Sometimes the best way to get over the middle of the week is to do something outside your everyday routine. My friends and I try to do a weekly dinner night round-robin style (different host and cook each week) usually around mid-week. The company and the food is always great and breaks up the monotony eat.sleep.work. This past Wednesday night, it was my turn to host! I thought I would try my hand out at the my roommate’s German style Gruenkol and Sausage recipe and something from my new cookbook: Terry Walter’s “Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source”. This cookbook is not in your face anything, but is great in its approach and simplicity. I didn’t even realize it was vegan until my friend Emily teased me about meat recipes…
Emily: Have you seen any meat recipes in this book?
Me: What do you mean?
Emily: I think the cookbook is vegan…
Me: No, it couldn’t be! *grabs books and flips to index* Let me check for chicken. *searches…searches…searches again* Dang. There is no chicken, beef, lamb, pork, or any other meat in here. How did I buy this and not even realize it was vegan?!? You know I like balance of both meat and green!
Emily: *laughter* and the carnivore falls *continues laughter*
Me: *sigh* It’s an awesome cookbook…
I own over 50 cookbooks, but it hasn’t been until the last 6 months that I have consistently used one. I bought them for the pretty pictures that made my mouth water instead of looking at what kind of recipes the cookbook offered…more importantly I didn’t look at the philosophy behind the collection of recipes. The result: shelves full of pretty cookbooks that collect a lot of dust. This changed for me with Mark Bittman’s “The Food Matters Cookbook”. A recommendation by a friend that really started my journey towards reevaluating how I look at food, what I cook, and subsequently what I put in my body. Bittman’s book had a great philosophy behind it and fantastic recipes (I have cooked more than a dozen already…and some more than once!) One thing it doesn’t have is food pictures. Same idea with Walter’s “Clean Food”. Great introduction and philosophy to how we approach food and recipes reflect that. “Clean Foods” organizes itself by seasons, which is something that I have really started to enjoy. Seasonal cooking plays directly into sustainable eating. Our society is a global one that continues to grow wider every day. This makes it easy to get imported ham from Spain, olive oil from Italy, figs from Turkey, etc etc. But, these options aren’t always the most sustainable. By purchasing in season and local foods, you can decrease the environmental effects of shipping foods thousands of miles and into your kitchen. This also allows you to support the local economy (farmer’s markets are great!) Seasonal food is the freshest you can buy and thus tends to be more nutritious…and tastier! Buying seasonal produce also provides an exciting opportunity to try new foods and to experiment with seasonal recipes…and cookbooks :-).
New cookbooks always come with their staple pantry ingredients that keep popping up throughout. This cookbook was no different and had a few items I had never bought before or cooked with before. So I did some research and wanted to share my spoils of three ingredients heavily featured in “Clean Food”: mirin, grape seed oil, and cashew butter.
- Mirin is a sweet Japanese condiment with up to 14% alcohol. This sweet cooking wine is made from glutinous wine. Mirin can soften the strong smells of fish and seafood. It is one of the main ingredients of teriyaki sauce.
- Cashew butter is more often than not unprocessed food in contrast to the ever popular peanut butter (often mixed with salt, hydrogenated vegetable oils, sweeteners, and dextrose). Furthermore unlike sweetened peanut butter, cashew butter rarely contains any added sugar. Cashew butter has a rich creamy flavor, that is perfect as a spread or an addition to soups, dips, and sauces. Cashew butter is also easy to make yourself (here is an example recipe).
- Grape seed oil (technically a fruit oil not a vegetable oil) has a moderately high smoke point at about 216 °C (421 °F). This makes this oil ideal for high temperature cooking and also be used for stir-frying, sauteing or deep frying. Because of their insolubility in lipids, the cold-pressed grape seed oil contains negligible amounts of the antioxidants and other biologically active compounds associated with the increased health benefits of grape seeds. However, grape seed oil has a clean, neutral taste that allows the food to stand out not the oil.
Here is a preview of the dish I made from “Clean Food” on Wednesday. I will post the recipe in the next few days. Sweet Potato, Corn, and Kale Chowder: