Drought Friendly Recipes covered on France 24 News

YES! Our Drought Friendly Recipes were covered by FRANCE 24​, an international news station. We shop at the Hollywood Farmers Market and cook our Alaskan True Cod Taco with Pickled Radish and Radish Top Salsa. Our piece starts at 11 minutes into the broadcast!

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Veggie Burger

It’s summertime and that means burgers! Therefore, for our next Drought Friendly Recipe, we bring you a delicious, hearty and umami packed (thank you, mushrooms) veggie burger. This recipes makes thirteen 1/4 pound burgers. Now, if it were beef we were using, that would mean a serious water footprint. According to the LA Times, it takes 1,799 gallons of water to make 1 pound of beef. So, again, if this recipe were using beef, it would take a little over 5,800 gallons of water to produce thirteen 1/4 pound burgers. Good thing this recipe is comprised of veggies and grains. When you calculate the water footprint of this recipe as is, it comes out to something around 800 gallons of water or around 1/7 of the water used for a beef burger. So, how about swapping in this recipe for your next burger night? Bonus: you can make the burger mix in advance and then cook the pattys off when the time comes. Enjoy!

veggie onions

Spreading out the caramelized onion on a parchment-lined sheet tray to cool

veggie burger mushroom

1/2 batch of quartered mushrooms ready for pulsing

mushrooms chopped veggie burger

Good texture for the mushrooms

mushroom onions veggie burger

Spreading the roasted mushrooms over the cooled caramelized onions

rice lentil veggie burger

Rice/Bulgur/Lentil mixture

spices veggie burger

Spices!

veggie burger

Brushing the burgers with oil before putting them in the pan

Veggie Burger Overhead

Time to eat.

Drought Friendly Veggie Burgers

Yield: 13 burgers

 

¼ cup grapeseed oil, divided, plus more for brushing

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced small (2 cups)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

20 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped roughly (1/2 cup)

24-ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste

4 cups vegetable stock

¼ cup white jasmine rice

½ cup black (beluga) lentils

¾ cup bulgur

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, undrained

1 cup panko

1 tablespoon dried Greek oregano

½ teaspoon chipotle powder

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons vegan worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon ground fennel

1 teaspoon ground cumin

The Fixin’s:

13 burger buns

13 large slices tomato

Lettuce (your choice!)

Pickled shallots

Organic ketchup, no question

Dijon mustard, gotta’ have mustard too

 

Place an oven rack to the upper position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add the onion, 2 tablespoons oil and ¼ teaspoon salt to a medium (3½ quart) saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 8 minutes until onions are translucent and just beginning to brown. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and spread the onion mixture over a parchment-lined sheet tray to cool. Do not wash the saucepan.

In a food processor, pulse half the mushrooms until finely chopped, approximately 30 quick pulses. Transfer mushrooms to a medium mixing bowl and pulse the remaining mushrooms in the same way. Transfer remaining mushrooms to the medium mixing bowl. Do not wash food processor.

Stir to combine the chopped mushrooms with 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Spread the mushrooms evenly over a parchment-lined sheet tray. Transfer sheet tray to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes. Remove the sheet tray from the oven and evenly spread the mushrooms over the onions to cool to room temperature.

In the same medium (3½ quart) saucepan used for the onion mixture, add the stock. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Add rice, black lentils, bulgur, black beans (with liquid), ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a boil again. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes (scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent burning). Remove from the heat and drain excess liquid using a fine mesh strainer. Spread strained rice mixture evenly over a parchment-lined sheet tray and cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, using a fork, stir to combine the cooked mushrooms, cooked rice mixture, panko, dried oregano, chipotle powder, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, fennel and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Put half of the mixture into a food processor and pulse 15 times until mixture is well combined. Transfer the processed batch back into the large mixing bowl and stir everything together until well mixed.

Using a ½ cup measuring cup, measure out ½ cup of mixture per burger, shaping the burgers with your hands into 4-inch (diameter) patties. Set each burger on a parchment-lined sheet tray and brush the top of each burger evenly with some oil.

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat for 3 minutes. Transfer the prepared burgers, oil side down, into the pan and cook undisturbed for 3 minutes. Brush the second side of the burgers with oil and then flip the burgers over. Continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes. Transfer the cooked burgers to a parchment-lined sheet tray and bake for 10 minutes. Flip the burgers and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the sheet tray from the oven. Serve burgers on buns with tomato slices, lettuce, pickled shallots, ketchup and mustard.

