Several years ago I got one of those forward emails that everyone sends. It was a photo essay by photograher, Peter Menzel, documenting what families all around the world pay for groceries, and what they eat in one week. The intent of the sender, by the accompanying message, was to illustrate how fortunate we, as Americans, are in relation to the rest of the world. That, however, was not how I looked at it. I was a bit shocked and somewhat dismayed, to see the amount of pre-packaged, frozen, processed garbage that the American family ate and how much money they spent on their weekly grocery bill. Interestingly, as the countries became more “Third World“, the food became less processed, contained more fruits, vegetables, grains and less protein. Third World countries eat lower on the food chain, that’s a fact. They also have lower incidences of food related diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. I try to feed my family “lower on the food chain” at least two days a week. The word “vegetarian” sometimes scares people off, yet nobody blinks if you serve macaroni and cheese, pasta primavera or eggplant parmigiana.
I think, no, I know, that I spend an inordinate amount of time reading books about the politics of food, healthy eating and vegetarianism. I love eating too much to ever go completely vegetarian, but I like to make informed decisions about what I eat and serve to my family. My favorite food quote is by Michael Pollan, author of, In Defense of Food and The Ominvore’s Dilemma, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Feel free to kick the soap box out from under my feet now! You can click on this link to see Peter’s photo essay. What the World Eats…Photo Essay by Peter Menzel.
I experimented with being a vegetarian for about 6 months when I was in high school. Inspired in part by Frances Moore Lappe’s book, Diet for a Small Planet, my mom and I cooked our way through Recipes for a Small Planet, by Ellen Buchman Ewald. One of our favorite meals was Barley and Yogurt Soup. Forty years later, both Lappe’ and Ewald’s books seem incredibly prescient.
Barley and Yogurt Soup
1 1/2 cups raw barley, cooked
1 quart cold water
2 cups yogurt
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 small onion, chopped (or more)
2 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 teaspoon salt (to taste
white pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives and or parsley
Stir the yogurt into the cold water in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
Beat the eggs in a large saucepan or soup pot and whisk the flour into them gradually; then whisk in the yogurt mixture.
Put the pot over a high flame don’t let it boil, but keep it simmering until it thickens slightly. Stir or whisk often.
Stir in the cooked barley, onions, butter and salt. Sprinkle with fresh herbs just before serving. Makes 2 1/2 quarts.
This Mushroom Stroganoff I created from a couple of different recipes, not finding exactly what I wanted in any one recipe.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced (I used Portabellos and creminis)
Couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced (or more if you like)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 to 3/4 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
8 oz. egg noodles
Heat butter and olive oil in a large saute pan. Add onion and and cook over medium heat until softened.
Add minced garlic, thyme and sliced mushrooms, continue cooking until tender and browned.
Deglaze the pan with the brandy, stirring a minute or two.
Add broth and bring to a boil. Cooking until reduced by about 1/3.
Whisk the sour cream and flour together in a small bowl and stir into mushroom mixture.
Season with salt and both black and white pepper*.
Serve on top of cooked egg noodles.
* I know this sounds corny, but white pepper really does add a certain “je ne sais quoi” to a dish. It definitely does not taste like black pepper, and a little goes a long way. Test it out, especially in bechamel or white sauces or anything with spinach. (Nutmeg and spinach are also a really nice marriage!)