Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating

Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating

by Lisa Jervis


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This rousing call to action for healthy, conscious eating is an inspirational primer for those who want to move beyond packaged and processed food toward a more responsible and sustainable way of eating. Many people are learning about the political ramifications of what they eat, but don't know how to change their habits or expand their kitchen repertoire to include meatless dishes. This compendium offers a straightforward overview of the political issues surrounding food, and a culinary toolkit to put principles into practice. Without resorting to faux meat, fake cheese, or obscure ingredients, the recipes focus on fresh, local, minimally processed ingredients that sustain farmers, animals, and the entire food chain. Instead of a rigid set of recipes to be replicated, it offers tips for improvisation, creative thinking in the kitchen, practical suggestions for cooking on a budget, and quick and delicious vegan and vegetarian meal options for anyone who wants to eat fast, tasty, nutritious food every day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604860733
Publisher: PM Press
Publication date: 09/01/2009
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Lisa Jervis is the founding editor and publisher of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, the founding board president of Women in Media and News, and a member of the advisory board for outLoud Radio. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals, including Mother Jones, Ms. magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Utne Reader,  and she is a contributor to the anthologies Body Outlaws and The BUST Guide to the New Girl Order. She is coeditor of Young Wives' Tales: New Adventures in Love and Partnership and BITCHfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine. She lives in Oakland, California.

Read an Excerpt

Cook Food

A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating

By Lisa Jervis

PM Press

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Jervis
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60486-203-4


what you need in your cabinets and on your pot rack

I LOVE KITCHEN EQUIPMENT TO AN EMBARRASSING degree, whether we're talkin' pots and pans, gadgets, or countertop appliances. But I'm also all about thriftiness, and I realize that not everyone can or wants to spend hir hard-earned paycheck on 10-piece cookware sets or graters meant for one ingredient only. So I'm putting them into categories by necessity — and keep in mind that thrift shops can be kitchenware treasure troves. There are only two areas where quality is really important. The first is with pots and pans. Look for heavy bottoms, no warping (if you're buying used), no nonstick surface (it's been discovered that nonstick surfaces can off-gas toxic fumes into your food at high temperatures), and materials other than plain aluminum, which can too-easily leach harmful metal into your food (however, aluminum that has gone through a process called anodization is stable and great to cook with, so anodized aluminum cookware gets a thumbs-up from me). The second is knives. Skip the thrift store, ask for advice at the kitchenware store, and test the feel of different knives in your hand. For everything else, what you can find at Goodwill or on sale at whatever housewares store suits you is going to be just fine. If any of these items are unfamiliar or confusing to you, a Google image search should clarify things better than any description I could give. Also, you should know that this is a quirky list that suits how I cook. I use my microplane zester weekly but haven't touched my box grater in more than a year, so I consider the latter much less important. You'll doubtless need to make your own adjustments.

You can't really cook anything without these things:

[] One good chef's knife (this can mean spending at least $60, but if you can swing it, you'll be glad you did)

[] At least two good cutting boards (plastic, wood, or bamboo, your choice); you need two because no matter how good you are at scrubbing, the smell of garlic and onions will never quite come out — and you want to have one board that never touches them, so when you make fruit salad, you can make sure it has no garlic flavor

[] A saucepan, a stockpot, or a sauté pan

[] A baking sheet or low-sided roasting pan (see page 76 for more about this)

[] A wooden spoon

[] A heat-proof spatula

[] A big mixing bowl

[] A set of measuring cups and spoons

[] A can opener

[] A kitchen timer if your oven doesn't have one (though if you have a cell phone, you're probably carrying a timer in your pocket, so you can use that)

[] A colander

Either you'll find it pretty frustrating, you'll be limited in what you can cook, or your food won't turn out as well if you don't also have:

[] A saucepan, a stockpot, and a sauté pan

[] A skillet or a griddle pan

[] A paring knife or other knife smaller than a chef's knife

[] A couple more wooden spoons

[] At least one rubber spatula

[] A ladle

[] A microplane for zesting citrus

[] A high-sided baking pan (such as a 9×9×4 pan used for the brownies on page 109)

[] A few more mixing bowls of different sizes

These are also good to have around if you think you'll use them, and they're generally pretty reasonably priced (except the griddle pan, but if you're like me you'll use it all the time):

[] A skillet and a griddle pan (mine is square and has a rim that's barely raised; I don't think I would use it as much if it were shaped differently or had higher sides)

