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Food is fuel is food is fuel is food...

Posted Aug 23 2008 10:26pm

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived... Henry David Thoreau Buy fresh buy local

I am sort of tickled about the rising price of gas.

No, I don’t have a stake in the oil business—in fact, I unfortunately drive a big car (to accommodate a 90 lb. dog and a son who plays the double bass).

The reason I am excited about the price of gas is that it is getting Americans to stop driving and start thinking. It’s forcing us into a Lifestyle Revolution…and I like that!

All of the sudden people are walking— Actually Walking! And riding bicycles. And carpooling. Cities are scrambling to add more busses and trains to accommodate increased ridership. It’s a Green Bonanza!

But personal transportation is just the beginning. You see, Cheap Oil and Cheap Food have been secret bedfellows for the last few decades. We’ve gotten comfy shipping lettuce from California to New York and importing apples from Chile and New Zealand. We’ve even gotten used to buying milk from an industrialized dairy twelve states away when there is a local farm in the next county.

Industrialized food is not just a carbon footprint issue: It’s about e-coli, mad cow, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Did you know that more than 70% of all antibiotics produced are used in American industrialized meat production? Can you say, “antibiotic resistant bacteria?” (I’ve got a seriously cool post coming out in the next few days about this, so stay tuned…)

Buying direct from farmers supports the local economy, the environment and, most importantly: Your Body.

If you are interested in reading more about eating locally, here are two books I really enjoyed... Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver is a real gem. Kingsolver’s writing is, as usual, alive and delicious, and this book chronicles her family’s year of eating only food that was grown by them or on neighboring farms. Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally , was written by a couple in the Pacific Northwest who ate only foods grown within a 100 mile radius of their home.

While subsisting forever on foods that only grow in your metaphorical backyard (which likely excludes olive oil, coffee and dark chocolate) could be a bit of a buzz-kill, buying locally when it comes to dairy, meat and eggs—and especially in-season produce—is a no-brainer.

So in the summer, when produce is growing rampant, and delicious tomatoes, sweet corn and herbs are plentiful, it’s easy to be a Locavore. Here’s a recipe from the NY Times food section a few years back. I’ve adapted it by changing the cheeses and using all organic ingredients. It’s one of those dishes that I find myself fantasizing about in the middle of winter…

The Locavore’s Best Summer Pasta. Ever. Served with a salad from my garden.

Garden spread

Roasted Tomatoes:

  • 2 1/2 pounds tomatoes (imperfect or overripe is fine)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Assembly:

  • Salt
  • 1 pound pasta (I used rigatoni)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons really good olive oil
  • 2 ears corn, raw if very fresh, or lightly steamed
  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 12 ounces smoked mozzarella (the original recipe calls for plain, fresh mozzarella)
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 cup mixed herbs torn into small pieces (I used basil, purple/cinnamon basil, thyme, a tiny bit of rosemary and parsley)

Dried tomatoes

Roast Tomatoes: Heat oven to 275 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut tomatoes into slices about 3/4 inch thick. Lay slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and sugar. Bake 15 minutes and reduce heat to 200 degrees. Continue baking, turning half-way through, until tomatoes are shrunken and chewy but not crisp, 4-6 hours.

Summer pasta

To assemble the pasta : Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, chop roasted tomatoes very finely until almost a paste. Place in a large serving bowl and add garlic, butter and olive oil. When pasta is cooked, drain well and add to the bowl while still hot. Toss well.

Slice the corn from the cobs. Add corn, fresh tomatoes, and cheese to the pasta. Toss well. Add herbs and toss again.

Serve along with a salad of whatever is the freshest and most delicious stuff you can find. Here I’ve got some leaf lettuce from my garden along with the first full-sized cuke of the summer and a handful of lightly steamed purple beans. I also had a small bunch of broccoli in the fridge so I steamed that up and added some shredded purple cabbage.

For salad dressing, I made my usual vinaigrette with chopped shallots, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar and olive oil. Shake it all up in a little jar and it keeps in the fridge for about a week.

Beautiful salad

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