Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman1, our current Cook the Books Club selection, offers a wide historical view of nutrition in recent decades, with a particular focus on foods that moved from being consumed by a relatively small number of people to becoming mainstream. Each chapter introduces a varied cast of characters each of whom has contributed one or more threads to the complex tapestry Kauffman weaves as he describe the evolution of eating habits from the 1960's to the present.
As with a previous Cook the Books selection, The Food Explorer by Daniel Stone, the interest is in obtaining a historical view of what we observe in the present and may even take for granted, like organic certification. This reader sometimes had difficulty keeping in mind all the names and who did what. My suggestions would be to read the book in small bites.
Although I have lived in California for 25 years, I spent my childhood and early adulthood in Italy, so I don't have firsthand experience of the events described in the book that predate my move. The situation in Italy was different from that in the US. For example, Italians have always been serious about their bread, buying it fresh almost daily from a neighborhood bakery. I have never experienced the "plastic bread" described in the book. I do remember, however, when whole-wheat bread (pane integrale) became more readily available, as the health benefits of whole grains became better known.
The book contains no recipes, but mentions a lot of foods, cookbooks and recipes. The inspiration for me came when early on, the book talks about alfalfa sprouts. I have eaten sprouts (germogli) occasionally, though I am not a regular consumer. Microgreens2, on the other hand, have become a favorite salad ingredient, and I am fortunate I can get a variety of them at the farmers' market. The book also talks about farmers' markets and organic certification and my dish takes advantage of both.
Our farmers' markets have remained open during the shelter-in-place period so I have maintained access to fresh, locally grown produce and the precious smiles of our farmers, quite visible even behind masks. Although shopping at the market is not the festive social occasion it used to be, I am grateful I can do it and don't mind abiding by the rules that make us all (farmers and customers) safe.
I buy carrots, radishes and salad turnips by the bunch, then, once I get home, I cut off the greens from all of them and use those in other dishes. I admit I am still learning to appreciate carrot tops: they have a rather strong grassy flavor that I must dilute with other greens. The Persian dish Kuku Sabzi (herb and green frittata), described in a recent post3, is perfect for making use of the greens mentioned above plus fresh spinach (spinaci).
One great characteristic of carrots, radishes and salad turnips is that they last a few days, unlike their greens, which wilt fairly quickly. This is particularly important for me as I am the only root vegetable eater in the household, which explains why the recipe is for one. Of course, it can be easily multiplied to nourish all the people around your table.
- 4 ounces / 113 g of a combination of carrots, radishes and salad turnips, possibly organic, clean weight [see below]
- 1/2 medium ripe avocado
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, possibly homemade
- A pinch of fine sea salt
- 1 ounce/ 28 g microgreens of choice (for example, sunflowers, broccoli, arugula)
Scrub carrots well and scrape surface to remove a thin layer of skin. Scrub radishes and salad turnips and trim the tails.
Grate the root vegetables using the extra-coarse side of a hand grater. Combine to get a total of 4 ounces / 113 g. The number of units depends on their size and also on your taste: for example, more carrots mean a sweeter salad, while more radishes will give your salad more of a bite.
Scoop the avocado meat into a small salad bowl or onto a plate. Add the mayonnaise and salt, and mash well. Add the grated vegetables and toss well, then mound them in the middle.
Distribute the microgreens around the root vegetables and serve. Toss again before eating.
1 The author's website and a review of the book on the NY Times.
2 This page explains the differences between sprouts and microgreens.
3 My recent post featuring a personal version of Kuku Sabzi (Persian herb and green frittata)
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the insalata di carote, ravanelli, rape e micro verdure audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]