I love the idea of taking my time to cook a sumptuous meal, but in reality, I often put off cooking until I’m suddenly starving — at which point I chomp on a piece of fruit as I try to whip together a quick salad or stir fry. That’s why a new eco-cookbook got my attention. "Big Green Cookbook: Hundreds of Planet-Pleasing Recipes and Tips for a Luscious, Low-Carbon Lifestyle" promises to lower my carbon cookprint by limiting the time spent cooking — to 20 minutes per meal (mpm)!
Written by Jackie Newgent, "Big Green Cookbook" will please both frugal cooks and impatient environmentalists alike. After all, it takes money and energy to light that stove and warm that oven — which is why "Big Green Cookbook" is focused on reducing cooking time — which has the nice side effect of helping hungry cooks make home cooked meals faster.
"Big Green Cookbook" starts with a basic crash course on eating greener, covering food miles, organic produce, veg-centric meals and sustainable seafood for the newbie eco-foodie. Then, the book delves into green kitchen tips, ranging from the well-known, like keeping the fridge door closed, to the newly renamed “hypercooking,” i.e. taking advantage of the pre-heat and post-heat warmth of your oven.
The bulk of the book is devoted to recipes — divided by the four seasons to encourage eating in season — using many of these hypercooking techniques. The “Pretty in Purple” recipe directs cooks to let pan-seared organic poultry breast paillards “lid cook” — putting a lid on the skillet while the food is hot and turning off the burner to trap the heat and let the cooking continue. Good knife skills are recommended for cooks who decide to tackle the “graspacho” — which has a sidebar “little green cooking tip” encouraging pre-food processor chopping to save on electricity.
As you may have guessed from the mention of poultry breasts, "Big Green Cookbook" is veg-friendly, but does offer many recipes for organic meat, poultry, and pork — as well as sustainable seafood. If you’re a vegan, this may not the best cookbook for you. Many of the vegetarian recipes require cheese and other dairy ingredients, which I found a bit frustrating because I’m lactose-intolerant.
At times, the cookbook's eco-tips cross into the eco-Grinch area for me — like when cooks are encouraged to toast bread lightly or not at all — and to eat panini “raw.” Come on now — must an environmentalist give up toasty goodness? Of course, that’s just a suggestion — that can be taken with a grain of local sea salt.
Oddly, while "Big Green Cookbook" is miserly with the toaster, it’s spendthrift when it comes to canned beans, encouraging people not to feel guilty about using them because the cans can be recycled, never mind that almost all cans are lined with BPA, are much heavier and thus more energy-intensive to transport, and demand yet more fuel must be wasted to take the empty cans back to the recycling plant — where they’ll go through yet another energy-intensive recycling process.
The can debate aside, I loved most of the tips in "Big Green Cookbook" — including its seven easy ways to use leftovers. Apparently, leftover cooked veggies can easily be pureed into hummus. Very creative! I only wish the book came with photos so I could see what the finished dishes looked like. Does the Chinese “Chicken” Salad I made (above; the “chicken” is tofu) look like it’s supposed to? I don’t know, but if I may say so myself, it was delicious!
I guess four-color pages would have added to the carbon footprint of this book, which is printed in just green and blue soy-based inks on 100-percent post-consumer paper. Find "Big Green Cookbook" at a bookstore near you for $24.95.
Bottom photo: Siel