More and more people are asking me for tips on the right food to eat and food preparation. It seems that we have forgotten how to eat and cook of our own food in this crazy busy world and could use a few pointers. I completely understand.
The first important consideration for me is to buy food that is seasonal. There are many reasons for this. When you buy food in season you will be buying fresher food and fresher food is going to be more nutritious. Produce that has traveled a long distance will be lower in nutrients than produce grown locally and in season and it tastes better when it’s fresh. If those aren’t enough reasons, remember the carbon dioxide emissions associated with food that travels miles to your plate. Buying local helps save the environment. Remember that what you eat makes a difference to the health of your body and its also a social, political, spiritual, and environmental statement.
Find what’s local and seasonal in your area with the ingredient map on the epicurious.com website that include recipes and tips to optimize flavor. You might discover new foods that you’ve never tried before.
For instance, I just received an email from one of the best cooks I know and is very skilled at buying and cooking seasonal food. She described how she just discovered sweet potato greens. She recently made friends with a woman from Malawi in southern Africa who told her that sweet potato greens are a staple food there. Then on her next trip to the farmer’s market in Columbia, there was a vendor who had sweet potato greens for sale. She got the recipe on how to cook them and shared it with me.
So, in case you run across a bunch of sweet potato greens before they wind up in the compost pile (or worse), here’s what to do:
Wash the leaves and chop roughly. Heat a little bit of oil in a sauté pan and put in the greens. Salt lightly. As they cook, chop some tomatoes (I used small roma tomatoes and simply halved them). Use whatever ratio of tomatoes to greens you like. Squeeze in a little lemon juice. Add a tablespoon of peanut butter, especially the kind that is just the ground nuts (I used almond butter because that’s what I had). Cover the pan and let things cook in just the liquid from the leaves, plus the lemon juice, for just a few minutes. Uncover and stir things around so the nut butter sort of melts into the liquid in the pan. Then enjoy! The dish is not highly seasoned but has some texture and a delicate complexity of flavors. Apparently, sourness of the lemon juice is they key in their preparation of the dish.
Try something new, local, and seasonal. Taste the difference. Feel the pleasure of doing something good for your body and the rest of the world.