Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Keep your kitchen green

by Michele Kayal
| April 22, 2010 9:00 PM

Even as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, many of us still don't know entirely what it means to "go green."

But a stack of new food-oriented books tries to supply the answers - at least for the kitchen - and offer a roadmap for buying, cooking and eating in a more environmentally astute way.

"The Conscious Kitchen" provides a concise primer on navigating the "avalanche of 'green' choices" in the food marketplace. Author Alexandra Zissu packs the slim, easy-to-use volume with practical information. And though she offers a handful of recipes from eco-gurus such as Michael Pollan, Deborah Madison, Dan Barber and others, this is a guidebook, not a cookbook.

From convenience store to farmer's market, the author guides readers on making eco-friendly decisions, and even supplies wallet-sized sliding scales of "best" to "worst" options for everything from fruit to meat to wine.

Zissu covers appliances, pots and pans, dealing with waste, and vetting your storage containers for toxins with a straightforward, non-judgmental tone that makes it all seem do-able.

Several good cookbooks can help you put all that green knowledge to use. All of them cater to busy lives by offering simple recipes and tips for executing them sustainably: how to buy eco-friendly fish, understanding terms like "locavore" and "grass-fed," reducing waste as you cook.

"Easy Green Organic" joins attractive recipes with gorgeous photography and easily implemented advice. Author Anna Getty discusses reducing waste in your kitchen (minus her recommendation of the jarred barbecue sauce!) and pesticides in the earth, and offers small steps everyone can take, like buying local produce.

Many recipes promise big flavor with minimal effort and waste.

With earthy tones and recipes organized by season, "Lucid Food" becomes a year-round-guide to cooking in rhythm with the earth. Author Louisa Shafia combines the requisite tips - buy local, eat less meat, reduce waste - with unusual recipes that take the stress out of incorporating conscious practices into your daily life.

For spring, eggs and new potatoes with green olive pesto contrasts the richness of farm-fresh eggs with the tang of olives and vinegar in a twist on potato salad. Orecchiette with morels and garlic ramps brings the farmer's market - or a foraging expedition - to your mouth.

But perhaps the best thing about "Lucid Food" is the way Shafia brings to life ignored and underrated ingredients that are both sustainable and delicious. For summer, she pairs lightly pickled mackerel with dill and horseradish cream, a delicious combination that tames and complements the strongly flavored fish.

For farmers market junkies, "Edible" illuminates America's agricultural regions with essays on local foods and the people who produce them. Compiled by the co-founders of Edible Communities Publications, the book gives your palate a tour of the U.S. with recipes including Hawaiian ahi-ono-avocado poke and Vermont cheddar ale soup.

The Books:

• "The Conscious Kitchen" by Alexandra Zissu (Clarkson Potter, 2010)

• "Easy Green Organic" by Anna Getty (Chronicle Books, 2010)

• "Lucid Food" by Louisa Shafia (Ten Speed Press, 2009)

• "Edible" by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian (Wiley, 2010)

A recipe:

Double Lemon Chicken Breasts with Fresh Tomato Basil Salsa

Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 4

For the salsa:

5 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch chunks

5 large fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For the chicken:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Salt and ground black pepper

8 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets, pounded until 1/2 inch thick

Grapeseed or canola oil

2 to 3 lemons, halved

To make the salsa, in a medium bowl combine all ingredients. Mix well, then set aside.

To make the chicken, in a wide, shallow bowl, mix together the flour, lemon zest and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Dredge each chicken fillet through the flour mixture, coating both sides. Set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium, heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken, in batches, cooking until each side is lightly golden, about 2 minutes per side.

Before removing the chicken from the pan, squeeze generous amounts of lemon juice over each piece. Serve topped with salsa.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 423 calories; 94 calories from fat; 10 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 137 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 57 g protein; 1 g fiber; 448 mg sodium.

(Recipe from Anna Getty's "Easy Green Organic," Chronicle Books, 2010)

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