Taking Time To Savor And Enjoy
By now, lots of folks know about an Italian movement called ‘slow food’ that promotes the preservation of heritage foods that take time to cook or prepare. In today’s kitchen’s, many of us prefer to cook at lightning speeds. Super chef shows teach us to use high heat and consistent chopping to create amazing food very quickly. This works splendidly when we prepare freshly picked foods, cook them lightly and serve them up within minutes. When we settle for insta-meals with poor nutritional quality, we don’t nourish ourselves or our beloved mother earth.
As a student long ago, I spent several years in Italy and was enchanted by the relationships between people, place and food. I took cooking lessons and saw first hand how to roll out pasta so thin you could read through it. I learned how to make sauces with a richness I hadn’t known could exist. I tasted oils, vinegars, wines, breads, cheese, and butters that had a distinct flavor of place. Returning to New England, I tried to incorporate those experiences into my daily cooking, but lacking those amazing ingredients, it wasn’t easy and not always successful.
Taking It Slow
Some people feel like slow food is awesome but only for those with all the time in the world. They’ll gladly pay for a slow food meal, but can’t imagine making one happen at home. Happily, it’s very do-able these days, especially since we have access to seed and starts for fabulous tasting vegetables from all over the world. Slow begins in the garden, travels in a leisurely way through the kitchen and ends up on our tables, where hopefully we’ll take our sweet time and savor it with respectful admiration.
Even if you don’t grow your own, we can celebrate slow food by choosing hand raised, local organic produce instead of agri-produce from Peru or Mexico. The rich diversity of terrain in the Northwest allows us to enjoy cherries and peaches from Yakima as well as raspberries and baby greens from your own backyard, or the farmers’ market. We can also pick up great ideas by asking friends and neighbors how they use favorite food crops. I recall being taken to dinner in Iowa and asking what the regional specialties were. The hosts looked surprised and said, “Well, pork and soybeans, I guess.” What we ate was hearty All-American without any special character, quickly eaten and utterly forgettable.
Try It, You’ll Like It
In happy contrast, the rich diversity of people in this area gives us a complex regional heritage that combines Native American, European, and Asian influences with panache. Here are some examples of beautiful, tasty, and healthy foods that celebrate the best of the Northwest. Take your time while making them, or better yet, invite a friend to help stem herbs and chop vegetables. When you sit down together at the table, the time shared will make the food taste better than ever.
Next time you have company, try topping grilled salmon with a fruity fresh chutney. Lively with chili and ginger, soothing with mint, and sparkling with cilantro, the tart-sweet balance is intriguing on the palate and pretty on the plate.
Salmon with Peach & Raspberry Chutney
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet
1 teaspoon virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 ripe peach, peeled and chopped
1 cup raspberries
1 Walla-Walla sweet onion, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1-2 fresh chilies, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/2 organic lime, juiced, rind grated
1/4 cup cilantro, stemmed
1/4 cup mint, shredded
Rinse fish, pat dry. Rub skinless side with oil and pat on 1 teaspoon garlic and 1/8 tsp. salt. In a bowl, combine peach, raspberries, sweet onion, ginger, chilies, vinegar, lime juice and rind, cilantro, mint, and remaining garlic and salt. Toss gently, set aside to meld. Grill or broil fish for 3-5 minutes per side, turning once. Remove to a plate, cover tightly with foil, let stand 5 minutes. Skin fish and serve with chutney. Serves 4.
Crunchy, Crispy, Spunky
At noon or night, pass a bowl of crunchy salad. Toss crisp bok choy with slivers of ruffled red cabbage, spicy arugula, sweet cherry tomatoes, and green onions. To wake up your senses, add fresh herbs with a generous hand, and top it off with edible calendula petals or spicy nasturtiums.
Crisp Summer Salad
2 cups bok choy, shredded
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup arugula, shredded
6 green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon shredded lemon balm
1 teaspoon stemmed fresh thyme
1/4 cup stemmed fresh fennel tips
1/4 cup stemmed fresh parsley
1/2 cup Sungold or any cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 tablespoons calendula petals or nasturtiums
In a bowl, combine all ingredients but flowers or petals. Toss gently, drizzle with dressing (see below) and serve, garnished with flowers or petals. Serves four.
A Delightful Dressing
Give any salad or vegetable melange some spunk by drizzling on an enticing blend of smoky toasted sesame, zippy fresh ginger, and fresh lemon juice that doubles as a terrific marinade for chicken or pork. The distinctive flavor comes from nanami togarashi, a blend of chili peppers, sesame seeds, seaweed and orange peel (you’ll find the handy little shaker in the Asian section of your grocery store).
Spicy Sesame-Ginger Dressing
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 inch fresh ginger root, finely grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
1/3 cup sweet rice vinegar
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon nanami togarashi or hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon shoyu or soy sauce
In a jar, combine all ingredients. Shake well to emulsify, drizzle over greens, lightly toss and serve. Store unused dressing in the refrigerator. Makes about 3/4 cup.
The slow food movement has spread all over the world as people decide that faster is not always better. To learn more about the ideas and principles behind slow food, visit the American website at: http://www.slowfoodusa.org