Fresh Choices by David Joachim and Rochelle Davis

305 pages; Glossy Color Cover, A few Sketches and Black and White Photographs.  Paperback

Published by Rodale, Emmaus, PA & NY, NY, 2004

Reviewed by Chef John J. Vyhnanek

Once Julia Child was asked what her favorite foods were. Her reply was "steak and butter". She was then asked about shopping at a local health food store for ingredients; she said see didn’t trust it because everyone shopping there was pale and skinny. She called them "emaciated cultists". 
Well today, several years later, many people shop at a variety of retail food stores that sell “healthy foods”. The term “health food stores” is in the past decade's vocabulary. I’m amazed at how popular stores like Whole Foods Market are, and how many people only shop there as opposed to mainstream supermarkets like Stop and Shop or Albertson's. You do need a certain level of income to do that too. If you fall into that category then you might appreciate Fresh Choices written by David Joachine and Rochelle Davis, subtitled More than 100 easy recipes for pure food when you can’t buy 100% organic.

Everyone wants to eat good quality food, but I fear some go overboard and are crazed or obsessed with the word organic and will only eat foods that are in that category. If you are confused with the word, you will find a good definition in the book. You will also get tips on how to reduced your body's chemical burden and see how pesticide toxicity affects children. Other issues of farm worker’s health and biodiversity are discussed. Finally in chapter 2 you will get some recipes after you read about how blueberries and grapes are so good for you because they absorb less pesticide than other fruit. The following chapters carry a similar format, discussing pasture-raised chicken and turkey to soy foods made without genetically modified organisms. Did you know that free-farmed poultry is raised and brought to market in a humane way and that antibiotics are only used on them in a therapeutic way?

Recipes such as the Chicken and Asparagus Gratin (page 136) and the Spicy Italian Pork Chops (page 172) were tasty and fairly easy to prepare. I enjoyed the Helping Hand suggestion at the end of most of the recipes because tasks I take for granted, like pitting a mango, would overwhelm a beginner; the Helping Hand told me how to achieve it. It was a nice touch to have the explanation. There are many other recipes that most people will find to be creative and easy to prepare. 

For those of you who missed growing up before pesticides became so widely used, you should be concerned about what you eat, in that fact we all should be concerned about it---it’s not good for us! I’m not sure that I would go out of my way to buy organically fed pasture-raised pork chops, instead I will continue to buy what my supermarket has to offer. I just can’t afford pork chops that cost 5 or 6 dollars a pound just because they were organically fed. On the other hand, I will  seek out farm fresh free-range eggs for their taste and quality.

So buy the book if this is your style of living and eating and you will have a new repertoire of more than 100 easy recipes for pure food. If your style of living and eating is different, then buy an old copy of a Julia Child cookbook and really eat!

I like to add that my grandfather had a 250 acre dairy farm and also grew fruits and vegetables. I was spoiled because he didn’t use any pesticides other than ladybugs and praying mantises. The birds would eat the caterpillars and the goats would keep the gardens weed free. And oh what delicious eggs the chickens laid!

Grilled Fontina and Mushroom Sandwiches

Who says grilled cheese has to be made with white bread and orange cheese? In this simple spin on the American classic, rich Fontina cheese melts deliciously with sautéed mushrooms and pesto on crisp sourdough bread. Treat yourself to a grown-up grilled cheese sandwich. Adventurous kids may want one, too!

1 tablespoon organic butter
4 large button or crimini mushrooms
4 large slices sourdough bread
¼ cup prepared pesto
4 ounces Fontina cheese, sliced
pinch of salt
a few grinds of black pepper

Heat the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, spread the top of 2 bread slices with the pesto. Arrange the cheese and cooked mushrooms over the pesto. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with the remaining 2 bread slices. Cook in the same skillet until the cheese melts and the bread is golden, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Makes 2 sandwiches

Helping hand: Prepared pesto is available in jars in most grocery stores. To make your own, see the basic recipe for Basic Basil Pesto on page 77. Make mounds of it in the summer when the herb is plentiful and freeze it in airtight containers. Use a melon baler to scoop out just what you need during the off-season.

This recipe is from page 205