Season to Taste: Greener Kitchens
The adage Kol Yisrael arevim zeh le-zeh (all of Israel is responsible for one another) assumes new significance when we reexamine every aspect of how we approach our environment and the communities in which we live. An increasingly eyes-open approach to healthy, ethical living includes rethinking our kitchens. From shopping and cooking to appliances, there are many things we can do to make our kitchens a place we can feel good about. Here, just a few:
The “dirty dozen” are fruits and vegetables the experts say you should buy organic due to the pesticides used and absorbed during cultivation and storage. The fruits: apples, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, raspberries and strawberries. The vegetables: peppers, celery, potatoes and spinach. Since organic produce is still pricey, make wise choices. But produce such as asparagus, pineapples, corn, onions, bananas and citrus fruits are generally acceptable in their nonorganic state.
Use a common-sense approach when purchasing organic foods. If you’re on a budget, make priorities: Perhaps switch to hormone-free organic milk, eggs and butter, which do not contain antibiotics and other harmful compounds. But opt for conventional olive oil, considered danger-free.
Listen to Michael Pollan
In his book, In Defense of Food (Penguin), writer Michael Pollan lays out a simple philosophy: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Eating less meat is both cost-effective and healthy, and increasing vegetables in your diet has proven health benefits. The cabbage recipe that follows is hearty, filling and full of fiber and other nutrients.
By eating locally you develop relationships with farmers and local purveyors and learn how they grow their food. You will also be supporting local economies and reducing the carbon footprint by buying foods not flown in from far away. And you will gain an understanding of what is in season.
For drinking and cooking, avoid bottled water, which drains water resources. Instead, install a filter on your sink tap; it will save money as well as a lot of plastic. Soap your dishes with the water off, then rinse them together as a group. If you have a lot of cleanup, use the dishwasher; it is more efficient than handwashing.
Keep the use of paper plates and plastic silverware to a minimum. These items typically get thrown away and are a burden on landfills. The same goes for disposable plastic containers. Instead, opt for Tupperware or glass.
Switch to natural products, such as Method and Seventh Generation. Also, try natural ingredients such as vinegar for cutting grease, lemon juice for stain removal and baking soda as an odor absorber.
Preheat the oven only as long as needed, and try not to open the oven during cooking since it releases heat and makes the oven “work” harder. When boiling water, keep a lid on the pot. Also, look for appliances that have an EnergyStar rating indicating energy-efficiency, which will reduce monthly energy bills. When possible, use smaller appliances, such as toaster ovens and hotplates, which use less energy.
Red Winter Braise
Braising—cooking in liquid—makes the cabbage tender and delicious. It tastes even better the next day, when the flavors have melded.
1 TB olive oil
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 TBs balsamic vinegar
1 head red cabbage (about 3 lbs),
cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large apple, cored and grated
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in an oven-safe, deep sauté pan or a soup pot over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion and cook, stirring until translucent, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add stock, wine, brown sugar and 1/2 cup vinegar and stir to dissolve sugar. Add cabbage and apple, toss to coat, raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Cover and transfer to oven; braise for 45 minutes, until cabbage is tender.
4. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 2 TBs vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature.