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Deborah Madison: The Joy of Real Food

Sep. 11, 2017

We’ve become a nation where we expect the same food year round. It's such a supermarket mentality, where the current "season" is the season of the world, not of any particular place. The checkout person doesn't know what anything is unless it has a sticker. People don’t bring fruit to their noses to assess its promise because largely, it has no scent.
 
For us to move ahead as a culture, we have to get rid of this idea that we can have whatever we want, all the time. When I’m looking for inspiration, I’m not going to find it at a grocery store as much as at a farmers market or in my backyard. 
 
This is what I love about Slow Food. It's about real food that's local and delicious, not food grown and shipped from afar. Slow Food is the only place that brings together so many local conversations into one space. Will you slow down and join the conversation? Become a member today and join a worldwide movement for good, clean and fair food for all.
 
Then try this: grow something. Even if you go to the store and buy a pot of chives. Have something fresh that you can turn to and clip with a pair of scissors and put on your food. There are lots of plants that give excitement and thrill. Beauty and pleasure can't be lost. It's what draws us in.
 
Here are some recipes that can bring the joy of real food to your table:
 

Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger, Smoked Salt and Aged Balsamic

Makes 4 cups

I love the chestnut-flavored like flesh of Asian varieties of sweet potatoes such as Hannah and Kotobuki. They’re sweet, but not achingly so, like the Garnet and Jewels are. But if Garnet and Jewel sweet potatoes are what you have, used them! They’re fine too.  The Asian varieties behave a little differently. The skins can be bitter so you might choose to peel them. The flesh, which is dry and pale, discolors when you cut it, so you might put cut pieces in water if you’re doing that part of the soup hours ahead of time.

In Vegetable Literacy I made this soup with ghee, rosemary and thyme, not the usual seasonings for sweet potatoes. In the end, even though I hadn’t included any ginger in hopes of changing the flavor profile altogether, I could have sworn I tasted ginger, so here is the gingery version, with coconut oil and coconut milk, but an unusual finish of smoked salt and a good, aged balsamic vinegar.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons coconut oil, in all
1 onion, sliced
3 tablespoons peeled and chopped ginger
1 pound Hannah or Kotobuki or other Asian sweet potato variety, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks or smaller (or whatever variety you can find)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 can full-fat coconut milk mixed with water or coconut milk beverage to make four cups
Smoked salt
Aged balsamic vinegar, by the drops if really old and viscous

Instructions:

Melt 1 ½ tablespoons of the coconut oil in a soup pot. When it’s hot add the onion and ginger. While everything is cooking over medium heat for a minute or two, add the sweet potatoes and 1-teaspoon sea salt.  Give a stir and lower the heat. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, and then add the liquid.  Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, then puree, leaving a little texture if you wish or making it super smooth.  Don’t over puree it, though, or the texture will be a little gummy.

Just before serving, heat the soup and stir in the final enrichment of coconut oil. Ladle into bowls or soup plates and add the black pepper, a few pinches of smoked salt, and finally, a few drops of the balsamic vinegar.

Grain, Fresh Herb and Buttermilk Soup for Hot, Hot Days

To order, but 4 or more portions

September can be hot and if it is, you might enjoy this substantial but cooling soup. It’s pretty much made to order since once you’ve cooked and seasoned the grains, you can spoon them into a bowl and cover them with cold buttermilk or kefir, using as much or as little as you like. I like big chewy grains, and a pressure cooker really does help make quick work of them, but quinoa and rice are also good and cook more quickly than large groats.

Ingredients:

1 cup kamut, spelt, farro, or einkorn, simmered until tender or cooked under pressure for 20 minutes, then allowed to drop slowly.
½ cup finely chopped mixed herbs, such as chives, basil, parsley, lovage, salad burnet, marjoram
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil or more, to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 quart buttermilk or kefir, as needed

Instructions:

Cook the grains according to the method you like.  Drain them and while they’re still warm, toss them with the herbs, lemon zest and juice, olive oil to taste, and season with salt and pepper. (As is, this makes a pretty good salad.)

To make the soup, pour buttermilk or kefir in a bowl and add as much of the grain as you like. Or combine everything at once—grain and buttermilk, taste for salt and pepper. This will keep for many days, but you might want to freshen the soup with herbs as time goes on.

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