Garden2Table Recipe Corner: No Recipe Recipes
Growers’ and Farmers’ Markets are opening around our state this month. Peas, salad and cooking greens, asparagus, herbs, radishes, rhubarb, strawberries, and onions are in season. The New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association, which is dedicated to strengthening the local food system by supporting New Mexico’s agriculture producers and cultivating strong networks for healthier communities, has a great website where you can find information on a local market and What’s in Season: https://farmersmarketsnm.org.
We all must admit we either appreciate or take for granted the luxury of finding decent produce at our local grocers, most of the time, despite the season. This is because imports have increased steadily for decades, and more than half of fresh fruit and almost a third of the fresh vegetables Americans buy now come from other countries: Most of America’s Fruit Is Now Imported. Is That a Bad Thing?. Surprised? So was Michael Pollan, professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, whose best-selling books have analyzed the tensions between local and global food systems (more on Mr. Pollan below), and who is quoted as saying “I had no idea that more than half our fruit is imported, and it shocks me that this has happened so quickly.”
Benefits (& Pleasures) of Growers’ Market Shopping, according to naturespath.com (and us), include:
- Finding seasonal fruits & veggies, which have a host of nutritional benefits.
- Getting the freshest fruit and vegetables possible. Grocery store produce is likely a week or more old, but most market growers harvest the day of or before market day.
- Opting for organic because conventional food production requires a lot of environmentally unfriendly inputs.
- Making friends with your local farmers and growers by connecting with the hard-working folks who grow your food and enabling them to contribute to healthy food systems.
- Getting expert advice about how the produce was grown and how to prepare it.
- Feeling the love by creating a sense of community engagement.
- Cutting your ecological footprint—most of the food we consume travels hundred and even thousands of miles to arrive at our markets and finally on our plates (see above).
“Eating is an agricultural act” ~ Wendell Berry
I have often pondered this quote, which can be found at the closing of every email Lynda Garvin sends. (Ms. Garvin is the former Agriculture Agent/Extension Master Gardener Coordinator of Sandoval County and current Interim County Program Director at Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service.) What does this mean exactly? I decided to do some research to find out. Mr. Berry’s line comes from his short manifesto, “The Pleasures of Eating,” which offers insight into how food relates to the world and urges us to be curious and make connections. This line also inspired Michael Pollan to explore the socio-cultural impacts of food—that there is pleasure, health, and good conscience in untangling farm-to-fork narratives. His books, The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, and Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, provide a gateway to more mindful eating, a path to heightened curiosity about farming and the natural world, and a road to the conviction that we really are what we eat (The Atlantic, April 23, 2013).
The No-Recipe Recipe Craze. So, you have gone to your local growers’ market and brought back bags of fresh produce and other local products. What do you do? Some of us will search our recipe books or the internet to find a recipe or two that shows us the best way to prepare our fresh, local ingredients, while others won’t need a recipe to make a salad, omelet or frittata, or pasta primavera—our culinary experiences will show us the way. It’s no surprise that the no-recipe recipe craze found its way during quarantines and shutdowns. Using the ingredients in our fridge, freezer, or pantry often forced us to be creative.
Over the past year, many no-recipe recipe books were published, including Sam Sifton’s New York Times Cooking: No-Recipe Recipes, Phyllis Good’s No Recipe? No Problem! and Samantha Pillay’s The No Recipe Cookbook. Some have criticized that these no-recipes are recipes. They are to a point by providing the ingredients and clear and detailed instructions, but without measurements. Others, however, argue these no-recipes invite you to improvise, provide valuable ingredient substitution ideas, and hopefully turn you into an imaginative, stress-free cook. No recipes are not for everyone, and there is no shame in using a recipe. But wouldn’t it be a fun experiment during our Garden2Table demonstrations to use the day’s donated produce and canned goods and demonstrate how to turn them into a delicious dish, no recipe required. Garden2Table Chopped-Style!
