A love affair with leafy greens (ii)

In which there is actually a recipe.

Warm greens* salad

*you can use kale, (swiss) chard, collard greens, beet greens, and/or spinach

Ingredients:

+ quinoa or rice or pearl barley or whole grain pasta or a baked or roasted potato or skip this ingredient altogether

+ cooking oil

+ garlic (a clove or two, pressed/crushed/minced)

+ onion (chopped/sliced/whatever– preferably red, but shallots or any cooking onion will do)

+ veggies: any appealing-to-you greens, or combination thereof [kale, beet greens, chard, collard greens, spinach], carrots, parsnips, beets, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli. I shred the greens by hand, shave the carrots and/or parsnips with a peeler for quick cooking, and I usually boil/roast the beets all at once when I first get them so I can add them at the end just to heat them up.

+ optionally: (if you feel fancy) goats cheese (without cheese, this is a vegan dish, by most definitions) &/or frozen or fresh raspberries or blueberries (a handful or two, squished), balsamic vinegar, and olive/sunflower/grapeseed oil for a vinaigrette (1 part vinaigrette to 3 parts oil)

Make:

1. rinse and scrub the quinoa in a fine sieve, put it in a pot with water (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa; add a stock cube if you desire) on high heat, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes/until there’s no excess water. I find 1/4 to 1/3 cup of quinoa is a good single portion. (the veggies also works well with a baked potato, or on their own)

2. while you’re letting the quinoa go, heat up cooking oil in a pan on medium heat, and throw in the garlic, cook for 30 seconds to a min.

3. add the onion and cook for a few minutes

4. add other veggies before the onion gets translucent: carrots, parsnips, pre-cooked beets, whatever (I sometimes add a little water and cover the pan to cook the veggies faster)

5. cook your greens! you can (1) add your greens to the pan with a little water and cover up the pan to steam them for a minute or two, or (2) add your greens to the quinoa while there is still a bit of water in the pot, or (3) stem the greens in a colander over the pot with the cooking quinoa, or (4) pour a little boiling water over the greens in a strainer/colander to cook them instantly

6. mix all the veggies together with the quinoa and serve warm (with goats cheese and/or berry vinaigrette on top)

alternatively, you can roast any good roasting veggies (several whole garlic cloves, onion, carrot, parsnip, beets, cauliflower) tossed with oil, salt and pepper in a baking dish in the oven at 250˚ or so, adding mushrooms and greens towards the end, and mixing the quinoa in at the end. However, this might take a little longer (45 min to an hour)

a lot of beets in this version

a lot of beets in this version – eat them! they’re good for you.

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A love affair with leafy greens (i)

In which I wax loquacious on attempts to eat local, be a vegetarian, and discovery of things leafy and green.

It started in September 2010. Having flown across the ocean in an aeroplane to live a privileged student life at a posh old institution of higher learning in Britain and spend lots of time thinking about big problems like degrading ecosystems and unsustainable consumption and collapsing economies – and other things related to too much flying across oceans in aeroplanes and posh old institutions, I thought I’d try to compensate by otherwise being as low impact as possible. One way to do this was to make smart decisions about food, so I became a compulsive label-reader, and quickly realised that ‘low impact’ is really difficult to do: food is mass produced, grows in places it probably isn’t meant to grow (from, say, a climatic, soil chemistry, or pre-existing ecosystems perspective), it is sprayed, spliced, has strange things added to it, is over-packaged, and is flown/shipped/trucked in from thousands of miles away. Food lifecycles are so huge and complex that trying to achieve a perfectly environmentally and socially conscious diet is a decidedly Sisyphean endeavour. It seems you can never win.

So I decided I’d try to do two things in the spirit of a ‘low impact diet’:

(1) Eat as little meat as possible. 

