasting cabbage for your recipes, opt for the Napa cabbage.


Chinese cabbage – Bok Choy

Bok Choy is recognized for its dark green leaves and white stems. And unlike traditional green cabbage, the leaves grow loosely together rather than tightly around a head. With most Chinese cabbage both the stem and leaves can be cooked. They have a taste similar to celery.


Here is an interesting piece of info we uncovered in doing our research: Ever wonder where coleslaw got its name? Since the primary ingredient in any slaw recipe is cabbage, why isn’t it referred to as cabbage slaw? Turns out it actually was… you see, "cole" is the old English word for cabbage.

Although the cabbage you eat with your corned beef for St. Patrick’s or in your cabbage soup for St. Joseph’s day will be well boiled, the remainder of the year try to prepare your cabbage as close to raw as possible – sometimes called tender-crisp – to preserve this veggie’s many nutrients.

Speaking of nutrients, here is what cabbage and it’s relatives have to offer: It has high amounts of some of the most powerful antioxidants found in cruciferous vegetables – phytonutrients such as thiocyanates, lutein, zeaxanthin, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane, which stimulate detoxifying enzymes. Research has shown these compounds protect against several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate cancers. They also help lower the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or "bad cholesterol" levels in blood, which can build up in arteries and cause heart disease.

Rich in vitamin K, cabbage provides 85 percent of the body’s daily requirement. This is very important, not only for bone metabolism, but as a known Alzheimer's disease preventative by limiting neuronal damage in the brain. The 54 percent daily value of vitamin C supplied to the body with one serving of cabbage is impressive, too – even more than oranges – which can help scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals and protect against infection.

Cabbage is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6, folate, and manganese, as well as healthy amounts of thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). It also provides iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium for strong bones, and potassium for regulating the heart rate and blood pressure.


An introduction to unique summer melons- Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tis the season to surround yourself with melons. Although available year round, they reach their sweet, nutrient-packed peak of perfection right around now. They are also the least understood of all summer fruits. Did you know that melons are in the same family as cucumbers and squash? They are all members of the gourd family, except most melons are fruits not vegetables and are luscious, sweet, and juicy, each with its own individual personality and appeal. --

Cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew: These are some of the most popular summer fruits, and they are used in a wide variety of seasonal recipes. However, contrary to how it may appear, they aren't the only melons currently available, and they certainly aren't the only ones deserving of attention. There are close to a dozen other melon varieties at peak season and on the market, and it's a shame more people haven't experienced them...

Types of melons
Technically, there are hundreds and hundreds of melon varieties, but it's unlikely you will encounter the majority of them unless you live or work in a farming community, or have access to an expansive Farmers Market. For everyone else, there's are still plenty of varieties to try. Here is a short list of specialty melons to get you started:

The Casaba melon is unique in its appearance. It has an ovoid to round shape that comes to a point at its stem end. When ripe its skin will be a golden yellow with hints of green throughout. Its thick rind has irregular, shallow furrows running from end to end. The creamy pale green to white flesh is mild and sweet in flavor with nuances of Asian pear.

Uses: Casaba melons are best utilized in fresh preparations. Its flavor will work well in both sweet and savory salads. Pureed it can be added to cold soups, smoothies, sorbets, sauces and cocktails.

The teardrop shaped Crenshaw melon, also spelled Cranshaw, has a yellow and green, corrugated, rough, firm rind void of netting. Its dense, tender, peach-colored flesh is sweet and slightly spicy. The melon's skin turns golden-yellow at the peak of ripeness and will have slightly waxy feel. Crenshaw melons can weigh as much as eight to ten pounds.

Uses: Fresh Crenshaw can be used as a breakfast fruit and as a salad ingredient. The Crenshaw may also be used as an ingredient in cold soups and desserts.

he Canary melon is oval-shaped, with a smooth skin. When the melon is ripe, its hard rind turns bright yellow, it develops a corrugated look and a slightly waxy feel and its flesh will be pale ivory in color. The texture of the flesh is notably succulent, almost wet and semi firm, similar to a ripe pear. Within the flesh, the fruit bears a dry salmon-orange seed cavity. The melon possesses flavors both tangy and mildly sweet. Only choose Canary melons which are bright yellow (no green coloring on the skin) as these signal that they are mature and ready to eat.

Uses: Canary melon pairs well with citrus, ginger, honey and other more flavorful melons. Use Canary melon in fresh preparations such as cold soups and salads.

Persian melons look like a larger, rounder, heavily-netted, unridged cantaloupe. Its light, pistachio-grey rind turns a tan color when ripe. The melon's flesh is coral colored, aromatic and sweet. Its texture is buttery and firm. A perfectly ripe Persian melon will feel heavy for its size and release aromatics from its stem and blossom ends.

