In addition to cooking and baking, there are other things that I’m passionate about. One of them is definitely maintaining a healthy lifestyle, by eating well and working out. Another is living as eco-friendly as I can. I teach high school biology, which gives me an excellent forum to teach my students the importance of respecting the earth. If I didn’t practice this in my own life, I would certainly feel like a hypocrite. There are plenty of little changes that can be made to a daily routine that are environmentally friendly; carrying reusable bags and water bottles, recycling, walking or riding a bike instead of driving and many more. A change that many people may not consider in striving to be eco-friendly, is a change in diet. This is good news, because eating an eco-friendly diet goes hand in hand with eating a healthy diet. An environmentally friendly diet includes eating whole, fresh, sustainable foods along with staying away from foods that require a lot of processing in factories and reducing meat consumption – all of which are really healthy choices as well!
At home we subscribe to a weekly “farm-box.” The “box” is part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. CSA programs support local farms and the local farming movement. The program I subscribe to provides me with a box of local farm-fresh produce every week. The box contains whatever produce is in season and in abundance on the farm. The plus side is, if the farm has an early harvest of strawberries, CSA members get first pick delivered in their boxes. The down side is, if the farm gets infested with pests, members don’t get as wide of a variety of produce that week (think a whole box of greens). Subscribing to the program has made me incredibly aware of what is in season. So even if I have to run to the market to pick up produce in between deliveries, I am conscious of the produce in stock that I know is out of season. This tells me it must have been shipped from a land far-far away (like peaches in January). If a farm-box is not available in your area, you can look for grocery stores that promote local farming and highlight the local selection with signs and bios on the farms. Another great resource for locally farmed produce is farmers markets. Many only accept farms that are within a certain driving radius, ensuring a fresh and local selection. You can easily find information about CSA programs and farmers markets in your area on the internet, simply type in the name of your city and “community supported agriculture” or “farmers markets.”
I also try to make environmentally friendly eating choices when I buy seafood. One great resource I use is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website or the smart phone app. Due to the fact that many seafood practices are damaging our oceans by destroying natural habitats and putting a strain on certain ecosystems by over-fishing and polluting, it is incredibly important to make informed decisions regarding the fish we consume. The Seafood Watch provides information on the best choices, good alternatives and fish that consumers should stay away from. I love the smartphone app because I can pull it out while I am browsing the fish counter to ensure I am making eco-friendly decisions. Eating environmentally friendly is going to vary depending on where you live and the season. It is fairly easy living in California because we have access to amazing produce pretty much year-round; I realize it may not be quite so easy in places that have real winters with snow and frost. Nonetheless, just being conscious of where your food is coming from and what it took to get there is a step in the right direction. Let’s keep our earth as healthy as we try to keep our bodies!
Here is an eco-friendly recipe I was inspired to make this week based on the contents of my farm-box and what was available at my fish counter. This recipe can be modified based on what is available in your area. If potatoes are not available, try turnips or carrots in the sauté. If there is no kale available use a different heavy green vegetable. The fish is pretty much interchangeable, since it will be served with a nutty and slightly tangy pesto sauce.
Sustainable-fish with Walnut-Kale Pesto and Kale-Potato Sauté
1 ½ cups baby heirloom fingerling potatoes (about ½ pound) – diced
1 shallot – thinly sliced
1 bunch Kale, chopped (minus 1 handful for the pesto)
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
In a large sauté pan, heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and potatoes and stir to coat the potatoes with oil. Cover the pan for about 10 minutes to let the potatoes steam and soften a bit. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the potatoes are brown on the edges and easily pierced with a fork. Add in the kale and sauté another 2 – 3 minutes until the kale is wilted but not soggy. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.
For the Pesto
I like the flavor of the kale in this pesto, but some people do not care for the slightly bitter flavor. If that is the case, you can sub in spinach or basil for the kale. The kale and walnuts make this a super healthy topping, lots of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C and K and even iron. So eat up and use extras in a salad, mixed in with quinoa or even as a dip.
1 handful Kale
1/3 cup walnuts
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
In small food processor or blender pulse the walnuts, kale and lemon zest until smooth. Add the lemon juice and pulse again, slowly pulse in enough olive oil to get to the consistency you like, I like mine a little thicker like a paste.
For the fish
2 filets of sustainable fish – I found black rockfish at my fish counter, but any whitefish would be good in this recipe.
You can sauté the fish in a pan with olive oil and salt and pepper or if sturdier fish was available you can grill the fish with olive oil, salt and pepper.
I sautéed the fish with about a tablespoon of olive oil in a hot pan for about 2 minutes per side until golden brown.
Serve the cooked on bed of kale and potatoes and top with a lot of pesto.