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As a food and wine writer, I get invited from time to time to visit various wine and food producing regions. Usually a couple of days in duration, the visits are designed to showcase an area’s produce and food products, along with the people behind them.
I didn’t hesitate for a moment to accept a recent invitation to visit California’s Monterey County, an area that includes the “salad bowl” of the country, as it’s sometimes called, for the large number of farms there producing lettuce, broccoli, peppers, and other crops that are distributed nationally.
The highlight of the tour for me turned out to be a visit to Earthbound Farm in Carmel Valley. Started in 1984 by Manhattan transplants Myra and Drew Goodman, this former 2.5-acre raspberry farm is now the largest organic producer in the United States, with 36,000 acres of organic cultivation by 150 farmers in California, Arizona, Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho, and even in Canada, Chile, and New Zealand. The farm was ahead of its time in promoting the organic model on a national level, starting back in 1986 when it introduced the first prepackaged salad mixes, today a multibillion-dollar market that includes both organic and conventional brands.
Just down the road from Earthbound Farm’s original property is its popular farm stand and café. Here, I ate lunch, sampling as widely as I could from the fresh-from-the-garden foods being offered that day, and bought a copy of Myra Goodman’s cookbook, The Earthbound Cook (Workman, 2010). This is the kind of cookbook I live for: Something that not only has healthy, reliable recipes that make you look like you know what you’re doing, but that I can take to bed at night and nod off dreaming about Raspberry Yogurt Panna Cotta or Classic Baked Apples.
Just as appealing as the recipes, and true to the vision of the farm, which has won numerous awards and accolades for its green business model and promotion of organic farming, are the little “eco-primers” tucked away in each chapter. Goodman presents practical tips on things like water conservation, eating locally and seasonally, green kitchen design, and even a recommendation for reducing carbon footprint by eating less meat.
In my opinion, The Earthbound Cook should be a kitchen staple for anyone passionate about good, fresh food, and who believes that what we choose to eat is a powerful way to take eco-responsibility.
Classic Baked Apples
Here’s a delicious and easy recipe from the book that celebrates a seasonal product that everyone can find.
4 crisp apples, such as gala, pippin or fuji
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup apple juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350° F.
Starting at the top (stem) end of each apple, remove the core, making sure to leave enough of the apple intact at the bottom to form a pocket for the stuffing. Discard the cores and arrange the apples in a small baking pan.
Place the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl, and stir to combine.
Combine the apple juice, lemon juice, and butter in a small saucepan, and heat over medium heat until the butter has melted. Add the hot liquid to the brown sugar mixture, and stir to blend. Stir in the vanilla. Divide the mixture among the apples, filling the hollowed out cores. Drizzle any extra liquid over the apples.
Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil, preferably recycled, and bake until the apples are just soft, 35-45 minutes. Drizzle the apples with pan juices and serve warm or cold.
Reprinted with permission from Workman Publishing.