Not Too Spicy Green Papaya Salad

(Hey! Update to this post – you can watch me make this salad on my YouTube page. Thanks and now back to the blog…)

California drought friendly and delicious, this papaya salad is a refreshing, bright, crunchy, herbaceous and spicy (not too spicy!) dish, perfect for warm weather months.

Super Sous and I traveled to Vietnam in February, our first stop being Hanoi, the capital city in the North. Upon arrival, we immediately arranged a street food tour of the Old Quarter of Hanoi (where we were staying). Our wonderful guide, Tam, took us on a whirlwind food extravaganza through the streets, alleys and hidden corridors to eat some of the best food Hanoi has to offer. From classics like Bun Cha to Egg Coffee to Beef Pho we ate A LOT, probably hitting up 7 different street food vendors/restaurants within the 3 hours of wandering.

Our third stop for the night was at a spot that served the best Papaya Salad we have ever had. At first, Super Sous and I were a little nervous about this dish as papaya salads we have eaten in Thai restaurants have been extremely spicy, but this salad was the perfect blend and balance of sweet, sour and spice. It was then that Super Sous and I fell in love with the Vietnamese papaya salad and despite our best efforts to not overeat and pace ourselves that evening, we couldn’t resist finishing off the whole salad.

Tam NL SS

Me, Tam – our street food tour guide – and Super Sous

Upon returning to California, we created our own version which comes pretty close to our experience. A note about the green papaya – you can find these in an Asian grocery store. (Sometimes they even have it pre-shredded in bags – score!) To shred yourself, cut in half, peel the section you want to use and shred using a citrus zester (photo below), a “noodler” (the instrument that makes zucchini noodles) a food processor (with the shredding attachment) or a box grater.

Citrus Zester

Citrus Zester

Now, a note about drought friendly recipes: Super Sous and I started the project of creating drought friendly recipes as a way for all of us around the country to help conserve California’s water. What I love about this recipe is the use of Virginia peanuts. They are so good! (It wouldn’t at all have anything to do with me being a Native Virginian…) Peanuts are a groundnut and therefore do not grow like almonds or walnuts in large orchards that require a lot of watering. Peanuts are a good source of protein and with their low water footprint, are a great alternative to almonds. According to the Water Footprint Organization, it takes 381 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of peanuts, whereas almonds require 6 times that amount. So, yay for peanuts!

green papaya salad

Green Papaya Salad

Yields: 2 servings

 

Dressing:

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

¾ teaspoon freshly grated ginger, grated on a microplane

½ teaspoon freshly grated garlic, grated on a microplane

2 teaspoons minced lemongrass

¼ Bird’s eye aka Thai chili, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

 

Salad:

2 cups packed shredded green papaya

¼ cup grated carrot (1 medium carrot)

½ cup thinly sliced green beans, sliced on a bias (8 beans)

3 tablespoons whole toasted peanuts

½ cup quartered grape tomatoes (7 tomatoes)

¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves

¼ cup fresh Thai basil leaves

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

 

Combine dressing ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the sugar dissolves.

Add papaya, carrot and green beans to dressing and massage ingredients together with your hands for approximately 30 seconds, to meld all flavors and allow dressing to permeate papaya.

Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Divide onto plates and serve.

Drought Friendly Eggless Shakshuka

On March 18, Super Sous and I posted a blog about the California Drought and how it affects the entire United States via the food grown in California (50% of California fruits and veggies are exported across the US – not just to grocery stores, but to restaurants, institutions, hospitals, schools, etc.).

Another thing that we mentioned in the blog post, is that we (Super Sous and I) have decided to create some “Drought Friendly Recipes”. Since 74% of all water in California is used for agriculture, our idea is that we can incorporate foods into our day-to-day lives that have a lower water footprint (than others).

For example, if the Water Footprint Organization says (global average) that it takes 28 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of lettuce, this might be a better drought friendly food choice than, say, eating a pound of figs which they slate at 401 gallons of water per pound.

Of course, figs and lettuce have different nutritional properties (and you are probably not going to eat a pound of either in one sitting!), but these drought friendly recipes aren’t about completely re-arranging your diet or skipping out on the nutrients you need. It’s about being aware of the drought and what each of us can do to conserve our precious water. If we can substitute a “water heavy” meal (like beef which is calculated to take anywhere between 1500 to 2000 gallons of water per pound), for a drought friendly recipe even once a week, it will make a difference in terms of conservation. (Fun fact: Did you know that 1 pound of goat meat takes only 127 gallons of water to produce?)

Now, this is not a perfect science/water calculation and we know it.

