pineapple walnut salad

Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

I have become a mad scientist.

My free time has been devoted to the improvement of my eating habits. Hours are spent meddling in the kitchen and even more are spent searching for inspiration all over the internet while performing vigorous cookbook examinations. I am on a mission to learn more about nutrition, cooking techniques, and food at its most basic level – the ingredients.

In my last post, I mentioned that I am trying to cut down our reliance on processed/packaged food to a bare minimum.

I came in to this challenge knowing that it would be a slow transition in my lifestyle – one that would require adaptation and complete incorporation into my daily routine.

And I mess up all the time, but I don’t let it get me down. I simply keep working at it.

I’m doing this for myself and for my possible family. I do not want to sound like some ranting liberal or holier-than-thou-preacher, because that is not my intention. The reasons are brief and basic -

  1. Health. This is definitely numero uno. If food is fuel, and I can create the most cost-efficient and vitamin-packed fuel, then saying no  would be foolish.
  2. Real Food vs. Science. Man playing God and trying to control nature is a recipe for disaster. I prefer my food to come from the earth, the way nature intended it to.
  3. Less Garbage. This will probably sound crazy, but I’m constantly watching the amounts of garbage I accumulate each month week.  I feel personally responsible for each and every one of those bags I fill that gets sent off to China, or some landfill in the ocean, or to who-knows-where. By eating entirely fresh ingredients, I create far less trash than before – I compost my vegetable scraps and the rest of which I try to recycle or donate. All before tossing it. I hate trash.
  4. Energy = Activity. For most of my life, I’ve had the outlook of the procrastinator. Why do today what I could do the day after tomorrow?  I wake up ready to knock out my to-do list and later there is more than enough time to spend time with my George R.R. Martin book and a glass of wine.

My nights of experimentation have led me to one conclusive idea: I need to learn more about Ethnic food.

Mexican, Ethiopian, Indian, Moroccan, Venezuelan. The list goes on and on. Each country has a unique diet that is very often gluten-free and usually contains a high veggie count. The dishes are packed full of flavor and aromatic spices (some of which are actually known to cut fat – such as Turmeric).  They also all focus on using fresh vegetables, fresh meats, and freshly ground spices – which in my book is a recipe for success. Pun intended.

I recently purchased Marcus Samuelsson’s “The Soul of a New Cuisine.” It’s pages are filled with the flavors of Africa, and the foundation of inspiration in my kitchen this month.

I think back on times that I was eating gluten, and even farther back when I was (trying to) survive on processed and pre-made food, but I have had nothing that compares to the food I eat now. The cloud of exhaustion that used to plague me is gone, I eat like a king and never feel guilty and best of all, it is all in my control.

Eating fresh ingredients that you, yourself, prepare… It is life-changing – and in more ways than one.

pineapple-walnut salad

grain-free / dairy-free / soy-free / corn-free/  peanut-free

This is adapted from the recipe for Pineapple-Cashew Salad in Marcus Samuelsson’s cookbook “The Soul of a New Cuisine.” It’s perfect for casual summer afternoons, or as after-dinner treats. Takes about two hours to marinade and 10-15 minutes to throw together. Serves 6-8. 

- ingredients -

  • 1 1/2 cups sweet white wine (Riesling, Moscato, or Eiswein – cheap is okay)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup honey or maple syrup (to taste)
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup walnuts, toasting optional
  • Pinch of cinnamon to serve

- instructions -

  1. In a large bowl, mix wine and sugar until combined. Add the pineapple chunks.  Refrigerate and marinate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  2. When preparing to serve, if toasting desired, preheat oven to 350° F. Once preheated, place the walnuts on a sheet pan and then in the oven for 7-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn. Sprinkle walnuts on to each dish and enjoy!

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Aunt Marian May 24, 2012, 6:19 pm

    Y to the Yum.

    Great post. I always feel as though I am in your apartment by your descriptions: I imagine Sam(my) cooking and surprising you and I love it. You’re a wonderful writer, truly, a delight to read.

    On my list is to make Injeera, the Ethiopian bread.

    I imagine you have Garam Masala, or you make your own, but it is Delicious with lentils: sauté onions forever (we loved carmelized); have lentils soaking in bit of stock; push onions to side and put in T of garam masala (to taste, really); the heat will allow the garam masala to bloom (you may have already read about this); add lentils and stir all up. (that’s when you see how much gm)

    I love veganaise, so a dollop on top and … it’s insane. My fave.

    Have a great day.

    • Holly May 26, 2012, 4:07 pm

      Oh wow, that sounds delicious!!! We will have to add that to next week’s line-up – we love lentils. And caramelized onions. And Garam Masala…

      • Aunt Marian May 27, 2012, 7:31 pm

        We just finished our kitchen: needed a couple changes, and I made this lentil dish today–and thought of you both. Maybe a T of gm is waaaay too much–so start with a t.

        I am gearing up to make the cauliflower pizza! Cannot wait!!!

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