I have been a professional environmentalist my entire adult life. If I had had the capital in my 20’s, I would have become a commercial vegetable grower. And yet, until I read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemna, I didn’t make the switch away from industrially-produced food. It’s not that I didn’t know that eggs were being produced by miserable chickens smushed together in cages, or that the farm-raised salmon I ate was dyed pink. It’s just that–meh–I was more motivated by convenience than guilt.
Michael Pollan gave me a much more compelling reason–joy. He described going from a fast-food lunch (eaten in a car), to a Whole Foods dinner of organic-yet-tasteless food grown thousands of miles away, to food grown at a highly ethical, animal-centric farm in Pennsylvania, to actual hunting and gathering of his meal. As he got closer and closer in geography and knowledge of his food’s origins, he clearly became more and more delighted. I got it. And I changed my eating habits almost overnight.
When Fred and I married in 1996, my mother-in-law gave me as a wedding present Mark Bittman’s cookbook, How to Cook Everything. After being initially offended (“I know how to boil water!”), it became by far my favorite cookbook and is falling apart from constant use. In 2009, Bittman wrote Food Matters, covering much of the same ground as Omnivore’s Dilemna.
His real contribution, however, is in the second half of the book, which provides teaching recipes to make cooking with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients easier and tastier. He provides basic recipes, and then describes how to freelance, using ingredients at hand. Here are two I especially liked that use food available from Farmers-To-You this fall. Each recipe serves four; double the recipes to provide plenty of lunches for the next week.
Total cost of ingredients for both recipes (not doubled): $20.75 from FTY, plus $.50 for a lemon, or about $5.25 per person per meal.
Roasted Vegetables with Meat (pp. 241-2)
Time: About an hour
1/2 lb potatoes, in 1″ cubes
1/2 lb celery root, in 1″ cubes
1/2 lb beets, in 1″ cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 T sunflower oil
1 T garlic, minced
1 T fresh sage, minced
1 lb chicken breasts
Salt and pepper, to taste
Juice of one lemon (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss all vegetables except garlic and sage, oil, salt and pepper in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Roast vegetables for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until just tender. Add garlic and sage and toss to combine.
Lay meat directly on vegetables, brushing with some of the oil from the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pper and return to oven for another 15 minutes, or until meat is done. Baste 1-2 times with the pan juices. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the lemon juice if desired and served.
Creamy Carrot Soup (p. 202)
Time: 45 minutes; serve hot or cold
3 T sunflower oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 lbs carrots, roughly chopped
1 large potato, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves for garnish
6 cups vegetable stock or water
salt and pepper to taste
Put the oil in a large, deep saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the carrots are somewhat soft. Add the stock and cook until vegetables are very soft, 15-20 minutes.
Puree the soup in a blender or food mill until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot or cold with a parsley garnish.
Serve roasted vegetables and soup with fresh bread, cheese and apple cider on an evening when the air has turned crisp.