Uses: Persian melons are best utilized in fresh preparations. They can be sliced, balled, pureed or when just ripe or slightly under ripe cut into ribbons. Persian melon puree can be used in sorbet, smoothies, pop-sickles or cold soups. Persian melon balls can be used fresh or frozen to enhance cocktails and juice.

The types and benefits of tea- Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tea Tales

Tea has been a important beverage in many cultures for thousands of years, and throughout history has often been prized for its medicinal value and health benefits -- in addition to the caffeine buzz.

Tea originated in China some time during the Shang Dynasty between 1500 and 1046 BC, although the details of its emergence aren't clear. In fact, there are a variety of legends surrounding the origins of tea, and very few verifiable facts. According to the folks over at,

Perhaps the most famous [story of the origin of tea] is [that of] of Shen Nung, the emperor and renowned herbalist, who was boiling his drinking water when leaves from a nearby tea shrub blew into the cauldron. He tasted the resulting brew, and the beverage of tea was born.

An alternative story links tea drinking to the Indian prince Bodhidharma, who converted to Buddhism and in the sixth century and went to China to spread the word. He believed that it was necessary to stay awake constantly for meditation and prayer, and took to chewing leaves from the tea shrub, which acted as stimulant, helping him stay awake. (An alternative, more macabre version has Bodhidharma accidentally falling asleep, and upon waking cutting off his own eyelids in disgust at himself. He threw the eyelids away, and from them sprouted the first tea shrub).

Kinds of Tea

There are several different categories of tea with hundreds of unique varieties in existence, although they are all basically the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. Differences between individual teas is the result of the climate/environment in which the plants were grown, as well as the harvesting and processing practices of the product owner. The basic categories are as follows (info courtesy of


White tea undergoes the least processing of all teas. Traditionally cultivated in China, white tea was picked only a few days out of the year, when a white down, known as bai hao, appeared on the tender shoots. The tea shoots are allowed to wither then dry to prevent oxidization. This process is a delicate one, requiring strict attention from the tea makers.



Because they are unoxidized, green teas keep their vital color. To prevent oxidization, the leaves are heat processed to eliminate the enzyme responsible for oxidization. In China, this is generally done by roasting or pan-firing the leaves, while the Japanese generally accomplish this by steaming the leaves at a high temperature. Each process tends to bring out a more particular flavor from the tea leaves. The Chinese style of processing tends to bring out a mouthwatering range of flavors from citrus-like to smoky with a lighter body...Green teas that have been steamed contain more moisture and are therefore more delicate.


Oolong, also spelled Wu Long, teas are semi-oxidized. The term in Chinese actually means "Black Dragon". Oolong teas have long been cultivated in both mainland China and Taiwan. In general, larger, mature leaves are picked, withered, rolled, oxidized, and then fired...Often, different tea estates have their preferred ways of making oolong tea. It is because of the intricacy of this process that oolong teas can have the widest array of flavors and aromas. Furthermore, oolongs can be steeped several time, with each successive infusion having its own distinctive taste and fragrance.


Black tea is the most well-known variety of tea in the West. Known as "red tea" in China, black tea leaves are fully oxidized. In the case of most black teas, younger leaves are picked before being withered, rolled, fully oxidized, and fired. While created originally in China, black teas are now cultivated worldwide. Some of the most famous black teas come from the Indian regions of Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri as well as Sri Lanka. The use of machines is becoming more common, but the best black teas are those entirely done by hand.


How to Brew Your Tea

Brewing a good cup of loose tea is quite simple: All that is required is good water*, the correct quantity of tea, and control of the steeping time. (* If your source of water isn't the best, try using bottled spring water or purified water; many teas have subtle flavors that can be destroyed or masked by water that contains heavy concentrations of iron or other impurities.)

How long and at what temperature to brew your chosen tea depends on the kind of tea being steeped. The following chart should give you a good idea of what to aim for when brewing tea.

image from


Why Tea is the Perfect Beverage of Choice

There are numerous reasons why brewed tea is an excellent choice when it comes to selecting a staple beverage. First of all, there is the fact that tea comes in a wonderful assortment of flavors; so many so, in fact, you could have a different variety of tea every day for months and never run out of options. Also, home-brewed tea, hot or cold, is relatively easy to prepare, and unlike soft drinks you have complete control over the quantity of sweetener (if any) you wish to add.

In addition, all four of the basic tea types are high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that seems to protect cells from the DNA damage that can cause cancer and other diseases. A 2009 review of 51 green tea studies found that sipping three to five cups a day may lower the risks of ovarian, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers.

There's also evidence that tea can have positive effects on the brain. For example, downing from one to four cups of black or green tea a day has been linked with a lower risk of Parkinson's disease. Drinking tea may also be helpful in preventing or delaying certain risk factors of cardiovascular disease, and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. According to one Japanese study, adults who consumed five or more cups of green tea per day had a 26% reduction in death from heart attack or stroke compared with those who had one cup or less.

