Ahh, the farmers’ market…
How wonderful to have the farmers’ markets back! If you are lucky enough to have a market nearby you can plan your menus around an easy weekly visit to their tables full of colorful, juicy produce! Maybe you will even run into a vegetable that is new to you—have you tried kohlrabi yet? Maybe you like beets, but are looking for a new way to prepare them, or you’d like to find a recipe that will entice your family to eat kale. It’s time for a new cookbook! Here are a few recent cookbooks from the shelves of Howard County Library System.
The Farmers’ Market Guide to Vegetables: Selecting, Preparing and Cooking, by Bridget Jones, has been a staple since its publication in 2001. How nice to be able to highly recommend a new title, Vegetable Literacy (2013), by Deborah Madison. At “the vanguard of the vegetarian cooking movement” for over three decades, Madison now explores and celebrates the diversity of the plant kingdom. Her approach is to introduce us to each of twelve plant families, such as the carrot family, the mint family, the cabbage family, and show how ingredients are related and can easily substitute for each other. Each vegetable within the family gets several paragraphs of history and advice, a list of selected varieties, and a bit of “kitchen wisdom” followed by several wonderful-sounding recipes fit for a chef’s repertoire and a tantalizing photo.
Molly Katzen is well-known among vegetarians as the author of the Moosewood Cookbook, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and several other vegetable-themed books, including Salad People for preschoolers and up. Her newest is the The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation (2013) and it is lovely! I find the deep eggplant-colored cover and the illustrations and photos more appealing than the “handwritten” style of the Moosewood books. The organization is by categories such as soups, salads, pasta, sauces, etc. She has added a helpful list of the recipes that are “vegetarian” and those that are “vegan.” Katzen’s definition of her cuisine is “a beautiful plate of food, simply cooked, maximally flavored, and embracing as many plant components as will harmoniously fit.” this is one I will be taking home!
Forks over Knives: the Cookbook (2012) by Del Sroufe and others, is a companion to the Forks over Knives book and video. Whether or not you are convinced by the original book and video that you should embrace a wholly plant-based whole foods diet, the cookbook is a great collection of healthy recipes. There are only a few enticing photos, but that leaves more room for the wide variety of recipes. You will probably be introduced to a few new ingredients—be adventurous!
One of the most important categories of vegetables—and perhaps the most confusing and intimidating—is the leafy greens. Mark Bittman is the author of the How to Cook Everything series, the Minimalist column in the New York Times, and several “minimalist” cookbooks. Bittman wants you to enjoy your leafy greens! His Leafy Greens: an A-to-Z Guide to 30 Types of Greens Plus More Than 120 Delicious Recipes, written in 1995, when he was an avid gardener, deserved a reprint in 2012. The A-to-Z guide includes dandelions, seaweed and other wild greens as well as the more common collards and spinach. His recipes aren’t only about greens but about how to use them with pasta and proteins. The whimsical but realistic illustrations have also stood the test of time.
What if you are the only vegetarian in your household—or you are a household of one? You may need the advice in Joe Yonan’s Eat your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook (2013). Yonan has an easy conversational style that encourages one to experiment and have fun cooking. His advice will help the single cook to shop efficiently and cook without a lot of leftovers.
My last reading suggestion is the whimsical Cooking with Flowers (2013) by Miche Bacher of Mali B Sweets. Bacher is trained as an herbalist but it is her creativity with everything from lilac sorbet to dandelion jam that will inspire you.
Summer is the easiest time of year to get plenty of healthful vegetables in your diet. Try being a “farmers’ market chef” this summer!
I only think about olive oil when I really want fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, and I generally just pick whichever brand at the grocery store looks the fanciest without being too expensive. Of course there’s a whole world behind the scenes that I had no idea about! It turns out that I should be treating olive oil more like a fine wine – carefully chosen to exact specifications with the flavor, quality, age, and origin in mind.
Tom Mueller’s Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil is more than just a risque title, it’s an eye opening “journey through the world of olive oil” covering the oil’s history and traditions, plus fun stuff like rampant fraud in the industry and the popular Turkish sport of oil wrestling.
