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April 2, 2010 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Just started eating organic and non-processed foods. What are your favorites?

My wife and I are radically rethinking our eating habits and spending much more time at independent grocers and "fresh market" type grocery stores. We are new to all the variety of fruits, vegetables, and organic products. What are your favorites? What are some hints and tips?
posted by gocubbies to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
#1: eat what's in season. No matter how much I may like (for example) peaches, during citrus season (which is opposite peach season), a citrus fruit will taste 100 times better than a peach from cold storage or halfway across the globe.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:24 PM on April 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

posted by low affect at 6:24 PM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Bake! Find recipes for in-season items and go with it. I never knew how easy it was until recently I tried.

Savory Zucchini Muffins

Banana Bread (add walnuts, very yum)
posted by eatdonuts at 6:28 PM on April 2, 2010

Beets. Especially roasted. The Basic Recipe: Get smallish ones, scrub don't peel, cut in chunks, plop in pan with a drizzle of olive oil and smatter of salt. 400 oven for 30 minutes, take 'em out and stir 'em around, back in for another 30 minutes. When early potatoes arrive, add some. Or carrots. Or onions (do take the skin off these). Parsnips -- unbelievable! Eggplant. Basil. Garlic. Balsamic vinegar. It's the easiest introduction to vegetables I know; almost everything ends up tasting fantastic, and you start feel curious instead of intimidated by veggies.

I'm starving.
posted by kestralwing at 6:36 PM on April 2, 2010

Winter squash are delicious all year, and they keep in your house forever. If you can get heirloom tomatoes locally, do try them, even if you don't like tomatoes normally. They are delicious. You'll have to wait a bit for them, of course.

Find a farmer's market that has local producers. That is your best first step to good ingredients. Then ask them what's good, and try it out.

Fresh baby spinach is much better than grown-up spinach. Saute it in a pan with some salt and lemon juice.

Smitten Kitchen always has amazing, simple recipe ideas. Combine those with fresh local ingredients and you will never regret it.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 6:41 PM on April 2, 2010

Was going to say beets! Golden beets and candy-striped beets, for variety, when you can find them.

Squashes: I particularly like delicata. You'll see lots of weirdo squashes in the places you're shopping Don't be shy to try strange-looking ones - all (edible) ones taste pretty good and they are versatile - you can roast them in chunks or with other veggies/meats, puree them, parcook them and put them in a gratin, make soup out of them, put them on pizza, stuff pasta with them...amazing staffs of life, they are.

Fresh beans. Non-dried beans are amazing! THey make a great snack, and there are some varieties that are good very lightly cooked and dressed with a vinaigrette for salad.

And Dipsomaniac makes a good point - the farmers themselves are a great source for what's at its best, what's coming along, and how to cook everything.

Greens...yeah, I love kale can't go wrong with any of the dark leafy greens, kale, chard, beet greens, etc. Similar methods work for all of them, some are tougher than others and need longer cooking. I like greens cooked with white beans, sausage, olive oil, and garlic. This is great with pasta or over polenta, or by itself.
posted by Miko at 6:46 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have really been enjoying veggie-sandwiches lately. There are a couple really good threads on AskMetafilter with veggie-heavy sandwich recipes -- like here for example. I really like sandwiches with lettuce, avacodo, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, cucumbers, peppers, mayo, sprouts, olives, etc. You can really pack a lot of great veggies on. Bonus round: organic mustard + fresh, lightly toasted farmer's bread. MMMmmm.
posted by ifranzen at 6:49 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe you'd like to try out some new grains? Quinoa and barley, for example, are commonly available in the bulk section of natural foods stores, and they make for a nice alternative to rice. Useful in pilafs and salads and things like that, but you can also use them to firm up a thin vegetable soup.

I'd also suggest you learn to prepare your own sauces and dressings. Growing up, the only salads my family ate were swimming in the neon Midwestern zing of Dorothy Lynch. When I became an adult, I realized that other people actually enjoyed salads, and one of the reasons for that was they made their dressings fresh.

You can start by combining some vinegar, mustard, olive oil, and pepper—and some lemon juice, if you like—to make a perfect vinaigrette that's a thousand times better than anything at the supermarket. (Start by going for a ratio of about one part vinegar to three parts oil.)
posted by cirripede at 7:14 PM on April 2, 2010

Get a pan. Get some carrots and/or parsnips. Coat them in high-heat oil, sprinkle liberally with rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper. Put in oven at 400 degrees for around 30 min, or until they are very soft, and easily pierced with a fork. Yummmmmmm!

A good addition to that, which is convenient, is to bake potatoes at the same time. Just poke the potatoes a few times with a fork so they don't explode, and stick them directly into the oven (you don't need a pan). When a fork can really easily go right through them, they're done - take them out, put them in a bowl, aerate a bit with a fork, mix in a good amount of nice olive oil and salt, and enjoy.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:41 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't forget the sauerkraut! Seriously, real, raw sauerkraut is superbly healthy and delicious. And goes on anything. I *just* made some fried eggs with organic smoked jalapeno sauerkraut on top. Yum!

