In toDay ’s industrialized countries, people are eating more than ever before, yet most are receiving less nourishment. Real food, for the most part, is virtually unknown; yet fortunately, more and more people are becoming conscious that both shelved and perishable products in supermarkets contain a wide array of chemical additives and contaminants, and that their food choices have an impact not only on their health, but on that of the entire planet.
Food is the earliest form of addiction; it may be more controversial than sex, politics, religion, or drugs. People in general have become out of touch with nature and very little instinctual or rational basis for their diet, and as a result they can become very emotional about it; thus, they may defend their diet and resist suggestions for change. The average person is not familiar with natural foods and doesn’t know how to maintain good health; doctors in general may know a lot about disease, but very little about health-promoting factors such as nutrition.
“You are what you eat.” ToDay there are many philosophies around diet and many choices of food and its preparation. I have examined the diets from many perspectives and have come to the conclusion that we are all different; this predisposes our body to choose certain foods. In a natural setting we would instinctually choose foods that provide just the right amount of energy and nutrients for our needs and for the level of consciousness and life adventure we would like to experience.
I would like to stress the point that there are no good and bad foods per se, just as there are no correct and incorrect ways of preparing them (though definitely some foods and preparations may support health more than others); it is a matter of personal choice that has to do with our very unique make up and way of being in the world. Moderation and balance are the keys. Our bodies are perfectly well-equipped to handle everything in small amounts, and if we understand that we are part of Earth just like the plants and animals, we will naturally have more respect for these other creatures and gravitate toward a more frugal and simple lifestyle, which will not only protect our health but also our entire ecosystem.
My advice then, to you and to myself, is: Don’t fight your vices; be kind to yourself, and they will eventually fall away. Don’t make food an end in itself. Construct a diet as good as your head can tolerate without losing the joy of living. And remember, everyone’s needs are different.
I am happy to have had the opportunity to cooperate with Dr. Elson Haas because I feel in alignment with his philosophy and like his direct and practical way of explaining things. In keeping with this simplicity, prior to the seasonal menu plans and recipes, I will provide you with a few time-saving tips for the busy person, as well as basic shopping and utensil lists.
I also wish to achnowledge Michel Stroot of the Golden Door of Escondido, CA, who does wonderful creative work with food and from whom I have learned a great deal, and Annemarie Colbin, whose books have been an inspiration to me. I offer to you a few adaptations of their recipes together with some of my own.
As you will see the recipes are all very simple and quick to prepare. I believe it is important to eat well on a daily basis, and in order to be able to do this realistically in our busy lives, cooking cannot be an ordeal. We have to learn to put together a healthy, well-balanced meal in a half hour with a few fresh ingredients, and without having to give up taste or resort to lifeless, chemical, or processed foods. I hope my contribution to this book will help you accomplish this.
The size and number of pots and pans you need depend upon how many people you are serving. The following basic collection should take care of up to 12 people. The materials I prefer are stainless steel (Durotherm), cast iron, glass, Corningware, and enamel.
- one 1-quart saucepan
- one 2-quart saucepan
- two 3-quart saucepans
- one 9-inch skillet
- one soup pot
- one pressure cooker (could be same as soup pot)
- one 3- or 4-quart covered, ovenproof baking dish
- two shallow lasagna-style baking dishes
- two glass pie plates
- one cookie sheet
- six wooden stirring spoons of various sizes
- one set of measuring cups
- one set of measuring spoons
- two rubber spatulas
- one grater
- one hard brush for scrubbing vegetables
- one wire whisk
- two paring knives
- one good knife for chopping vegetables. This is the most important purchase of all. Make sure that the weight is comfortably distributed and that the blade is thin so that it cuts easily. It may take several purchases to find “your” knife. My favorite is a Mac knife.
Grains: Short grain brown rice, millet, wild rice.
Quick cooking grains: Couscous, polenta, rolled oats.
Noodles: Whole wheat veggie spirals or other noodles; wheat-free
alternatives include corn elbows, quinoa pasta, or soba noodles.
Breads and flours: Sprouted whole grain breads and tortillas, unyeasted
breads, wasa crackers, Essene or manna bread, whole wheat pastry flour.