There are eight flaws which can be found in olive oil:
- muddy sediment
The presence of just one of these flaws barrs the oil from being graded as extra virgin. According to Mueller, many olive oils are labeled as extra virgin despite not meeting the standards legally imposed for such an assignment. Lots of these oils actually fall into the poorest category created by the International Olive Council (an intergovernmental agency instituted by the United Nations – this is serious business!): lampante, meaning “lamp oil,” which by law is unfit for human consumption and must be refined before being sold as food. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel great knowing that this is what I’ve probably been using.
Why does it really matter? The taste suffers, for one. Further, excess refinement, aging, or mixing with other oils removes a lot of the health benefits that lead many to the use of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in the first place. Mueller explains that “real extra virgin olive oil contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories which help to prevent degenerative conditions (p. 7)” and those properties are actually found in the same substances that give the oil it’s integral flavors. High bitterness and a velvety texture are signs of tocopherol, squalene, and hydroxytyrosol – antioxidants – and a peppery sting the back of the throat is a sign of oleocanthal – an anti-inflammatory (p. 104-5).
Desirable aspects of a good EVOO are a balance between bitterness, fruitiness, and pungency (peppery). Choosing a quality EVOO involves quite a few factors, but Mueller provided some tips for us laymen to follow if we can’t quite get to Italy to pluck olives off the tree ourselves:
- It’s very perishable, so try to find it as fresh and close to the mill as possible – hey, the more local your food is the better, why not olive oil too? You want to protect it against light and air, so darker colored bottles are better if you can’t find it fresh.
- Look for a best by date around two years away, as that should indicate that it was bottled recently. A harvest date is even better, and if there is one look for dates from the current year. Quality EVOO will be good for around 18 months to two years after it’s harvested and pressed.
- Check the label for the specific grade: extra virgin. Ignore buzz words like pure, light, and first or cold pressed; as non-regulated terms they mean nothing. Even “pressed in Italy” and similar phrases are misleading as olives from other countries are imported and bottled in Italy before being re-exported with an Italian flag on the bottle.
- Remember, different olive oils are good for different uses. A robust, full-bodied, or “early harvest” oil will pair well with strongly flavored food while a mild, delicate, or “late harvest” oil will work better with less flavorful foods (Mueller suggests it for chicken, fish, or potatoes).
I can’t wait to find a specialty oil seller now so I can experience the difference between quality EVOO and the stuff I’ve been using – I suspect I won’t be switching back.
Sorry for those of you who thought I was talking about the hand-held, email-pager thingy. As far as I know, there are no known health benefits to those devices. No, I’m talking about the good, old fruit. There have already been some great Well & Wise pieces extolling the virtues of berries, but I’ve decided to shine a spotlight on the blackberry in particular because: 1. its season is almost over (yikes!); and 2. it holds a special place in my heart.
You see, I grew up in a pretty suburban neighborhood that was on the border of a pretty urban neighborhood. We had our fair share of backyard “fauna” as far as squirrels and bunnies and birds go. And there was plenty of lovely (though yard friendly) flora too. But the only edible plant that ever grew in our yard (other than dandelions) was one scraggly blackberry vine or bush. (Was it a vine or bush? To the Internet!) We had one blackberry cane or bramble that would faithfully produce a handful of delicious blackberries every summer. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was huge to me as I grew up in a time where microwaves, instant meals, and fast foods were “innovations.” So, in retrospect, this sad little bush/bramble/whatever (I think I’ll stick with “bramble” as it sounds more fairytale-ish) may have helped keep me alive.
I might be exaggerating a little, but blackberries are insanely good for you. Check out this Huffington Post blackberry morsel. And, in a book already highlighted by our own Farmers’ Market Chef, blackberries are named as one of the 50 Best Plants on the Planet! Cathy Thomas’s book also illustrates how they can be among the 50 tastiest too with recipes such as blackberry gratin, cherries poached in red wine with blackberries and mint, and breakfast quinoa with blackberries. I plan to try all three recipes.
