Easter Evolution and the Pollan Family Salad






One of my favorite Easter activities is egg dying.  So that will certainly happen.  And although I like to do the natural dyes (see past blog for recipes and photo on right), we’ll likely do some not so natural too (photo on left).  This is an area as my kids get older that they like to experience both the organic, healthy way and the colorful less eco friendly way as well.  I figure the majority of our days we practice an eco friendly lifestyle of eating mostly healthy organic foods, reducing our meat intake, limiting processed foods and recycling, but sometimes the holidays have to have some leeway.  The chemical dyes are one way I’m giving in.


My other give in is a Cadbury egg (my teeth ache just thinking about it).  My son is 11 and has never had one and is curious (ok, begging) to try one.  So in his Easter basket of rabbit glasses, a book, recycle “grass” and sugar free jelly beans will also be his surprise egg.  My daughter’s basket will also include real eggs from the chicken’s down the street.  Since she’s discovered the egg box in our neighborhood that shares eggs from adopted chickens, she’s enamored (and only wants to eat those – not store bought).


I’m not hosting Easter this year but were going to spend the afternoon with family.  There will be a festive egg hunt, followed by early supper.  It’s all ages (from 1 – 70+) so there’s lots of land mines when planning dinner.  I’ve been asked to bring a salad.  At first I was thinking it should be “special” and “holiday worthy” but then I came across this lovely and simple one from Michael Pollan, which is sure to please all diets and tastes (I’ll likely serve my cheese and nuts on the side).  I figure if it’s good enough for his family, it’s good for mine too.  (Although I still may add some edible flowers).


Pollan Signature Salad
6 servings

We serve this salad at all our large family gatherings. Light, crisp, both vinegary and sweet, our signature salad is a delicious addition to any meal.

For the dressing:
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar, champagne vinegar, or sherry vinegar
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

5 to 7 ounces mesclun or mixed baby greens
½ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
½ Bosc pear (cut lengthwise), cored, and thinly sliced
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

For the dressing: In a glass jar with a lid or in a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegars, mustard, grapeseed oil, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Shake the jar vigorously or whisk in the bowl to emulsify.

For the salad: Place the mesclun in a large salad bowl. Pour on half the dressing and toss the greens to coat. Add the walnuts, pear, and more dressing to taste (taking care not to overdress) and toss again. Top with the Parmesan cheese shavings and serve.

Food for thought: Walnuts are the healthiest tree nuts around—they have close to twice as much antioxidants as other nuts! What’s more, they are an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which is great news for people who don’t eat heart-healthy fish.


The Stanford Report – Much To Do Over Nothing

So I learned of the Stanford report in the NY Times claiming organic food is no healthier than conventional, from a friend who forwarded it to me after her father (a doctor) sent it to her.  She wanted to know what I thought given my advocacy for children and families eating organic.  I didn’t get too worked up but said the study actually says pesticides were found at higher levels than conventional, and acknowledged most people if feeding children would err on the side of caution.

The fact that the nutritional value is the same is not surprising or new.  An apple is an apple.  There would be the same nutrients and vitamins.  However the difference, and I think importance, is the levels of pesticides and chemicals.  Thus an apple with pesticide is different than one without. It seems more of a food safety issue than a nutritional one.

I made a sarcastic remark to my  friend’s father  (not an organic advocate) that trusting the FDA in terms of pesticide safety levels would be like going back to days of the FDA saying smoking wasn’t bad for you and colleges passed them out in dorms (that’s when my mom smoked).  Now ironically one of the scientists in the study is being criticized for conducting studies for tobacco companies 35 years ago.  Ironic?  Coincidence?  Also I found it interesting that a day after I read the Stanford study there was a new EPA ban on an apple pesticide, azinphos-methyl (AZM), also known as Guthion.  So we are learning and hopefully moving ahead.  I wish the study had been about something more current and relevant to the pesticide and GMO issue rather than nutrition.  Today there was a good rebuttal in the LA Times about the controversy and where some stand – notable are Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan.  The fact that there’s a petition by move.org to discredit the Stanford study seems silly and unjust.  The findings are the findings whether you agree or think they should’ve been done differently.  I like many of move.org’s petitions, but I’m not signing this one.