Beans: Pinto, aduki, mung, garbanzo, navy beans.
Quick cooking beans: Lentils, red lentils, split peas.
Soybean products: Tofu—plain and marinated; tempeh—plain,
marinated, and tempeh/grain mixtures; tofu and tempeh burgers.
Sea vegetables: Kombu, agar-agar, nori, arame or hijiki.
Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil, safflower oil, corn oil.
Brands of known quality include Spectrum, Eden, and Sciabica olive oil.
Condiments: Tamari, miso, brown rice or other vinegars, mustard, soy
mayonnaise or a tofu or eggless mayonnaise, tahini, gomasio, kuzu, miso.
Herbs and Spices: Thyme, marjoram, basil, oregano, parsley, garlic, ginger,
cayenne, scallion (green onion), cilantro (coriander), chili pepper, garlic,
cumin, curry powder.
Sweeteners: Maple syrup, date sugar, honey, apple butter, rice syrup.
Snack foods: Mochi, rice cakes, various rice crackers, dried fruit, grain-sweetened cookies, apples, carrots, celery, raw nuts (especially almonds or walnuts).
Dairy substitutes: Soy milk, amazake, nut milks, nutritional yeast.
Fresh Foods: Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds; alfalfa seeds, lentils, garbanzos,
and green peas for sprouting.
Washing grains: I like the swirling method I learned from Annemarie Colbin. It is more effective than running water over the grains in a colander. Put the grains in a bowl and cover with twice the amount of water. Swirl thoroughly and pour off all the floating debris and stray grains. Catch the rest in a colander. If the water is very dirty, repeat the procedure. Quinoa, amaranth, and millet need to be washed more carefully, several times at least.
Cooking grains: The following are some cooking times and grain-to-water ratios for the more commonly utilized grains.
Brown rice: Combine 1 cup rice to 2 cups cold water and a pinch of salt. The
salt is important even if you are on a salt-free diet because it brings out the full flavor of the grain. Bring to a boil, adjust the flame to low, and cook the rice in 50–60 minutes. If you are making rice with steamed vegetables, you can lay the cut up vegetables on top of the rice during the last 10 minutes and they will cook with
the steam from the rice. Rice connoisseurs suggest cooking the rice undisturbed for
1 hour over a low heat. The pot must have a tight seal so the steam does not escape, and to tell it’s done, listen to the pot; it will stop bubbling and you will hear a slight crackling or popping sound of rice toasting. Many rice lovers will also prepare the rice with more salt, about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon per cup of uncooked rice, and 1/2 – 1 Tablespoon of oil or butter.
Barley: Cook with the same amount of water as you would rice. I have found it takes slightly longer, 60 to 70 minutes.
Quinoa: 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer 15 minutes.
Millet: Another trick I learned from Annemarie Colbin is to dry roast this grain in a cast iron or stainless steel skillet until a few grains begin to pop, about 5–10 minutes. Then add 2 cups of water for each cup of millet and the usual pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 30–40 minutes. Fluff with fork before serving. If just cooking millet in water, rinse it well to remove any unseen dirt.
Kasha: Bring 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt to a boil. Add 1 cup of kasha, lower the flame, and simmer for 15–20 minutes.
You may wish to use a pressure cooker for some grains in order to shorten the cooking time. In that case add less water, about 1H cups of water to 1 cup grain. Also do not cook any cracked grain in the pressure cooker since it may clog up the escape valve and cause an explosion. Pressure-cooked grains have a totally different texture and taste, especially rice, which tends to stick together. It is wonderful for making sushi, but not appropriate for a rice salad or pilaf.
Washing and soaking beans: Beans that are bought in bulk need picking over since they often contain stones. The worst are red lentils and I suggest that you do not buy them in bulk, but get the already cleaned and packaged ones.
The following beans do not need soaking: all kinds of lentils, split peas, and aduki beans. All other beans are best soaked overnight in twice the amount of water. Throw away the soaking water. This will shorten the cooking time and also reduce the gas-producing effects. If you do not have time to soak the beans overnight, you can use a quick method. Boil them in twice the amount of water for 5 minutes and then let them sit covered for 1 hour; then change water for further cooking.
