Great food starts with the freshest of ingredients, whether it be the proteins ( meat, chicken, pork, fish, etc), vegetables, fruits, or, as in the picture above, foods you might use to flavour any dish you create. Ask any chef, and they will always tell you that working with fresh ingredients is the only way to cook. When you go to a great restaurant you expect, and rightfully so, for the food to be absolutely fresh; so don’t settle for anything less at home in your own kitchen.
With fresh ingredients, you get the maximum vitamins and nutrients from your food and the maximum flavour. For me, while the health aspects are important, it’s the flavour that’s paramount. There is nothing that matches the flavour of fresh. I’ll plan a meal in advance and then venture off to the grocery store or market. More often than not, I will have to adjust my menu because I’m unable to find all the ingredients fresh, the flavour is that important. In some cases, I just start from scratch and compose the menu based on what I find available at the market.
I’m a big believer in farmer’s markets and butcher shops (pictures above and below) over the average everyday grocery store chain. At a farmer’s market, you know you are getting the freshest fruits and vegetables available. In my area, we get some amazing chilli and jalapeño/hot pepper varieties in addition to the usual items. I also know that my local butcher, who is an expert on meat, will have the best quality meats, and cut and trim to order exactly what I need. Yes, they are a bit more expensive than the grocery store, but it’s a difference you can definitely taste. And in cooking, taste is everything.