Cruising the grocery aisles with a culinary wish list


Catharine L. Kaufman


One of my favorite pastimes is strolling the supermarket aisles, trolling for new and exciting produce and products. Sure, we all need basic staples for a well-stocked pantry, prepared to throw a hearty, delicious meal on the table at a moment’s notice (we’ve all had pop-over dinner guests), but I like to splurge now and again when I see edible bliss. Here’s my luxury-shopping list.

Oil and Lube

The gold standard of oils is organic, extra virgin olive oil. This perfect blend of poly- and monounsaturated fats is a heart-healthy magic bullet that puts the skids on bad cholesterol while boosting the good kind. Have an oil change with white or black truffle oil – olive oil infused with these exotic fungi that imparts an earthy, mushroom essence to the oil.

Truffle oil is concentrated and pungent, more of a flavor-enhancing finishing oil than a cooking oil, so use a light hand. Experiment by drizzling on steamed or grilled veggies, wild-caught salmon, shrimps or other seafood, omelets and frittatas, or warm it up and pour over your favorite greens for warm, wilted salads — the possibilities divine and endless.

Be a Culture Vulture

Organic yoghurt or kefir? Both these silky, milky beauties contain cultures giving a feeling of comfort and well-being. Yogurt’s beneficial bacteria keep the gut clean, and provide a buffet for friendly bacteria that live in the digestive tract. But kefir is a superfood containing strains of bacteria including Lactobacillus Caucasus and Leuconostoc that colonize the intestine. Kefir does a spring-cleaning in the gut, bolstering intestine’s performance by destroying harmful yeasts and keeping E. coli and parasites from the front door.

For those with lactose sensitivities, try goat milk or non-dairy kefirs like coconut water. Kefir comes in plain, vanilla, berry, pomegranate and peach flavors that are great on granolas, oatmeal and baked potatoes, layered in fruit parfaits, blended in sweet or savory chilled soups or sipped straight up in a tall cool glass.

Heirloom Treasures

The popular heirloom or “ugly” tomatoes are varieties that have been passed down from generations due to their favorable traits. These technicolors include emerald, golden zebra and violet. When in season, grab them for their beauty, flavor and cancer-fighting lycopene.

But the true caviar of tomatoes is the dry-farmed version. Sugar sweet and ruby red, these beauts are found at farmerstands and natural markets for a brief season in September. They are grown with the environmentally smart method of “dry-farming” when irrigation is stopped once the plants have taken a foothold. Forcing the roots to bore deep to hunt for water, this makes the plant concentrate on fruit production, creating a smaller, more flavorful tomato, with the added boon of conserving water. Dry-farmed tomatoes are best showcased in their pure, raw form in salads, salsas or solo, drizzled with truffle oil and a sprinkling of fresh basil leaves.

Main Squeeze

Meyer lemons are the ambrosia of citrus. A native of China, they are believed to be a hybrid cross of a common lemon and a mandarin or orange, making them pleasantly tart and juicy with a glabrous skin, perfect for zesting. Famed foodies Alice Waters and Martha Stewart put Meyers on the culinary map, and once you’ve tried them, you’ll be hooked, too.

There must be 50 ways to use your Meyer including lemon soufflé, lemon and almond chicken, lemon chili shrimp, lemon scones, lemon kefir smoothies, traditional Greek lemon rice soup, aka Avgolemono, and this refreshing Meyer dressing to drizzle on your greens, heirlooms or dry-farmed tomatoes.

Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Black pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, whisk together ingredients. Chill and stir before serving.

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