"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients"
I love Whole Foods.
Really, it took me almost an hour before I could type that out with solidarity, because proclaiming your undying adoration for a grocery store probably implies a lot more about yourself than you care to let on. Now, I understand the umbrage many people have with a chain with the affectionate (and now admittedly overused) nickname of Whole Paycheck, but after a couple years of an on and off again relationship with the chain, I’m here to say this: I fucking adore the place, and the best part is at the stage of my financial life, it’s the last place I should be shopping.
Now maybe my obsession is indeed due in part to my partial financial irresponsibility of being a jobless post-graduate who chooses to spend his imaginary income on unnecessary food items, but I can’t help it. I’m an addict, and I say that with nary a trace of hyperbole because when I’m bored, going to Whole Foods is my idea of a damn fantastic time.
It all starts the same way - I go in telling myself I’m just there to get duck breast, since no place else in San Luis Obispo carries them.
“Go to the duck breast,” I tell myself. “Ignore everything but the duck breast.”
Here’s the thing though: Whole Foods, whichever one you go to, has this way of making yourself feel good about spending your hard earned cash in their hallowed walls most likely filled with organic, non-gmo, gluten free oxygen. That bunch of carrots you picked up? Oh no, those are not some mass-produced taproot vegetables that you throw in your basket and couldn’t give two shits about like a bag of peanuts from a vending machine. Those are carrots that took weeks to grow by a local farmer, and congrats! You’ve officially supported your local community! Collect your prize at the cash register!
However, I will also say that what you pay for at Whole Foods you trade with a calm sense of security. When you pick up those deeply orange daggers, you know that there are going to be some of the sweetest, and most carrot-y carrots you could possibly buy. With this empowering protection in mind, before long, in addition to the duck breast in the cart (that I convinced myself I needed just to carry a half a pound of poultry), I’ve caught myself in a hypnotic trance, walking to the cash register with things I never thought I needed: a paper lunch bag with a few of the crunchy almond & chocolate sandwich cookies (please try them), a $7 dollar piece of burrata cheese, and a bag of almond flour from the bulk bin. And why not throw a couple of leeks, a box of arugula, and some green beans? It would go well with that sourdough boule you just bought so you can now make yourself a damn fine panzanella salad.
ROASTED VEGETABLE PANZANELLA (a.k.a. My Love Letter to Whole Foods)
SERVES 4-5 FOR DINNER
~3/4 pound of carrots, peeled, and halved/quartered into long strips
~3/4 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
1 large leek, top half cut off, and wedged into eighths with the root intact
1/2 a small boule of sourdough bread, cubed (let's say 3-4 cups)
3-4 tablespoons of fat (bacon fat, duck fat, or plain olive oil)
1 clove of garlic, smashed
3-4 cups of arugula
red onion vinaigrette (below)
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a sheet pan toss the carrots, green beans, and wedged leek with enough olive oil to coat (I also like to throw in a few pieces of butter). Season liberally with salt and pepper, and roast for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and slightly charred.
Meanwhile, make your croutons. Heat the fat and smashed garlic clove over medium high in a large saute pan until shimmering. Discard the garlic clove and add the bread cubes, season with salt and pepper, and fry until golden brown.
Toss together the roasted vegetables, croutons, and arugula and serve.
red onion vinaigrette
1/2 cup of finely chopped red onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons of honey
1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
In a small saucepan sweat the red onions over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes until soft. Transfer to a bowl, and mix with the minced garlic, mustard, honey, and apple cider vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream, and season with salt and pepper.