This worked out to me becoming a capital ‘V’ vegetarian, with the notable exception of the occasional fish supper at the local chippy, because I was living in absurd proximity to the Best Fish & Chips in the World*. Outrageous hypocrisy aside, why eat as little meat as possible? It’s all about energy: you can get more energy from eating things lower down the food chain. The logic goes: why eat a cow, which has to be watered and fed grain and sustained for a number of years before I can eat it, when I could just skip all the effort/energy consumed in feeding and watering the cow and eat the grain myself? At the moment, I’m not really capable of providing a more elaborate answer than that, but I hope we can draw this out in future posts. Amy knows worlds more about biology & ecosystems than I and is thus substantially more qualified to talk about this type of thing. Also, she recommended a book to me: Diet for a Small Planet, which I acquired at a lovely bookstore in town (which sadly no longer exists), and expect will be very enlightening.

The other thing I tried to do was:

(2) Eat things that grow in the ground nearby at the time of year when they ought to grow there. 

This is kind of how I justified (*ahem* tried to resolve my own cognitive dissonance regarding) the fish & chips. The fish, you see, were coming in on little boats from the sea, which was literally right there. We’ve already seen that there is doubt about the idea that eating local is be-all-end-all of environmentally conscious diets <link to Amy’s post> and we’ve seen that, at least in Canada, food waste <link> has a much greater environmental impact than food miles. That said, eating local can have social benefits. For example, keeping your neighbours in business is probably good for your community. I also tried to eat seasonally, tried to eat things that could be grown in the climate in which I was living without too much extra energy input. That said, sometimes I just really wanted a glass of orange juice, and god knows oranges do not grow in Scotland. Not yet, at least.

So I went hunting in Tesco (not exactly a saintly food store, but it was in walking distance of my flat). That is when I found kale. Hey look! It grows in England, it’s £1 for a half kilogram bag, and it’s GREEN. That’s important, right? Eat your colours! and all that. Green = vitamin C and iron. Iron is a thing I am concerned about if I’m no longer enjoying the weekly Alberta beef of my upbringing. (I’m not going to lie: it’s good stuff, and my father is a barbequing professional.) But, yes, iron.

I tried kale and I tried cabbage and I after I went a bit overboard one time with brussel sprouts (which aren’t really a green, but look! 1 kg of Scottish brussel sprouts for 50p!!) I tried swiss chard. You can do LOTS of different things with greens. I’m slowly building my repertoire and I intend to share some of my “findings” and am excited to hear about other folks’ adventures in cooking/raw un-cooking with greens.

Greens 

Taste and versatility aside, cooking with greens can be a lovely aesthetic experience. Swiss chard, for example, is a really beautiful thing! It is lovely and leafy and green, and some varieties have the most beautiful rainbow-coloured stems: crimson red and vibrant yellow.

rainbow chard!

rainbow chard!

* The Best Fish & Chips in the World are in the East Neuk of Fife:

+ The Wee Chippy in Anstruther**

+ The Anstruther Fish Bar

+ The Tail End in St Andrews

** ‘EN-ster’ to locals

See my next post for my favourite greens recipe.

peanut stew

Giving the peanut stew recipe from the Vegan Stoner a whirl:

1. chop half an onion & cook in pot

2. add a can of stewed tomatoes, a half cup of crunchy peanut butter, & a half can of garbanzo beans [chickpeas]

3. chop a potato & add to pot* with a sprinkling of thyme

4. cover pot and cook on low heat for 20 minutes

5. serve on rice

6. munch

* may want to parboil the potato first, or ensure you cut very small pieces so they cook through

I’ve never bought or cooked with stewed tomatoes before and at first I wasn’t so sure about the peanut butter. I like peanut butter, but I am not much in the habit of cooking with it; my mum is very allergic to nuts, so I never ate them growing up. You can’t miss what you’ve never had, but, oh! I tell you: when I moved out and discovered I could buy and eat all the Nutella I wanted … that was a wonderful and a dangerous day.

I digress.

why this recipe is cool

Like many Vegan Stoner recipes, it calls for a bunch of non-perishable and inexpensive food items. (Dried thyme is an exception to “inexpensive”, and I’m using posh all-natural peanut butter because I got it on the cheap at an army surplus store in Kamloops. I’m not even kidding.)

