I made my decision and I’m confessing it to you.

Happy September everyone!

It’s still plenty hot here in New Mexico and even farther north in Denver, Colorado where we were last weekend. But there is something in the air that says autumn is almost here.

There’s something about the shade of green on the trees. They’ve lost that fresh green look and the green is slightly darker, the leaves slightly shrinking from the long hot and very dry summer. Change is in the air!

My Ever Evolving Food Philosophy and a Stunning Statistic

And I’ve changed up my cooking the past several weeks actually. I have been experimenting with a totally vegan menu bypassing all seafood which I had still been enjoying before on occasion. I have been reading up on the status of our ocean fish and the ocean itself and decided I cannot support the fishing industry any more.

What really got to me was learning that only about 10% of our big ocean fish are left. If true, that means 90% gone! That is a stunning statistic!  (Ref: Worm B. Barbier ED, Beaumont N, et al. Impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean ecosystem services. Science. 2006 Nov 3;314 (5800): 787-90.) Hat off to Dr. John MacDougall for pointing this out to me in his book, The Starch Solution.

I started paying attention to how much fish is on menus, how much fish people are eating as an alternative to other animal meat. I saw one cooking show on PBS where a single New York restaurant was purchasing 5 million pounds of fish a year. WOW!

I also have read–and I’m sure you’ve heard about this too–that radiation from Japan has made its effect on the Pacific all the way to our United States west coast. Tests show a level of radiation in fish and shellfish that was not previously there. That makes me very sad indeed.

In the Gulf, the 2010 oil spill was called the worst spill in U.S. history.  After initial clean up efforts, the effect of that spill on Gulf sea life and people working and living on the Gulf Coast has been disastrous and long-lasting. I have avoided seafood from the Gulf Coast ever since.

I also question the quality of fish and seafood from the Far East, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and from fish farms.  According to World Wide Fund for Nature, more than 80% of marine pollution is caused by land-based activities that cause oil spills, fertilizers and toxic chemical runoff and the discharge of untreated sewage.

Too Many Fish in the Sea?

I used to consider that the oceans are so very vast (true).  I was taught the earth is 75% covered with water (true). I thought, there are (like the song says) TOO MANY FISH IN THE SEA. I thought that yes, some may not be safe to eat but surely there are others that are. After all, doesn’t my Whole Foods store watch out for quality for me? Don’t they rate the quality of their seafood for me? Doesn’t the fish sold in my local Co-Op look quite clean and fresh?

When I read about our beautiful oceans and the losses we have sustained there I cannot pretend it has nothing to do with me and that me and my family are not really putting much of a dent in the fish population. And me and my family will probably not get sick from eating the fish.  And it’s not me that eats the beef and chicken and pigs who come from  huge agribusiness that pollutes the environment and causes more greenhouse gases than automobiles. Not me. That’s good, but it’s not enough. Maybe there are still some spots where the fish are not polluted. That would be good news, but what about those fishing industries driven by all the demanding consumers who want to eat those fish up too?

Expanding My Viewpoint

I have a deep love of the ocean.  Always have. Always will. I made my decision and I’m confessing it to you.  I’m not the sappy “save the ____” type. (It’s totally fine with me if you are.) But I am a citizen of Earth just like you and I cannot justify to myself supporting this status quo. (And yes, I do feel emotional about the ocean.)

This change is not just some dietary adjustment. This change is an expansion of my own care about the living things on earth and in the ocean and my own care about our planet. I am liking this about myself.

Share Some Good News, Please

I’m sticking to my decision but I invite you to share some good news, if you have it, about our oceans and the life they sustain.

 

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Beautiful Baby Bok Choy

We have had a lovely, hot summer here in New Mexico. The temperatures have soared beyond “toasty” with the bluest skies and the sweetest smelling air.

I have been seeking the quick and easy menu with minimal cooking and preparation.

One of my favorite veggies is baby bok choy because it is sweet and light and looks beautiful. But the stems are so much thicker than the delicate leaves. If you want them to cook evenly you would have to separate them and cook them for different times, right?

No, I have found a way to bypass all that work and come up with a super easy and fast way to prepare baby bok choy and present it in a pleasing way that showcases their natural beauty.

First wash the baby bok choy whole. You will need to let the water run down into the base of the plant to allow all the small particles of dirt wash away.

THOUROUGHLY WASH BABY BOK CHOY

Next, stand them up on end and loosely tie them so they stay put. You may have to trim the stem at the base so they stand up.