But, back to my childhood memories: if this scrappy little bramble of goodness can spring up and survive in my childhood home, then it has a pretty good shot of being a hardy grower for others. In fact, it is featured in Vertical Vegetables & Fruit: Creative Gardening Techniques for Growing Up in Small Spaces by Rhonda Massingham Hart, so anyone might be able to capture a little bit of home-grown health. My kids and I are growing blueberries and strawberries in pots this summer; we might have to add a blackberry bramble to our little vegetal menagerie (if not for culinary and health reasons, then for sentimental reasons).
In a rather comical episode of Frasier, Niles unexpectedly has to take his father’s place as guest speaker at an elementary school. Originally intending to take on his dad’s topic of safety issues, he soon realizes he’s losing his young audience and switches to the much more fascinating, but far grosser, hot button issue of what percentage of bug parts the FDA is allowed to let slide into various canned food items. It sounds like something far-fetched, but the truth is we are indeed eating bugs whether we know it or not.
The difference between that little humorous scare fest, though, and entomophagy (the consumption of insects as food) is in our voluntary participation. More and more well-respected experts are not laughing when they suggest the future of food sources for our planet lie in eating “grub.” It’s not uncommon these days to see articles like this run in respected sources, where the emphasis is on the health benefits of eating bugs.
In a double issue of New York dated August 15th/22nd 2011, Dana Goodyear wrote a feature article called Grub: Eating Bugs To Save The Planet. It offers up lots of interesting facts, but one of the most compelling (and a convincing argument for possibly consuming insects) is that lobster, shrimp and crabs are all far more disgusting eaters than insects. The former literally scrape the bottom of the barrel (or the ocean, in this case) while insects often feed on lettuce and flowers.
Edible, another serious examination of the health benefits of eating bugs, is oddly riveting and written in with such warmth, a sense of humor and an engaging style that Daniella Martin can’t help but pull readers in while also kind of charming them. Yes, the book has a dire premise at its heart: the world is slowly running out of food resources and someday what now sounds like a quirky fashionable idea behind a great book may be a harsh reality.
Martin makes a good case (backed up with lots of interesting facts and without a preachy or an uncomfortably persuasive tone anywhere in sight). She’s so good at presenting the idea of consuming insects as both health benefit and life-sustaining force that the only reason you’ll hesitate is because…well…eating insects (or at least, the thought of eating them) can be rather gross.
Expanding upon the “ecological, nutritional, economic, global and culinary” benefits of consuming insects, she dissects the various tastes and textures bugs offer. For instance, crickets taste nutty; bee larvae bear a resemblance bacon-chanterelles; giant water bugs smell like green apples.
The nuttiness in taste comes when crickets are roasted and rich in minerals, their exoskeletons also pack a nice punch with their crunch. For the reader brave enough to try entomophagy, Martin tackles everything: raising bugs at home, a “must have” list of edible insects, cooking basics and lots of recipes, including: wax moth tacos, salty-sweet wax worms, sweet-and-spicy summer June bugs and cricket kale salad.
Never preachy or overbearing, Martin nudges readers toward being ever so open-mindedness at the prospect of eating bugs: “Why not make the best of what we have the most of?” Her unique take on our world’s nutritional, economic and global problems related to food is also a culinary one. It’s not something you have to or may even want to ever consider, but Edible’s argument is never boring and makes for thoughtful reading.
COOKBOOKS—THE RESTAURANT IS THE STAR
Robicelli’s: A Love Story, with Cupcakes (2013), further subtitled “with 50 decidedly grown-up recipes,” is by Allison and Matt Robicelli. A shining example is given on the front flyleaf– “The Laurenzano (fresh fig cake topped with goat cheese buttercream, fig balsamic gastrique, and crisp prosciutto flakes).” Not a sprinkle in sight! Here is a book where “salty” and “spicy” refer to the language, not the food. Allison explains that both she and Matt are from Brooklyn and they will be using their native tongue. Their tough attitude seems to be part of the reason they survived the closing of their gourmet shop four years ago and have, just last October, opened a new retail bakery. You will probably enjoy the humor—you will certainly enjoy the cupcakes!
