Review written & photographed by Jordan A.R.
Terry Walters’s book Clean Food (published by Sterling Epicure, $30 USD) is more than just a pile of recipes: it’s a guide for developing a healthy lifestyle based around eating food close to its source in order to maximize the nutritional benefits. Clean food means real, minimally processed, seasonal food.
The nutritional information that jump starts this book for the first thirty-five pages opened my eyes not only to how depleted my regular diet is, but how easy it can be to make small changes that amp up the value of what I eat. For example, adding a small piece of kombu (a type of kelp) during the cooking process of whatever meal you make will infuse the dish with important minerals, improve digestibility, and (possibly) reduce gas. Another helpful tip was that since grains contain phytic acid, which interferes with the absorption of essential minerals, they should be soaked for a minimum of one hour, then rinsed, so that the water soluble acid vanishes and leaves you with a new and improved complex carbohydrate. Simple and effective!
Divided into the four seasons along with an “anytime” chapter, the 200 + recipes in Clean Food offer a variety of simple, healthful dishes to guide you throughout the year. My one concern with this book was that it uses a lot of ingredients I don’t normally stock in the pantry, and so the grocery bills can add up pretty quickly if, like me, you’re somewhat new to this style of eating. But once you’re stocked you’re good to go and, based on all of the information at the start of the book, it’s worth the extra money in the beginning. My only other complaint is that there are no photos. But I checked her website and it seems that a revised edition of Clean Food is forthcoming that will be gluten-free friendly with new recipes, a snack section, and photographs!
Sautéed Garlic Greens
RATING: 5 out of 5 (fresh, simple and quick)
The Test: A handful of ingredients and a few minutes was all it took to throw this dish together. Walters recommends using any kind of dark, leafy greens and Mom and I opted for kale and chard. Although the greens reduce substantially when they’ve cooked, to start with they make a fairly large pile and so a Dutch oven and some tongs really help to get things under control. Throw in some olive oil, garlic, the greens, a bit of mirin (a sweet Japanese cooking wine made from fermented brown rice), a bit of salt, and you’re done.
The Results: Beautiful. This dish is fresh and honest. Normally I would have added more garlic and mirin (even though I’d never used mirin before) in an attempt to increase the flavour profile. But, fortunately, I refrained. The subtle use of the other ingredients allowed the taste of the greens to shine through while the sweetness of the garlic and mirin added a nice compliment. I will make this dish again and again, with whatever dark, leafy greens are available.
Savory “Unbaked” Beans
RATING: 4 out of 5 (sweet and spiced one-pot cooking)
The Test: When I first read this recipe it sounded tasty, simple and different. A couple of cans of beans, a little of this and a little of that, and you’ve got yourself a meal. But once Mom started lining up all of the other ingredients (tahini, molasses, apple butter, mustard, maple syrup, cinnamon, cumin, hot sauce) I became skeptical. But hey, it wasn’t my recipe so I figured I’d close my eyes and just put ‘em into the pot.
The Results: I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Even with the molasses and apple butter and maple syrup the beans weren’t overly sweet, and the other spices kind of jostle in the mouth looking for some attention. As a meal by itself, however, I wouldn’t recommend it. But we had the beans wrapped in tortillas with leftover rice and sautéed peppers and it changed everything. In that kind of a playing field, the beans add a new and welcome depth of flavour to burritos. And although it’s styled as a “quick meal,” even Walters acknowledges that putting the beans in a tortilla could be a way to go. And in case you’re looking for quality, Eden Organic makes their canned beans with kombu (thus helping to reduce gas).
Sesame Almond Balls
RATING: 3.5 out of 5
The Test: Listed in the winter dessert category, these bite-sized morsels are a healthy alternative to pretty much any dessert I’ve ever had: almond butter, toasted sunflower seeds, toasted almonds, dates, whizzed in a food processor and rolled in toasted sesame seeds. Dead simple.
The Results: If you want someone to shut up, feed him or her one of these balls: they won’t be able to swallow for five minutes let alone speak! This dessert is just too dry. If you doubled the amount of dates or added another dried fruit like sour cherries, then I think the results would be much more manageable, or even if you worked in some rice crisps. The overall taste of them is fine, but they need something else to help you get them down. Mom brought out some dulce de leche and strawberries and if that were part of the recipe, I’d have marked this a 4.5. Perhaps if they were drizzled with honey or agave nectar, or just had a lot more fruit in them . . . I don’t know. This recipe needs some tweaks, but it has a solid base.