Have you become a creature of mono-eating habit? Or are you just sick of the food trends in last week's Most Overrated list? This similarly biased list of ingredients instead uncovers those that don't seem to get enough respect. For health or sustainability-seeking purposes, or just plain clever ideas to entertain the palate, here's our list of the 10 most underrated foods at this particular moment.
It's an optional topping on perhaps the most iconic food of New York, and maybe America — the hot dog. But when kept unpasteurized, the probiotic bacterias in sauerkraut are so useful to digestion it's a great accompaniment to any meat. So why not smear it on hamburgers, or let it soak up crisped bits of bacon to serve alone? Salty and pungent, this fermented food is easy to make and ridiculously cheap.
Flowers are nature's way of saying, "Take me!" Sure, many common foods are botanically flowers, like cauliflower, but many more common flowers are edible than you may know. Your flowering, overgrown basil plant? Just mince the flowers into the pesto, too. Chive blossoms? More assertive than the grassy herb. From squash blossoms to nasturtium, most look kind of pretty on plates, and add a slight, peppery zing.
8. Asian Pear
There's crisp, juicy apples like Macouns, then there's mild, watery fruits like watermelon. Somewhere in between these experiences is the Asian pear. They're easily obsession-forming, with their icicle-like, white flesh. You won't want to cook with these pears, but all the more reason to eat them au natural.
The wide category of turnips encompasses the fiercely bitter to the pleasantly peppery; your job, should you choose to accept it, is to discover which ones taste best for your purposes and at what time of the year. These root vegetables may enjoy multiple harvests per year, but it's mostly winter that we resort to them, as last stragglers from harvest season. Try them at their peak, roasted simply in chunks, and their intriguing flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture may just turn you on for good.
6. Peanut Butter
Thai, Senegalese and Peruvian cuisines have fashioned savory specialties with peanut butter, so why is limited to kids' food or dessert here? PB can do a whole lot more than mess with J, like add thickness to a soup, nutty depth to a marinade, or just some plant-based protein to a meal. It'd make its American inventor proud.
Don't let the deep, fishier flavor of mackerel deter you; these fish have some of the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and can take on any number of marinades to complement the taste. Furthermore, mackerel are an under-exploited species in a sea of declining stocks due to overfishing. They're comparably inexpensive, too.
4. Mustard Greens
These spicy-tasting cousins of kale cover a lot of culinary ground: they have delicate, quick-cooking leaves, tons of antioxidants and Vitamin K, and they have a spicy, mustardy taste that makes for a distinct side dish when simply sauteed, or peppery-tasting baby greens to serve raw.
From chickpeas to lentils, dry beans are a major source of protein in diets throughout the world. Yet I never ate much growing up, except in the form of tofu. Rather than sprinkle them on salads or drown them with pork fat, beans can easily take center stage in a meal, as other cuisines have generously proved. They're good for your heart, as the saying begins, and easy on the environment to grow.
2. Ancient Grains
Somewhere along the line, we've left out a lot of hearty grains like spelt, quinoa, and barley (except as beer, or in beef soup). These and other once-major players in the human diet are slowly making a comeback thanks to wheat allergies, but that's no reason everyone can't appreciate their various flavors, uses, and loads of nutrients.
To say seaweed is plentiful is an understatement — it's a "weed," from the "sea," which is two-thirds of the earth. Omnipresent in nature, but rarely eaten or harvested in the West, the stuff is full of umami flavor and more minerals than most land-based leafy greens. What are we waiting for?