A responsible kitchen can help the planet

We’ve been enjoying the summer tremendously. It seems as if we have loads of time to play, read, visit, go to synagogue, pick fruits and vegetables, savor meals together and cook.

As my children grow, so does their interest in food. Their world awareness is increasing, and with that, the value of tikkun olam, has taken root. As their mother, I have an obligation to educate them in becoming responsible and ethical citizens, with that comes an appreciation of nature and our planet.

Violet has been a vegetarian for several years, opting not to eat any animals — “I don’t eat anything with a face or a mother.” She now is focusing on eating food that is not only responsibly produced, but that is local. She has pointed out the tremendous amount of wasted resources involved in the overly packaged produce I was purchasing in a large grocery store chain. She also taught me about the large amounts of fossil fuel that is consumed in bringing in fruits and vegetables from long distances, including South America.

Last week, my children indulged me by accompanying me to Año Nuevo State Park, in San Mateo County, to watch the elephant seals molt. Just across the road, we noticed a “U-Pick” organic olallieberry farm. The four of us picked for 20 minutes, and scored four pounds of berries. Although we could have continued working, berries are fairly volatile, and should be eaten within a day or two. As soon as we got home, Gideon got busy on dessert.

Ruby’s diet remains limited, but she happens to be the best gardener in the family, and is always eager to harvest what we grow, especially the easy things, like lettuce and herbs. She tried the following potato dish, with the herbs that she collected, and liked them, much to our surprise. The Olallieberry Crisp was not appealing to her in the least, to her brother’s pleasure. “More for me!” he said, grinning.

Violet’s Kosher Cheeseburgers | Serves 6

6 portabello mushrooms, stems removed and cleaned
6 Tbs. olive oil
fine sea salt
6 slices cheddar cheese
12 slices potato rosemary bread, grilled
12 slices tomatoes
Heat a large skillet, grill, or preheat a sheet pan in a very hot oven. Brush the mushrooms on both sides with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms, grill sides up, on the hot skillet, grill or sheet pan, over high heat for about 5 minutes. Turn them over, and place a slice of cheese on each one.
Place two tomato slices on top of a toasted slice of bread. Put a “cheeseburger” on top of the tomatoes, and put another piece of bread on top. Serve with ketchup.

Gideon’s Olallieberry Crisp | Serves 6

2 lbs. olallieberries, blackberries or marionberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs. unbleached white flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
3/4 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 oz. unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
Toss together the berries, sugar and the 2 Tbs. flour. Place the fruit in a baking dish.
In a small bowl, combine the 1/2 cup flour, oats, brown sugar, butter and vanilla. Mix until crumbly and spread over the fruit.
Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes, until the berries are bubbling and the topping crisp. Serve warm.

New Potatoes with Herbs and Garlic | Serves 6

3 lbs. red skin potatoes
4 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs (we use parsley, basil and mint)
1 Tbs. fine sea salt
1 small clove garlic, through the press
4 Tbs. unsalted butter or olive oil
Scrub the potatoes, place them in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Place the pot over high heat, bringing the water to a boil. Cook the potatoes until they are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, and cut them into bite size pieces.
Toss the potatoes with the herbs, garlic, butter or olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at www.GoRebecca.com. She can be reached at [email protected].