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04.09.2007

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beat the kitchen blahs how to make cooking more fun by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2

Found yourself in a cooking lull after a long, dreary winter? With springtime here and summer just Ďround the corner, all sorts of good things start sprouting up from the finally-thawed ground; thereís a renewed sense of energy all-around that comes from having longer days and warmer temperatures. Which makes now the perfect time to inject a little new life into your culinary repertoire. Check out these ideas for how to make putting food on the table each night just a little more funÖ

1 Find a farmerís market. With lovely weather looming on the horizon (recent freak snow for some of us notwithstanding), the farmerís markets pick up again, bringing fresh, local produce to even those dwelling smack dab in the city. Do an online search to find out if thereís a farmerís market near you, then mosey on over whenever the next oneís scheduled. Good cooking starts with good ingredients, and at the farmerís market, youíll find an array of delicious, recently harvested fruits and vegetables that are not only heaps tastier than what youíre likely to get at the supermarket, but generally a fair bit cheaper as well. Farmerís markets can also be great sources for locally-made artisan foods like cheeses, spreads, breads and other accompaniments to liven up your meal. Meanwhile, the lively atmosphere makes for a much more enjoyable experience then pushing a creaky cart down yet another bland, fluorescent-lit supermarket aisle.

2 Go to an ethnic market. Another great alternative to boring supermarket shopping is to make a trip to a specialty ethnic market, whether itís a fruit stand in Chinatown, an Indian spice shop, a Caribbean grocer, or a Mexican market. Prices on common food ingredients are often much, much lower (my local Chinatown, for instance, is a good place to go for cheap meat and huge, $1 bags of chicken bones that are perfect for stock); moreover, youíll encounter all manner of cool fruits, vegetable, spices, condiments and other culinary goodies that youíve probably never seen before. Get adventurous; in this fab internet age in which we now live, you can always research what to do with your unusual buys once you bring them home (or better yet, ask the nice folks at the shop how to cook/eat whatever youíre interested in buying).

3 Visit a proper butcher or fishmonger. Though theyíre an increasingly rare thing, if you happen to have one within a reasonable distance of where you live, a specialty meat or fish shop is well worth seeking out, as the quality of the offerings will generally be much higher than those sad shrink-wrapped specimens most of us are used to buying at the supermarket. Moreover, knowledgeable meat-and-fish sellers are great sources for advice on how to cook your buys. Even if you canít find a devoted butcher or fish shop, itís worth checking out the different supermarkets in your area to see if any have an actual meat or seafood counter tended by folks who actually know a little something about the products theyíre selling.

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