Thursday, December 1, 2011

We All Need A Little Nourishing

As the seasons change and the weather gets cold, it’s time to fire up the stoves.  This means it’s time to tell you about how we’ve been cooking lately. Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon Morrell outlines a diet that, quite simply, makes an awful lot of sense to us! 

“The premise of this book is that modern food choices and preparation techniques constitute a radical shift from the way man has nourished himself for thousands of years and, from the perspective of history, represent a fad that not only has severely compromised his health and vitality but may well destroy him; and that the culinary traditions of our ancestors, and the food choices and preparation techniques of healthy nonindustrialized peoples, should serve as the model for contemporary eating habits, even and especially during, this modern technological age.”

Now, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the general state of health in this country, and, if we’re being honest, we’re not too happy about it.  Friends and family around us are getting cancer, kids are overweight and suffering from diabetes, and (has anyone noticed?) now everyone is allergic to everything!?  What is going on?  It’s clear that we are doing something wrong.  For all the “progress” and “technological advances” that our modern society boasts, our low calorie, low fat, low cholesterol diets don’t seem to be living up to their hype.  Not surprisingly, these “low” products are also usually highly processed.  They resemble very little the original forms, and are nutritionally lacking. 

A traditional diet, on the other hand, is characterized by being nutrient dense, which means you can eat less, feel satisfied, and get the nutrition you need to fuel your active lifestyle.  Plus, no surprise here, foods made with eggs, butter, simmered stocks, and animal fat taste delicious! Butter is your friend!  You won’t even miss that processed white flour and refined sugar.

Here are the first 5 (of 20 each), of the guidelines for the Nourishing Traditions diet.

Dietary Guidelines

1. Eat whole, unprocessed foods.
2. Eat beef, lamb, game, organ meats, poultry and eggs from pasture-fed animals.
3. Eat wild fish (not farm-raised) and shellfish from unpolluted waters.
4. Eat full-fat milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as raw milk, whole yogurt, kefir, cultured butter, whole raw cheeses and fresh and sour cream. (Imported cheeses that say "milk" or "fresh milk" on the label are raw.)
5. Use animal fats, especially butter, liberally.

Dietary Dangers

1. Do not eat commercially processed foods such as cookies, cakes, crackers, TV dinners, soft drinks, packaged sauce mixes, etc. Read labels!
2. Avoid all refined sweeteners such as sugar, dextrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup and fruit juices.
3. Avoid white flour and white flour products.
4. Avoid all hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats and oils.
5. Avoid all refined liquid vegetable oils made from soy, corn, safflower, canola or cottonseed

Although many of these ideas are not new to us (nor to you, we’re guessing), it’s inspiring to see them laid out in such a way so as to allow traditional eating to become a guide to eating well.  By taking time to consider what we eat, and make more conscious decisions about food, we can feel better, eat better, and purchase better.  Personally, as carnivores, we’re prone to like guidelines that encourage eating meat!
“These traditions require us to apply more wisdom to the way we produce and process our food, and yes, more time in the kitchen, but they give highly satisfying results  - delicious meals, increased vitality, robust children, and freedom from the chains of acute and chronic illness.”  Did ya hear that, folks!?  More time in the kitchen! Music to this gastronomista’s ears!

In the spirit of more time in the kitchen, here is an oxtail soup recipe that, while time-consuming, is totally worth the effort. We think you and your guests will agree.  Oxtail soup can be found in food traditions around the world.  This version is in the German style.  The broth is thick and hearty with paprika, Madeira and cream to fortify. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche and some chopped fresh parsley.

Oxtail Soup Recipe
Iris Café
Serves 6 as a first course

    For the bones:
    * 2-3 lb. oxtail bones from the butcher
    * 1-2 lb. soup bones

   For the stock:
    * 3-4 Tablespoons butter or marrow drippings
    * 1 - 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
    * 1 - 2 onions, chopped
    * 3-4 carrots, sliced
    * 3-4 stalks celery, chopped
    * 1 parsley root or parsnip, peeled and chopped
    * 1 Tablespoon ground paprika
    * Salt
    * Pepper
    For the spice sachet:
    * 2 bay leaves
    * 5 whole cloves
    * 5 juniper berries
    * 1 stalk fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
     For the roux:
     * 3 tablespoons butter or marrow drippings
     * 1 Tablespoon whole wheat or unbleached  white flour

     To finish:   
    * 3/4 c. cream
    * ½ cup Madeira

    * To serve:
    * Crème fraiche
    * Fresh chopped parsley


Roast the bones at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly and pour into a heatproof container. Refrigerate until fat and marrow have congealed.      Remove bones and set aside the marrow drippings. These may be used as a cooking fat for any future use (especially when making the stock).

Heat marrow drippings in a stock pot and add paprika, then all chopped veg.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sautee the veg longer than you normally would (you are going to discard the vegetables, so you just want their flavor, without worrying about overcooking).

Add the soup bones and marrow bones, as well as the spice sachet.  Add water to cover the bones.  Let the soup simmer all day if possible, adding more water if necessary.  Then strain the broth and set aside.  Refrigerate until the fat has congealed and you can remove it (otherwise your soup will have an oil slick on it).  Once cooled, pull the meat off the oxtails (or, for effect, leave the oxtail whole, as in the photo, and let the guest remove the tender meat) and add to the broth.  Discard the spice sachet and cooked veg.

Melt butter or marrow drippings in the same pot you used for the soup (don’t wash it, those flavors are good), over medium heat and add the flour. Whisk the flour as it bubbles in the butter, letting it thicken slightly.  Once it looks dry (about 5 minutes), start pouring in some of the soup broth, whisking constantly.  Once you have about 5 cups of thick roux, let it cook down for 10-15 minutes on medium-high heat, then add the rest of the broth. 

Finish the soup with the cream and the Madeira and adjust the seasoning as necessary.  It should have a little kick from the paprika and black pepper.

Garnish with a little dollop of crème fraiche and some chopped fresh parsley before serving.

Bon Appetit!

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