This is about having a conversation about the drought and dialoguing about conservation and solutions.

Our first “Drought Friendly” recipe is an Eggless Shakshuka. Shakshuka is a North African egg dish with tomatoes, onions and spices. Here, Super Sous and I substitute eggs with goat cheese and avocado. You can add both goat cheese and avocado or choose one or the other. Whatever you like best.

1 egg is cited by National Geographic to require 53 gallons of water to produce, whereas 1 pound of avocados (2-3 avocados) takes  237 gallons. Shakshuka would normally call for 6 eggs. So, this dish, (eggs alone) would take 317 gallons of water to produce. The 1 avocado used is 1/3 of that. And whereas a typical American breakfast might be eggs and bacon breakfast or a cup of greek yogurt or grabbing something on the go, this is a great alternative.

Since I began on my culinary journey, from learning how to garden with my grandparents as a child to working at farmers markets for over 10 years to cooking on television, I have always told people to shop locally as much as possible. Go to farmers markets, shop in season and support your local farmer, when you can. If you live outside of California, for example in Virginia where I’m from, and you are buying all of your meat and produce locally, and you are cooking all your meals at home, then wow! you are amazing and Super Sous I want to come over for dinner! But seriously, if you are able to do such a thing, than these recipes will be more food for thought than drought friendly conservation efforts. However, most of us don’t cook every meal at home. And most people don’t shop solely at farmers market nor even have that option depending on where in the country we live and what time of year it is. So, there’s a good chance you are shopping at grocery stores and eating at restaurants that are using California produce.

The last thing I want to mention is about food waste. This recipe calls for beet greens. There are so many recipes for beets out there, but less so for beet greens (although they are so tasty). Super Sous and I want to utilize as much as possible of the fruit and/or vegetable we are cooking with. 40% of all food goes to waste in the United States which translates to trillions of lost gallons of water. No need to discard the beet greens next time you grab a bunch of beets – here’s a great way to enjoy them.

Finally, Super Sous and I would love to hear from you. Comments, questions, thoughts, ideas, etc. Like I wrote, this is not an exact science or a strict dietary plan or about restricting your meals or nutritional needs. This is about a conversation that needs to be happening a lot more.

So, let’s gather around the communal table and discuss. I’ll bring the bread, you bring the shakshuka.

Shakshuka Goat Cheese

Shakshuka with goat cheese only

Shakshuka Goat and Avocado

Shakshuka with goat cheese and avocado

Drought Friendly Eggless Shakshuka

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced medium (1½ cups)

10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (3 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika

¼ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (chile flakes)

2 cups roughly chopped beet greens, rinsed but not dried

2 large fire-roasted red bell peppers, diced medium

1 (28-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 small avocado, pitted and sliced

3 tablespoons fresh goat cheese (chevre)

20 fresh cilantro leaves

1 baguette, sliced into large pieces

Place a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and add oil, onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add garlic, cumin, paprika and chile flakes. Stir and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add beet greens and stir. The remaining moisture from rinsing the greens will release any brown bits from the bottom of the sauté pan. Continue cooking and stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the greens have softened.

Add the peppers, tomatoes and black pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for approximately 10 minutes, until the liquid has thickened slightly.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Remove from heat.

Arrange slices of avocado and dollops of goat cheese on the shakshuka. Sprinkle over fresh cilantro.

Serve on plates with a slice of fresh baguette.

Introducing Drought Friendly Recipes – Tick-Tock Drip-Drop

Grab yourself a cool glass of water and take a seat.

You’re gonna need it. And not just the seat. I’m talking about the water.

Last week, Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine, wrote an Op Ed in the LA Times stating that we have only 1 year of water left in our California reservoirs.

I say “we have” and “our California reservoirs” because this problem reaches beyond California. Far beyond.

According to the California Water Science Center USGS (data from 2010), California uses 38 billion gallons of water each day – equivalent to draining the Shasta Lake Reservoir (California’s largest) once every 40 days.

lakeShasta_Feb-Oct_comparison

The majority of that water, a whopping 74%, is used for agriculture.

Agriculture that is grown and shipped all over the United States, as well as overseas.

California grows over 400 commodities, a 46.4 billion dollar business. Around 50% of what is grown in California is exported according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

California leads the nation in growing and supplying over 75 crops to the rest of the country. Meaning, if you purchase, for example, US grown: kale, tomatoes, lettuce or strawberries, to name a few, there’s a pretty good chance that it was grown in California.