Vinegar – another chef’s aid worth knowing- Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Vinegar. The French said it succinctly: vin aigre - meaning sour wine. That is its origin: the discovery that a cask of wine gone past its time had turned to a wonderful new product. Through the centuries vinegar has been produced from many other materials, including molasses, dates, sorghum, fruits, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains and whey. But the principle remains unchanged - fermentation of natural sugars to alcohol and then secondary fermentation to vinegar. You might say wine is to grapes what vinegar is to wine. --

There are many types of vinegar available on the market these days, and each one has its own distinctive flavor and particular uses. Vinegars can be made from many different (sugary) foods -- not just wine -- which lend their own taste to the final product. In addition, ingredients such as herbs or spices are frequently added to modify the flavor.

The most common vinegars are white vinegar, which is often used in salad dressings and to tenderize meat; apple cider and wine vinegars, for marinades and vinaigrettes; rice vinegar, often used for stir frying and in sushi prepartion; balsamic vinegar, which is used in salad dressings and with seafood; and malt vinegar, which is traditionally used as a condiment for fried foods such french fries or chips.

Vinegar Varieties

[The following info is courtesy of]

White Vinegar

This clear variety is the most common type of vinegar in American households. It is made either from grain-based ethanol or laboratory-produced acetic acid and then diluted with water. Its flavor is a bit too harsh for most cooking uses, but it is good for pickling and performing many cleaning jobs around the house.

Recipe:Herb-Marinated Beef Steak


Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is the second-most-common type of vinegar in the United States. This light-tan vinegar made from apple cider adds a tart and subtle fruity flavor to your cooking. Apple cider vinegar is best for salads, dressings, marinades, condiments, and most general vinegar needs.

Recipe:Beer-Braised Pork Cutlets


Wine Vinegar

This flavorful type of vinegar is made from a blend of either red wines or white wines and is common in Europe, especially Germany. Creative cooks often infuse wine vinegars with extra flavor by tucking in a few sprigs of well-washed fresh herbs, dried herbs, or fresh berries. Red wine vinegar is often flavored with natural raspberry flavoring, if not with the fruit itself.

The quality of the original wine determines how good the vinegar is. Better wine vinegars are made from good wines and are aged for a couple of years or more in wooden casks. The result is a fuller, more complex, and mellow flavor.

You might find sherry vinegar on the shelf next to the wine vinegars. This variety is made from sherry wine, and usually is imported from Spain. Champagne vinegar (yes, made from the bubbly stuff) is a specialty vinegar and is quite expensive.

Wine vinegar excels at bringing out the sweetness of fruit, melon, and berries and adds a flavorful punch to fresh salsa.

Recipe:Artichokes with Red Wine Vinegar Dressing


Balsamic Vinegar

There are two types of this popular and flavorful vinegar, traditional and commercial. A quasi-governmental body in Modena, Italy (balsamic vinegar's birthplace), regulates the production of traditional balsamic vinegar.

Traditional balsamic vinegars are artisanal foods, similar to great wines, with long histories and well-developed customs for their production. An excellent balsamic vinegar can be made only by an experienced crafter who has spent many years tending the vinegar, patiently watching and learning.

The luscious white and sugary trebbiano grapes that are grown in the northern region of Italy near Modena form the base of the world's best and only true balsamic vinegars. Custom dictates that the grapes be left on the vine for as long as possible to develop their sugar.

Traditional balsamic vinegar is aged for a number of years -- typically 6 and as many as 25. Aging takes place in a succession of casks made from a variety of woods, such as chestnut, mulberry, oak, juniper, and cherry. Each producer has its own formula for the order in which the vinegar is moved to the different casks. Thus, the flavors are complex, rich, sweet, and subtly woody.

What you're more likely to find in most American grocery stores is the commercial type of balsamic vinegar. Some is made in Modena, but not by traditional methods. The production of commercial balsamic vinegar carries no geographical restrictions or rules for length or method of aging. There are no requirements for the types of wood used in the aging casks. It may be aged for six months in stainless steel vats, then for two years or more in wood. Thus, commercial balsamic vinegar is much more affordable and available than the true, artisanal variety.

Recipe:Balsamic Rosemary Pork Loin with Roasted Potatoes


Rice Vinegar

Clear or very pale yellow, rice vinegar originated in Japan, where it is essential to sushi preparation. Rice vinegar is made from the sugars found in rice, and the aged, filtered final product has a mild, clean, and delicate flavor that is an excellent complement to ginger or cloves, sometimes with the addition of sugar.

Rice vinegar also comes in red and black varieties, which are less common in the United States but very popular in China. Both are stronger than the clear (often called white) or pale yellow types. Red rice vinegar's flavor is a combination of sweet and tart. Black rice vinegar is common in southern Chinese cooking and has a strong, almost smoky flavor.