Food waste is something I’m pretty concerned about, so I try to be mindful of how much fresh stuff I buy, but cooking for one presents some challenges: fresh stuff often comes in rather massive bundles. It’s always a song and dance trying to make sure things get used up before they rot or trying to work out clever things to do with food items that are fast approaching the end of their fridge-lives.

Trying to buy less but shop more often is something I’m working on, but sometimes time is tight because I planned poorly and I just can’t swing a shopping trip. In such cases, how marvelous to be able to put together a whole meal from things in the cupboard.*

making stew!

I prepared all the ingredients and added some extras, seeing the excellent opportunity provided by a stew to deal with some fridgy** items. Some beet greens, some red pepper, an already-opened can of chickpeas. I also added a spoonful of tomato paste because I like tomato-y things.

Easy peasy: set the rice on in one pot, throw the ingredients in the other pot.

the result

A delicious, nutritious, hearty dinner. I’d not hesitate to make this again for myself, or for nut-eating friends 🙂

–x–

*Now that I’ve written this, I see the irony of and the privilege in my enthusiasm over tinned food. I’ve little to complain about in life if I’ve always enjoyed meals made from fresh ingredients, and making things from cans is a novel experience…

**My mother uses this word to describe the way things smell when they’ve been in the fridge too long. Highly accurate, worth bringing into the general lexicon.

hunger: poverty & inequality, not scarcity

“Hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, not scarcity. For the past two decades, the rate of global food production has increased faster than the rate of global population growth. The world already produces more than 1 ½ times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. That’s enough to feed 10 billion people, the population peak we expect by 2050. But the people making less than $2 a day — most of whom are resource-poor farmers cultivating unviably small plots of land — can’t afford to buy this food. In reality, the bulk of industrially-produced grain crops goes to biofuels and confined animal feedlots rather than food for the 1 billion hungry. The call to double food production by 2050 only applies if we continue to prioritize the growing population of livestock and automobiles over hungry people.

– Carl Sagan

[emphasis mine]

(Trying to track down original source)

Soapbox Sunday, anyone?

A cuppa & some thoughts about food waste

Macleans magazine had an article earlier this month about tea bag food waste in Britain. Having recently developed a tea habit on that fair island, and being generally concerned with food and waste and composting, I’ve got a vested interest in this.

Britain’s 62 million residents drink 165 million cups of tea per day. (Fun fact! That’s 2 ⅔ cups per person.) This is a lot of tea, and it produces a lot of waste: tea bags add 370 000 tonnes of waste to landfills per year. Wrap, a government-funded organisation that works to reduce waste, encourage recycling, and to create a market for recycled products, estimates that tea bags are now the single largest food waste contributor in the UK. Now, tea-drinkers are being encouraged to compost their used tea bags instead of throwing them out.

Amy wondered if there is some kind of Canadian equivalent. While my admittedly cursory search did not turn up any one food item equivalent, a 2011 article in the Toronto Star about food waste caught my attention, and is an interesting complement to Amy’s post regarding the locavore/locally-sourced food movement. According to a study entitled Food Waste in Canada by the Value Chain Management CentreCanadians manage to waste $27 billion worth of food per year. This food goes to landfill and, yes, some goes to compost … but it’s still going to waste. In fact, the green bin compost-collection programs in some cities may be acting as a psychological ameliorative: people feel ok wasting food because they are composting it.

What is interesting is that food miles (how many miles food travels — and therefore how much fuel burned and greenhouse gases produced — to get to consumers) are seen as a kind of environmental big bad. In particular, food miles are what locavores/people who eat only/mostly local food aim to do away with. However, food miles are responsible for only 3 percent of food waste, compared to the 51% contributed by consumers who throw out food at home. (I’m unsurprised to find that Desrochers & Shimizu, authors of the new book Amy has mentioned previously, ‘The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of a 10,000-Mile Diet‘ are referenced in the report.)

