Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Clean Summertime Eating

Who...wants...to...eat...in....the...hot...summertime? Phew! Made me hot and tired just thinking about it! In the middle of a blazing hot workday, I'm not inclined to begin thinking about firing up the stove to stir risotto for an hour or standing over a hot grill for steaks and burgers. Surrounded by pop-up produce stands during this time of the year, I'm certainly not contemplating sauces and lots of preparation time in the kitchen. I'm thinking CLEAN...BASIC...FAST...REFRESHING. I'm in the mood for simplifying my life and my eating.
Heirloom tomatoes from local hydroponics farm. Local sweet potatoes.

WHAT IS CLEAN EATING?
A quick internet (or Pinterest) search can help you out here. Clean eating takes time, requires that you eat whole foods and that you source them close to home. The idea is that you know where your food comes from, how it was grown and that it comes to your kitchen as fresh as possible. No processed foods, no G.M.O. foods and no junk to mix it up with. Example: Green beans or asparagus steamed or boiled until they are al dente; seasoned only with salt and pepper. A boiled potato. A farm fresh tomato. Radishes fresh from the dirt, which is washed off with water from a garden hose. How does that sound? Oh, and because it's all the way at the bottom of this post, I'm letting you know about a wonderful video of Guy Clark singing his song, "Homegrown Tomatoes".

ONE STEP AT A TIME
While the Clean Eating movement is gaining in popularity, it's difficult to make a shift from where you are. So how do you do it? How do you make to move? During our hot summers, it's easier than you might think to get started with clean eating.

Step 1--REAL SEA SALT
Remove salt from your kitchen. Replace it with real sea salt--Celtic or Grey Sea Salt which is salt dried by the sun. This means that you'll have to buy a special salt grinder, but they're available...even on amazon.com  These special salt grinders are ceramic (not metal). The moisture that's left in the naturally dried salt will corrode the metal grinders. Nutritionally, and for your best heart and blood pressure health, real sea salt is the best first step you can take.
Step 2--CANNED TOMATOES & ROTEL
Discard, give away or use up any processed foods.The only canned food in your pantry should be canned tomatoes. Okay, maybe also Rotel original, which is an awesome recipe booster and is mostly tomatoes. Yes, Rotel, which was raised to its proper place of saintliness by Roy Blount, Jr. in Garden & Gun Magazine.
Step 3--KISS COOKING. Yup, Keep It Simple Stupid, is most appropriate in the summertime kitchen. Steam it. Boil it. Eat it raw. Spare the seasonings. Use only lemon juice and a really good olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh-from-your-garden herbs. Have you ever had a ripe and juicy homegrown tomato? Have you ever tasted a Yukon Gold potato that's barely cooled down enough to handle and dusted lightly with salt and pepper? I have, and I consider these flavors to be the essence of what the good earth gives us freely. SO amazingly delicious, laid out in their naked simplicity.
Sliced cherry tomatoes grown organically, local sweet potatoes and simply prepared turnip greens.

Step 4--COOK REAL FOOD. You may have to go back 100 years or more for this. We've covered up the flavor or good food for so long, it may be difficult to find someone who can show you how to boil an egg or a potato; how to cook turnip greens without fatback; how to handle a hot potato or how to assemble a salad bowl full of vegetable goodness without using low-fat salad dressing or lite mayonnaise or even without having to open a can or a box to dress it all with.
Greek Zucchini Salad--A bowl of goodness for clean summertime eating.


Step 5--LEARN MORE. Spend a little time with the folks at the produce stand. Get to know them, where they grow your food, how they are working to garden organically. Read about hydroponic gardening. Who knows, maybe you'll try it out on a small scale one day. Ask a neighbor or elder in your community about container gardening. It's not too late. Next summer you may be picking your own cucumbers and high-octane-sweet cherry tomatoes!

We don't have to jump up and become Clean Eating advocates, but simplifying our food preparation and making an honest effort to buy locally grown (and organically where possible) produce will keep us cooler and give us time to read the new (old) Harper Lee book, "Go Set A Watchman", in the cool air-conditioned comfort of our living rooms.

RECIPE:
Greek Zucchini Salad
(adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart)

I use this as a side dish and find that it holds up well enough to serve again for lunch the next day...maybe with a few slices of tomato and a piece of cantaloupe on the side.

Ingredients:
3 medium zucchini cut into small cubes
salt
pepper
½ c red onion finely chopped
4 T chopped fresh dill
2 T fresh lemon juice
4-6 T extra-virgin olive oil (use only 4 T, if you prefer a fresher flavor)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese


Mix everything in a bowl and serve. Will hold up well and can be prepared hours ahead. Can also be prepared with cucumbers instead of zucchini.This is not traditional Greek cooking; it's Greek because of the typical Greek flavor combinations.