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Ask A Baltimore Chef: Ways To Keep Your Meals Lean And Clean

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Photo Credit Thinkstock

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Cooking lean, clean and green in your own kitchen can help you eat healthier meals while being mindful of the environment. Who better to get tips on cooking fabulous food while being “sustainably-minded” than from Baltimore’s own chef Larry Schwartz? A Culinary Institute of America trained former executive chef, Larry is now Director of National Accounts at Roland Foods, a specialty food importer. Here he provides some tips for eco-friendly cooking.

Use quality ingredients. “A key to cooking a great dish is to use the highest quality ingredients you can find and afford. If you make your decision on how a product was made, who makes it and the quality of the product, you will find yourself leaning toward greener choices. Some of the best tasting recipes use fresh and in-season ingredients which tend to be local, greener and less processed.”  

Buy local – when it’s done right right. According to Schwartz, “Just because a produce or meat product is closer to home, doesn’t necessarily mean it was grown and produced sustainably. Search for meats and produce where you can find answers to questions such as how were the animals raised, free-range and eating grass or in pens eating antibiotic-laced grains? How was the animal slaughtered and who ground the meat? Is the product organic or at least “natural” where the farm may have used some sustainable practices such as reduced fertilizers and pesticides?”

Check out this Local Harvest guide to Baltimore’s community gardens, farms, apiaries for honey and farmers’ markets. Buying directly from local growers and farmers gives you the chance to inquire about how the food product was raised and get a better sense for the true quality of the ingredients. 

Choose sustainable seafood. There are too many fishing boats chasing too few fish. Make ocean-friendly fish choices by reviewing the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide which offers cooks and chefs an excellent list of green (best choice), yellow (good alternative) and red (avoid) fish suggestions.  

Also, buy fish from reputable sources as the non-profit group Oceana found that over one-third of fish sold in the U.S. is mislabeled with cheaper fish swapped for better fish. Oceana and over 450 chefs recently called on Congress to pass the SAFE Seafood Act which would require a clear tracing system of where fish were caught in an effort to stop seafood fraud. 

Go for a green kitchen makeover. Though avocado green appliances are out, simple and green kitchen practices are permanently in vogue. Bring home your ingredients from the market in re-usable bags and contribute to reducing the billions of bags landfilled. Compost your kitchen scraps and turn your food discards into fertilizer for your garden while reducing your trash. Clean with green dishwasher detergent and soaps which are vegetable oil-based (not petroleum-based) and use natural scents (not chemical “fragrances”). Lastly, consider good old cast iron pans for cooking your tasty food and avoid the chemicals often found in non-stick cookware. 

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Laurel Peltier is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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