A while back, I had posted an article on how insipid our produce has become. As it so happens, I am in the middle of an excellent book by Barbara Kingsolver (the same one who wrote “The Poisonwood Bible”) – “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” which chronicles a year in her family’s life as they try and live off of seasonal produce grown/raised locally. The book is excellent and makes a compelling case for trying to source local produce and eating whatever is in season. After all, do oranges in the middle of winter in Nebraska really make sense? – granted there is summer somewhere and oranges are thriving there but the cost of getting them to you just purely in terms of fossil fuels is prohibitive.What this global agro-industrial complex has done is
- Destroyed any kind of a food culture in the US. We basically eat the same things over and over again. There is no seasonal variation for the most part. The same produce is available 365 days a year.
- Created a monster of an agricultural business that thrives on creating produce that looks good, transports well, stays for long periods of time but is mostly tasteless. Heirloom varieties are either dead or dying. Read my post on tomatoes here.
- Reduced the diversity of what we intake. Most of what we eat now has some form of corn, canola or soy in it, including our livestock (through feed). That by itself is a scary thought.
Anyway, this is something that has bothered me for a while and the wife is of the same opinion. We had started purchasing cage free eggs a while back and can safely say that they do, indeed taste better. So, we are going to go a little further and try and take a shot at eating what is in season. Going forward, I will post recipes that are seasonally relevant. This weekend, we will try and procure produce from a local farmer’s market. I will let you guys know how that goes.
Meanwhile, here is what About.com has to say about what is in season in Spring. Click here.
Let me know if any of this resonates with you or not.
Veggies grilling happily on a cast iron grill pan
There is a reason cast iron cookware has been the cornerstone of kitchens since the iron age (it would have been harder before then because iron hadn’t been forged yet – :-)). For one thing, it is sturdy. Secondly, it is relatively cheap (that absolutely appeals to the cheap Desi in me). Thirdly, it is versatile. It retains heat very well and as a result can cook foods evenly. I had stayed away from cast iron cookware mostly because it was an unknown and also because growing up I was used to stainless steel and aluminum cookware but not much else. So for the longest time I have been cooking on non-stick and hard anodized aluminum surfaces. I had briefly considered stainless steel but not gone that route because stainless steel requires the use of excessive amounts of grease to ensure that nothing sticks – which I don’t like. In the process of being cooked, I like my food to have stepped through a few puddles of grease, not swum across a river of it.
Then two things happened – we received a gift card to a cooking store (Sur la Table) and I realized that cast iron cookware, if properly seasoned, is virtually non-stick. That meant I could cook with less oil, which is my preferred method anyway. Curiosity piqued, I did some more research and found that cast iron cookware “leaches” or imparts iron to whatever is cooked in it. Added iron in the diet for the kind of food we eat is not necessarily a bad thing. So I went to the store, looked at the fancy French brands – Le Creuset and Staub and then the cheap Desi got the better of me and I got myself a 10 1/4 inch square ribbed grill pan made by Lodge. I figured, I can use this for grilling veggies with nice grill marks as well as for veggie burgers and panini sandwiches. Plus the price couldn’t be beat – it was under $20 with a price match.
So far, I have only grilled veggies and I like it. Unlike an electric panini maker, the veggies remain juicy but have nice grill marks. The pan has also been surprisingly easy to clean up.
Next thing for me to do is to try using a non-ribbed skillet for anything I use a regular frying pan for. I did use the balance of the gift card to get one of these. I will let you know what I find out but I know it will be a fun process.