My friends like to tease me because I spend so much time in my kitchen. But cooking isn’t a chore to me—okay, except for scrubbing the pots and pans. Cooking is creative and playful. It is a tranquil few hours when I enjoy the gifts of the garden in a different way than I do while I’m outside digging around. Cooking is an expression of love for my family, but also of love for food. Although I have messed around in the kitchen since I was a little kid, gardening has raised my awareness about food quality and integrity. I have reverence for the vegetables and herbs that we grow organically. I have more appreciation for the brown and blue eggs our hens lay than I ever had for the dozen orbs in the cardboard containers at the Winn Dixie. And my respect for farmers and producers that grow and raise food sustainably has grown as well. I never used to think about where our food comes from, but it’s hard not to when you’re chopping up fresh mint or crushing a garlic clove so fresh that it’s juicy. Food should be beautiful and appeal to all of our senses, and preparing it should be fun!
This afternoon I made a few dishes for dinner and for later on in the week. I find if I can get some of the prep work done ahead of time, we eat healthier during the weeknights when we’d otherwise grab something fast and easy. If veggies are prepped in advance, it only takes a few minutes to steam them and toss them with a flavorful vinaigrette. If meats are marinated and greens are washed and chopped, we enjoy them with little effort later on. It’s my version of fast food.
I love using our abundant citrus fruits in unexpected ways. Florida oranges from the farmer’s market have a whole new appeal when partnered with slivers of red onion and kalamata olives.
On a cold and rainy winter’s afternoon, hand-grinding spices like flowery coriander seeds and fiery paprika and blending them with wisps of orange zest is like an aromatherapy session at the spa. Blended with olive oil, the rub is massaged into pork tenderloin to infuse the meat until it’s roasted to juicy perfection this evening. The extra tenderloin will be tomorrow’s lunch along with some salad greens.
Sweet carrots are quickly simmered in salty water and then dressed in fresh mint from the garden. Toasty pepitas (pumpkin seeds) add a satisfying crunch.
Side dishes like bulgher wheat with shallots or quinoa with wild rice taste just as good—if not better—the next day.
The benefits of eating home cooked, fresh foods are physical, emotional and financial. So I hope you play with your food, too!
Cook’s note: All the recipes for the savory dishes may be found at bon appetit, the 2013 Food Lover’s Cleanse.