Thursday, January 7, 2010

The 10 best foods we are eating...and how we eat them

by June

Do you get blog posts piled up in your head but then don't get them downloaded onto your blog? Sometimes I wish I had a wireless connection between my Apple and my brain. I spent the last month spinning so hard to stitch and Photoshop and bake up our holiday festivities that when I finally stopped, I spun down into a heap on the lap of my big red chair (a.k.a. Ruby Comfort, more about her later).

Now, at last, I've sprung back to the keyboard, prodded by the New York Times' most e-mailed list, particularly by an article called "The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating." Beets and cabbage are at the top of the list. And since I have borscht bubbling on the stove at this moment and since borscht is built around beets and cabbage from our garden, I feel compelled to throw our family's huzzah of support behind ten of these lovely foods. If all of us really aren't using these great ingredients, maybe we all just need refreshed inspiration for how to best enjoy them.

I have to admit we don't eat one of the eleven. (Well, Birch does, but the rest of us sidle out of the room when he's doing it.) I hope you'll share your ways of enjoying these enjoyable foods. Here's our variation on the theme...


We love them roasted then grated into caramelized onions and tucked into ravioli or roasted and tossed with walnuts and shards of parmesan. We like them, raw or roasted, heaped with goat cheese. We find they are especially good on an arugula salad with a lemon-and-walnut oil dressing (and since I hear President Obama loves arugula but doesn't love beets, I think he should try them together; next year, for sure, beets wouldn't get left out of the White House garden). Sometimes we grate beets raw and toss them with orange juice, lemon juice, salt, pepper and parsley. Yum.


We braise red cabbage with apples, red onions, red wine, and bay leaves on slow heat for four hours. We stir fry Chinese cabbage. We also pickle it, then stir fry the sauerkraut or dice it into nuggets to sprinkle over Chinese noodles. Birch does a mean cole slaw. Borscht makes the house feel so cozy in the winter, as do Italian bean-and-Savoy cabbage soups.


I admit that I love chard more in the garden than in the kitchen. But it's just that I don't like boiling it before sauteing it with garlic. Sometimes I balk at an extra step. But chard is great in bean soup. It is sheer wonderfulness as bright, tiny leaves in spring salads. By far, the best way I've found to prepare it is Tea's recipe for tzatziki.


One of our favorite spices, cinnamon ends up in granola and muffins and oatmeal and hot chocolate. Beyond breakfast, we use it in some of our favorite sauces. It is the secret ingredient in our famous spaghetti sauce; now you know.


One of my favorite childhood memories is of the time my best friend somehow procured a pomegranate. Up until then, I thought pomegranates only existed in Song of Solomon. I loved the strange cushiony bulb for the way it split into bright halves, spilling seeds. But I loved it most for the burst of astringent flavor from each taut juice pod, followed by the crunch of the grainy seed in the center. What an entertaining fruit! My girls love the fun of pomegranates too. More often, we drink POM Wonderful, which is such a clean sharp drink it has the zing of a cocktail. I think of it as juice for grown-ups, but my kids love it too...straight from the curvy bottle or mixed with lime, fizzy water, and maple syrup.

(Full disclosure: POM Wonderful did send us some juice. But I will only ever recommend something if it is a product we do love and use.)


They're still called prunes at our house. We like them in warm dishes, like oatmeal. We adore them in that old stand-by dinner-party recipe from our newlywed days in Brooklyn, the Silver Palate's Chicken Marbella. Whenever we make the dish, we have to be vigilant that the prunes don't get high-graded out with the first servings. Who wants leftovers without the prunes?


We eat them like popcorn, roasted straight from the pumpkin then salted or spiced up with Indian seasonings or Mexican or... We also sprinkle them on salads, rice dishes and couscous. But they are the cornerstone of Birch's amazing homemade mole sauce...amazing.


Can't do it. My parents used to bring canned sardines on vacation when I was a little girl and mostly I had no choice but to eat them. If I had a choice it was Vienna sausages. 'Nough said. I know I should eat them and relish every bite. The girls know they should too. But we just can't like sardines. We'll get our Omega-3s elsewhere. Birch chokes down a few, but he too can conjure a true craving only for fresh, grilled sardines...squirted with lemon and tossed with parsley.


We eat a lot of Indian food and grate a knuckle of turmeric right into the sauces. Birch adds it to yogurt dips too. He claims he sneaks it into whatever dish he can. You'd think that bright yellow zest would give him away.


If given the choice, we would graze blueberries off the backyard bushes all year. But they would be frozen if they were out there now, which they aren.t They are in the freezer, though they never last long enough because we toss them by the handful into pancakes, muffins, smoothies, and pies. I have particular fondness for a certain lemon blueberry bread from the Ozarks, but I lost the recipe. Lost it! Anybody got a good one?


It's not autumn until I've opened a can of pumpkin to make chocolate-chip pumpkin muffins. Following Grandpa Hickory's recipe, we also make canned pumpkin into something like a pie, only without the crust. We call it pumpkin pudding. Pumpkin pancakes are good. Pumpkin is also great stirred into risotto with sage butter and a little crushed-up amaretti cookies sprinkled on top. Really.

