Ode to produce


Linda Conway Eriksson - Contributing Columnist



Sometimes I grocery shop at the neighborhood store three minutes from my house. It’s small, convenient and friendly — a quick in and out. I see many of the same people who helped me when my children were small, and feel like I’m visiting family. The meats are outstanding. They always have one more rotisserie chicken for me and homemade soups and entrees — a real boon on a grab and go night.

Then, there’s the place at the shopping center just around the corner. It’s high end, but worth it. They have quality meats and seafood, an outstanding in-store bakery and a grill that turns out whole meals to order, plus tables and chairs for dining in a relaxed setting. What’s not to love?

Occasionally I hit a big box store to stock up on bulk items like big, round boxes of oatmeal, gallon-size bottles of cranberry juice, large dinner napkins (the kind that cover your whole lap) and other paper items. That’s a money saver, and I find it fun.

One of my favorite stores is in a shopping center about five minutes away. I find myself there a lot when I need groceries. It’s not the least expensive place. It’s big, so if you shop the whole store, you’ve walked a mile. It has four entrance/exits in front and another on the side, where you can get in and out of the beer, liquor and wine section in a few minutes if you know what you’re looking for. Parking extends 25 or so cars deep in rows across the entire front of the store, then winds across the back. Sometimes it’s hard to find a cart. Yet I go back.

Usually I look for a parking space near one particular entrance. I’ve decided that is for no real reason except one: the produce. Every grocery store has a produce section. Not every grocery store displays veggies so you want to linger over them as soon as you walk in the door.

Vegetables and fruits en masse are an eyeful of what can only be described as beautiful. Their bright colors, different shapes and sizes provide a cheerful sight the moment you walk into the store. They are arranged across your line of vision, facing you as you step inside. Citrus fruits are usually the first thing one encounters. The sight of the bright yellows and oranges, along with a display of limes and avocados promises good, healthy eating. With a big tub of corn on the cob on the left and displays of lots of different kinds of apples on the right it’s downright welcoming.

And do you notice the smell? Citrus is subtle, and so are apples, but the scent is always there and is part of the experience. It’s smart marketing on the part of the grocer who can go past colorful fruits, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cherries to get to the veggies without putting some in your cart?

Stepping back farther into the store, the reds, yellows, oranges and greens of sweet peppers form a backdrop I dare you to ignore. The displays are formed stair step style, which draws your eye even farther into the store, past bananas and bags of grapes to the workhorse veggies — carrots, potatoes and onions. On the right is a line of everything green you could possibly want, from lettuces to herbs, leading to prewashed mixes in bags. To the left are more berries, lots of fresh juices and bottles of salad dressings.

The organic veggies are steps straight ahead in their own section. And before you know it, you’re back gazing at meats, seafood and breads baked in-store.

I guess you’d have to say I enjoy every phase of cooking, from the selection of ingredients to the last bite. (Cleaning up, not so much.)

When fresh vegetables are in, I like to enjoy them to the max with composed salads. Any vegetable that’s bright and colorful with a distinctive taste can help to form a composed salad just buy or pick what looks good today, wash, slice, and arrange on a platter with tongs for serving, and top with what enhances the flavors — oil and vinegar, dressing,

So what brings me back to that one particular store so often? It has to be the veggies. This time of year, I like to make the most of fresh vegetables by serving a chilled composed salad. It’s quick and easy just pick or buy what looks good, wash and dry your choices, cut and arrange on a platter, top with a light dressing that complements the flavors and serve. It won’t heat up the house, it’s good and it’s good for you. Have some and pass it.

COMPOSED SALAD

lettuce your choice

1 red sweet pepper

1 yellow sweet pepper

1 10 inch cucumber

12-16 sweet grape tomatoes

2-3 carrots

1 summer squash

Wash, dry and cut vegetables, all but tomatoes. Arrange veggies over a bed of lettuce on a large platter the way you like. Chill.

When ready to serve, drizzle dressing lightly over the top. I like to add Parmesan cheese.

Choose your own veggies from among those you like.

Serves eight.

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Linda Conway Eriksson

Contributing Columnist

Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at lindaconwayeriksson@gmail.com.

Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at lindaconwayeriksson@gmail.com.