poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


CSA update: 4/9/12

Much to our delight, we received actual vegetables (i.e. more than just greens and citrus) in our CSA box last week. Here were the contents:

Navel Oranges
Mixed lettuce (tender curly, red leaf, and Romaine)
French breakfast radishes
Stir-fry mix (kale, collards, chard, and arugula)
Green garlic

The other thing that we were super psyched about is that we finally had success with one of the CSA-provided recipes. It’s for Spicy Beets and Carrot Curry in Coconut Milk from Sara Hafiz over at One Tribe Gourmet. Sara was nice enough to grant me permission to re-post her recipe below. Thanks Sara! I encourage y’all to head over to her blog, where you’ll find FAR more appetizing photos of the curry, as well as to check out some of her other recipes.

It doesn’t look very good, but it sure was tasty!!

Beets and Carrot Curry with Coconut Milk (from OneTribeGourmet.com)
Serves: 2-3

4 red beets, boiled & cut into bite size pieces
3-4 carrots, sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 green chili, sliced
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 small 4 oz can of coconut milk
cilantro, chopped for garnish


  1. heat olive oil and add chopped onions, saute until translucent.
  2. add the crushed garlic and saute some more.
  3. add cumin seeds and saute for a minute so the flavor comes out.
  4. add cayenne, turmeric & salt, mix well.
  5. add sliced green chili and saute.
  6. now add the boiled and cut up pieces of beets and saute for 2 minutes.
  7. add the carrots and saute for 5 minutes.
  8. let the curry cook for another 5 minutes until carrots are tender.
  9. add the coconut milk and let the curry simmer for few minutes.
  10. garnish with chopped cilantro.
  11. you can serve with rice or any flat bread.

The Eatwell-provided recipe we used was slightly different; it asked for crushed red pepper instead of a green chili, substituted green garlic for regular garlic (since it was in our CSA box), and curiously omitted cilantro, though TC and I both agreed that cilantro have been a great addition visually and gastronomically. As we were cooking, one thing we realized was that our CSA beets and carrots were so much smaller than conventional vegetables that we probably didn’t include them in the prescribed amounts. Oops! Oh well — it was still super tasty, and vegan too! We’ll definitely make this again.

I regretted giving away the French breakfast radishes last time, so I didn’t make the same mistake again with this box. We sliced them up and put them in with sautéed stir-fry mix. Delicious and nutritious!

Cute little buggers. French breakfast radishes are milder than regular radishes.

sautéed greens with radishes and garlic.

CSA cooking, round 2: We decided to make mashed potatoes again to use up the turnips and chives. As for the lettuce, since we had a lackluster experience last time, we decided to try something new. I found a recipe for homemade Caesar salad dressing in The New Best Recipes and went to work. I should note that we wimped out and opted to buy the garlic croutons instead of making them ourselves. Anyway! Caesar salad dressing is pretty interesting since it calls for egg yolks, anchovies, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. I was a bit nervous about the whole thing, but it turned out great.

Caesar salad, mashed potatoes with turnips, and roast chicken. Yummers!

Last but not least, we used up the spinach on Easter to make what’s now my signature salad — dried cranberries, apples, and walnuts with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It didn’t turn out as well as usual because the spinach was super sturdy (perhaps I should’ve dressed the salad earlier??), but everyone seemed to enjoy it, which is all that matters.

I’m so excited that we’re finally getting some variety in our CSA box. I was even more excited to read about the upcoming Strawberry Days at Eatwell Farm. For 4 days in May, Eatwell customers get to pick strawberries and take some home for a nominal fee. There’s also a jamming workshop, which I’m eager to attend. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I’ll definitely report back afterward. Stay tuned!


A healthy start to 2012

I don’t make official New Year’s resolutions, but I suppose setting goals is useful no matter what the date on the calendar says. One thing that TC and I are focused on for 2012 is moving towards a healthier, whole foods diet (i.e., not processed), and making vegetarian meals whenever possible. As part of this endeavor, we’ll be getting a bi-weekly CSA box from Eatwell Farms. There were several motivating factors. First, even though it’s not necessarily the most cost-effective way of getting produce, we think it’s important to support local organic farms. Buying a CSA box is more than just getting a box of produce; it’s showing your financial and moral support for sustainable practices. Second, we had the opportunity to hear Nigel Walker, the owner of Eatwell, speak at a round table discussion and we agreed with what he had to say about his farming philosophy. In fact, Nigel made such an impression on TC that a man crush was born that night. (The delectable eggplants, tomatoes, and peaches served after the talk also made quite an impression.) Finally, the CSA box confines you to cook what’s seasonal, and will thereby force me to diversify my cooking repertoire. It’ll be a challenge for sure! Anyway, we’re looking forward to it, and I’ll keep y’all updated on our CSA experiment as it develops.

For this first day of 2012, TC and I were looking for something healthy to help us recover from holiday overindulgence.  We decided to make the Red Lentil Thai Chili from Post Punk Kitchen (thanks to JN for the blog suggestion). We made this same recipe less than 2 weeks ago for a mini dinner party with our friend CN, and it was so good we wanted to have it again.

Red lentil Thai chili - not too pretty, but super delicious and healthy!

What’s awesome about this recipe is that you totally forget (and don’t care) that it’s vegan. It’s very hearty — we both love the sweet potatoes, while the coconut milk and red curry add a unique flavor and richness. The second time around, I added one chopped Serrano pepper and generous amounts of lime juice which were both great additions. It’s also pretty easy — after the chopping prep, the whole thing only takes about 30 minutes to cook. Finally, it makes a massive amount of food, which is always nice because I love leftovers.

Do you have any resolutions or goals, eating or otherwise?


Double book review: The China Study and In Defense of Food

Welcome to the poor scientist’s book club. The last “book club” was one of my first posts (over 3 years ago!!), in which I discussed my thoughts on The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I’m happy to say it’s one of my top posts, but I’m unhappy to report that most of the hits are from Google searches for “The Omnivore’s Dilemma cliff notes.” I just have one thing to say to those people: Cheaters, get off my blog!!

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah. I read two books about food this year: The China Study by the father/son team T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell, and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Since both books have been around long enough to garner significant press (China was published in 2006, Defense in 2008), I won’t go into serious depth about either. Instead, I’ll give a brief synopsis and present my general thoughts. Ready? Let’s go!

I’ll be honest: I never had any intention of reading The China Study. But I was over at TC’s with nothing to do, so I perused his bookshelf and was intrigued by the title. Was it about Chinese people? Well, sort of. It’s actually about a huge nutritional study done in China in the 1980s examining the link between diet and disease. What the authors found (and what is at the heart of the book) is that there was a significant link between animal protein and cancer. Later on, the authors state the case for the links between animal protein and numerous other diseases, such as  diabetes, heart disease, obesity, autoimmune diseases, and even dementia. I admit, I was skeptical about this connection, partially because: 1. I love meat, eggs, and dairy, and I don’t want to give them up; and 2. How is it possible that animal protein could cause all of these diseases when we’re “made” to eat meat and have for a long, long time? Well, the answer to the second question is better answered, I think, in In Defense of Food, but before I move on, I wanted to list some of my pros and cons of The China Study:

– T. Colin Campbell is a renowned, well-respected nutritional research scientist who does a great job explaining the ins-and-outs of research, and why most nutritional studies don’t cut it due to their reductionist approach.
– Instead of writing in a pop/soft science style, the Campbells build their case with real data and every chapter is laden with references to peer-reviewed journal articles.
– Despite my initial skepticism, I was convinced by the end of the book that animal protein is harmful and that I should eat less of it. It makes sense that animal protein, which is a super efficient/high quality form of protein, could also be deleterious when consumed in large amounts.
– The authors raise interesting points about food marketing (e.g., “Got Milk?”), which is so insidious, we don’t even realize we’re being marketed to. There’s also a compelling argument about how the meat and dairy industries basically buy their way into our government’s nutritional recommendations. You really won’t look at a food pyramid (or a food plate) the same way again after this book.

– I think the book is a tad extreme in its advocacy for veganism. While I think the average American consumes way too much animal protein, I’m not sure everyone should become a vegan.
– While they do a good, thorough job building their case for the link between animal protein and cancer, it gets a little redundant when they give the same treatment to every single disease mentioned in the book. By the time I got to Chapter 10 (Wide-ranging effects: bone, kidney, eye, and brain diseases), I was yelling at the book, “I get it already! Animal protein is the worst! ” Just saying, it could’ve used a heavier-handed editor. (On that note, I REALLY recommend the documentary Forks Over Knives, which lays out all of the salient points without the drudgery.)

My take-home message: We’ve been told that meat, dairy, and eggs are super nutritious and that we can’t live without them. Well, all you have to do is look at a vegan and know that that is not true. The real problem is that we’re all eating too much animal protein… which brings me to my next point.

It took me a LONG time to recover from The Omnivore’s Dilemma (TOD). While I had heard great things about Michael Pollan’s next book, In Defense of Food (IDOF), I was not ready to read it until recently. Whereas TOD makes you feel hopeless about food, IDOF makes you feel hopeful. Its simple and straightforward mantra (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) is refreshing. It was also a nice follow-up to The China Study, since IDOF also talks about “nutrionism” (not to be confused with rigorous, holistic, nutritional science), the faulty science that often undermines our understanding of nutrition, and how we as a society blindly follow the latest nutrition trend, whether it’s valid or not.

– See above.
– Simple, easy to remember things such as: Good, nutritious food will eventually rot, so you probably do not want to eat anything that refuses to grow mold. Generally, the less processed a food is, the better it is for you. Don’t buy any foods claiming health benefits on the label. Look at ingredient lists, not nutritional information, for the nutritional value of the food product.

– Nothing glaring. Sorry.

My take-home message: Read this book! It’s a quick, enjoyable read and I’m certain it will change your outlook (and grocery purchases) for the better.

To tie it all together, I think that both books have been extremely valuable in shaping my views on what to eat and what not to eat. While I’m not going  to become vegan anytime soon, I have cut back significantly on my intake of animal protein. I was already cutting back meat consumption due to my environmental and ethical concerns, but the idea that I can significantly cut my risk of developing cancer, heart disease, etc. is also very attractive.  Not to mention, eating meat is expensive (as it should be), making vegetarianism more budget-friendly. It’s hard to reject processed foods that are so easy to prepare and cheap, but I’m striving towards making whole foods a central part of my diet.

Anyway, those are my two cents. If anyone out there has read either or both of these books, I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts. Leave your comments below!