Let's help keep one another healthy. What are your favorite ways of eating these eleven foods we're all supposedly not eating?


Emily said...

Thanks for all the ideas for eating these foods. I have some beets languishing the fridge that I'd like to make into the ravioli filling.

We don't bother boiling the chard leaves. We just chop the stems and saute with garlic, then add the chopped leaves and let them wilt like spinach. It seems to work fine that way.

Heather said...

What a list! I am impressed. I so need to venture into my household's unknown and start coloring outside the lines, so to speak. What a fun post! How are the chickens?

June said...

Emily: I have a post (in my head at the moment and in iPhoto) about making the ravioli. I will try to get it on here soon. It is the most delicious thing in the world.

Heather: Color outside those lines! It is such fun to try new things. The chickens are weathering the cold. They don't like the snow, poor things. How are yours?

Unknown said...

June, I could eat at your house ANY day. You must be a gourmet cook in hiding! I love your idea for beets. I have a few in the fridge right now and I think I'll try one of these ideas Friday night.

I've included a link for my Pumpkin Cookies. They are fairly healthy, but I should tell everyone I think they are more like a mini-scone.

Magnolia Handspun said...

We have been eating "popcorn" brusslesprouts till they come out of our ears! After your lovely and easy oven roasted recipe I have been throwing all kinds of vegetables to be roasted, works well with cauliflower, broc, carrots and othe root veg. I think the key is to omit the salt untill can't get enough (and that's a good thing)
Love pumpkin seed,hate pumpkin.
Love blueberries...
Have you tried dried unsulfered apricots? another addiction in this fam...SO good.
Why do you boil your chard before sauteing? We also do that with mustard greens, same thing... favorite.
Have a great weekend June
love from Camilla

A Friend Across the Miles said...

Good heavens, you are a cooking inspiration!

Swiss chard is my favorite green - lightly sauteed, with butter, a little fleur de sel, fresh ground pepper, and a splash of red wine vinegar. Yum - I can hardly wait for spring!

Happy weekend to you all!


Wendy said...

Beets, cabbage, blueberries, and pumpkin are a regular part of our (mostly) local northeastern diet ;). It's nice to know that trying to adhere to local foods is actually a good thing ;).

I have some beets and cabbage ... and a whole freezer of beef. I think I'll try a borscht ;). Sounds yummy!

June said...

Amy: You are welcome here any day! Your lemon curd was the highlight of our holidays. Everyone who got a little LOVED it. Swapping good food this thing ever! Can't wait to try the cookies... Thank you!

Camilla: So happy the sprouts are working for you! Roasting is the key, isn't it? That caramelized yumminess! We do love apricots, yes! I make a cranberry-apricot-walnut bread that I eat every morning for breakfast from Christmas to New Year's. I miss it already.

Everyone always says to boil the chard, so I do, good soldier that I am. But having read Emily's comment and Camie's, I am going to try it now without the extra step. Thanks, Camilla!

Camie: I want so much to love Swiss chard as much as I love kale. I am trying it your way as soon as I have my next handful. I'm with you...bring on spring! Happy weekend to you too...

Wendy: Aren't we lucky to live here and have such abundance in our reach? Our foodshed rocks! I hope you enjoy the borscht. It is awesome, and I'm so happy I'll be having leftovers for lunch!

Tan Family said...

We don't do sardines, either! I'm vegan, so I wouldn't eat fish any way. The others are all eaten here or juiced. Chard and beets are wonderful for juicing and it's a great way to get the kids to "eat" them. We also include kale, parsley, spinach, carrots, apples in the juices and get as much of it from our own yard as possible. Pumpkin seeds in our salads. Frozen blueberries in smoothies with bananas, strawberries, pomegranate juice and orange juice. Love your blog!

June said...

Jennifer: Thanks for your kind words. Isn't it wonderful that so much of what we eat comes from our own yards? I never met a child who wasn't eager to eat something she helped to grow. Love those blueberry smoothies, yum! Your blog is so inspiring! Thanks for visiting here.

Catherine said...

Oh June, that list makes my mouth water! We too love beets here (what a beautiful photo of your borsht). Now, if you ever find the time to post some of those amazing recipes that you mention in this post, that would be awesome!

And how I wish I would have a direct connection from my brain to my computer!!!

sarah said...

I sneak cabbage in our soup quite often here. Blueberries, I could put them into everything! We are a big blueberry eating family and always have some in the freezer. I can't imagine picking them off of the bush. Lucky you!

Christina said...

First, don't boil your chard. Here's what to do. Wash it well, but don't spin dry it. Instead, chop it wet and put it in the pan. Add a glug of oil and garlic (maybe some preserved lemon slivers, or red chili, or even some raisins, but save the pine nuts to toss in at the end). Cover the pan and place it over medium high heat. The water on the wet leaves will steam the chard slightly, and once you see it wilting (you really don't need to wilt it much to begin to get it nice and tender), remove the lid to let the steam escape. Once you hear the pan change from boiling off residual water to sauteing, toss the chard around in a few times in the hot oil. Ta da! Beautiful chard. Season it with salt, maybe a splash of sherry vinegar, or a pat of butter if you like, and you've got great greens. Woohoo!

