Do you ever get stuck in a food rut? (If you don’t then please tell me your secret!) At my house we experiment with new flavours and recipes quite a bit, but sometimes I find that we are cycling through the same ingredients, just in different ways. There is only so much a person can do with green beans and tomatoes (for Sam) and celery and red bell peppers (Sophia). I decided that this weekend we would make a pilgrimage to our big food market downtown – something we do regularly, except that this time I laid down a new rule: each person must pick a new whole food ingredient to try, preferably a vegetable (but honestly, I would have been happy with pretty much anything that grew in the ground and I could figure out how to serve).
We got off to a bit of a slow start. At the first vendor we couldn’t find much that 1) they hadn’t already tried or 2) didn’t look scary (Jerusalem artichokes and celery root just don’t say “eat me” to a 3 or 6 year old it would seem).
Eventually they got into it, here’s what was chosen:
Sophia – 2 turnips, 4 small purple potatoes, 4 fresh figs and 1 bunch of sweet baby broccolini (which I bent the rule for, not a new ingredient but a favourite of ours).
Sam – 1 dragon fruit, a package of raw kelp noodles (a first for all of us!) and 2 globe artichokes (a cooking first for me).
Myself – forbidden black rice (I know, it’s not a vegetable but there’s something about the word forbidden that makes it attractive, don’t you think?)
My husband Rick – he bought ribs… What can I say? Perhaps he didn’t get the memo.
These ingredients were starting to look a bit like a self-imposed Quick Fire competition from the tv show Top Chef, so I cheated a little and threw in a couple of familar ones: heirloom carrots and zucchini. Okay, you have 30 minutes, make something the judges will love!
The recipes here aren’t the important part – it was the fun outing we had as a family, the lesson that new things aren’t scary and the added bonus that we discovered some new foods that we all loved. The forbidden rice (cooked with vegetable stock and coconut milk) was the hands down favourite, followed by the dragon fruit and figs (drizzled with plain yogurt and honey mixed together) and the kelp noodles (mixed with an Asian inspired dressing and heirloom carrot and zucchini shavings). The biggest surprise of the day was how adventurous Sophia was, she was truly excited to try new things and it really made the whole day worth while.
I encourage you to get out there and see what your local farmers’ market, specialty store, health food store or local grocer has to offer. Let everyone pick something new and then have fun with it. Even if they only try one bite you can be happy knowing that you’ve tried something new and then have a laugh over it (as I did with my overcooked artichokes). And you never know, you may find a new favourite! I’d love to hear your stories.