To cook locally is a wonderful thing, if you can find a way. My former co-op did it this way, my mom does it this, and now in my new home, I try to do this. It can be both frustrating (SO. MANY. ZUCCHINI.) and liberating (learning to like eggplant, which I recently did). Overall though, local food just tastes better. And those super-sweet, tiny tomatoes? Some varieties just don't travel well, so they aren't sold in big supermarkets.
Everyone has their own way of doing it, but here's one way:
1.) Save your vegetable and fruit shopping until the morning or afternoon for the market, if you have a big enough one (if they carry it, get your eggs/milk/cheese/meat there too).
2.) Walk around the market, and pick out what looks best to you, keeping in mind different ideas for recipes. If you have a particular one in mind, get stuff for that--in my experience, it's easier to figure meals out later and just get what looks good. Get enough veggies for the week (or if you are a lucky duck and have a 2x/week market get enough for only half of it).
3.) Try and spread out your purchases between things that will last the week (potatoes, beans, apples, onions) and things that have to be eaten more quickly (tomatoes, lettuce, basil)
4.) Let the food inspire you....but here are some ideas below.
Eggplant: Roasted, or on pizza, or in pasta sauce....yum!
Tiny, beautiful eggplants!!
Apples: just for eating, in beet-carrot salad, in a pie, etc.
Tomatoes: I cannot get enough tomatoes. Plain with salt and olive oil (add basil and fresh mozzarella and you've got a caprese salad!), gazpacho, roasted, fresh salsa, fried green tomatoes and so, so much more (okay, okay I don't have recipes for all these yet).
It's so nice to keep flowers in the house! I love these sunflowers...
Cucumbers: gazpacho, just eaten for kicks because they're delicious and refreshing, raita, or make your own pickles! (My aunt does this and they're amazing--and when the jar is finished she puts more cucumbers in and voilà, more pickles. I made them with her when I was 3, but clearly I have to learn again...)
Beans: steam them, put them in a Niçoise salad (a favorite of mine), etc.
Peaches: Oh, peaches. Peach cobbler, peach pie, peach sorbet, peach muffins, peach scones, or just as they are. Nothing better.
Can't have too many flowers!
Or tomatoes for that matter.
Carrots: carrot and beet salad, as is, in stir fry, (in the fall, ginger-carrot soup), and much more.
Beets: carrot beet salad, roasted, borscht (any kind of chilled beet soup is really good in the summer, and an alternative to gazpacho)
Artichokes: steamed with lemon butter, they are so good!
And these are just only just a few possibilities for a small list of fruits and veggies in one month out of the year. In the fall and winter? Kale, sweet potatoes, chard, collards, butternut squash, acorn squash, apples and so much more.