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Eating for the Planet

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More of us than ever are coming to understand the links between the food we eat and its impact on the planet. Eating a diet rich in legumes and organic vegetables, with a reduced emphasis on meat, is recognized as being better for us and the planet.

Organic fruits and vegetables are direct sources of nourishment, take less land and water than animal production, and are grown free of pesticides that can damage soil. When grown as part of a regenerative farming system, they contribute to sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, and soil improvement.

Nitrogen-fixing leguminous plants, including lentils, peas, and beans, have deep roots and require less irrigation and tillage than other crops. When used as part of a crop rotation system, the nitrogen these plants leave behind in the soil can be passed on to other crops, reducing the need for fertilizers, which, in turn, results in efficient production and less residue for the soil and the food we eat.

Where and when our food is grown is also important. “Buying local” supports local economies and may mean fewer transport emissions, just as shifting our attitudes toward selecting seasonal items can result in positive impacts for the environment as well as more variety in what we eat.

The magic is that what’s good for the earth is also good for us. Legumes are great sources of fibre and protein, and leafy greens are packed with vitamins C and K. Diets rich in vegetables, including antioxidant-packed leafy greens, are associated with lower cancer risk. Read on to discover delicious recipes that will help you include more sustainable ingredients in your meal plans.

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Leek and Mushroom Tartines with Wilted Watercress

Leek and Mushroom Tartines with Wilted Watercress
Herby Lentil Salad with Spinach and Peas

Small black beluga lentils, so called because of their resemblance to caviar, hold their shape well, making them perfect for salads. If you can’t find beluga lentils, use French Puy lentils, which have similar properties. With lentils, young spinach, spring peas, and herby dressing, this salad welcomes spring.

Bison Chili with Cinnamon and Chocolate

Creamy pinto beans and earthy black beans stand in for kidney beans and help make a hearty chili along with some smoky poblano peppers. A pinch of cacao in this chili enhances the slightly sweet flavour of lean bison. If you prefer a less spicy chili, feel free to reduce the amount of powder, or add it in stages.

Pea and Radish Salad with Miso Tahini Dressing

In this fresh spring salad, spicy radishes and crisp snap peas work together perfectly with a miso tahini dressing that dishes plenty of umami flavour. Full of colour, not only is this salad appealing to the eye, but its fresh crunchy texture and bright flavours will keep you coming back for more.

Poached Rhubarb with Cinnamon, Mint, and Ginger

Perhaps nothing signals the arrival of spring better than delicious rhubarb. The tart vegetable (yes, you read that right) that we think of as a fruit lends itself to gentle poaching to coax out its flavour. It’s just waiting to be combined with a host of herbs and aromatics to make it even more luscious.

This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue of alive.

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Choosing Sustainable Seafood

Choosing Sustainable Seafood

Are you wondering what it means to buy “sustainable” seafood? The type of seafood, where it’s from, and how it’s caught or harvested all play into what makes seafood sustainable. Simply put, it means that the harvest of a particular seafood is done in a way that allows for continued harvesting into the future. But it’s not simply a question of controlling overfishing. Impacts on the environment are also key. Wild fish have the reputation of being more sustainable, but that’s only if they’re fished through managed seafood programs and don’t have other impacts such as pollution or depletion of other species.   Seafood from aquaculture can also be sustainable, provided it is done in a way that avoids any detrimental effects to the larger ocean environment or other species. Stay informed, though, since species considered sustainable one day may be under threat the next. This might mean being willing to try something new or forgoing a favourite for something that is more sustainable. While that may sound like a sacrifice, it’s also an opportunity to discover a new favourite. If you live in an area where seafood is harvested, making a decision to support local fishers and harvesters may also influence your decision about which sustainable seafood choices to make. Navigating the specifics can be tricky, but your local fish counter is a great place to start your quest for sustainable fish. Your fishmonger is a valuable source of information about where the product is sourced. You can also look for certifications from organizations such as Ocean Wise and Marine Stewardship Council. Once you get it home, sustainable seafood’s variety and versatility presents us with an ocean of delicious opportunities in the kitchen. Try these recipes for simple, flavourful, and diverse preparations. Your choices can help Ocean Wise Seafood is a seafood certification program that helps consumers and businesses choose sustainable seafood options. The program works with scientists to assess the state of aquatic ecosystems and the species they support, making recommendations on sustainable choices. They employ a simple rating of either Ocean Wise Recommended or Not Recommended. Look for the Ocean Wise symbol when you buy seafood or check out their website ( seafood.ocean.org ) to search for sustainable seafood options. They have information about various species, where and how they’re fished or harvested, and whether your choice is sustainable. It’s simple, easy, and reassuring. Face your fish-prep fears Many of us shy away from cooking seafood because we think we don’t know how, or because we may be worried about spoiling a piece of beautiful fish. Here are some quick tips to relieve your fish-prep fears. Start with the best In addition to asking at your fish counter about sustainability, don’t be afraid to ask how the seafood you’re buying has been transported and stored. Frozen fish, which is flash frozen, may be a better choice than a piece of “fresh” fish that has been around for a while. Store it properly Shellfish Store shellfish in the fridge, in a shallow pan without water, and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Frozen fish Remove frozen fish from its packaging, and thaw, loosely covered, in the fridge overnight. Drain any water that collects as it thaws. Cook fresh fish within two days. Celebrate simplicity Quality seafood is its own celebration and lends itself to simple preparations: a quick grill, a dash of lemon. Keep it simple and let the flavour of the fish shine through! Let your fish warm up It may sound strange, but letting your fish come up to room temperature over about 30 minutes will help you get an even temperature when it’s time to cook. Explore different cooking methods Poached, grilled, steamed, baked—seafood does it all. If you always grill fish, explore a gentle poach or raw preparation. Know your temperature Use higher heat for grilling, and make sure the pan or grill is hot when the fish hits it. Use low heat and a gentle simmer when poaching. Skin side down Cooking fish with the skin on helps keep it together. When grilling, cook the skin side first to protect the fish as it cooks. Know when it’s done Fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork and is barely opaque in the centre. Dive in Don’t let your fear stop you. Just get started!

Mussels with Tomato, Saffron, and Fennel

Mussels with Tomato, Saffron, and Fennel

B12-rich mussels are a very good and economical source of protein and iron. Steamed mussels are a classic way to enjoy seafood—and so is this rich, aromatic broth of tomato, fennel, and saffron. Be sure to allow saffron to fully infuse to get the full flavour benefit, and finish off the dish with the fragrant fennel fronds. Sustainability status Farmed mussels are considered highly sustainable due to their low impacts on the environment. They are easy to harvest, require no fertilizer or fresh water, and don’t need to be fed externally, as they get all their nutritional requirements from their marine environment. Mussel prep Selection: Look for mussels with shiny, tightly closed shells that smell of the sea. If shells are slightly open, give them a tap. Live mussels will close immediately. Storage: Keep mussels in the fridge in a shallow pan laid on top of ice. Keep them out of water and cover with a damp cloth. Ideally, consume on the day you buy them, but within two days. They need to breathe, so never keep them in a sealed plastic bag. Cleanup: In addition to being sustainable, farmed mussels tend to require less cleaning than wild mussels. Most of the fibrous “beards” that mussels use to grip solid surfaces will have been removed before sale. But if a few remain, they’re easily dispatched: grasp the beard with your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward the hinge of the mussel and give it a tug. Afterward, give mussels a quick rinse and scrub away any areas of mud or seaweed, which, with farmed mussels, will require minimal work.