Cooking beans: Black-eyed peas, lima beans, small white/navy beans and aduki beans can be cooked together with rice in the same pot since they have similar cooking times. Just add more water.
Pressure cooking reduces the time to about one half of the above, but be careful not to cook lentils and split peas in a pressure cooker since they may clog the escape valve and cause the pressure cooker to explode.
Always salt your beans at the end, about 10 minutes before they are done. This is important since adding salt at the beginning will cause the beans to remain tough. If you prefer not to use salt, remember that beans cooked with no salt at all tend to disintegrate. This may be okay for soups and stews, but not if you are making a bean salad.
Beans, like grains, can be slow cooked in an oven or crockpot. Place beans and water (add additional cup of water per additional cup of beans) in ovenproof bean pot or casserole dish. Put covered dish in oven and cook overnight or all Day at low setting, 200°–220°. The beans will be more tasty, tender, and thicker than if you use the quicker cooking method.
For more flavorful, spicy beans, cook with lightly sautéed onion and garlic. Dice a large onion and a few cloves of garlic and lightly sauté with 2 teaspoons of canola or other light oil in the cooking pot. Add 2 cups of beans and about 6 cups of water, and simmer until the beans are tender. Optionally, to avoid the oil sauté, just add all the ingredients to the pot and cook.
To enhance and vary the flavor of beans, a variety of herbs and spices can be added to the cooking pot at the start or midway. If beginning with 2 cups of beans, try one or more of the following at your inspiration and taste:
Cleaning vegetables: If you buy your root vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, turnips, etc. from organic sources there is no need to peel them; just scrub them with a stiff brush. Vegetables from commercial sources most of the time have been treated with chemical pesticides and waxed and therefore need peeling.
To peel tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for 10–15 seconds. Allow to cool and the skin will come off very easily.
To peel garlic, place your knife flat on the garlic clove and whack with your other hand. The covering will burst open and the clove can be easily removed.
For leafy greens, cut off the root end and plunge into a sink full of cold water. Swirl around a few times and let sit for awhile. The sand, dirt, and other debris will settle to the bottom, and the leaves will float to the top and can be removed. Repeat the procedure if the greens such as spinach are very dirty.
Some tips about fish: When buying a whole fish, make sure it has firm flesh, red gills, and bright eyes. Steaks or fillets should be moist and not flaky. Also it is a good idea to get your fish from a dependable source, not a supermarket, since it is often dipped in a solution of nitrites and nitrates to cover up any smell. Also many stores use paper that is saturated with chemicals to lay the fish on so as to preserve the color. Before cooking it is best to rinse the fish under cold running water. Also do not use a wooden cutting board for chopping up fish or meat, since the wood absorbs the juices and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
Seasoning: By seasoning I don’t mean just salt, even if that is a very important ingredient. I like to use sea salt, which is free of additives, and use it only in cooking, not at the table.
Herbs and spices can lend a great deal of taste to even the simplest dish, but it
is important to use just the right amount that will enhance and not overpower the flavor of the food. This is especially true for strong tasting ones such as garlic, cayenne, sage, and tarragon. It is best to start with a little and add more if necessary. For best results, fresh herbs should be added at the end of the cooking time, while dried ones should be added at the beginning. Cayenne and freshly ground black pepper can be added individually at the table, since not everybody likes a very hot taste.
- Here are some suggestions if you end up with too much of anything.
too salty: Wash off the salt, or add oil or butter. When cooking grains or pasta, if the water is too salty, add a whole
too bitter: Avoid salt, and add something sweet.
too spicy: Add potato or grain, or something sweet.
too sour: Add salt or liquid.
For giving basic dishes like rice, vegetables, or chicken an international flavor,
a simple seasoning list might include the following:
- Italian: basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, garlic, olive oil.
- ginger, soy sauce, cayenne or chili oil, scallions, toasted sesame oil.
Mexican: cumin, cilantro, cayenne and chili pepper, garlic, salsa
Indian: curry, coriander, cumin, saffron,
- cardamom, ghee (clarified butter).
French: dill, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, mustard, butter, wine.
East European: paprika, poppy seed, caraway, dill, onion, sour cream.
- Soak beans overnight to cut cooking time; throw away soaking water.
