Food is all around us. It is a part of our culture and our daily lives. Food sustains us. But have you noticed that we as humans have not been so great at sustaining our food, or even the planet that supplies that food.
Perhaps because man is a survivor by instinct, and because food is necessary to our biological survival, could it be that we have taken on a conquer and control attitude about its production and collection?
The irony is that if we continue to consume our planet’s resources (including food) without allowing for its sustainability we will be doomed. The very survival instinct that drives us to conquer and destroy could be our downfall.
Yikes, those are pretty dark thoughts coming from Sippity Sup. Isn’t Sippity Sup a fun food blog? Well yes, but Sippity Sup is also a serious food blog. Serious Fun Food. Remember?
So today I bring you a few thoughts about a new cookbook called The Earthbound Cook, written by Myra Goodman, the author of Food To Live By. It’s a cookbook dedicated to delicious food and a healthy planet.
It’s a big, ambitious book with 250 recipes divided into 11 chapters: Soup, Leafy Green Salads, Meat and Poultry, Fish and Shellfish, Vegetarian Entrees, Side Dishes, Vegetable and Grain Salads, Baking Bread, Desserts, Breakfast and Brunch and Pantry Basics. Each chapter also contains important information concerning eco-minded living and primers dedicated to helping you become more conscientious about how you cook and how your choices affect the planet that provides the food you cook.
For example, I’m sure you realize the importance of water conservation. This topic is addressed appropriately in a chapter devoted to soup. But did you know that there are environmental considerations concerning the packaging of the broth you buy for that soup, too? More food for thought.
The author’s philosophy on organic food and farming, though slightly different from my own, is passionately addressed in the chapter on leafy greens. The leafy greens chapter also contains a super useful field guide to salad greens with photos designed to clear up that age-old question “is this endive or escarole?”
There are so many things to consider when choosing foods that sustain the planet as well as fill our bellies. It’s a subject I am passionate about and I happy to say this book fed that passion. I am already familiar with some of the topics covered, but there is also so much new information that I will turn to this book as I try to become a more responsible consumer.
Take eggs. I mean who’s not thinking about eggs and where they come from these days? In the most eye-opening section of the book (for me) Egg Label Claims: What Are They Talking About? I learned that there is very little regulation or standardization when it comes to the claims we see printed on egg cartons. What exactly does “organic” mean? Is there a difference between “free range” and “cage free”? Now you might roll your eyes and label me a geek. But I always stare at those cartons wondering exactly which to buy and why.
Because terms like “farm fresh”, “healthy” or “naturally raised” honestly mean nothing to me. It’s not a third-party, objective certification based on established criteria. After all, arsenic is a “natural”, “organic” compound. So when I look at those cartons and I read those phrases I can’t be sure they help me make the best possible choice. So I am left with all kinds of questions.
Well, this book answers my egg questions. Which doesn’t mean this book has all the answers, because the entire topic is complicated and diverse. But this book does get the conversation started and keeps it going. That is so important.
I believe this book has broad appeal as well. There are way too many stereotypes about organics, vegetarians and vegans. I was a bit concerned that this book would take a holier-than-thou approach when it came to meat. Instead, there is an informative section about making eco-friendly meat choices. As with most environmental concerns this is a very complicated subject. Meat production does require a large amount of resources, and it does contribute “disproportionably to global warming”. So we as consumers, need to use our almighty dollars to encourage change within the system. Which is a much more pragmatic, open-minded approach than merely proclaiming for-one-and-for-all that meat consumption is wrong. Because I don’t believe that it is, and this book does a great job in explaining why the current system of meat production isn’t working as well for the planet as it should.
As useful as all the eco-minded information is, let’s face it I am a cook first. I am most interested in what this book has to offer in the way of recipes. So I decided to “conquer” some of this food on my own.
And I’ll be honest. Most of the recipes in this book won’t stretch your culinary skills in any serious way. And that’s a good thing. Because the important lessons here go way beyond braising. These recipes teach you to incorporate sustainability into your everyday life, without making any serious sacrifices for the things you love. The recipes are straightforward, and they are well-written. They will inspire you to be a better citizen of this great planet. They emphasize a lot of beautiful produce. I think this book is a real boon to those of us trying to start our children out with a healthy attitude about food and a realistic idea about where it comes from. Because each recipe uniquely addresses some aspect of sustainability and is designed to get us thinking more broadly about food.
I chose to make Coconut-Crusted Salmon with Coconut Chili Sauce. It’s an impressive looking, Asian-inspired dish that is described by the author as the sort of meal “seen on menus at high-end restaurants”, yet is delightfully “easy to make”. I agree with her on both points.
But do me a favor, as you make this dish please refer to section in the book that talks about making sustainable seafood choices. You might just be surprised what you learn. I know I was.
I have one copy of this book available as a GIVEAWAY. All you need to do to get entered is leave a message here, tweet using the phrase #EARTHBOUNDCOOK, or “like” this on SippitySup’s Facebook page. There will be a “live” video drawing next Monday, September 27th to dertermine the winner.
- 1 c unsweetened coconut milk
- 3 T fresh lime juice
- 1 T honey
- 1⁄2 T thai chili paste
- salt and pepper, as needed
- 1⁄2 c shredded, unsweetened coconut
- 1⁄4 c panko
- 6 skinless, wild salmon fillets
- 2 T peanut oil
To make the sauce: Combine the coconut milk, 1 tablespoon lime juice, honey, and chili paste in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces and thickened slightly, about 4 minutes. Season the sauce with salt to taste. The sauce may be refrigerated, covered, for up to 5 days.
Prepare the fish: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 F.
Combine the shredded coconut, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Toss well, and then spread the mixture on a plate.
Brush the top sides of the salmon with lime juice. Lightly season the fish with salt and pepper. One piece at a time, dip the top side of each fillet in the coconut-panko mixture, making sure the surface is coated. Pat the mixture onto the fish, if necessary.
Set a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, preferable cast-iron, over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add the peanut oil. Arrange half the salmon fillets, coconut side down, in the skillet and cook for 3 minutes to sear the fish and brown the topping. carefully flip the fish over and cook another 3 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the fish to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 3 fillets.
Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the salmon is just firm to the touch and the interior is nearly opaque, but still moist, 2 to 4 minutes depending on thickness of the fish (alternatively, use an instant read thermometer; the fish will be done when the temperature reaches 130 degrees F.)
Place each fillet of salmon on a warmed plate. Drizzle with Coconut Chili Sauce and serve.