Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How To Eat Produce At Home

A friend of mine was envying our farm share and our ability to turn it in to food. (Actually we have a mutual friend who does much better - our last eggplant rotted; she made baba ghanouj.) Hitting a farm market once a week or once a month is a good low-commitment option, but you still need to figure out how to work fresh food into your routine. Here are some ideas that work in my house.


Salad is a no-brainer, and even though I don't really like it a lot it's a good addition to most meals or a good quick meal on its own.

First, buy a head of lettuce. Romaine is my favorite. When you get home, wash each leaf and cut them up into pieces about 3 square inches apiece. You can tear it if you don't want to cut it, but cutting is fine. Put the pieces into your salad spinner (yes you need this) and dry them. Store the prepared lettuce in a large plastic container with a piece of paper towel on the bottom. The paper towel helps keep the moisture right in the container so the lettuce will keep for a week or more. This way you can grab a few handfuls when it's time to assemble your salad. Yeah, you can buy the bag lettuce at the store, but this is usually better.

Tomatoes - All my salads need tomatoes. Keep them out of the fridge, because tomatoes have a flavor chemical that degrades in the cold. I just wash the one I'm using right before I cut it up for the day's salad. Cherry tomatoes are an option too if you want to be able to control portion size (though I never have a problem getting rid of excess tomato after making a salad!)

Broccoli or Cauliflower - Broccoli is another requirement for my salads, and farm broccoli is way better than grocery store broccoli. Like the lettuce, you can get a bunch of broccoli and prep it that day then keep the salad-sized pieces in a plastic bin in the fridge for a week or more. Just cut the tops off and throw the stems away (unless you're crazy about broccoli stems, I'm not). I like to cut them really small, about 1" square or less, so they fit on the fork.

These are the minimal ingredients for a decent salad for me. These parts go without saying:

  • Fresh black pepper
  • Good dressing (Ken's Steak House Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette is my go-to dressing, but I also bought a nice Caesar recently)
  • Pepitas or sunflower seeds
More things you can put in salad to make it good:
  • Parsley - cut it up with kitchen scissors and mix it in with the lettuce
  • Carrots - I'm not a big fan, but lots of people like this. Slice it or dice it small so it's not too hard to chew.
  • Celery
  • Cucumber - especially good with a ranch or bleu cheese dressing
  • Onion - red or white sweet onions, chopped or sliced
  • Pickled beets
  • Hard boiled egg - you get to use those neat wire egg slicers for this!
  • Tuna - if I'm making a meal salad I just drain a can and dump it on. When I'm eating it I tag-team between eating a little tuna and eating some lettuce and other stuff.
  • Cottage cheese - again, I just dump it on and tag-team.
  • Cheese - somehow I don't do this often, but sliced up swiss or muenster is yummy.
  • Chick peas or other canned beans - you probably want to rinse them
  • Leftover vegetables - the other day we cut up our leftover wax beans and they were yummy in salad. Might have been the butter....
  • Nuts or other seeds
  • Grapes, raisins (ew - not my thing) , or sliced apples
Cooked Vegetables

Most veggies can either be steamed in the microwave or sauteed in a frying pan. Tough greens like kale, chard, and collards are better in a pan. To sautee them, cut up the vegetables (take out the stems of those greens, or just start them earlier than the leaves to make sure they get softened enough), put them in a pan with some olive oil or butter and salt and pepper. Use medium heat and cook until they're soft (probably like 3 minutes for spinach but 8 or 9 for kale).

When steaming (broccoli, beans, asparagus) I usually just put them in a glass bowl and leave them wet after I rinse them. You might want a little more water depending on how much food there is. I have a plastic microwave cover that keeps a little extra steam in. Try 2-3 minutes to start, then keep going until your veggies are as soft as you want them.

Fresh fennel bulb is great sauteed. Also zucchini and yellow zucchini (is that a squash?), slice them up and season them with a little cumin. I think it's cumin...?

Veg and Rice Dinner - one of my big excuses for eating white rice! But you can do a more nutritious grain if you want (brown rice, quinoa, etc.) or even pasta like couscous. Basically I cook up some veggies and a pot of rice, then just chuck the veg on top of a bowl of rice with some soy sauce and sesame seeds. This is really good with chard or kale, or broccoli, or beans (I mean green beans or yellow beans).

Rice microwaves surprisingly well. So if you do a big pot of rice you can keep the leftovers in the fridge (with your leftover sauteed fennel) and put together a leftover meal really quickly.


Yeah, it's not a huge burden to eat fruit, but sometimes looking at a big peach just seems like too much of a commitment. Also I don't like the fuzzy part. I found out that if I cut them up I like them better.

I keep a tiny cutting board next to the sink for cutting up fruits before I eat them. It's easy to rinse off and re-stow. You'll also need a paring knife, which is not expensive. In the spring I hull and slice a lot of strawberries for my cereal. (But now it's blueberry season and they're a lot easier than strawberries because you can wash them all at once and then put them back in their box in the fridge. Strawberries rot faster after you wash them so it's better to wash them when you use them.)

A yummy dessert or snack (or breakfast): cut up fruit (nectarine, peach, pear, etc.) or berries and throw them in a small bowl with some yogurt or cottage cheese. Ice cream makes a good dairy medium too. You can put in nuts or raisins or granola or wheat germ too. And a little sugar or honey is no crime if the yogurt is too sour. There's always banana to sweeten up the mix too.

I haven't quite got the hang of eating melons. I think the key is to cut up the whole thing when you get it.

Share and Enjoy!

So, that is my advice on how to eat produce at home. I'm no cook, but it's not that hard when you get the hang of it. You still throw things away, but at least maybe you'll use some of them!

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