Live Well
Reflections-on-Slowing-Down
July 2015

Reflections on Slowing Down

As many of you know, I recently watched Berkeley’s Edible Education 101 course (which, by the way, I highly recommend watching). In the last class, Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman discussed the notion that the crisis in our food system is a crisis in our culture and that it is time to re-assess our values and what we stand for. I agree with this idea. Indeed, it seems like we value speed over everything else (again, that concept that we are becoming a “Fast Food Nation” that Alice Waters raised and which I wrote about in my previous blog post). I suppose there was a time in our history when all this made sense – when it was important to become more efficient, or to do things faster – but we never stopped to consider whether we still needed to keep being faster and more efficient. I am a culprit of this mentality too. And I feel that, when it comes to food, where there is a gain in quantity, there is a loss in quality.

I always enjoy going to farmers’ markets because small farmers take great pride in the quality of their produce. When I wander around the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC, farmers will talk to me passionately about the products they are selling. I noticed this also on my recent trip to Greece. Everywhere we ate, the locals took great pride in the food that they produced. We drove by vegetable stands that were minimally stocked but had the most flavorful fruits and vegetables. While the foods we ate were limited by the vegetables and fruit that were in season, they all tasted differently because they were prepared with someone’s unique interpretation of that food, or by the different climate and soil conditions. I think that the passion and pride that people have for their work comes out in the food that they produce.

Valuing speed at the expense of other qualities inevitably begets the need for uniformity. Having everything be the same or as close to the same as possible makes things more efficient and, therefore, faster to produce. This is what we have seen happen in America, where we have large swathes of land dedicated to monocultures. The result, of course, is a loss of diversity but also extensive waste. During our travels, my youngest daughter didn’t want to eat a peach because it was slightly bruised. I realized that she is so accustomed to seeing all the fruit she eats in almost perfect condition that she automatically thought a bruise meant the fruit had gone bad (after some encouragement, she ate the peach…and survived!).

I think it is fair to say that, when it comes to the food we eat, the mindset that cheaper and faster is better is detrimental to us. Indeed, we are witnessing how fast and processed foods have led to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in the United States. In addition to that, we are depleting nutrients in the soil and water resources. One can argue that in today’s world, it is difficult to find the time to cook everyday, or that fresh foods can be costly but it need not be. After all, what could be more important than taking time to nourish ourselves and our families? I think the benefits extend far beyond the dinner table.

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Cook Well

Asparagus-Risotto-with-Ramp-Pesto

Asparagus Risotto with Ramp Pesto

Serves 6

FOR PESTO
8 oz. ramps*
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
2/3 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp. Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 tsp. sea salt
FOR RISOTTO
1 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cups arborio or vialone nano rice
1/2 cup white wine
2 bunches asparagus, cut into 1/2” pieces
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup ramp cooking water
1 cup Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/4 cup heavy cream
MAKE THE PESTO
  1. 1.Cut the greens from the ramps and blanch in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just wilted.
  2. 2. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking water.
  3. 3. Chop the remaining parts of the ramps.
  4. 4. Combine ramp greens, chopped ramps, toasted walnuts, olive oil, cheese and salt in a blender and blend to a smooth paste.

*If ramps are no longer in season, you can substitute scallions, garlic, garlic scapes or some combination of the three.

MAKE THE RISOTTO
  1. 1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft and translucent.
  2. 2. Add rice and stir until well coated with butter.
  3. 3. Add wine and cook until fully absorbed. Start adding stock in 1/2 cupfuls. Cook for 12-15 minutes.
  4. 4. Add asparagus pieces and continue adding stock until rice is tender, and additional 8-10 minutes.
  5. 5. Add ramp pesto and stir well.
  6. 6. Add parmesan and cream and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Almond,-Lemon-and-Olive-Oil-Cake

Almond, Lemon and Olive Oil Cake

I am not a big fan of baking but I do love my afternoon tea accompanied by a slice of tea cake. This recipe – adapted from Dorie Greenspan – has become one of my favorites.

Serves 6-8

2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup pastry flour
1/3 cup corn flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
7 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
3 eggs
1 cup evaporated cane juice
2 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9”x5” loaf pan.
  2. 2. Combine hazelnut flour, pastry flour, corn flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and mix well. Combine olive oil and melted butter in another bowl.
  3. 3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until light and thick. Add lemon zest and juice.
  4. 4. Add dry ingredients to egg and sugar mixture and mix until just combined. Then add olive oil and butter mixture. Pour into loaf pan.
  5. 5. Bake 60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

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Worthwhile

greece-featured

I recently travelled to GREECE with my family. Here are some pictures from my trip.