Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Farmer’s Market or Big Box Store, Find the Best Ingredients by Guest Blogger Jane Bills from Let There Be Bite

Thank you to Jane Bills for yesterday and today’s blog posts. She runs the food website Let There Be Bite, a guide to best ingredients in stores and online. You can find amazing information from product reviews to in store guides. It is like shopping with an expert, personal shopper.

Farmer’s Market or Big Box Store, Find the Best Ingredients

So now that you’ve worked up the courage to get in the kitchen again, what are you going to make? I’ll let you in on a secret: if you buy good ingredients, half the work is done for you.

Think about it: If you buy fresh, perky asparagus rather than tired, floppy ones, it will taste better even if you do nothing but steam them. One chicken broth brand is watery and tasteless; another is full-flavored and complex. Which would you rather have as a base for your soup?

One of my major demands of food preparation is decent extra virgin olive oil. There is so much sad, burned, tasteless “extra virgin olive oil” (or so the label says) out there. (Yes, I said “burned” – bad oil is stripped of their rancid flavors and smells.) And people worry evoo is fattening, when it’s been proven that it’s full of antioxidants and is in fact a positive addition to your diet! Why do you think those old Greek ladies live so long?

I took an olive oil tasting class at the University of California-Davis and discovered that California extra virgin olive oil is truly the next great thing in American food. They have stricter labeling practices than the Europeans, whose “extra virgin” oils are not always so. Plus, Italy had a well-documented scandal a few years ago wherein they were adding non-Italian olive oil to their batches (like Turkish or Tunisian oil) and labeling it as 100% Italian. Why? The demand is greater than the supply! It’s all about marketing. Let’s turn to our own country’s production, especially since we’re doing it right.

Read more about how and why to choose extra virgin olive oil here. 

See my recommendations for California evoo brands here.

Generally speaking, when you’re at the supermarket, one of my Golden Rules is to shop the periphery. All the processed, shelf-stable food is usually contained in the central aisles, while the fresh meat, fish, and vegetables are positioned on the outer ring. Another Golden Rule? If you must buy some chips or cereal, read the ingredients. If you know what they are, great. If not, put it back and find something else. Want proof that reading ingredients is crucial? A 99% “fat free” yogurt has more calories than a full-fat yogurt because they have to add so much sugar to make up for the missing fat. Are you starting to figure out why diets never work?

No comments: