Holiday Book Reviews – Decolonize Your Diet

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I received a review copy of Decolonize Your Diet from Arsenal Pulp Press. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

Decolonize Your Diet is a cookbook, but it is also a history, an exploration of food as medicine, and above all, a counter to the colonialism that runs through the food cultures of the Americas. It’s a reclamation of a food heritage by two Mexican-Americans, in the context of where they live and eat.

The book challenges the limits of what many of us in Canada and the States believe Mexican food to be, identifying indigenous ingredients and those introduced from elsewhere. The recipes spring from Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel’s heritage and from their exploration of the health benefits of the Meso-American diet.

The recipes themselves range from simple and comforting to dinner party fare. They include traditional recipes and contemporary vegetarian meals that incorporate heritage indigenous plants. There are recipes for stocking your refrigerator with salsas, flavoured vinegars, hot sauces, and other condiments. Another chapter covers pantry ingredients, equipment, techniques, and base recipes.

The headnotes for the recipes might share history, health benefits, or politics, alongside serving suggestions and flavour descriptions. But the recipes are playful, meant to encourage creativity in cooking healthy foods. There’s an emphasis on eating what is local, fresh, organic, and available and the authors encourage cooks to adapt their recipes.

For many of us, that playfulness could be satisfied for a long while just by exploring the flavours and techniques shared in this cookbook. You might start out with a simple recipe like their Old School Pinto Beans, then find yourself sourcing cone piloncillo and queso Oaxaca to complement your homemade corn tortillas in their recipe for pumpkin mole enmoladas.

I’ve been given permission to share a recipe with you, for a simple and earthy lentil soup that is full of flavour.

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Abuelitas’ Lentil Soup

Authors

Lentils are not indigenous to the Americas, but both of our grandmothers (abuelitas) made delicious and soul-warming sopa de lentejas. We flavor our soup with yerbaníz (also called “grandmother plant”), which has many medicinal properties, including being good for respiratory conditions and soothing to the stomach. The final squeeze of lemon sends the iron from the lentils to your body and adds brightness to the flavor.

Makes 6 servings

1 large onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2–3 jalapenos, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 bunch green Swiss chard, stems diced, leaves cut into thin ribbons
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 cups (2 L) vegetable stock or water
2 cups (500 mL) brown lentils, rinsed
2 tbsp chopped fresh yerbaníz or 1 tbsp dried yerbaníz or 2 tsp dried French tarragon
2 tsp sea salt
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp chia seeds, ground (optional)
juice of 1–2 lemons, to taste

In a large pot on medium high heat, sauté onions in oil until lightly browned, about 7–8 minutes. Add jalapeño, carrots, and chard stems and cook for 5 minutes, until vegetables soften. Add garlic and freshly ground pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add stock, lentils, and yerbaníz. Bring mixture to a slow boil. Reduce heat, and cook at a slow simmer until lentils are barely tender, about 25 minutes. Add salt, chard leaves, and cilantro and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add ground chia seeds, cover partially, and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon juice until soup has a nice balance of flavors.

RECIPE CREDIT: Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing by Luz Calvo & Catriona Rueda Esquibel. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015.

PHOTOGRAPHS, PROP STYLING & FOOD STYLING CREDITS: Tracey Kusiewicz | Foodie Photography foodiephotography.com

I didn’t follow the recipe precisely, substituting kale for Swiss chard and a mix of marjoram, thyme, and oregano for yerbaníz. I skipped the ground chia seed, as the soup seemed thick and rich enough without it. It’s a filling soup that was welcome in the cold weather we’ve been having here. The flavour is beautifully balanced, with the subtle heat from the jalapeños and the sweet acid of the lemon being especially welcome notes against the earthiness of the lentils. Unlike many soups, it didn’t have me reaching for bread or cheese to complete it. It’s sufficient and satisfying just as it is.

DecolonizeYourDiet

Arsenal Pulp Press has been generous enough to offer a copy of Decolonize Your Diet to a Canadian or American reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of Decolonize Your Diet*

Many peoples, especially communities of colour and indigenous communities, are reclaiming their food heritage alongside their cultures and histories. In a time when the importance of healthy, whole foods is being recognized, along with food systems that promote sustainability and biodiversity, the work of this book’s authors is timely. They stand with people like Bryant Terry and Michael Twitty, and organizations like Vancouver Island’s Indigenous Food Network, documenting and expanding the food histories of this continent beyond the colonial narrative.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For anyone who wants to eat in concert with the the foods indigenous to this continent, but especially for First Nations and Latinx people who want to eat closer to their roots.

Come back next week for a review of a book that will fill your pantry with vegan goodness.

