Edible Monterey Bay


Summer Reading List

How to garden, eat and cook, all written by a neighbor near you

By Sarah Wood 

 Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 12.04.15 PMHave you decided what books you’d like to dig into this summer? If you crave something food-related, perhaps with a local hook, you’re in luck. Since the beginning of last year, at least a dozen such books have been published by authors with a connection to our local area, and they’re good!

One of the books that we’re most excited about is aimed at those of us who have the least amount of time to read but probably need a book like this the most—I mean moms, here—and that’s Elizabeth Borelli’s Beanalicious Living: A Healthy Eating Guide and Cookbook (Wyatt McKenzie, 2013).

Anyone who has been dialed in to her Grass Roots Café or Sustainable Santa Cruz online communities knows that this Santa Cruz mother of two cares deeply about food and healthful, conscious living—and that she knows her topic. She’s also funny!

So how wonderful that in June, she’s coming out with a book that cuts to the chase of how to feed yourself and your family better, or, as she puts it in her introduction, start “taking back the kitchen without losing your mind.”

Borelli’s premise starts with something that most of us know, which is that processed foods are bad for you; whole foods, in contrast, both nurture you and fight disease.

But Borelli provides an entertaining and sensible guide to actually taking action on this, first by quickly summing up the argument, in case you haven’t had the time to read quite all of the published works on food by nutrition guru, Marion Nestle, or the investigative reporters, Michael Moss, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, John Robbins, et al.

Happily, her intent isn’t to make you depressed about all of the corporations out there making your family sick, or to force you to conclude that you don’t have time or can’t afford a better diet. And although the former high-tech marketer has a certificate in plant- based (vegan) nutrition from Cornell University, she’s not going to make you feel guilty about not adopting a vegan diet—or paleo, raw or anything similarly rigid and restrictive for that matter—as she makes the point that as salutary as those diets are, many parents lack the bandwidth to fit the kind of food preparation they require into their family lives.

Instead, the book is about empowering you to make realistic choices for your family, and she pokes holes in the myths that eating 

whole food is too expensive or too time consuming—or anything short of delicious.

Her solution? A little bit of planning and a lot of beans.

“Study after study show that beans top the list in terms of nu- trients for the dollar,” she says. And what’s more, she notes that these “redheaded stepchildren of the whole food diet” are also high in fiber, reduce cholesterol and are the only food that the USDA Food Guide views as capable of doing double-duty in one’s diet as both a protein and a vegetable.

And time? “If you can buy a frozen lasagna, you can boil a pot of beans,” she says.

But the little bit of organization is key. Spending an hour or two on the weekend to plan out your menus, for example, will help you carry one pot of beans through three different preparations. And while Borelli is a fresh food advocate, she’s no fresh food fanatic, noting that she does tons of freezing of cooked beans and sauces so that when she picks up that fresh asparagus at the market, she has something par- tially prepared to go with it. Similarly, she’s all for pre-chopped or frozen vegetables if it helps you down the whole food path.

Best of all, Borelli provides 80 healthful recipes that are designed to be easy and delicious enough to make beans a bigger part of your diet. She also offers practical tips for planning menus around the recipes, and her passion for her topic is inspiring enough to compel even the busiest of parents to pull those dried beans from the back of their pantries. Case in point: we’ll be having red lentils tonight!

What follows is a roundup of other notable cooking, gardening and nutrition-related books that locally connected authors recently published or will be releasing soon. 

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Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, by Deborah Madison (Ten Speed Press, 2013) Aside from Borelli’s, the newest book on our list is also one of the most inspiring and informative cookbooks you could ever own, and it will change the way you think about and prepare vegetables. Just released in April by the author of the seminal Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Vegetable Literacy explores the affinities and other relationships between vegetables, herbs and edible flowers within the same botanical families, and provides 300 uncomplicated recipes for making the most of them. A University of California, Santa Cruz grad and founding chef of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, Madison also once served as tenzo, or head cook, at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery in Carmel Valley.