- Soak nuts and seeds overnight, and they will become crunchier and easier to digest because the fats in them become more available as fatty acids. Soaked nuts and seeds also make wonderful additions to salads and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few Day s.
- Pressure cooking beans and grains cuts the cooking time by approximately one third. I like to pressure cook a big batch of beans at a time and then store them in the freezer in small containers, just about enough for two people. In this way I can prepare a bean dish in no time at all, and besides, freezing helps get rid of the agents that cause flatulence in many people.
- Wash salad and other leafy greens when you buy them; let them dry, and then keep them in plastic bags in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator so you do not have to waste a lot of time when you want to use them. I also like to keep the basic vegetables, like chopped onions, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley all ready to use.
- Keep a few basic sauces ready in the refrigerator, such as tomato sauce. Just simmer fresh or canned peeled tomatoes for about 20 minutes with a little salt. For a quick tomato sauce you can then sauté onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and parsley and a little chili pepper in a small amount of olive oil, and add it to the tomatoes. It takes about 5 minutes to put the whole thing together. Store in plastic or stainless steel, not in aluminum or pottery ware.
- Miso/tahini is also a basic condiment that keeps well. Just blend miso and tahini with a little rice vinegar and water. You can add garlic, ginger, or mustard to it to make it different every time, and use it as a salad dressing by adding more water, and as a dip or creamy sauce over grains if you keep it thicker.
- Flavored oils add zest to any dish. Being Italian, I am partial to olive oil, but you can use any oil you like. Make small bottles and add a different herb to each, i.e. garlic, hot chili pepper, tarragon, sage, rosemary, thyme, etc.
- If you do not have time to marinate things, here is a way to quick marinate. Bring your marinade to a boil and drop whatever you want to marinate into it for a few minutes.
- Instant pizza can be made by using tortillas or pita bread. Place them in the oven for a few minutes to crisp, spoon on some tomato sauce, your favorite toppings, and a little grated cheese, and put them into the oven again for a few minutes until the cheese melts.
- Quick-cooking grains are couscous, millet, quinoa, and polenta.
- Frozen grapes and cherries make wonderful alternatives to candy, or as “ice cubes” for drinks.
- Almost any juices, fresh or bottled, can be placed in popsicle containers and frozen to make warm weather treats for children of all ages.
- For thickening sauces and gravies, there are many substitutes for wheat flour. Equivalents to one tablespoon of wheat flour include half tablespoons of arrow root powder, rice or potato flour, or cornstarch.
- For those avoiding salt, lower sodium substitutes include kelp, regular or low sodium tamari, light miso, lemon juice, ume vinegar, celery salt, various vegetable “salts,” and the seasoning mix just mentioned in Kitchen Basics.
- Substitute fish, chicken, or vegetable stock for half or for the whole amount of oil called for in a recipe.
- Water-sauté food instead of stir-frying it in oil. Put about H to 1 cup of water or stock into a wok or skillet and bring it to a rapid boil. Quickly add vegetables and keep stirring over a high flame until done.
- Onions sautéed in their own juice and pureed with light miso make a wonderful onion butter which is great on toast or bread instead of using real butter. The same thing can be done with most vegetables.
- Apple butter is a great no-fat spread for those with a sweet tooth.
- Puree a very loose oatmeal (about 1 cup of rolled oats to 4 cups of water). Use instead of milk to make cream soups, gravies, and any dish which calls for milk.
- Tofu pureed with lemon juice makes a great mock sour cream.
- Cooked grains may be kept in a porcelain or wooden bowl in a cool place but out of the refrigerator. Covered with a napkin, they will keep for about 3 Day s. In the refrigerator they should be stored in airtight containers or they will absorb the flavor of other foods.
- Beans can be kept in jars on shelves or inside a cupboard. Cooked beans are best stored in the freezer in small containers.
- Mushrooms should be kept in a brown paper bag in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator.
- Fresh herbs keep best in a glass of water in the refrigerator.
- Oils once opened should be refrigerated. The only exception is olive oil which should be kept in a dark place.
- Nuts and seeds are best refrigerated or even frozen.
- Flour should be kept in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Fruits, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and garlic are best not refrigerated, but kept in a basket in a shady place or in a pantry.