However, if you purchase US grown: almonds, figs, kiwi, raisins, grapes, clover seed, dates, artichokes, peaches, pomegranates, dried plums, sweet rice, walnuts, or pistachios, there’s a 99% chance that it was grown in California. (Now that I’ve mentioned almonds, I  can’t exclude the fact that 70% of the worlds almonds come from California!)

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So, now we’re talking a big problem. A 50 – 99% of the rest of the United States kind of drought problem. And we’re not just talking about your local grocery store, we are talking restaurants, hospitals, schools, businesses… the list goes on.

As of now, there’s no real plan in California for when the water runs out and no real rationing or accountability for reduction of water.

Practically speaking, once the reservoirs are empty, we will be using groundwater. (Using underwater aquifers, wells, etc.) The problem with this is that 1. We have no idea how much water we really have and 2. Our groundwater is depleting… and fast. In some areas of California’s central valley, it has completely dried up.

As of the end of 2014, 5% of the 27 million acres used for crop farming had gone fallow due to the drought, including ¼ of rice fields. (And don’t forget that 99% of US sweet rice and majority of wild rice is grown in California.)

A tire rests on the dry bed of Lake Mendocino, a key Mendocino County reservoir, in Ukiah

So, where does that leave me and you?

I’d like to introduce you to the phrase (or remind you of the phrase): Water Footprint.

Water Footprint is the “amount of fresh water used in the production or supply of the goods and services used by a particular person or group.” (Oxford Dictionary)

According to the Nature Conservancy you, my fellow American, have a water footprint of 32,911 gallons of water a day.

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Let’s take a closer look at this. Did you use a piece of paper today? Perhaps print something or scribble a note? That one sheet of paper took 3.4 gallons of water to produce.

In the market for a new pair of jeans? That’ll be 1,800 gallons of water for the cotton to grow for those jeans.

Need a new car? That’ll be around 40,000 gallons of water.

But the truth is, regardless of a big purchase here and there, a large part of the water you are consuming each day is through the food you eat.

Here’s a sample of the water footprint of some common foods. Foods that are primarily grown in California and are exported to feed the rest of the country.

Lettuce:          28 gallons per pound

Carrots:          33 gallons per pound

Onions:          46 gallons per pound

Lemons:         77 gallons per pound

Peaches:         109 gallons per pound

Wild Rice:      299 gallons per pound

Milk                 640 gallons per pound

Walnuts:         1,112 gallons per pound

Beef:                1,847 gallons per pound

Almonds:        1,929 gallons per pound

(Note: There is a range in variability. Each business or company or farm differs in how much water they are using. That said, these numbers represent a global average published by the Water Footprint Network, an NGO founded in 2008 with a mission to “promote the transition towards sustainable, fair and efficient use of fresh water resources worldwide.”)

I also want to bring your attention to the water wasted through food waste. 40% of all food that is grown in the US is wasted. This happens on all levels of the food chain. From the farms to transportation to grocery stores to restaurants to our own homes. Inherent in that 40% is approximately 11 trillion gallons of lost water. That’s the amount of water we need to get out of the drought in California! (Granted not all of the 11 trillion gallons originated from California, but we could guess that it would be around 50% of that, or 5.5 trillion of wasted water from California. Water we desperately need.)

So, as people who eat food from California we have two responsibilities:

  1. Reduce our water footprint through our food choices
  2. Eliminate our food waste

That’s why we (Super Sous and I) have started working on creating Drought Friendly Recipes. Recipes that have a low water footprint and are delicious and doable for the home cook.  (Look for #droughtfriendlyrecipes on social media as well as this blog.) We’ll also be sharing water conservation tips in the kitchen. Coming soon.

If 74% of California’s water is caught up in agriculture then all of us who are chef’s and all of us who cook and all of us who go out to eat and all of us who eat food can make a difference in this drought.

It’s our drought. We are all in trouble. We are all California. Facing the unknown. Facing possible food shortages. Facing rising costs of food.

We have to do something.

We’ll be posting more about this topic on the blog as well as the list we have compiled of crops and their water footprint – once we complete some more research.

Right now, we are in drowning (pun) in research and articles.

It’s a sobering issue and things are not looking pretty. But we need to talk about it. We need to share with one another. Discuss our concerns and our ideas. We are beyond just crossing our fingers and hoping for rain. Until a plan is put into place to bring water into California, we all need to take action. We can’t make it rain, but we can use every drop we have wisely.

20150310_CA_trd

Tick-tock-drip-drop.

Now, about that cool glass of water by your side. Thirsty?