There was a time when carrot skins, radish greens and beet tops used to go straight from the cutting board to the trash bin. Then came the compost movement and all those vegetable scraps were destined for a future as fantastic fertilizer. Now comes chef Chris Barnett of Los Angeles’ Stir Market — a boutique California take on the classic European food-hall experience — who’s decided that one chef’s trash is indeed another’s treasure. Rather than toss his vegetable scraps in the garbage or compost bin, he uses them on his menu — think nose-to-tail cooking but with a carrot standing in for a pig.
Baby corn has long been a stir-fry staple, and those so-named baby carrots have become the obligatory sidekick to hummus. But small vegetables only seem to betting bigger — at least in supermarkets and restaurants. Earlier this year, California’s Shanley Farms introduced “single-serving” avocados (trademark name: Gator Eggs) sold in clever packages reminiscent of egg cartons. Produce titan Green Giant sells Little Gem Lettuce Hearts, a lettuce hybrid that resembles romaine in miniature. Not to mention the countless iterations of baby broccoli — in fact, a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale — that appear in grocery stores everywhere. Are bitty vegetables merely an eye-catching novelty or are there culinary benefits to downsized produce?
At least for chefs, the most desirable baby vegetables are generally the ones that are indeed babies — that is, harvested young. “When grown well and picked fresh, baby vegetables eat beautifully,” says Aimee Olexy, chef and owner of Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Daily, in Philadelphia. “Often tender and sweet, they require less overall cooking and retain a more perky mouthfeel and appeal on the plate. Young baby peas and beets are almost always wonderful, and a dainty little treat worth the work,” she says.
The journey of Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge from New York City executives to country farmers has been well-chronicled — on the reality TV show The Fabulous Beekman Boys and in their best-selling cookbook The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook (both named after their historic home in upstate New York, Beekman 1802). Combining their business savvy with their love of the land and what it can produce, the duo have become well-known for turning a struggling goat farm into a thriving enterprise, producing goat’s milk soap, artisanal cheese and a cornucopia of vegetables.
Their latest book, The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden, is year-round celebration of what they grow, and delicious ways in which home cooks can share in the bounty.
What’s a good way to expand your vegetable palate beyond the basics?
When in doubt, roast. Nearly any vegetable can be tossed in olive oil and salt — and red pepper flakes if you like them — and roasted in a 375 to 400 degree oven until browned and softened. It works with everything from the hardest winter squashes to delicate hearts of romaine lettuce. If there’s anything you’re curious about, buy it, roast it, and chances are, you’ll love it.
For a Longer Life, Pass the Salad Tongs
Given all the nutrition studies out there, you might think researchers have tested every hypothetical in the book. Turns out there was a ginormous one missing. Earlier this week, researchers at University College London released the very first report to not just associate eating fruits and vegetables with reduced risk of death of any cause but also to put numbers to the benefit per serving: Eat seven or more portions of produce, and you’ll apparently be 42 percent less likely to die at any given point in time. (Note that the magic of statistics make this sound a little more exciting that in is: No matter how many carrots you eat, you will keel over, eventually.) Drawing on a Health Survey for England data set involving 65,226 people between 2001 and 2013, the study was also able to narrow things down by portion (five to seven servings might buy you a 36 percent reduction, and three to five could get you 25 percent). Fresh produce had the strongest effect, reducing risk by 16 percent per portion. Canned or frozen fruit appeared to increase death odds by 17 percent, most likely because of the foods’ sugar content say the researchers. Always a good bet? Salad, which was associated with a 13 percent gain in the longevity department.
1. Help Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
Cabbage is part of the cruciferous veggie family, along with Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kale. According to a 2012 meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Urology, people who ate more vegetables from the cabbage family were found to have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Additional studies have also found that eating foods from the cruciferous group may reduce the risk of stomach, mouth, colorectal and pancreatic cancers.
No More Sweet Talk
Studies have associated sugar with everything from headaches to heart disease, and yet most of us still get 18% of our total caloric intake from the stuff. That’s about 22 teaspoons each day. Here in the United States, nutritionists have long lobbied to coax us down to about 10%. But the international community is taking an even harder line. This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) brought its recommendation down to 5%, or about 100 calories per day. The recommendation is yet another strong case for transparent food labels, but until the new ones come out, here’s a crib sheet for some of the most sugar-stuffed packaged foods: Ketchup, salad dressing, soup, crackers, flavored yogurt, spaghetti sauce, bread, frozen dinners, granola, protein bars, shakes and (yep!) sushi.
During the cold winter months, when most salad greens are weary and wilted, a raw salad is sometimes the last thing anyone wants to eat. So what dish to turn to that’s healthy, tasty and quick to put together? Steamed vegetables, which can be dressed just as a salad is, are a perfect stand-in. With a flavorful dressing, they make a warming light meal or a side dish to anything you’re making for dinner. Read more
It isn’t rare to hear comments about the costs associated with eating healthy. But utilizing food scraps (like stale bread and carrot stems), which are inevitable in most kitchens, is one easy way to save money. Here are eight tips.
If you like kale, try Swiss chard
This popular leafy green has an underappreciated relative! Pick up a bunch of Swiss chard and enjoy the succulent green leaves and delicate, crunchy stems.
If you like apples, try jicama
Fresh, crunchy and slightly sweet–this lesser known root veggie is low in calories (45 per cup) and high in fiber.