I just moved into a beautiful beachfront apartment. Each morning I have the privilege of stepping out my front door right onto the soft sand. I pinch myself each time and ask, “Have I died and gone to heaven?”
The only downfall to my literal paradise is that, for the moment, my apartment is sans-a-fridge. I have no place to store cold food, which you may think would make eating healthy an impossibility. While lack of cold storage does present some challenges, it also offers many fortunate opportunities. For example, I have eaten at my favorite restaurant, Real Food Daily, twice in the past week. They have many wonderful gluten free options for us gluten sensitive types. My favorite is El Bandito Rojo. It’s a vegan enchilada dish but I’ll bet it can entice even the most devout carnivore!
My friend Alex, of Weiser Family Farms, gave me a bag full of root vegetables such as purple and orange carrots, purple and red potatoes, rutabagas, Jerusalem artichokes, onions and garlic, plus beets with beautiful purple hued greens attached. Alex informed me that the greens will stay fresh, even unrefrigerated, if you soak the beets, or roots, in water. And indeed he is correct, although they really should be eaten within three days for optimal nutrition. The other root vegetables are best stored in a cool, dry, dark place but do not have to be kept in the fridge.
Since I can’t buy berries, which are out of season anyway, I get my anthocyanins from beets, red and purple potatoes and purple carrots. Anthocyanins are one of the most powerful antioxidants you can get in your diet. For the best sources just remember the word “cyan” which indicates they are found in the blue, purple and red hued foods. Whereas most antioxidants can donate only one electron at a time to help squelch oxygen free radicals, anthocyanins are larger and can donate several electrons at once and still remain stable. Like all nutrients, even anthocyanins’ potency diminishes over time so the sooner you eat these powerful foods after picking, the better.
Another great thing about being without a refrigerator is that you get to go to charity dinners, with you, the refrigerator impaired, being the charity. Alex invited me to a dinner at Tierra Sur a restaurant located inside the Herzog Wine Cellars, a Kosher winery in Oxnard. The menu featured the Weiser Family Farms bounty.
Chef Todd Aarons did things with root vegetables I never thought possible. Imagine a potato ceviche with fresh citrus and sea bass and just a tad of red onion to bring a little pungency to the dish, followed by a Jerusalem artichoke (aka sunchoke) soup with fried parsnip crouton. FYI, Jerusalem artichokes are not related to the traditional artichoke but are instead a root vegetable and relative of the Sunflower. The soup was simple, yet delectable.
Our third course was baby carrot budino, which means ‘pudding’ in Italian and is basically a white carrot puree with small diced orange carrots. The budino was accompanied by duck confit and baby beet relish plus some of those purple hued beet greens. Most of the guests couldn’t believe they were eating beets and carrots. Although the chef told us he did very little to alter their natural flavors, these root vegetables tasted quite different from what you find in the traditional grocery store. You must visit the Weiser Family Farms stand at the farmer’s market to really appreciate what I’m talking about.
The last course, which I could not finish, was an apple wood grilled hanger steak with white garlic puree, lamb bacon and Russian banana potato pancake. I should have taken this course home. It was delicious but I was stuffed by this point. Although, not too stuffed to try the dessert: Nantes carrot pie with red beet and eucalyptus honey gelato. Who’d a thunk it? What a way to eat your veggies!
Please mind your salivary glands. This was a onetime meal. However, Chef Todd Aarons and Tierra Sur offer many dinner options including a featured Farmer Dinner several times a year. For more information please visit their website: http://herzogwinecellars.com/
After that four course meal, I was sated for at least a day. The next evening I ate light. My meal was a simple yet satisfying fare of roasted root veggies. I scrubbed some purple and orange carrots, a rutabaga, two tiny purple and red potatoes, a few sunchokes along with an onion and two cloves of garlic. I quartered all the vegetables, peeled the onion and left the garlic cloves in their skin. Drizzled with high heat sunflower oil, then seasoned with sea salt, basil and oregano, I roasted everything on a baking tray in an oven set at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. When eaten together the flavors perfectly complemented one another, some sweet, some bitter with just the right amount of salt and herbs to pull all flavors to the forefront.
I also chopped the beet stems and greens, added some shredded beets and a shredded rutabaga, then tossed everything with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sesame seeds and sea salt and enjoyed my impromptu salad. Although I liked the taste of the roasted rutabagas, I absolutely loved them raw. They taste like a milder version of horseradish, another favorite root of mine.
Because I am forever a frugal foodie, after washing all of my produce, I took all the peels and end pieces, boiled them in fresh water and made a savory vegetable broth which is great either on its own or with some roasted root vegetables thrown into the pot. Who says it’s hard to eat healthy? Not me!
So, I’ve lived nearly two weeks without refrigeration. While eating less food, I may have lost a pound, but my energy is good, my mind is clear and I am happy to be in my creative space with the sand at my toes. What will happen in the next week? Who knows? For now I’m just eating one day at a time.