[] A steamer basket (you can always steam things in a shallow pool of water right in the pan, but these are under $10 new and practically given away in thrift stores)

[] A box grater

[] A citrus reamer

[] A porcelain ginger grater (unless you hate ginger, duh)

[] A stick blender (great for soups, smoothies, and whatnot, and so easy to clean)

[] Spring-loaded tongs

[] A pastry brush (for brushing the tops of things with oil)

[] An oven thermometer (unless you don't plan to bake or roast; see the discussion of roasting, page 76)

If you plan to bake, you also need:

[] Parchment paper (I also like silicone baking mats, but they're pricey and only worth it if you're going to use them all the time)

[] A cooling rack or two

[] Two or three more cookie sheets

[] Muffin tins and/or a loaf pan or two

[] A hand mixer

[] A kitchen scale (worth the money if you're going to bake a lot, since most good baking recipes give quantities of flour and other dry ingredients in weight rather than volume, since it's more accurate; if you're only going to bake a little, skip it)

These are pricey, but seriously worth it:

[] A rice cooker with a permanently attached hinged lid that clicks closed (you can get a cheaper one with a lift-off lid, but it won't cook your grains evenly without burning them or keep them warm without drying them out); I use mine at least once a day. You can make any kind of grain in them, not just rice, and if you also get one with a porridge setting, you can make oatmeal and experiment with oatmeal-like breakfasts using other grains (see "Nonrecipe Recipes," page 113). There are two major benefits of rice cookers over sticking a saucepan on a burner: The first is that you don't have to watch it, adjust the heat, or worry about when it's done; the appliance does all that for you, clicking over automatically from "cooking" to "keep warm." The second is the "keep warm" setting itself — you can make breakfast the night before, or make part of your dinner in the morning before you go to work — or you can just have a steady supply of hot grains on hand. Rice cookers come in sizes ranging from four cups (ideal if you cook mostly for yourself only) to 12 (great if you feed six or more people at once on a regular basis). You'll probably need to spend between $100 and $125 for a new good one (the crappy lift-off lid ones can be as cheap as $30), but friends (and Craigslist) can be a great source of deals on stuff like this.

[] A food processor; the only recipes in this book that use one are the sauces, so it may seem odd that I'm recommending one. But I am, 'cause I really believe in how useful they are. It's an investment of about a hundred bucks, and once you have it, you'll find yourself using it for all sorts of things you never thought about before.

I don't recommend:

[] A garlic press (it's almost as easy and way better to chop, plus those suckers are hell to clean)

[] A wok, unless your burners get really hot and you're serious about Chinese cooking

[] A microwave oven (they cost a lot, take up space, and don't do anything that you can't do another way)

[] A blender other than a stick blender (food processors are more versatile, plus they're generally more effective for any task your stick blender can't handle)


what you need in your pantry, refrigerator, and spice rack

ONE OF THE KEYS TO BEING ABLE TO COOK UP A TASTY MEAL quickly is having the necessary ingredients in the house already. Here are my suggestions for stocking your kitchen. Though my lists are also useful for making things that aren't addressed in this book, I'm assuming that you're going to be cooking the recipes in here. So, especially when it comes to herbs and spices, I've made no attempt to be exhaustive; you should of course be stocking anything that you like and/or think you'll use. And as with everything else, if you don't like the flavor of any item, just ignore my advice to buy it. Buy organic if and when you can, and always look for expeller-pressed and/or cold-pressed oils (other extraction processes involve chemical solvents, yuck). The key to an affordable pantry is finding a place to buy spices in bulk — it can be the difference between paying $4 or 50¢ for a couple ounces of cumin.

You need these in your pantry or fridge, and they last forever:

[] Assorted dried or canned beans * (such as black, kidney, pinto, garbanzo, cannelini; if you're using canned, look for low-salt versions so you can control your own seasoning)

[] Brown rice

[] Canned diced tomatoes** (look for low-salt versions so you can control your own seasoning; also avoid ones with added basil or other flavors for the same reason)

[] Canola or grapeseed oil*** (it's always good to have a neutral oil on hand for things where olive has too strong a flavor)

[] Cornstarch (for thickening stews and curries)

[] Dijon mustard

[] Olive oil

[] Polenta

[] Soy sauce

[] Steel cut oats (if you like oatmeal)

