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by Slow Food USA intern Kate Northway

As our food system becomes more complex and consumers are taking an interest in the politics of production, supermarket aisles become more perplexing to navigate. Thankfully, Sam Mogannam, of Bi-Rite Market, and Dabney Gough, have created the perfect recipe for a new cookbook, Eat Good Food. Alongside delicious meal ideas, Sam provides a commentary on how to shop for the highest quality foods. From produce to meat to breads and beer, Sam covers every part of a meal.

With the book in tow, I headed to my local market to see how the Bi-Rite book could help me craft a meal for a few friends. Throughout the book, Mogannam and Gough push the reader to become an active shopper, asking grocery store staff questions about where each product originates. The authors stress the importance of becoming a more conscious shopper as a way to become a better chef in the kitchen. After scanning the book, I had picked out three recipes: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caper Lemon Butter, the Pescado Veracruzana and Chocolate Sour Cream Cake with Chocolate Glaze. All three recipes used simple ingredients easy to find at most stores.

Brussels sprouts have never been at the top of my list of favorite vegetables, so I wanted to see if Mogannam and Gough could turn me into a sprout fan. Using their advice, I looked for sprouts that were smaller, as they would produce a sweeter and more tender dish, and roasted the sprouts to obtain the most flavor.

While my local market has a bounty of produce, high quality cheeses and unique canned goods, the fish selection is sparse, selling mostly salmon and tuna. Unfortunately, this meant I couldn’t find the rockfish called for in the Pescado Veracruzano recipe. Instead, I decided to put the rest of the ingredients on top of farfalle, allowing me to use the authors’ tips for serving up some delicious pasta.

I already had most of the ingredients for the chocolate cake, but was missing the star of the show: chocolate. The sweet aisle in the store had plenty of organic, artisan bittersweet chocolate, but all were not in my price range. Sam and Dabney note that most grocery stores have large, random-weight pieces in the deli section that they weigh and price themselves and are almost always a better value than the bars or chips in the baking aisle. Plus, the large blocks of chocolate have a longer shelf life.