My thanks Mo Mulligan for stepping in and writing a lovely column on garlic confit while I was recovering from foot and ankle reconstruction surgery. A lot of things happened on the way to surgery, and I thought it important to share a few of these personal anecdotes with you. Unbeknownst to me, when you reach a certain age group, you are required to be “cleared” for surgery. Clearance entails a thorough examination by your primary care provider, including an EKG, lung x-ray, and multiple blood and urine panels. A few days after having my blood drawn and tested, I received a call from a nurse practitioner informing me that my 90-day, or A1C, glucose level was at 5.8, which puts me at the cusp of type 2 pre-diabetes. The NP informed me that I was not to be alarmed, that I was otherwise healthy, but I should watch my carbohydrate intake. As an energetic adult who eats a healthy balanced, diverse diet, rich in vegetables, and goes meatless a couple of days a week, I was extremely surprised. I wondered how this happened. I am not particularly fond of sweets or fruit or fruit juices, but I love my pasta and wine, in moderation. So, what gives?
As I continue to research and practice mindful eating, and because type 2 diabetes is so prevalent today and many of us knowingly or unknowingly suffer from this disease, starting with this column and continuing with others, I will try to note when a recipe includes ingredients that may be low or high in carbohydrates. Next month, I will discuss vegetables that are both low and high in carbohydrates, and the benefits of whole grains and legumes, which may be on the high side of the carb chart, but beneficial because of their fiber content. And I will also be more mindful when Garden2Table returns to the senior centers, to select and demonstrate recipes that are lower in carbs or at least to explain the difference.
New Mexico State University, in conjunction with the New Mexico Department of Health and the Diabetes Prevention & Control Program sponsors Kitchen Creations: A Cooking School for People with Diabetes. These classes are held on Monday afternoons from 3:00 to 5:00 to teach how to plan meals and healthier ways to cook foods that help manage diabetes. Lynda Garvin will be one of the instructors for the May 24th class, and I will be demonstrating a recipe. If interested in learning more about this program or to sign up for a class, please visit kitchencreations.nmsu.edu.
I decided to highlight a few “no-recipe” recipes that use seasonal produce picked up at your local growers’ market or grown in your own garden and result in a final no-recipe dish, which is rich in fiber and low in carbohydrates. Enjoy!
Starting with the fermented pesto starter paste, you can prepare a tasty pesto to use in the pesto couscous vegetable bowls. Use seasonal veggies, such as such as summer squash, onions, or other low carb veggies such as cauliflower, broccoli or mushrooms to make this delicious, nutritious pesto bowl.
FERMENTED PESTO STARTER PASTE
(Source: Farmers’ Almanac: 2021 Seasonal Gardening Guide)
- Basil leaves
- Garlic cloves, peeled
- Sea salt, unrefined
Put basil leaves and non-woody stems into a food processor and add 12 garlic cloves and 1 ¾ teaspoon of salt for every 1 pound of basil and pulse to make a paste. Place in jar that will have the least amount of airspace after filling. Press out the air pockets as you go. Top jar with a piece of parchment paper and tightly place lid. Set aside to ferment out of direct sunlight or in refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.
(Source: Farmers’ Almanac: 2021 Seasonal Gardening Guide)
- Pesto Starter Paste
- Olive Oil
- Romano Cheese, shredded
- Pine nuts or almonds
To every 1 tablespoon of fermented started paste, add a few tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of shredded cheese, and 2 tablespoons of nuts and pulse in food processor to a fine consistency.
COUSCOUS PESTO VEGETABLE BOWLS
- Chopped fresh vegetables
- Olive Oil
- Favorite spice(s)
- Canned beans, drained and rinsed
- Whole wheat couscous
- Chicken or veggie stock
- Basil Pesto
Toss chopped veggies in olive oil and favorite spice(s), place on a large sheet pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in a 425⁰ oven until golden and crisp tender. Add canned beans to the roasted veggies and toss with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a bit more salt and pepper and toss. Prepare couscous according to package using stock. Stir in basil pesto, lemon juice and more salt and pepper. Assemble bowls by using even amounts of pesto couscous and the roasted veggie/bean mixture. Top with avocado and chopped nuts. Drizzle more pesto evenly over the bowls and enjoy immediately.