The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids: 101 Ways to Get Kids Outside, Dirty and Having Fun, by Whitney Cohen and John Fisher (Timber Press, 2012) Written by two of the genius staffers at Life Lab, the Santa Cruz garden-based-education icon, this book is beautifully designed and full of creative ideas to engage your children all summer long.  

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Manresa: An Edible Reflection, by David Kinch (Ten Speed, 2013) Due out in October, this will be the first cookbook written by David Kinch, the Santa Cruz resident and winner of the best chef in America award for the Pacific region from the James Beard Foundation. Kinch is know for his devotion to creating a sense of place in the food served by his two-Michelin star Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos; most of his produce is grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains through an exclusive partnership with Cynthia Sanberg’s Love Apple Farms. (See “Cultivating a Cutting Edge, EMB Spring 2012.)

The Artist, The Cook, and the Gardener: Recipes Inspired by Painting from the Garden, by Maryjo Koch (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013) A cookbook by a Santa Cruz naturalist painter that celebrates the connections between gardening, cooking and art.

The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen: Finding Harmony Through Food, by Talya Lutzker (Book Publishing Co., 2012) The certified ayurvedic practitioner and professional chef behind Talya’s Kitchen—an organic, nutrition-focused Santa Cruz catering business—shows how to reap the benefits of an ayurvedic diet without use of dairy products.

Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own and Cook it at Home, by Andrea Nguyen (Ten Speed Press, 2012) Nguyen’s third cookbook offers an array of Asian approaches to making tofu one of the stars in your cooking repertoire. She lives in Santa Cruz.

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, by Michael Pollan (Penquin, 2013) It’s true that Michael Pollan is not strictly local as he lives in Berkeley. But you can find out why this book is not to be missed by reading our review of it on p. 11 of our Spring 2013 issue. In short, like Borelli’s book, it makes the case for why cooking is so important. He also explores the relationship between cooking, nature and culture, and takes the reader on a fascinating trip all around the world as he masters four classical recipes himself.

No Happy Cows: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Food Revolution, by John Robbins (Conari Press, 2012) The author of the bestselling Diet For A New America tackles such pertinent issues as grassfed beef, the relationship between soy and Alzheimer’s disease and junk food marketing aimed at kids.

Cultivating a Movement: An Oral History Series on Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Farming on California’s Cen- tral Coast, edited by Irene Reti and Sarah Rabkin (University of California, Santa Cruz University Library, 2012) If you’ve not had a chance to read this book yet, you’re in for a fascinating opportu- nity to get to know many of the people who have helped make the Central Coast one of the country’s most fertile cradles of organic and sustainable agriculture. Each chapter recounts the oral histories of a different participant in the movement.

350 Best Vegan Recipes, by Deb Roussou (Robert Rose, 2012) A Santa Cruz restaurant consultant, cooking teacher and cookbook author proves with her hundreds of recipes that a vegan diet need not be limiting.

Feeding Alice: A Love Story, by Shelly Schachter (Shelly’s Kitchen Press, 2013) The gardener behind Edible Landscaping by Shelly, a self-described house-husband and chef of the former Shelly’s Kitchen in Carmel Valley, serves up a cookbook that is also a love let- ter to his wife, Alice.

Farms with a Future: Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business, by Rebecca Thistlethwaite (Chelsea Green Publish- ing, 2013) The former co-proprietor of TLC Ranch in Watsonville uses her own experience and those of the innovative farms she visited and worked at all around the United States, including Monterey-based Serendipity Farms, as case studies in how to make a farm thrive.

The Paleo Slow Cooker: Healthy, Gluten-free Meals the Easy Way, by Arsy Vartanian (Race Point Publishing, 2013) A guide to easy gluten-free cooking by the Santa Cruz blogger behind Rubies and Radishes.

RECIPES: For Borelli’s recipes for SunBean Salad and Cilantro Mint Sauce, please go to www.ediblemontereybay.com.