If you are like me, you know the joys of reading cookbooks cover to cover like a novel. Looking at the photos, skimming the recipes, planning future meals and letting the creativity flow is one of my favorite pastimes. I have an entire bookshelf full of cookbooks in my kitchen. I have made at least one or two recipes out of all of them, but I like to keep things interesting, and generally I use cookbooks as inspiration for my cooking, rather than a step-by-step guide. Now with all the wonderful food blogs I have at my fingertips, I find myself using them as creative fodder more often, so in the spirit of conservation I have really tried to limit my cookbook purchases.
However, sometimes, a cookbook will really speak to me and when I purchase it, it will get a place of honor on my counter-top cookbook stand. Generally that spot is reserved for Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day but now it has a roommate Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Several people over a short time period told me that I should check this book out. I remember several patients we had at the holistic healthcare office I used to work at talking about Weston Price and fermented and cultured foods, but I never really explored it back then. However, based on all these recommendations, I decided to buy the book. I spent several days reading the introduction which discusses at length the similarities of food preparation (not necessarily ingredients) from traditional cultures all over the world. It also discusses at length the major food groups and gives a lot of information to think about. Now I know some people might read this and be converted right away. I am a skeptical animal by nature, and so a firm believer in moderation as opposed to dogma of any kind. But I have found a lot of useful information in this book, as well as confirmation of a lot of clues and messages I have gotten from my own body when I choose various foods to eat. So for me, much of this book rings true. Then there are the recipes – all of which I want to eat! Well maybe not the organ meat section, I have had quite enough of that to last me a lifetime. But the emphasis here is on real, whole, traditional foods – not new fangled, or processed foods -and some of the foods that fall into that category might be surprising to people – yet it does ring true. It really explores some of the information we, as consumers accept as reality, but may not be the truth of the matter.
For the past 2 months I have been exploring a gluten free diet. But I am not convinced yet that gluten is my culprit. I think my culprit is grains in general and Nourishing Traditions gives lots of information for why that theory may be true. It also gives a lot of suggestions for fermenting grains (and legumes) or soaking them in vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or kefir as our ancestors did. There are examples from all over the world in this book to support this claim. The soaking allows enzymes and other friendly organisms to break down the phytic acid, an organic acid found in all grains (and legumes) that may make the digestion of grains (and legumes) harder for some people. This sounded like an experiment I wanted to try – not only because I wanted to find a way to digest grains better, but because I really like kefir, yogurt, vinegar and buttermilk, and thought the flavor might actually enhance the grain dishes. I have to say I had a lot of success in the past few weeks with bulgur, lentils and even oatmeal – something I have been trying to learn to like for years. After learning to soak lentils in warm water and apple cider vinegar, they have become so much easier to digest and are becoming a mainstay of our diet. This book has given Roberto and I the opportunity to actually enjoy foods that were previously not on the tummy friendly list. So just for that I am loving this book.
My favorite grain on the planet is buckwheat also known as kasha (which is not actually a wheat – but a grass). So I started the soaking experiment with buckwheat and lentils for dinner one night – serving them together as a pilaf. I served it with a modified version of Nourishing Traditions’ Moroccan Style Chicken (see my recipe after the cut) and roasted sweet potatoes. It was such a delicious meal – so filling and satisfying…and well, a breeze in the digestion department! I was feeling so inspired that night I starting soaking some Irish oats for breakfast the next day, and it was my best experience with oatmeal ever. I am not a convert yet, but I can see myself eating it more often. With all these successes, and so many other delicious recipes to try, I will most likely be featuring more and more of the recipes and ideas from this book.
Yesterday I ordered a bunch of cultures and cheese making supplies from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company so that I can begin making my own kefir, yogurt, buttermilk as well as some soft cheeses. Also, for more Nourishing Food ideas, I have found a great blog – The Nourished Kitchen authored by Jenny who is really a wealth of knowledge on this way of eating. I came across her blog a few months ago when she was doing a giveaway for a Kimchi and Sauerkraut (some of my favorite foods) Maker! I never wanted to win something so bad. I didn’t win, but that maker is certainly on my wish list, along with the CIA version of the Vitamix! In fact, I think I may to buy that maker today…it is under $30 and the only pickles I can find at the store now without corn syrup and dyes are $8 a jar – and I eat A LOT of pickles! Anyway, as you can see I am really excited about all these new discoveries. So likely this will be a topic of discussion in the future.
As I told Hank Cardello, author of Stuffed Nation during a very enjoyable phone conversation yesterday, I am still on the road of discovery about what “healthy eating” means to me. I don’t have all the answers yet, but the learning process sure has been fun, tasty and eye opening so far, and I am already about 8 years into the discovery process with so much more to learn. Speaking of Mr. Cardello and Stuffed Nation, keep your eye out for an intriguing giveaway we will be doing together in September to help spread the message about food policy and the fight against obesity in the US.
*Update: I am really happy to see the responses and comments on this article. If definitely answers my question as to whether these kinds of posts are valuable/interesting to my readers! Your comments always help me to decide which kinds of articles to write, and although I get great responses to my recipes, it seems that I always get very thought provoking comments on these posts I do on food quality. So I am moved to do more of these in the future. For more articles on this topic, check out my “Health and Wellness” category (categories can be found on the left hand side bar). Thank you all for comments!
My version of Nourishing Traditions Moroccan Style Chicken
5 organic chicken drumsticks
½ cup of white wine
2 TBS honey
juice of 2 lemons
grated rind of 2 lemons
2 cloves of roasted garlic, mashed
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp of each: dried oregano, thyme, ans crushed peppercorns
salt to taste
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
8 dried apricot halves, coarsely chopped
Mix all ingredients (besides chicken) thoroughly in a large bowl or ziplock bag. Add the chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Preheat a cast iron skillet with 2 TBS olive oil. Remove the pieces, reserving the marinade. Pat the chicken dry and lay the legs skin side down on the skillet. Brown the chicken over medium – high heat on all sides and then add the marinade. Bring liquid to a boil and then reduce temperature to low. Cover the pan and let cook for about 20-25 minutes. Remove lid and reduce sauce by half – about another 5 minutes. Then serve the chicken with the sauce.
Buckwheat (Kasha)-Lentil Pilaf
1 cup pure roasted buckwheat (I couldn’t find un-roasted…)
1 ½ cups water
2 TBS whey or kefir
½ cup dry lentils
2 TBS apple cider vinegar
3 cups veggie broth
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
plain yogurt for garnish
The night before or the morning of you will need to soak your buckwheat and lentils. In a large bowl, place your toasted buckwheat with water and whey or kefir and let soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours. In another large bowl place lentils, warm water (to cover) and apple cider vinegar together, and let this soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours.
When it is time to cook the pilaf, heat up a large cast iron pot. Drain lentils and rinse. Add to the pot lentils, veggie broth, and all the spices. Bring to a light boil for 10 minutes. Then add buckwheat (kasha) , cover pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until lentils and kasha are tender. Serve with a nice dollop of plain yogurt.