I’m interested the idea that eating local isn’t the be-all-end-all, perfect solution for food sustainability that some folks might like it to be. This doesn’t mean I’m about to give up on shopping at the lovely Kamloops farmers’ market, or start buying mangoes or avocados as anything other than occasional treats, but it is definitely food for thought. More evidence that there is not necessarily a simple, one-size-fits-all solution for sustainable lifestyles and diets, and all the more reason to keep on experimenting with and learning about food, and strive for zero food waste.

No-Need-to-Knead Bread

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard.

So I finally baked the no-knead bread!

It turned out well…the second time. The first time that I made the dough I added too much water. The dough was really wet and glue-like rather than slightly sticky to touch and shaggy looking. It is really humid where I live, especially this time of year. So my flour may contain quite a bit of moisture already. Trying it a second time, I found that I did not need the full 1 and 5/8th cups of water. I think I likely used somewhere between 1 and ½ cups to 1 and 2/3 cups. Once I figured this out, manipulating the dough was super easy.

Another challenge I had was finding the right time to make the dough so that it would have long enough to rise and be ready at a time that was convenient for me to bake ( not the middle of the night or while I am at work). I wanted to follow the recipe as closely as possible – at least the first time – to test my success. I followed the directions for a 12 – 18 hour rise and a 2 hour proof strictly. I decided before hand that a weekend would be best for this. I made the dough shortly after getting home from work on Friday night. This is how everything went down:

Time Bread Schedule My Schedule
6 pm – 6:05 pm Friday Dough creation. Ditto
6 pm Friday to 9 am Saturday (16 hours) Bed time: Rested in a bowl on top of the microwave covered with cling film. Had dinner, painted my nails, watched a movie, and then slept.Other things that can (hypothetically) be done while the dough rises: drive-in movie viewing, essay writing, pub crawling, ball room dancing, hiking through the woods, speed dating, sky diving, debate club…ing, browsing Pinterest for hours, etc.
9 – 9:15 am Massage: Folding. Folded dough over 3 times, and then left it to rest on the counter for 15 minutes.
9:15 – 11:15 am Knap time: Resting and leavening on counter. Shaped dough into a ball, sprinkled it with wheat bran and wrapped it in a tea-towel.Then I went for a nice jog, showered, made tea.
11:30 am – 12:30 pm Sauna: baked in a steamy pot in the oven.At the 30 minute mark I took the lid off of the pot to find that the bread was already golden brown. I left the lid off and turned the oven off to let the residual heat finish the baking. Drank tea, ate breakfast, browsed Pinterest, showered and dressed.
12:30 pm Met untimely demise. Ate lots of bread!

Bottom right: the heavy, green enamel pot I found for $35 at a discount kitchen supply store. It worked very well!

Recipe (from the New York Times)

By Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan, New York.

–          3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting

–          ¼ teaspoon instant yeast

–          1¼ teaspoons salt

–          Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 and 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover with cling film. Let dough rest for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature (22 degrees C).

2. After resting 12 to 18 hours, the dough surface will be dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton tea towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees F. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Thoughts:

Now that I know that the dough comes together very quickly and that the bread bakes in less than an hour, I might try making the dough before I leave for work (around 7 am) and then proofing after 12 hours. If all goes to plan the bread can go into the oven at 9 pm and be out by 10 pm. I may even see what happens if I make the dough one evening and bake it another. I don’t know if 24 hours (as opposed to 18) is really going to make or break (punny!) this bread.

I would also like to try the bread with whole wheat flour next time and then possibly with rye or whole grains. I have read that the grain in the whole wheat can shred the gluten molecules, making the bread tougher. But there are plenty of recipes and blog posts with advice on how to mitigate this. I anticipate that whole grains would be even trickier. I think the whole wheat will be a great, manageable next step.

Steamy Kitchen has a great photo step-by-step that I found helpful and provides proof that four-year old can make this bread!