[] Toasted sesame oil

[] Tomato paste (look for this packaged in a tube; if you buy it in a can, it will go bad way before you can use it all up)

These are really great to have around if you think you'll use them, and they last forever:

[] Barley (for when you get sick of eating your bean stews and fried tofu with rice)

[] Boxed silken tofu **** (good as a component of egg substitute in baking and to puree into sauces)

[] Boxed vegetable broth (I like the boxes better than cans; good for stronger flavor in soups and stews, though you can also always use water)

[] Chipotles in adobo sauce (for extra easiness, puree a can of these in the food processor, stick the results in well-sealed container in the fridge, and use spoonfuls as needed)

[] Dried fruit for snacking and putting in oatmeal

[] French green lentils (a.k.a. du Puy lentils or lentilles du Puy)

[] Millet (also for when you get sick of eating your bean stews and tofu with rice; plus, try it for breakfast the way you would eat oatmeal)

[] Nuts (whatever kind you like) for snacking and putting in breakfast porridges

[] Nutritional yeast (for Debbie's Tempeh, page 69, and for adding a savory non-cheese cheesiness to anything you want)

[] Peanut oil (Debbie insists that this is the secret to her tempeh, and it's also good for Asian-style stir-fries, but canola or grapeseed oil can be used instead)

[] Quinoa (see what I said about millet, above)

[] Sriracha (a Vietnamese condiment made from garlic and chiles; it's a nice little addition to things if you like spicy)

[] Untoasted (a.k.a. light) sesame oil (good to have for the tofu recipe on page 64, but the deal here is the same as with peanut oil)

[] Walnut oil (good for baking and, if you want some nuttiness in there, salad dressings)

[] Whole wheat pasta (I may be unusual in not cooking much pasta; this may belong on your must-have list)

If you intend to bake, keep on hand:

[] Applesauce (see the egg substitute point in "Tips and Techniques," page 39)

[] Baking powder (aluminum-free)

[] Baking soda

[] Brown rice syrup and/or agave syrup

[] Dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, and the like to put in your cookies

[] Good cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate

[] Rolled oats if you like oatmeal cookies

[] Sucanat (an unrefined sugar, the name comes from "sugar cane natural") or evaporated cane juice (you can use regular granulated and/or brown sugar, of course, but it's just not as good, both for flavor and health)

[] Vanilla extract

[] Whole wheat flour

You need to have these in your spice rack:

[] Cayenne pepper (if you like to make anything spicy)

[] Chili powder (a combo of chiles, cumin, oregano, garlic, and other spices, depending on the brand)

[] Curry powder (each brand is different and some are hotter than others, so just find one you like)

[] Dried rosemary (this is one of the few herbs that's just as good dried as it is fresh)

[] Ground cinnamon (for baked goods and also oatmeal; some people like to put it in savory stuff like the chili- or Indian-style beans 'n' greens, so play around with that if it appeals to you)

[] Ground coriander

[] Ground cumin

[] Kosher, sea, or mineral salt; I recommend avoiding regular table salt because it has added iodine and anti-clumping agents. But I also don't recommend spending real money on salt. There are a lot of fancy, spendy salts on the market, and though there are some textural differences that change the taste when you sprinkle them on top of food after it's done, for cooking they're pretty much all the same, so it doesn't really matter. However, the size of the crystals determines how much salt fits in your measuring spoon. All of the recipes in this book give salt quantities for the average kosher or small sea salt texture. Kosher salt is widely and cheaply available at any supermarket, while nonfancy sea salt is available for under $2 a pound at any store with a good bulk section. If all you've got is regular table salt, reduce the amount in all of my recipes by one-third.

[] Paprika (comes in hot and sweet varieties; I like hot but if you aren't so into spicy food, get the sweet)

[] Red pepper flakes (again, if you like to cook things spicy)

[] Turmeric

[] Whole black peppercorns in a grinder (don't bother with pre-ground pepper; it tastes like dirt, literally)

You should think about having these in your spice rack:

[] Cardamom pods

[] Dried herbs such as oregano, thyme, dill, and bay leaves (these are very much fine in dried form and it may not be worth it to get them fresh, especially if you only need a little at a time)

[] Fenugreek

[] Garlic and onion powders (okay, these are kinda gross for most uses, but they're great in the tempeh recipe on page 69 and sprinkled on popcorn; you also may find other uses)

