'The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts. That things are not so ill as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.' - George Eliot
Published: Mar 10, 2014
Category: Food and Wine
Water Footprints: There’s a drought in California, where 80% of the water goes to agriculture. A good time to ask: “How much water does it take to grow your favorite foods?” The New York Times did the math. Beef: 4,000,000 gallons per ton produced. (Slaughtering and processing beef requires another 132 gallons of water per animal.) In contrast, vegetables need 85,000 gallons per ton. (Put another way, that’s 5.4 gallons of water for a head of broccoli, 3.3 gallons for one tomato.)
What can one person do to save the most precious resource on the planet? If you change your diet to replace 50 percent of animal products with plants, that reduces your food-related water footprint by 30%. Go vegetarian and you reduce your water footprint by almost 60%.
Most people like animal protein; if you’re like me, you don’t want to become a vegetarian. We all know — we hear it incessantly — that a smart serving of animal protein looks like a deck of cards or your closed fist. That represents a change of diet for many of us. Not a radical change, but a change that leaves a vast area of your plate to be filled by vegetables — which, if you’re like me, you cook in unimaginative ways.
Two cookbooks do right by vegetables. One is gorgeous and inspiring about a lot more than cooking. It’s sophisticated but hardly esoteric. And it includes recipes for animal entrees: At Home with May and Axel Vervoordt: Recipes for Every Season. The other is this book. Don’t be fooled by the title — it’s also dotted with recipes for meat. Just not a lot. So, only because the Patricia Wells cookbook has more recipes and her recipes call for fewer ingredients that may not be in your spice cabinet, I’m showcasing her book. (If you have a favorite vegetable cookbook, I’d like to hear about it.)
Patricia Wells, an American living in Paris, started her cookbook series in the traditional way — with a book about bistros. She moved up the food chain to fine Paris restaurants, then wandered south to Provence and the Trattoria cooking of Italy.
And now this book on vegetables.
“Vegetable Harvest” establishes Patricia Wells as Julia Child for the new millennium. She’s not a frothing New Ager, telling you to heap your plate with vegetables because meat is sinful — she’s just a close observer of traditional French cooking. That is, meat/fish/poultry prominent on the plate, just cooked with vegetables or surrounded by them. [To buy "Vegetable Harvest" from Amazon, click here.]
To that good sense, she’s added some welcome information: nutritional data about the dish — Tomato and Strawberry Gazpacho (below) is 27 calories per serving, with 1 gram of protein and 6 grams of carbohydrates, and a suggestion of a smart wine. And she’s not above serving up the odd fact about her subjects (did you know that, in the 16th century, Europeans considered the tomato as an aphrodisiac?).
“Vegetable Harvest” is an encyclopedia of recipes — it’s 300 pages, with almost no commentary. Most are simple, requiring few exotic ingredients or advanced techniques. I’m particularly excited about the soups, but judging from the recipes I’ve tried and the pages I’ve turned down, there’s a lot here to love in every category — including meat and fish.
TOMATO AND STRAWBERRY GAZPACHO
1 pound fresh tomatoes, NOT peeled, but rinsed, cored and quartered
1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and stemmed
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
In a food processor or blender, puree tomatoes and strawberries. Add vinegar and blend. Taste for seasoning. Chill thoroughly. Serve in small, clear glasses.
ASPARAGUS BRAISED WITH FRESH ROSEMARY AND BAY LEAVES
16 plump spears white or green asparagus
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
several sprigs fresh rosemary
several bay leaves, preferably fresh
Rinse the asparagus and trim the rough ends. In a skillet large enough to hold all the asparagus in a single layer, combine the asparagus, oil, salt, rosemary and bay leaves. Sprinkle with several tablespoons of cold water. Cover. Cook over high heat until the oil-water mixture starts to sizzle. Reduce the heat to medium and braise the asparagus, turning from time to time, just until the asparagus starts to brown in spots — 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Serve immediately.
The band is Future Islands. Mesmerizing at the start, eye-popping at the end — watching Sam Herring is like watching the young Brando. On tour now. April 30 in New York already sold out. It’s like that. So… full screen. Maximum volume.
When we last checked in on Nellie McKay, she was crooning like a l930s chanteuse at the Carlyle Hotel. Now she’s rapping in support of gays in Russia. In Russian. Over there, the word is здорово. Here, it’s “awesome.”
Jean Hanff Korelitz is everywhere. In a few weeks, you can lay hands on her new novel, You Should Have Known. d She’s plowing ahead with her great idea for book clubs, Book the Writer. And now she’s penned a reminiscence of her aunt, Helene Hanff, author of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road.
One reason our daughter writes ‘I am awesome” on snow-covered cars in winter is because Opal Campbell was her caregiver for her first five years. Opal is loving but firm, full of plans and adventures that kids love, steady, honest — we have nothing but praise for her. She’s now looking for full or part-time work, ideally in Manhattan. Write me or call her at 917-533-3487.
Obligatory Blog Roll
- Andrew Tobias
- Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Charles Pierce
- Letters of Note
- James Fallows
- Dominique Browning
- Andrew Romano
- Lux Lotus
- The New Yorker
- Jeffrey Rubin