Book Review: The Kitchen Ecosystem


Note to my readers: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review. All opinions are strictly my own.

The premise behind Eugenia Bone’s new book, The Kitchen Ecosystem: Integrating Recipes to Create Delicious Meals*, is a simple one: let nothing go to waste. When you’re cooking, you should use some of the food fresh, preserve some, make use of the scraps for another ingredient, use them, then use the preserves, in an ongoing cycle.
It’s a modern take on what our mothers might have called being frugal. Our grandparents wouldn’t have even had a name for it — it is just the way they cooked. Saving meat and vegetable scraps to make stock, making your own  mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup, recycling fruit peels into jelly or candies…these are all time-honored techniques for getting the absolute most out of your food dollar. Who doesn’t want to do that?

If you didn’t grow up in a kitchen that worked this way, it might sound like a miserly way of cooking. However, having your own kitchen ecosystem is anything but miserly — it’s freeing. When you have these basics like these in your kitchen, a good meal is always easy to create. Saving the water veggies were cooked in as a base for soup saves vitamins that would otherwise be lost to the cooking process. Rendering fat from a duck or a piece of pork adds a boost of extra flavor to a dish without adding extra cost. It’s the same principle as a paleo eater’s weekly cook up, where you make a bunch of recipes on the weekend and eat them over the course of the week, but on a longer timeline.

The Kitchen Ecosystem's Feral Greens | Paleo + Life

Feral Greens, p. 231

While The Kitchen Ecosystem is not a paleo/Primal cookbook per se, it is very paleo- and Primal-friendly. Ms. Bone emphasizes using fresh, natural ingredients;  eating real, homemade food. Many of the recipes are paleo, with no tweaks needed, while others require only simple substitutions such as trading zucchini noodles for pasta. For bread or grain-based recipes, you’d have to experiment, but many of the ideas are still usable, like using leftover whey from cheese making as the liquid in a bread recipe.

Speaking of recipes: this book contains hundreds. That is literal: each of the forty-plus foods included gets its own mini-chapter with a minimum of six recipes; most have eight or more.
Bone describes her kitchen as mostly Mediterranean, so many of the recipes are traditional ones that will be familiar to a lot of Americans (garlic, rosemary and olive chicken and zabaglione are included, as are many cocktail recipes). Others will be a little more exotic, such as flounder in grape sauce, but all of them are very do-able.

The Kitchen Ecosystem's Roasted Radishes | Paleo + Life

Roasted Radishes, p. 272

Do-able is really the watchword of this book. What I like most is that the author’s methods are very accessible. Her writing is friendly and encouraging, and many of the recipes have fun anecdotes or useful tips in the head notes. You always get the sense that you can ease into this way of cooking pretty simply. Do as little or as much as you want — for example, if you aren’t into canning, you still can make many of the recipes that call for that technique, but just use the foods more quickly. As you get more comfortable cooking this way, you can try more of the techniques and really make it your own.

All in all, I think The Kitchen Ecosystem is a solid addition to a cookbook library. If you have friends and family who are curious about a real foods diet, but are not ready to go full-on paleo, this book is a great place to start.

The Kitchen Ecosystem's Stewed Apples with Red Cabbage | Paleo + Life

Stewed Apples with Red Cabbage

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups finely sliced red cabbage (1 small head)
  • 2 cups chopped peeled apples or 1 pint applesauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cabbage, cover, and cook until the cabbage is wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apples, bay leaf, cloves, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until the apples are hot and tender, 3 to 4 minutes longer.
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