Saturday, September 25, 2010

1. shop for produce

(Part of The Cookbook)

I believe that one of the most important steps in cooking from scratch is selecting seasonal and affordable produce. If you do that first and then buy other things to complement the produce, it's pretty easy to cook without using a recipe.

So, I go to the produce stand first. Produce is a bigger variable than meat (more seasonal), and I like to cook food with a lot of veggies and a little or no meat, so once I get the produce together, I'll know what other things to get. I look first in the "#2" or slightly blemished produce bins, which exist at (I think) all the produce stands in the Pike Place Market, and many stands at neighborhood farmer's markets, too. The availability of these cosmetically damaged but still very nutritious and cheap items is even more of a variable than the rest of the produce. So, by starting there and building around those first selected items, you're maximizing your food dollars already. Some places sell pre-packaged bags of slightly blemished produce instead of keeping them in bins.

Still at the produce stand, after getting everything I can from the "#2" bins, I continue by selecting things that I like and that are in season. Ask someone if you don't know what's in season, but sometimes I can tell just by looking closely at everything and noticing which fruits and veggies almost appear to be glowing, their colors are so happy and vibrant. When I think I have about enough produce, I start physically grouping items together into clusters. If I think or know that things will taste good together, I put them together. Then I start thinking in terms of the types of dishes I like to make (salads, sandwiches, naked casseroles, soups, etc.), and I see which clusters of produce might fit those categories. I grab anything else I need to complete the recipes, which are at that point created in terms of what I know I will be cooking together.

Then I just go and get whatever else I need in terms of bread, grains, or whatever else I need to make the recipes I decided on at the produce stand. I write the details of the recipes later, which I will admit was a pain in the butt for me to start doing, but I'm glad I made myself do it because I'm able to share my recipes now. So, the next time you come up with something new, consider writing it down. I'd like to see it!

That's my process. If you've ever seen me stand for long periods of time at the produce stand with a vacant look on my face, now you know why.

If you want information on seasonal produce before you go to the farmer's market, here's an awesome site for that:

No comments:

Post a Comment