What? There's nothing wrong with eating fried eggs and sauerkraut for dinner Friday night.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:45 PM on April 2, 2010

Are you in the Midwest (I mean, who else roots for the Cubs)? We're coming up on the season for morel mushrooms and ramps (a wild relative of the onion and garlic), which together make a killer quiche or omelet. Also coming up into season soon are watercress (great in salads or on sandwiches) and asparagus (steam it, put it on the grill with olive oil and salt, or toss in some pasta with garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil and maybe some chevre or feta.

Later in the summer, listen to Guy Clark: homegrown tomatoes. And fresh basil.
posted by dr. boludo at 7:55 PM on April 2, 2010

If you like cabbage, you're probably going to like brussell sprouts, they're like baby cabbage. I like to toss them in some cold water with a few icecubes, then pull them out, sprinkle with some olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and bake in the oven until the outsides are starting to get crispy. They steam on the inside from the water and get crispy on the outside from the oven, it's delicious.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 10:05 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

In general, I find that conventional produce tastes watery compared to organic. Not always, but often enough that I buy organic whenever I can find it at a non-exorbitant price. You can google Top Ten lists, like this, of the produce that gets the most bang for your buck in terms of reducing pesticide loads.

I didn't realize that the local organic cucumbers I was buying last summer have a subtle sweetness, until this one time when I ate a conventional cucumber immediately after. Blech. More than merely watery, it tasted like dishwater. I tried blind taste testing them again a few times after that. Still blech on the conventional ones. I'm never buying them again.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:20 PM on April 2, 2010

A lot of fruits and vegetables vary so much that it makes no sense to recommend specifically. Some Fuji apples are like the food of gods, the next batch can be boring. However.. basmati brown rice is always great, e.g. trader joe's. Whole foods' cheapo brown rice isn't as good, it has a lot of little flakes chipped off the rice grains and somehow just doesn't taste as good (they do have more expensive version that's good though). Organic bananas and strawberries are always great in a milkshake, even if taste varies if you eat them by themselves. Broccoli is very consistent and tastes great sauteed as long as it's not stale (when stale colour turns to dull green, then grayish-green, and texture of florets changes). Romaine in salad is always good. Carrots are always mixed in a bag - one will be nice and sweet, the next may be crummy, the whole bag is never all good or all bad. Green squashes are always nice when fresh and not beat up, with vibrant green colour. Kale is always good. Basically you have to understand that for most produce every batch will be different so you have to keep trying new batches; the only rule is to buy as fresh as you can and eat as quickly as possible before it goes stale.
posted by rainy at 12:38 AM on April 3, 2010

Oh, man, there's so much good stuff out there it's hard to even get started...

-try fennel bulb in salad if you haven't before
-buttercup squash (available in the fall and winter) is absolutely amazing
-fresh, real tomatoes are a completely different thing from the tasteless, mealy red lumps you may have decided you don't like
-there are many delicious varieties of potatoes: tiny new potatoes, dark purple fingerlings, waxy Finn potatoes, and my all-around favorite, the Yukon Gold
-there are TONS of different types of beans, peas, and lentils; I recommend you try French lentils, black-eyed peas and black beans first
-Brussels sprouts from a market can be sweet and tender; roasting them with a bit of oil and salt is all the attention they need
-if you steam kale or collards for a long time - not just until they are wilted - they become sweet, tender and fluffy and completely delicious, not at all like the bitter, tough greens you may have had
-there are tons of amazing mushrooms you can never buy from a store because they don't keep, but sometimes you can find them at markets (eg: chicken of the woods, amalaria malia)
-mustard greens and watercress are somewhat spicy greens

-when buying veggies, ask somebody knowledgeable to talk to you about which ones are ripe, and how to use them (people at markets are generally quite good at this)
-get a good cookbook and use it; there are tons of AskMe threads about cookbooks
-don't assume that cooking for yourself or eating vegetables needs to be complicated at all. When veggies are really ripe and of good quality, they are DELICIOUS all on their own. For example, sweet summer corn. You can even eat it raw, or steamed for 1 or 2 minutes. Even without ANY salt or butter they are amazing.
-try using honey, real maple syrup, molasses or completely unprocessed cane sugar instead of white sugar. It's more healthful and also adds a ton of flavor.
-a good rule of thumb: if you mix a hearty cooked grain with steamed or sauteed vegetables, with a little oil or salt, it will probably be delicious. For breakfast, add fruits instead and sweeten lightly.
-as everybody else says, buy in season
posted by Cygnet at 10:17 AM on April 3, 2010

My comment in it and the rest of that thread will be helpful.

I'll add avocados to that. Cut one in half, fill the hole with worcestershire sauce and wield a spoon.

I'd also like to say beets! Beets! I can't think of any other food I'm actively enthusiastic about. I think i should get a beet tee-shirt.
posted by cmoj at 10:22 AM on April 3, 2010

this recent post on eating better is full of helpful suggestions, eg for cookbooks and websites.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:20 AM on April 4, 2010

For breakfast: saute' fresh organic baby spinach in olive oil. Add two beaten eggs that are enriched with Omega-3 to make an omelet. Top with cheese. Easy, filling, nutritious, and sugar-free. You can add any other veggies that sound good as well.
posted by srbrunson at 3:06 PM on April 4, 2010

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