Manresa is a city in Spain, a restaurant in Northern California, and the title of a new cookbook– Manresa: an Edible Reflection (2013), by chef and proprietor David Kinch. Everything about this book makes me gasp in wonder, from the photography to the inventive recipes. Kinch’s partnership with a local farm furthers his philosophy of “a closed circle between guests, the farm, and Kinch’s highly personal haute cuisine.” This is not “fast” food, nor is it “comfort” food. I don’t think I will ever make Creamy Nasturtium Rice with Passion Fruit and Crab—it calls for sheets of gold leaf to be added, and, no, I don’t know if we are supposed to eat the gold leaf or if it is just for show! Read this book for Kinch’s beautifully written essays and enjoy it the way you might enjoy a movie about a place you will never visit!
“Leon” is the name of a restaurant chain operating in the UK and Europe. The owners say, “We opened Leon because we wanted to prove that it was possible to serve food that both tastes good and does you good. We want to make it easy for people to eat well on the high street. We want to do this in every major city in the world.” In this spirit of healthy comfort food, we have Leon: Baking and Desserts, one of several cookbooks by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleby. This is a very friendly book that will make you want to dip in right away and try a few recipes. It is divided in two parts, “Everyday”, including what to fix for tea time, and “Celebration”, where you will learn what Brits have on St. George’s Day.
Chelsea Market Cookbook (2013), by Michael Phillips & Rick Rodgers, has “100 recipes from New York’s Premier Indoor Food Hall.” It starts with the essential “brief history” of Chelsea Market, the meat packing district and the New York City Food Shed and continues with recipes from the more than 35 vendors in this iconic food hall. See the photos of some of the vendors/restaurants, read the Tips from the Pros, and you will almost feel like you have been there.
I saw The Lemonade Cookbook (2013) on the library shelf and thought I might see what one could make from lemonade! But no, this is “Southern California Comfort Food from L.A.’s Favorite Modern Cafeteria” by Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli. Very user-friendly, this cookbook lets you in on the secrets behind the lovely choices at Lemonade Cafeteria’s counters.
I don’t expect to visit very many world-famous restaurants in my lifetime. I will be content to find the occasional cookbook that lets me do some armchair traveling to where the setting is the star.
In her publications – The Hunger Fix, Body for Life, Fit to Live, and Fight Fat After Forty - Dr. Pamela Peeke takes a holistic and integrative approach to mental, emotional, and physical fitness. From a perspective of full body health, she describes how to stay (or get) fit, healthy, and happy without endangering any aspect of your well being – a much needed and appreciated approach in our diet-obsessed culture.
The formula for weight loss is simple, right? Burn more calories than you eat – easy as that. However, becoming or staying truly fit takes more than eating the proper foods and getting enough exercise; it involves reducing stress and eschewing self-destructive habits. But how do you do that? Each aspect taken on it’s own seems easy enough, but taken as a whole it’s a hefty list: reduce stress, eat nutritious foods, decrease or eliminate self-destructive habits, and practice enough safe and satisfying exercise. Whew! I can’t even get to the end of that sentence without getting tired.
Luckily for all of us, Dr. Peeke has outlined a couple scientifically backed plans to improve health and wellness for people of any age or gender. Following Dr. Peeke’s three stage detox and recovery plan as outlined in The Hunger Fix or the five point plan she lays out in Fit to Live will ensure that all variables in the health and fitness formula are addressed. In The Hunger Fix, Dr. Peeke describes how dopamine rushes can be connected to unhealthy foods in the brain, and she lays out a plan to replace “false fix” foods with healthy fixes like meditating, writing, walking, or even laughing. In Fit to Live, she reframes healthiness with a simple question, “Are you fit to live?” Meaning, are you really mentally, emotionally, and physically fit enough to survive in the modern world with all it’s stressors and possibilities? With a lifestyle and health assessment, Dr. Peeke provides long term prognoses of different levels of fitness and a plan to improve by cutting out toxic lifestyle elements.
As you’ve no doubt seen previously on Well & Wise, Dr. Pam Peeke, internationally renowned expert on nutrition, stress, fitness, and public health, will be speaking tonight, Monday June 9th, at the Howard County Library System Miller Branch at 7:00pm. Registration is available online or by calling 410-313-1950. Come by to ask Dr. Peeke your nutrition, stress, and fitness questions directly!