Rice vinegar is popular in Asian cooking and is great sprinkled on salads and stir-fry dishes. Its gentle flavor is perfect for fruits and tender vegetables, too. Many cooks choose white rice vinegar for their recipes because it does not change the color of the food to which it is added. Red rice vinegar is good for soups and noodle dishes, and black rice vinegar works as a dipping sauce and in braised dishes.

Recipe:Barbecued Thai Chicken Salad


Malt Vinegar

This dark-brown vinegar, a favorite in Britain, is reminiscent of deep-brown ale. Malt vinegar production begins with the germination, or sprouting, of barley kernels. Germination enables enzymes to break down starch. Sugar is formed, and the resulting product is brewed into an alcohol-containing malt beverage or ale. After bacteria convert the ale to vinegar, the vinegar is aged. As its name implies, malt vinegar has a distinctive malt flavor.

Many people prefer malt vinegar for pickling and as an accompaniment to fish and chips. It is also used as the basic type of cooking vinegar in Britain.

Recipe:Garlicky Spinach Topping for Fish


Some citrus varieties you should really make a point of trying!- Tuesday, February 3, 2015

For the next two weeks we are having a huge sale on lots of different types of citrus fruit which is a great way to get a good burst of Vitamin C. We would like to point out several out of the ordinary items available for a limited time at Prisco’s that you will want to make a point of adding to your shopping list. Many of these items are relatively unknown, so here is some information to make you a better informed consumer.

Honeybell Oranges - What's a Honeybell? Honeybell are exceptionally sweet and juicy citrus fruits that only reach peak ripeness during the month of January. Also known as Minneola tangelos, they are not actually oranges at all. They are a hybrid or cross between the Darcy variety of tangerine and either the Duncan or Bowen variety of grapefruit. This hybridization process, which some sources say can be traced back to ancient Asia, yields a tangelo with the coloring and size of a grapefruit and the sweetness and juiciness of a tangerine. The fruit is prized for its sweetness and relative scarcity, along with its abundant supply of juice. They're so rare, in fact, that less than one person in 3,000 has ever been lucky enough to taste this delicious fruit.

Cara Cara Navel Oranges - Cara Cara oranges, a type of navel orange grown in California's San Joaquin Valley, are available December through April. The bright orange exterior of Cara Cara oranges is similar to other navels, but their interior is a distinctive pinkish red, has an exceptionally sweet flavor with a tangy cranberry-like zing, and they’re seedless. Cara Caras, a cross between the Washington navel and the Brazilian Bahia navel, were first discovered in 1976 at Hacienda Cara Cara in Venezuela.

Cara Cara Oranges are a special variety of juicy, low acid, seedless navels packed with more natural nutrition and minerals to power a healthy immune system.

Heirloom Navels - The word heirloom itself means something that has been passed down from generation to generation. The heirloom navel is the same fruit that got California’s citrus industry booming. It’s the original or “old line” Washington Navel. The navel has been bred over the years to produce more fruit, easier, and faster without considering flavor. Heirloom navels are grown using certain farming practices. The grower gives special attention to the soil, just like it was done since navels were introduced to America from Brazil in the 1800s. The secret is to use the best root stock. The heirlooms grow best in a sour root stock. But this isn’t commonly used anymore because the trees don’t produce fruit as heavily or as quickly than in newer root stocks. Doing things the right way is what gives the heirloom navels their amazing taste. People who have tasted an heirloom navel orange swear there is no orange that can top its sweet taste.

Blood Oranges - Once you have tasted a good blood orange, you will never forget its superb flavor, a cross between an orange and a raspberry. Their rind and flesh are a deep red color. Blood oranges are very popular in Europe and are grown commercially in Mediterranean citrus regions. They haven't caught on in the United States primarily because their coloration is a bit unpredictable. Fruits grown in hot areas of California and Arizona usually develop the best color, but even their color intensity changes from year to year.

Pummelos - The largest fruit in the citrus family. They are usually compared to grapefruit because of their appearance; many people believe the pummelo may be one of the ancestors of the grapefruit. Pummelos do not need as much heat as grapefruit and they can be grown in most citrus areas. The largest, sweetest fruit is produced in hot climates; in cooler areas, fruit will be smaller and have a thicker rind, but it's still quite good. The fruit's soft, thick rind encloses white or pink flesh. Peeling and eating one for the first time is a memorable experience. The rind tears off and segments separate easily, but the surprise is the way the juice vesicles (the part you scoop out of a grapefruit) separate from the membrane. There is no chewy membrane or bitter rind. The flavor is delicious - mildly sweet without the bitterness common to grapefruit. The texture is firmer than most citrus and there is less juice, but they're definitely not dry. Pummelos are excellent in fruit salads or by themselves.