*Terms & Conditions: This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the United States. You must have a Canadian or US mailing address. Any Canadian winners will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 6 X 8 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Holiday Book Reviews – True to Your Roots

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I received a review copy of True to Your Roots from Arsenal Pulp Press. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who loves root vegetables, but it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve realized I haven’t made the most of them. There’s a whole world of recipes beyond mashed potatoes, roasted roots, or even celery root purée.

I’ve been trying to correct that over the last while, discovering that sunchokes are fantastic whether they’re roasted or puréed in a soup, roasting radishes or shaving them paper thin onto baguettes thick with butter, shredding beets and carrots for hippie salads or baking them into cakes.

I’ve also been turning to cookbooks for inspiration. Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Plenty More are favourites and include ideas for working with root vegetables, as does Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy. But Carla Kelly’s True to Your Roots focuses directly on root vegetables, providing a variety and creativity that’s usually reserved for showier fruits and vegetables. It’s also a vegan cookbook.

I’m not vegan, but I’ve striven to make the majority of my meals vegetarian or vegan for most of my adult life. When you’re trying to eat more meatless meals, it can be frustrating to find recipes for vegetable soups, mains, or side dishes relying heavily on meat stocks, eggs, or dairy. Until fairly recently, it was also hard to find vegan recipes that moved beyond a 1970’s palate. True to Your Roots solves both problems.

This is Carla Kelly‘s fourth cookbook – so far, she’s created vegan handbooks to bake sales, slow-cooking, and picnics. This book’s focus on a class of ingredient gives Kelly the freedom to roam across meals, cuisines, and techniques. She includes flavours from across the globe, while providing a range of familiar recipes alongside ones that twist expectations or go in entirely new directions.

I especially appreciate her guides to using vegetables that are often unfamiliar to home cooks in Canada and the U.S. It’s important to know that yuca and tropical yams should never be eaten before they’re fully cooked and it’s useful to know that horseradish is at its best when used shortly after being grated.

Kelly’s recipes go beyond root vegetables’ reputation as heavy, calorie-laden, comfort food material, but there are definitely comforting dishes included in the mix. Her potato biscuits are fluffy and satisfying, her burgers are substantial and flavourful, her soups are rich and homey. I couldn’t resist sharing her twist on a comfort food favourite of mine. Now, I’m thinking about mashing more potatoes just so I can make it again.

KALECANNON & AVOCADO

(gluten-free)

Kalecannon

This is my take on the traditional Irish colcannon. Adding avocado may seem strange, but it’s really yummy and gives a creamy richness to the dish. (If you’re not a fan, simply leave it out.)

Makes 2 servings

 

 

1 tsp neutral-flavored oil
1/4 cup (60 mL) sliced onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) shredded kale
1 cup (250 mL) leftover mashed potatoes, at room temperature
1/2 ripe avocado, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large frying pan on medium, heat oil and saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add kale, cover, and steam for 3–5 minutes, until bright green and tender.

Add potatoes and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes, until just lightly browned, stirring so potatoes don’t stick or burn. Remove from heat and stir in avocado. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Next time you have mashed potatoes for dinner, cook extra so you’ll be ready to make this dish the next day.

RECIPE CREDIT: True to Your Roots: Vegan Recipes to Comfort and Nourish You by Carla Kelly. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015.
PHOTO CREDIT: photo by Tracey Kusiewicz | Foodie Photography

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I served the kalecannon with stuffed portabella mushrooms, which made a complete and filling meal. The twist of using kale in place of cabbage brings freshness to a familiar dish, while the addition of avocado makes it creamier and richer than dairy ever could. The avocado didn’t overwhelm the other flavours, as I’d feared. Instead, it subtly melded all the flavours together.

I had some left over, which I heated up in a frying pan the next day. I think I liked it even better – the extra caramelization of the potatoes was especially nice.

TrueToYourRoots

Arsenal Pulp Press has been generous enough to offer a copy of True to Your Roots to a Canadian or American reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of True to Your Roots*

I feel as though I’ve just scratched the surface of what this book has to offer. I’m looking forward to trying condiments enriched with root vegetables (Sesame Horseradish Dipping Sauce), world cuisine favourites reimagined (Yuca Empanadas with Avocado, Plantain & Black Beans), and familiar foods with a twist (Celeriac Brownies).

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the root lover, the root-nostic, the root-phobic, and anyone who wants to eat closer to the earth.

Come back next week for a review of a book that’s full of pockets of goodness.

*Terms & Conditions: This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the United States. You must have a Canadian or US mailing address. Any Canadian winners will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 5 X 3 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!