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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cooking Tip: Fresh is Always Best

In cooking, it starts with the produce that you buy from the market or grocery store. There are some produce that I buy in the market and there are some that I buy at the grocery store. I'm currently lucky to have a mini-market two blocks away from where we live. Some days, I don't have any planned meal in mind and I just figure it out when I'm in the market. I let my senses lead me to the freshest and most beautiful produce I could find on a certain visit.

I'm grateful for my mom for bringing me to markets when I was a kid. I learned about traveling inside a big market, being friends with sellers and butchers and knowing when a certain produce is fresh or not.

Here are some of the tips I follow when in I shop for fresh produce:

On Buying Fresh Produce
(1) Do the squeeze test and look for bumps and bruises before buying.
(2) Take your time. Fresh produce is vital to our diet and it is worth shopping around for.
(3) Be friendly with local grocer owner/s or market sellers or butchers. They will be of great assistance should you need help in finding the right produce for you.

On Choosing Fresh Produce
(1) The freshest produce are the ones in season--take advantage! In spring, buy apricots, artichokes, asparagus, avocados, beets, carrots. In summer, buy berries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, figs and garlic. In fall, buy apples, broccoli, fennel, pears, sweet potatoes.
(2) Buying out-of season produce does not mean it's not fresh. It may only mean that the produce may be smaller or weaker in taste compared to in-season produce.

On Buying Vegetables
(1) Be selective. Examine each vegetable individually. Be on the lookout for rotten pieces mixed in with the good group.
(2) Look for bright color.
(3) Check for firmness and crispiness. If you see wrinkles or wilted looking greens, that is not fresh at all.

On Buying Ripe Produce
(1) Remember that overly ripe produce is squishy and overly juicy.
(2) Check the color. If a produce has pale color, choose another one that has more color.

On Buying Fresh Fish
(1) Look for bright and clear eyes, plus shiny, metallic and clean skin.
(2) Fresh fish smells like clean water or has a scent of the ocean.
(3) The place where you buy seafood should not stink! If you find yourself in a fish market that reeks, leave.

On Buying Fresh Meat
(1) Look at the color. Beef should have reddish color, pork should be pink, poultry should be white or pale yellow.
(2) Smell the produce. Avoid buying if the meat has a rancid or strange smell.

These are some of the tips that I normally follow whenever I do my shopping at the market or grocery stores. Hope these few suggestions will help you in finding the fresh produce you need for cooking.

**This post is also in response to Fave Diets Blog's monthly Healthy Bite. The question for April is
"What is your favorite healthy cooking tip or trick?"