These days, fresh is way more important than organic, so buy vegetables that look like they are still attached to the earth.
These days, fresh is way more important than organic, so buy vegetables that look like they are still attached to the earth. And the key to buying fresh is buying local and in season. Gorge on tomatoes in midsummer, switch to root vegetables come fall, and learn to love spuds throughout winter. Want to know what a fresh tomato is really supposed to taste like? Find a farmers-market heirloom that feels firm, not soft, which means it isn’t full of water, and the flavor will therefore be concentrated. Green streaks mean it’s a little underripe, but some love that touch of tartness. Also, good tomatoes do ripen on the kitchen counter, just like peaches. Then time your fresh purchases wisely: Cook turnip greens one day and turnips the next; if you buy delicate leafy vegetables like spinach, plan an early dinner and try not to store them at all if you can help it. The faster you can get them to the table the better.
Take meat off the heat before it reaches its target temperature, five degrees short for thin steaks and up to 15 for big roasts. The internal temperature of meat rises during that resting period, as the heat from the exterior penetrates to the core.
Don’t use extra-virgin olive oil. For pan-cooking steaks, chicken breasts, fish — basically any protein — you want an oil with a very high smoke point and a neutral flavor. EVOO is great for salad dressings, but it burns before it’s hot enough to sear beef. I like canola for its superhealthy 2:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats.
Spear your fish. Fish is done cooking the moment it’s heated all the way through. Find out by sticking a metal skewer into the thickest part, counting to five, and then pressing against your upper lip. If it’s even slightly warm, the fish is ready.
Pay extra for pastured eggs. Or organic free-range, at the very least, from a local farmer who lets chickens eat what they’re supposed to: little bugs and maggots growing in cow patties. The health difference is profound.
As you prepare herbs, tear whatever leaves you can. Likely, you’ll be stripping parsley leaves or rosemary twigs, picking thyme stems or culling sage leaves. Many recipes call for slicing, but torn herbs give more flavor.
Don’t wait for your knife to get dull to sharpen it. In fact, sharpen your knife every time you use it. I prefer a countertop electric sharpener to a whetstone, because it’s less involved, so it won’t get put off.