Happy New Year! I hope 2010 is your best yet.

a tasteful garden said...

i just finished putting in my seed order and beets and chard were my top two new additions to the garden. i'm trying out some celeraic and rutabagas too. beets have never been something i craved, but i am determined to make myself and my family fall in love with them.

elizabeth ~ so wabi sabi said...

what a great list of ideas for using these power foods. your borscht looks delicious and I wish I had some for today...because it's so chilly.

I like to just roast beets in their skin in the oven.

we like braising cabbage too but I have a different way of doing it. I heat some olive oil and cook the onions until translucent. Then I add the chopped cabbage add some water, put the lid on and reduce heat. I cook until tender usually about 15-20 minutes.

we use swiss chard in a lot of things, but I simply like to saute it in some olive oil...I usually chop up the stems and saute them a bit before adding the leafy part with a bit of water. I never par-boil.

I really love the taste of vegetables and try to allow their natural flavors to come through so I don't add much except some sea salt in all the above cases.

one morejust because I did this for the first time yesterday... I processed raw sunnies, flax seeds, and raw pumpkin seeds with some flax seed oil to make a seed butter. it may be an acquired taste, but I really like it and it is really good for you.

thanks so much for stopping by so wabi sabi and for your sweet words. it seems we have quite a few common interests so I'll be back;)

renee ~ heirloom seasons said...

I am especially excited about all of your ways with beets. They will be a new addition to our garden this year. We always grow and eat a lot of swiss chard. We don't really ever buy juice but pomegranate juice does sound good. We sometimes use canned pumpkin and sometimes use fresh. And everything else on the list we eat often, but no sardines!

I'm so glad you visited my blog, I had found yours once before but remember getting distracted with some goat links or something... now I can visit you again :)

Country Girl said...

Enjoyed your run down of foods. You are way more of a creative cook then I. I'm getting there but it takes time. I just made a lemon blueberry bread. It was tasty. If I can find the recipe I will post here. I with you on the sardines.

Country Girl said...

Looked back, not sure which recipe I used. Plenty of them out there. I wanted to mention just before reading this post I had just read an article on yahoo about healthy foods for 2010 which were to the ones you listed, kind of ironic.

sarah in the woods said...

Oh wow! Food at your house sounds amazing. Here's my favorite use of turmeric:

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Nan said...

Wow! I am so impressed. Let's see, I do eat blueberries in homemade yogurt every morning. And I put tumeric in our bean and grain stews. And cinnamon in a few things. But that's it, though we eat spinach which might count toward the swiss chard? I don't like any of the others. How come no potatoes or lettuce or onions or garlic or zucchini or yellow beans on that list? :<)

Anonymous said...

oh June, I've missed coming here, and I know what you mean about wanting to hook the brain up to the Apple, why is there never enough time.

i'm with you on the sardines, though i must say i probably haven't given them a fair shake.

beets....well, i want to really like them, maybe i will try a few of your suggestions, right now i just pickle eggs with them.....sad really.

but pomegranate seeds. oh my, these are like jewels of heaven to Ems and I. she eats them by the handful and we will be so, so sad when they are out of season. we are throwing them daily into our granola and oatmeal. i just got done reading about how pomegranate soothes digestion, which could explain a lot about why Ems loves them.

i could talk forever about food, but at least maybe now that i've been here, i'll give the beets another try when they show up at the farmer's market come warm weather.

Gwen Buchanan said...

June this was inspirational... and I believe " Christmas" does this to most of us if we'd only admit it...

I appreciate the nudge to eat a more varied diet... Thanks...

Thomas said...

This is a great list. I will have to check out the article. Hopefully, I'll be able to try my hand at making borscht this summer with some homegrown beets. Yours looks lovely!

tom | tall clover farm said...

This is a great list, and June if you don't have enough going on, grow your own pumpkins--make that winter squash--for item 10. They're easy to grow and exceptionally flavorful. I simply store them in the cold basement until I use them. I slice into wedge, roast and puree with foodmill and pop in a ziploc bag bound for the freezer. You can also can can the puree.

My favorite pumpkins/squash are muscat de provence, Galeux d'Eysines, sugar pie, long island cheese, sweet meat, potimarron, and buttercup. The last three are the most dense, and the least watery.

Nicola said...

yes(!) on also longing a brain/computer connection!
wonderful list of foods, thank you!

Linda said...

Hello June, thanks so much for your kind thoughts. My Dad's condition is beginning to improve, but there's quite a way to go yet.

Of your list, we eat them all except cinnamon and canned pumpkin. Cinnamon features rarely in our house because our daughter hates it. When we visited Canada a couple of years ago she was distressed to find so many foods containing cinnamon which wouldn't in the UK - porridge, for example! And canned pumpkin isn't really part of British life. I can't recall ever seeing it in a shop, tho I suppose it must be available somewhere.

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