LOOSELY TIE THE BOK CHOY UPRIGHT.jpg

Steam the baby bok choy whole in an upright position. This takes a fairly tall steamer pot. The concentration of heat will go to the base and the leaves will steam with less intense heat. Perfect!

STEAM.jpg

I like to cut the baby bok choy vertically in half to show off their beautiful composition and add some drama to the serving plate!  We love to eat these and often just pick them up with our fingers and eat them. You will find they are super sweet cooked this way and don’t need a single thing added like salt or oil. However my husband found that a thin slice of watermelon eaten with the bok choy really sets off the flavors!

BEAUTIFUL BOK CHOY

Suddenly Cilantro

suddenly cilantro

 

Maybe spending eight years in New Mexico has caught up with me. Or maybe the influence of the 100+ degree weather days has overridden my usual sense of taste.

Suddenly, I’m craving cilantro!

Not that there’s anything wrong with cilantro. I wouldn’t say I dislike it. I just don’t choose it for my menus. Ever.

Until now!  I have been creating dish after dish with cilantro and absolutely loving the fresh, bright, green refreshing spark it adds as a garnish to pinto beans, in couscous salad, in pico de gallo and again today in tabbouleh salad.

The result?  Lovely tabbouleh salad with plenty of veggies, chlorophyll from the greens, and a delightful sweet and sour dressing.  And no cooking needed on this toasty hot New Mexican day.

Tabbouleh Salad (serves eight)

1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat and boiling water

Put the bulgur in a bowl and pour enough boiling water over it to cover 1/2 inch above the bulger. Let it sit until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Let the bulgur cool and fluff it with a fork.

Add diced veggies to the bulgur. Typically recipes have onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley with a lemon and oil dressing. But don’t feel restricted! Choose whatever you want to use.

On this particular day I needed to use up what was in my refrigerator. I diced one large cucumber, half a red onion, one yellow squash, one bunch of parsely and yes, one bunch of cilantro.

Tip: Wash the parsley and cilantro and spin them in the salad spinner to get them dry. Remove the thicker stems and don’t worry about the small tender stems then gently chop them up.

Dress with a citrus dressing.  Instead of the standard lemon and oil, I used tahini, white wine vinegar, a teaspoon of tart cherry concentrate, juice of an orange, salt and one clove of crushed garlic.

 

 

The Cantaloupe Strawberry Pie Experiment

I was innocently thinking about an organic cantaloupe that was sitting in the refrigerator and wondering when I will get around to eating it.  I had some beautiful organic strawberries too.  And I have a husband who, in his quest to eat less sugar, enjoys a nice dessert without it.

My usual pattern when it comes to creating food dishes or meals is that I think about color. Cantaloupe and strawberries would look beautiful together!

And that was how I came up with the idea of strawberry cantaloupe pie which I’ve never made or heard of before. Time to experiment!

CANTALOUPE PIE

 

Make a single pie crust and pre-bake it.  Mine was 1 1/2 cups of organic whole wheat pastry flour and 2 pinches of sea salt. Combine that. Cut in some oil–about 1/3 cup and then some water until you’ve got a flaky dough consistency. Roll it out, arrange it in the pie plate and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let that cool.

Cantaloupe and strawberry pie filling

1 organic cantaloupe

10-12 beautiful organic strawberries cut in half

pinch of sea salt

2 1/2 tablespoons agar flakes

2 tablespoons kuzu

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 lemon

  1. Peel and cut the cantaloupe in chunks and blend this without extra water until it is thick and smooth. My Vita-Mix did a great job for me, but you can use a regular blender.
  2. In a small sauce pan, slowly heat the almond milk and agar. It will need to simmer several minutes until the agar is completely dissolved, so don’t use high heat or the mixture will boil off too much.
  3. Add the blended cantaloupe. [This is where I had some trepidation. I wasn’t sure what would happen to the beautiful sherbet-orange color of the cantaloupe when I subjected it to heat. Would it turn an ugly brown? Would it lose its flavor?]
  4. Dissolve the kuzu powder in a little bit of water and add to the cantaloupe mixture. Stir continuously until the mixture, which up to now had a milky look, changes. When the kuzu is totally cooked into the mixture it will become less milky and thicken.
  5. Add a small squeeze of lemon juice to brighten up the filling.
  6. Arrange the half strawberries in the bottom of the cooled pie crust and pour in the cantaloupe filling. Chill until firm. Garnish with fresh sliced strawberries.

The verdict:  Nice texture. Naturally sweet. Sweetness will depend on how sweet the fruit is.  Almond milk flavor takes over a little too much, even though there was only a small amount of it. Note to self–next time try rice milk or coconut milk.

ONE SLICE