[] Ground cardamom (sweeter than the whole pods; good for oatmeal and baked goods)

[] Mustard seeds

[] Powdered chiles in different varieties (this is not the same as chili powder; these are actually dried ground peppers, and if you run across them in your supermarket it's fun to experiment with them in my beans 'n' greens recipes or other bean stews)

[] Whole cumin seeds

A FURTHER NOTE ON YOUR SPICE RACK : While fresh herbs are awesome and in most cases better than their dried counterparts, they're pricey and can be hard to find. Most generally available herbs are fine in their dried forms. The exceptions, in my opinion, are parsley, basil, and chives; you're better off using something else or skipping them altogether if you can't get those fresh. Also, powdered ginger is worse than useless unless you're baking something sweet where ginger is only a small element, like pumpkin pie. For a savory dish calling for dried ginger, just use fresh in a smaller quantity, and if you're looking at a gingerbread recipe that calls for powdered ginger, find a new recipe.

You need to have these at all times even though they will (eventually) go bad if you don't use them:

[] Garlic

[] Onions

You should try to have these around as much as possible even though they will (eventually) go bad if you don't use them:

[] Ginger

[] Lemons and/or limes

[] Potatoes

[] Sweet potatoes

You need to buy these frequently in small amounts because they go bad:

[] Fresh fruit

[] Fresh vegetables

[] Tempeh and water-packed (not boxed) tofu

A NOTE ON STORAGE AND PERISHABILITY : When I say that something lasts forever, what I really mean is that it will generally last at least as long as it takes you to use it if you cook regularly (except canned beans and tomatoes — they really do last forever). Oils will eventually go rancid (and nut oils will do so faster than others), but if you store them away from strong heat and direct sunlight and you buy them in quantities appropriate to how often you use them, you'll be fine. Grains (and dried beans) can get kinda old and overly dry; you just may need some extra water and/or time to cook them. Spices and dried herbs do lose their flavor over time, but I'm not one of those people who insists that you have to replace everything in your spice rack every six months — that's just not practical. As with everything else, use your judgment.

* Dried beans are cheaper than canned beans and, since they're available in bulk and go through less processing (you're essentially processing them yourself when you soak and cook them), they also have a lighter footprint. And, depending on where you're shopping, you can often find more variety — including interesting and unusual heirlooms — when you're in the market for dried beans. So dried beans are freakin' great. But I have to be honest, I hardly ever cook with them, which is why my recipes call for cans. The extra step of presoaking and the much longer cooking time means that you really need to plan ahead, and that's just not realistic for me most of the time — and I'm thinkin' it's not that realistic for you, either, since you're reading this book on healthy convenience cooking. So by all means go for dried beans if you can fit them into your schedule. But don't let avoidance of cans stop you from eating the tasty, healthy, affordable, animal-free staple that is beans.

** Tomatoes are the only vegetable I recommend buying in cans. There are a few reasons for this: They're necessary to get the best flavor from certain dishes; the canned version works well in those dishes, sometimes even better than fresh; and those dishes are often most appealing in winter, when fresh tomatoes are out of season anyway. (That doesn't mean they're not available — tomatoes are probably the most common and affordable out-of-season produce item. But winter supermarket tomatoes are vile and flavorless. You're better off putting cotton balls in your stew. Just say no.)

*** Canola oil does have some potential problems. First of all, all non-organic canola available in North America is pretty much guaranteed to be genetically modified, and even the organic stuff may be contaminated with GM material. In the face of that, I used to think organic canola oil was a decent compromise, but I've also recently learned that one aspect of the extraction process hydrogenates a significant proportion of canola oil, leading to the presence of dreaded trans fats. So now I'm not so sure. Grapeseed oil — generally made from the seeds of wine grapes — doesn't share those particular problems, but it can be pricier; it's also really hard to find as an organic product (which makes sense when you think about how little wine is organic). But I am leaning toward thinking it's a better choice even if it's conventionally grown. However, I'm not entirely sure, and, furthermore, I haven't used grapeseed oil as extensively as I have canola, so I'm still listing canola in all my recipes.


Excerpted from Cook Food by Lisa Jervis. Copyright © 2009 Lisa Jervis. Excerpted by permission of PM Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


what's this book all about?,
what you need in your cabinets,
and on your pot rack,
what you need in your pantry,,
refrigerator, and spice rack,
tips and techniques,
nonrecipe recipes,
further resources,

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