Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Health Benefits of Eating and Gardening Organically

"We know that eating and gardening organically are healthy for our bodies and our gardens.  But what are the other health benefits?  I'd like to suggest a few and then we can discuss what other benefits come to mind as the evening progresses."  Thus our discussion at the Slow Food Delta Diablo Kitchen Table Talk on June 27th started at the prompt of farmer Kristie Knoll.  She went on, "I believe everything is interconnected.  There is nothing we can do that doesn't affect at least one other thing.  I'd like us to look at the benefits to all when we choose to eat organically.  Obviously, we benefit.  But how do others benefit?  How does the Earth benefit?  What about the environment?  Everything we do can be equated to the ripples on a pond after a rock is tossed in the water.  Those ripples just keep going and going and going...."

Following this introduction, the attendees proceeded to have a lively discussion of how eating and gardening organically reaches beyond ourselves to the world at large.  Not only did we discuss organics, but biodiversity in our food system and how it has been diminished by corporate control.  We pondered the future of the planet for our kids and their kids and those beyond the immediate generations.

This was a very informative and thoughtful evening as we all enjoyed deliciously prepared food and drinks.  Some recipes are below.

Zucchini Carpaccio (from Shelley Somersett)
4-6 medium Zucchini thinly sliced spread on a platter
4 Tbsp Olive Oil shaken with 1 1/2 tbsp Meyer Lemon juice drizzle over Zuchini 
Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shaved or grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese 
Top with 1/4 - 1/3 C fresh mint cut in very thin strips
Serve immediately

Green Salad with Beets (from Lucy Meinhardt)
Mixed salad greens
Cooked and marinated beets (red, golden, Chioggia or a mixture)
Goat cheese in small pieces
Chopped roasted walnuts

Preparation of beets
Beets are best roasted or steamed as soon as possible after they are harvested to preserve the sugars. I prefer trimming the beets and wrapping them in foil, then baking them in a 375 oven until tender.

Peels will slip right off the cooled cooked beets.  Slice the beets into a container and dress with vinaigrette (see below); refrigerate until use. They will keep this way for a week.

Prepare salad greens as you normally do for the size salad you want. Toss with vinaigrette. Top with thinly sliced red onions, beets, chunks of goat cheese, and chopped roasted walnuts.

Garlic, 1 clove coarsely chopped
Balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup
Mustard, 1 tsp.
Pepper, ¼ tsp or to taste
Paprika, ¼ tsp or to taste
Tarragon, pinch
Mix the above ingredients together then add:
Olive oil, ¼ cup
Canola oil, ¼ cup
Shake well and serve; will keep several weeks in fridge.

Easy way to roast walnuts (or any nut): place nuts in a microwave safe container; microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave again for 30 seconds. Stir. Taste or smell and continue until the nuts are just right.

Crustless Quiche with Beet Greens and Brie (from Amy Erez)
12 eggs
½ c. goat milk
½ c. brie, in small pieces
½  c. asiago, grated
½ c. parmesan, grated
2 bunches fresh beet greens or red chard, chopped
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
10 oz. mushrooms, white or crimini, roughly chopped
½ c. fresh basil, chopped
Seasalt to taste
4 Tbsp. Olive oil

Sauté onions and mushrooms in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until golden. Add greens to pan and sauté until wilted and lightly cooked. Salt as desired. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 350.  

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a large bowl with the goat milk. Add cheeses and basil and stir thoroughly. When vegetables are cooled, mix into egg and cheese combo.

Oil 9 x 14 inch pyrex baking pan with 2 Tbsp. olive oil.  Pour quiche batter into pan and bake for 40 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 
This is a great appetizer or serve with bread and a salad for a full meal. ©Amy Erez 2012

Layered Enchiladas (from Maryann Kachur)
In a casserole dish layer enchilada sauce, a layer of corn tortillas, grated sharp cheese and about 20-25 chopped fresh green chilies (any variety) seeds and all.  Add another layer of corn tortillas and pour enchilada sauce over all to fill casserole dish.

Top with olives, chopped green onions or more cheese.  Bake covered for 45 minutes at 375-400 degrees.

When my garden has squash, I will chop that up and add it too.  If you can make your own enchilada sauce from cooked down chilies or tomatillos, it's even better.

Greek Zucchini Fritters (from Gail Wadsworth)
By Martha Rose Shulman
2 pounds large zucchini, trimmed and grated on the wide holes of a grater or food processor
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as fennel, dill, mint, parsley 
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 cup fresh or dry breadcrumbs, more as necessary
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup crumbled feta
All-purpose flour as needed and for dredging
Olive oil for frying

Salt the zucchini generously and leave to drain in a colander for one hour, tossing and squeezing the zucchini from time to time. Take up handfuls of zucchini, and squeeze out all of the moisture. Alternately, wrap in a clean dish towel, and squeeze out the water by twisting at both ends.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and add the shredded zucchini, herbs, cumin, bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste and feta. Mix together well. Take up a small handful of the mixture; if it presses neatly into a patty, it is the right consistency. If it seems wet, add more breadcrumbs or a few tablespoons of all-purpose flour. When the mixture has the right consistency, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or longer.

Heat 1 inch of olive oil in a large frying pan until rippling, or at about 275 degrees. Meanwhile, take up heaped tablespoons of the zucchini mixture, and form balls or patties. Lightly dredge in flour.

When the oil is very hot, add the patties in batches to the pan. Fry until golden brown, turning once with a spider or slotted spoon. Remove from the oil, and drain briefly on a rack. Serve with plain Greek style yogurt if desired.

Gluten-free Vanilla Cornbread (from Jan Enderle, pictured above)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease and prepare a 9-inch cake pan by lining it with parchment paper.
Whisk together:
1 C certified gluten-free corn meal
3/4 C sorghum flour
1/2 C tapioca or potato starch (not potato flour!)
1C organic light brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1&1/2 tsp baking powder
1 round tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp xanthan gum

Add in and stir:
2 organic free-range eggs or 1 TBS Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with 1/4 C warm water
1/2 C plus 2 TBS light olive oil
1 C very warm water
1 TBS bourbon vanilla extract

Beat by hand until a smooth batter is formed, about 1 minute.  Add up to 2 extra TBS of warm water if needed, to thin.  The batter should be like thick cake or muffin batter but not too stiff.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, until firm to the touch in the center.  Here at sea level it baked in 30 minutes.  A wooden pick inserted into the centered emerged dry.

Place the pan on a wire rack and allow the cornbread to rest 15 minutes before cutting.  This helps to keep the slices from crumbling.  Cut with a very sharp knife.