Cooking That's Kind To The Earth And Your Wallet

May 21, 2010 1:02:58 PM PDT
With food prices skyrocketing due to the ethanol boom and astronomical fuel costs, many people are left wondering whether they can eat in a way that's good for the earth without breaking the bank. Chef Melissa Graham says, with careful shopping, smart cooking and some good old fashioned frugality, environmental and fiscal sustainability can happily coexist in your kitchen. Top 10 Sustainable Cooking Tips

1. Use your microwave when you can - it uses less energy
2. Preheat only when necessary
3. Don't rinse your food under running water but instead in a bowl and re-use the water for watering your plants
4. Bring your food to room temperature before baking or roasting
5. Get rid of your disposal and compost instead
6. Be smart about your menus - cook things together, cook dishes with the same ingredients
7. When buying appliances, look for the Energy Star label
8. Use your convection oven - it uses less energy and cooks dishes quicker
9. Use your dishwasher wisely - only rinse when necessary and wash only when full
10. Avoid disposables that can't be recycled - zipper bags, plastic wrap, paper towels and napkins

Additional tips can be found at www.having-company.blogspot.com. Melissa Graham will be teaching Cooking That's Kind to the Earth and Your Wallet on July 8, 2008, at 7:00 p.m. at the Lincoln Park Whole Foods, 1000 West North Ave., Chicago IL 60622, 312.587-0648.

Biography

Melissa Graham inherited her love of cooking and hospitality from her parents, a couple who loved to entertain with entertaining friends. Through them, Melissa was exposed to good food, both in fine restaurants and in clam shacks. Growing up near the bounty of the Atlantic on Long Island instilled in Melissa a respect for local and sustainable products. One of her mother's specialties was chowder made with clams harvested from the Great South Bay only hours before.

Melissa's cooking education began at four when her parents charged her with preparing dinner one night a week. Although some of the earlier dinners were quite minimalist, such as PB&J on Ritz Crackers, her expertise grew. Over the years, cooking moved from chore to passion and then obsession, driving her finally to leave behind her first career as a partner at McDermott Will & Emery to co-found Monogramme Events & Catering.

Melissa is also the President and founder of Purple Asparagus, a non-profit dedicated to bringing families back to the table by promoting and enjoying all the things associated with good eating. She previously was a member of the Advisory Board of Slow Food Chicago and was a contributing editor of the Slow Food Guide to Chicago's Bars, Restaurants and Markets.

Melissa is currently the membership chair of Chicago's Green City Market marketing board and a member of the www.LTHforum.com round table. She authors Having-Company, an online resource on sustainability (www.blogspot.having-company.com) and frequently speaks and gives classes on sustainability at various locales, including Whole Foods, the Chicagoland Flower & Garden Show, Bloomingdales and Green City Market. She's been featured by a number of publications including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out Chicago, the New York Observer and has appeared on ABC7 Chicago and CLTV.

Melissa lives in a Roscoe Village roughhouse built in 1896 with her husband, Michael, her son, Thor, and dog, Sam.

Recipes from Melissa Graham's Sustainability 101 classes offered at Whole Foods (www.wholefoods.com) in Lincoln Park and the South Loop:

Baked Frittata with Red Peppers, Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese

For 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to grease the baking pan
2 red peppers, ribs and seeds removed
1 bunch Swiss chard, ribs removed
10 eggs
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
5 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
4 ounces fresh goat cheese

EQUIPMENT SUGGESTED: A large non-stick sauté pan and a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.

METHODS: Grease the baking pan. Slice the red peppers ¼-inch thick. Coarsely chop the Swiss chard. In the sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the red pepper and sauté, stirring often until the peppers are softened and colored, but not blackened. Remove the peppers from the pan. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the sauté pan, heat until hot, add Swiss chard and cook until wilted. Continue to cook until any water that the chard has released has evaporated. Add the chard to the peppers and let cool. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the cream. Add the scallions, peppers, and Swiss chard. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour into the prepared baking pan. Coarsely crumble the fresh goat cheese and sprinkle over the egg mixture. Turn oven on to 350ºF. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the center is almost completely set and the eggs are golden. Cut into squares.

DO-AHEAD NOTES: The eggs can be baked the day before and refrigerated. Serve at room temperature or reheat in a 400º F oven for 7-10 minutes.

Quinoa with Yellow Pepper, Spring Onions & Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 6 as a side dish

Quinoa is an amazing gluten-free grain, which comes from the Andes Mountains of South America. It contains more protein than any other grain and cooks in less than 15 minutes.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup quinoa
1 yellow pepper
2 spring or 3 green onions
1 large clove garlic
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 half pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into half
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper taste
2 tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped finely

METHODS: Put 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt into a medium-size pot. Bring the water to a boil. Immediate reduce it to a simmer and cook, covered, for approximately 15 minutes. The quinoa is done when it is translucent and the germ has separated from the side. Remove the stem and seeds from the pepper and cut into ¼-inch dice. Chop the onions finely. Mince the garlic. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add yellow pepper and onions and sauté until just tender approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant approximately 30 seconds. Add cumin and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Add yellow pepper and onion mixture to quinoa along with the tomatoes. Put the lemon juice in a small bowl, drizzle in the olive oil whisking to combine. Add to quinoa and taste for seasoning. Mix in the basil just prior to serving.

DO-AHEAD NOTES: The quinoa can be served warm or at room temperature. It can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. Add basil just prior to serving.

Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia

Serves 6

U.S. farm-raised tilapia is considered a Best Choice by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch and by the Shedd Aquarium's Right Bite Program. I like to pair this recipe with the Roasted and Marinated Peppers.

INGREDIENTS:

6 tilapia filets
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons water
½ cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Zest from half of a lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 grinds of pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

EQUIPMENT SUGGESTED: Wax paper, meat tenderizer, three shallow bowls, non-stick sauté pan, spatula and heatproof platter.

METHODS: Preheat oven to 200° F. Add the flour in the first, the eggs and water in the second, and the panko crumbs, parmesan cheese, chives, lemon zest, salt and pepper in the third. Mix together the water and egg in one bowl and then the bread crumbs, cheese, chives, lemon zest, salt and pepper in the other. In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil or more to cover the bottom over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Dredge the tilapia first in the flour, then the egg mixture and finally the bread crumb mixture. Add each tilapia filet into the pan and immediately turn the heat to medium. Sauté for 4 minutes on one side and 3 minutes on the other. Place finished tilapia onto a heat-proof platter or dish and put into the oven to keep warm.

Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:

6 bell peppers of various colors
6 garlic cloves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon good sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

EQUIPMENT SUGGESTED: Medium bowl, plastic wrap.

METHODS: Grill, broil or roast the peppers over an open flame. Put the peppers into bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap until cool to the touch. Remove the skins and the seeds from the peppers. Slice into ¼-inch slices. Very thinly slice garlic cloves. Mix together the peppers, sliced garlic cloves, olive oil, vinegar and salt in a medium-size bowl and marinate overnight.

DO-AHEAD NOTES: The peppers should be made the day before and can be kept for two days in the refrigerator.

SECOND USE: The peppers can top crostini or be tossed with fresh pasta and goat cheese for a simple dinner.


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