Sustainable Cooking by Celebrate Knoxville Food Writer Mary June Thompson.—At the heart of Sustainable Cooking is local food, particularly from producers who utilize sustainable farming practices. Knoxville’s Market Square Farmers’ Market just kicked off its 12th season this past Saturday, and I visited the Market to buy local, sustainable ingredients straight from the growers.
A few local farmers, such as Brewer’s Mushrooms, also grow foods that have medicinal properties, which is gaining popularity. Of course we all know that plant foods are better for us than processed foods, but the modern medical community is just beginning to study the specific effects of certain plants on our health, and while more research is needed to confirm much of the anecdotal evidence out there, a lot of the research is proving that the ancient world was onto something in treating or preventing common maladies with the fruit of the earth.
Best wine pairing for this week’s Market Square Farmers Market recipe: Pour a glass of Blue Slip Winery’s Spring Traminette, containing flavors of apricot and honeysuckle, which complement the fruit and honey notes in this salad.
MJ’s Health Salad
Dressing: In a large bowl, combine 1 Tablespoon each unfiltered apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil; 1 teaspoon local wildflower honey; 1 small or half of a large garlic clove, minced; and 1/8 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper per salad serving. Whisk until emulsified and set aside while assembling salad ingredients.
Salad: You will need, per salad serving: 2 Tablespoons chopped, toasted walnuts; 2 Tablespoons crumbled goat cheese; 2 Tablespoons finely chopped dried apricots; 1/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries, 2 cups fresh baby spinach.
Whisk dressing again just before adding the salad ingredients to the bowl. Toss to coat and divide equally among plates, if preparing multiple servings.
Serving suggestion for a non-vegetarian entrée and additional lean protein: Marinate 1 organic chicken breast per person in buttermilk (and a few dashes of hot sauce, if desired) for at least 4 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator. Drain, pat dry, season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and grill until internal temperature reaches 165° or to desired degree of doneness. Cool to room temperature, slice, and toss with other salad ingredients.
Why is this a truly a health salad with sustainable ingredients?
Honey is said to have antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar has been shown to have an antibacterial and anti-glycemic effect. Raw garlic consumption may offer protective benefits against heart disease and cancer. Extra virgin olive oil contains healthy fats and antioxidants, which contribute to heart health and reduce inflammation. Despite all the recent hype about kale, spinach is still a nutritional powerhouse, containing, among other things, good amounts of iron and Vitamin K, which are essential for blood health. Dried apricots provide fiber, which is essential for the digestive system, and minerals such as iron and potassium. Strawberries are full of Vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, and antioxidants. Goat cheese has calcium and protein. And walnuts are one of the most concentrated food sources of nutrients, including protein, heart-healthy fats, and significant amounts of trace minerals. This merely highlights some of the health benefits of these foods and is not a complete list of all their nutritional aspects or health benefits. Regardless, consuming a sustainable, local, plant-based diet is an easy and delicious way to benefit your overall health and may help to prevent chronic diseases from developing in the first place. Now that’s my kind of “medicine”.
Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.
—Sustainable Cooking, CelebrateKnoxville.com, May 6, 2015.