Last week, I covered a few of the basic items I buy regularly and like to keep around the house. This week, I’m focusing on produce exclusively. Ideally, an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables would make up a majority of our diets. However, what produce we should be buying regularly varies so much seasonally and by region, I can’t advocate only getting the same few fruits and veggies all year long. I’m lucky enough to live in Los Angeles where pretty much all produce is good year round. I know that in other parts of the world, not all of these fruits and vegetables are in season or available now. I avoid the guesswork by buying most of my produce at farmer’s markets. This way I know I’m getting local, seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables at competitive prices all while supporting my community instead of giant corporations. Win win.
So here’s what I’ve picked up in the last two weeks:
(Sweet) Potatoes. They are so easy to prepare, they make a great brunch entree when peeled and roasted with oil and rosemary. But you can also use them in casseroles, burritos, stir fry, rice bowls, and you can make oven baked fries with them. Or just bake them and eat them on their own.
Cauliflower. Grind florets in a food processor for cauliflower rice, or steam and roast in the oven on low with a little oil, salt and pepper.
Kale. Now, don’t go getting mad. If you don’t like kale, you don’t have to buy it. Any green leafy salad base will work. Get romaine or spinach if you prefer. I just happen to like kale more. I know I probably don’t need to tell you, but kale is a great source of iron, protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and magnesium. There’s a reason why kale is so popular – it’s basically a one stop shop for a lot of your essential nutrients. (If you don’t like the texture, you can always steam or blanch your kale prior to using it. That will soften the leaves a bit.)
Arugula. My other favorite green leafy salad base. The flavor is so different from anything else. It contains vitamin A, B6, C & K as well as iron, calcium and an ample amount of folic acid. Love tossing wild arugula with toasted pine nuts and avocado.
Onion & garlic. Must haves! Onion and garlic are used in almost everything I cook to enhance flavor. You can buy ‘fresh’ minced garlic in a jar, but nothing beats the raw cloves. Sauté both in a little olive oil before you pan fry anything.
Brussels Sprouts. Generally a winter crop, but they grow just fine in the warmer months out here. Brussels are so easy to prepare, (see risotto recipe a few posts back) and make such a great addition to any meal. The days of frozen, butter covered brussels sprouts are over. Buy them fresh and steam them, cut into quarters and roast with olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin on low for about 25 minutes.
Radishes. Super easy to prepare and cook. Radishes have a distinct texture, but pretty much pick up the flavor of anything they’re cooked with. You can cut them up and marinate them, then roast them, or you can sauté them. I usually try to incorporate the radish greens into my meal as well, since they’re a significant source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, & K.
Beets. Loving beets and Battlestar Galactica are pretty much the only things I have in common with Dwight Schrute. He had the right idea, though. Beets are amazing. Not only are they a great source of folic acid, magnesium, potassium, iron, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B6 & C, but they also help to lower blood pressure and combat impotence. You can steam and roast them, pickle them, juice them raw, or use them in red velvet cake or burgers as a natural red dye. I even put them in tofu scrambles, on salads, and in sandwiches.
Apples & Oranges. Because duh.
Lemons. I can’t think of a time when it isn’t handy to have a few lemons around, I try to keep stocked up on them since I use lemon juice in nearly everything- salads, hummus, guacamole, juices, roasted veggies, desserts, etc.
Peaches. Like apples, but better.
Cucumbers. Excellent for juicing as long as you peel them first – the skin adds a waxiness to the juice that isn’t very appetizing.
Carrots. Peel and put in salads, juice them raw, slice and eat with hummus, or slow roast them on a low temperature for a more flavorful taste and soft texture.
Strawberries! I go a little strawberry crazy in the spring and summer, because I can. Nothing in the world beats a fresh, ripe strawberry. You can use them in dessert recipes, salads, smoothies and juices (leave the greens on!), but I like to just eat them by the handful. I’ve even made friends with the guy who sells me my strawberries, and he always puts some really good ones aside for me when I go to pick them up. There are perks to knowing your local farmers.
Pineapple. Another seasonal fruit I can’t help but indulge in. Pineapple is insanely good in juices, grilled in burgers and sandwiches, and it’s my favorite pizza topping in the world. High in fiber, magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
Avocados. Did I really not mention these yet? Avocados are nature’s perfect food. Full of essential fatty acids and antioxidants like lycopene and beta-carotene, they can be used in everything from salads, burgers, sandwiches, and burritos, to salad dressings, and even some dessert recipes. Avocados can be incredibly expensive, however, so I really only buy them when I absolutely know I’ll be using them. Throwing away an avocado that went bad is the saddest thing ever.
Bananas. The browner, the better! The more freckles you have on your bananas, the higher their ability to combat abnormal cells in your body. I often peel, cut and freeze my ultra ripe bananas to use in smoothies. When frozen banana is blended, it has an ice cream like consistency.
Watermelon. Watermelons are 92% water, so they’re extremely hydrating. You can cut them up and eat them, but I love juicing them with a lemon or two and drinking by the jugful. (You can blend them too if you don’t have a juicer, but the juice will be very pulpy.)
And that’s the majority of the fruits and vegetables I get on a regular basis. In the winter and fall, I avoid the strawberries, watermelon, pineapple, and other warm weather fruit, and I tend to buy more root vegetables (like parsnips) and squash. But it’s really pretty simple if you stick to buying as much local and organic produce as possible, pretty much whatever’s growing is in season.
Next week, I’ll be talking about some of my favorite not-so-essential items. (Which are the most fun) Until then, go check out your local farmer’s market and stock up.