19 August 2014

Tasty Tuesday Review: The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther

It's the rare cookbook that reads like a life's journey, but The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther reflects the farm-to-table approach to cooking that many of us adhere to.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I requested this book for review. Would the recipes be ones I'd read, reflect on, try, and adopt or would this be more of a fad-type cookbook. I was thrown, frankly, by the fact that it was a best-seller in the Raw Food category. Yes, I was a vegetarian for many years, a vegan for some of those, and did try out a raw food diet, but found those strictures not as health as I had anticipated. So, I opened this gorgeous cover with a bit of trepidation, but my reservations were washed away by Jennifer McGruther's beautiful introduction and explanation of the philosophy behind the Nourished Kitchen - the traditional foods movement.


I'll admit, the thought of cooking with lard is not one that fills me with joy. I'm probably going to skip that, but already cook with butter, extra virgin olive oil, and bacon drippings. (Ever since my high school chemistry teacher explained and demonstrated that if you heat margarine up to a certain degree it turns into plastic, that's been off my shopping list.) Am I slightly hypocritical to avoid lard? Probably. But finding a reliable source at a cost I can afford is slightly impossible.

Some of these recipes would be easier if it was not only a movement in the kitchen, but also in life. But I'll admit that when I kept chickens, I could never bring myself to cull one for the stewpot. Instead, they were pets and provided fabulous eggs. It would be useless for me to consider adding pigs, cows, lambs, goats, and fowl to this homestead of I were to consider slaughtering them. But, excepting the pigs, the others might be useful additions for milk, cheese, eggs, and wool. However, I do think my neighbors might raise an eyebrow or two.

As I journey toward the goal of truly respecting the environment and the wonders around us, I continue to search out foods that McGruther recommends. However, I'll need to be honest. Some of these will be selected from the grocery store or local farm market. Not all will be sourced from the immediate surroundings. I wish they could. Many of them will be. But just as she recommends moderation in diet, I'll need to adopt moderation in adapting her recipes to what makes sense in the here and now.

It's a rare cookbook that I'll look through and say to myself, I'll make that, that, and that. Usually there are recipes that I'll look over and think, no, too complicated, too many steps, sounds delicious, but... The Nourished Kitchen is the opposite of that observation. It's the rare recipe here that I won't be trying. In fact, I'm already plotting her autumn equinox Cider-braised kale with apples and sweet cherries (though I may be trading out the sweet cherries for cranberries).

The other recipe that I can't wait to try is the one for Slow-baked cannelloni beans with preserved lemon (pictured on the cover), rosemary, and smoked paprika. This bean dish sounds absolutely delicious and I can't wait to try it. She calls this a "humble" dish and I suppose it is. But there is nothing as satisfying, to me, as a pot of slow-cooked beans flavored with herbs. She includes a wonderful tip about soaking the beans that I'm really grateful for. I'll probably play with the recipe a bit. Perhaps substituting sage for rosemary or a bit of each. Perhaps fresh lemon instead of preserved. But that's the joy in a cookbook like this, as McGruther provides the basis for each of us to make these recipes our own.



The book is beautifully illustrated with photos by the author. However if you're looking for each dish to be illustrated, they're not. However, I don't think you need to do that. Especially with these recipes that are as much about the ingredients and preparation as they are about the presentation.

One of the basics of any cook's kitchen are the broths that are on hand. McGruther's recipes for beef and chicken bone broth are ideal (however I can't bring myself to make the chicken foot broth, I can't). I'll admit to making a broth frequently, but have never roasted the bones. I'm going to try this as I think it will add significantly to both the taste as well as the nutritional component. The great thing about broth is that you can freeze the excess. I've done this both in an ice cube tray (for when you just want a bit of broth in your dish) or in two cup increments. Wonderful to have on hand and super easy to make too.


The dessert section (From the Orchard) is just amazing. I've been collection fruit recipes all summer and pinning them to my Pinterest board, but here is a collection that just is ideal. I can't wait to gather my quince from the bush near the house to try the Quince, Apple, and Pear Gallette. Right now, I'm about to cut some basil for the roasted peaches with basil and yogurt. (I may wait a day or two and see how my homemade yogurt turns out, following the recipe here.)

Truly, this is a cookbook that I predict that I'll be referring to constantly. Each section has something to offer and with over 160 recipes there are plenty to choose from. The seasonal quality is enticing and while I don't want to rush into fall and winter, these recipes make the prospect something to look forward to.

I'm not quite sure which romance titles would best be paired with this cookbook, but a few that spring to mind include the stories about Sophie Enright and the Blossom Cafe from Mariah Stewarts' At the River's Edge: The Chesapeake Diaries' and some of the chef/cooks from Ava Miles' Dare Valley and Dare River series. I have a feeling these characters would be most appreciative of the recipes that are included here.

If you have friends who appreciate cooking, healthful eating, and a searching for a more beneficial lifestyle - this cookbook is the perfect gift. In fact, I'd suggest that this would be one of those books that people would treasure - for years - if given on the occasion of their first apartment, marriage, or other celebrations.

If you follow this cookbook and the traditional foods lifestyle, I have a feeling that not only will you feel healthier, but you'll feel better about yourself. Why? Because you'll be reconnecting in a significant way with the natural process of the seasons and the land around you.



From the PublisherThe Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle by Jennifer McGruther
Ten Speed Press (Random House)  ⎜ 9781607744689   $27.99  ⎜ Apr 15, 2014 
A cookbook from the author of the popular website Nourished Kitchen, featuring over 160 recipes based on the "traditional foods" philosophy of eating, which emphasizes whole grains, dairy, red meat, organ meats, and fermented foods.  
     The traditional foods movement is a fad-free approach to cooking and eating that emphasizes nutrient-dense, real food, and values quality, environment, and community over the convenience of processed, additive-laden products that are the norm on grocery store shelves.       
     Based on the research of Weston A. Price, who studied the diets of indigenous peoples to understand the relationship between nutrition and health, a traditional foods diet avoids processed ingredients, but allows meat, animal fat, and grains. It embraces cultured dairy, such as kefir and yogurt, that contain beneficial bacteria; fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kombucha, that are rich in probiotics; and organ meats that are packed with vitamins and minerals. It also celebrates locally grown foods. By choosing ingredients from nearby sources, you create a stronger connection to your food, and have a better understanding what you’re eating and how it was produced.       
     In The Nourished Kitchen, Jennifer McGruther guides you through her traditional foods kitchen and offers more than 160 recipes inspired by  the seasons, land, and waters around her. In the morning, fuel up with Eggs Poached in Fiery Tomato Sauce. On a hot summer day, Cucumber Salad with Dill and Kefir is a cooling side dish, and on a chilly fall evening, Barley in Broth with Bacon and Kale offers comfort and warmth. Old-Fashioned Meat Loaf with Gravy makes a hearty family meal, while Chicken in Riesling with Peas can be the centerpiece of an elegant supper. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Maple-Roasted Pears, and quench your thirst with naturally fermented Vanilla Mint Soda. With the benefit of Jennifer’s experience, you can craft a loaf of Whole Wheat and Spelt Sourdough Bread and stock your kitchen with Spiced Sour Pickles with Garlic.      
     The Nourished Kitchen not only teaches how to prepare wholesome, nourishing foods, but also encourages a mindful approach cooking and a celebration of old-world culinary traditions that have sustained healthy people for millennia. Whether you’re already a practitioner of the traditional foods lifestyle or simply trying to incorporate more natural, highly nutritious foods into your routine, you will find plenty to savor in The Nourished Kitchen.
(I received this book from Blogging for Books and NetGalley for this review.)