This has pretty much been my approach to it, in a practical sense. A little bit of trial and error?
Apologies, Stan I think I DID state "-3EV" ...in my last post somewhere on this thread. What I meant to put was as Richard has found, I have found its best to set my 'Exposure biase" dial?- to '-0.3',EV and this way I dont seem to have ANY exposure problems. I am guided by the results of sky contrasts for example and shots with sky in the back ground in forests, with varying highlights. Often facing into the light or at least near enough towards it. I am also guided very much by the in camera histogram and my knowledge and understanding of it, I often review each shot in this sense after taking a photo. The joys of digital, Hmmm?
Just to get back to the original heading "my D7000 CONSISTANTLY underexposes". I mean it goes up to ISO 3200 and higher? Tempts me to ask is this posibly being confused with use of the cameras exposure guide posibly showing 'low' exposure, in 'maual mode' this would however lead to Over exposed shots. This could of course be due to a number of reasons not only to do with high contrasting subjects but obviously the caamera controls also.
More recently I have been using 'A priority' more and this also is where I feel I've been able to recognise, as another poster identified, the D7000s (and probably most Nikon DSLRs, at least) have a very critical exposure system that's going to depend a lot on the circumstances in which you set it up to use, obviously taking into account the subject. I must also say that I havent found it difficult to get to 'grips' with. But there is a lot to take in, glad I have a D 7000 and not a more basic Nikon! Thanks