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Healthy Cooking with Clay Pots and Bakeware

May 25, 2012 08:50AM ● By Isabella Samovsky

As society seeks a healthier environment and individual lifestyles, consumers are looking for new ways to improve the quality of their diet. But in thinking about healthier food, we should not overlook the vessels used to prepare, cook and bake it in. To help create more health-conscious meals, eco-friendly companies are producing safer and better cookware. One healthy alternative is actually the revival of a venerable old product.
 

Cooking in unglazed clay is an ancient tradition with modern-day health benefits. Clay cookware is still the most popular cooking choice in many parts of the world. Whether steam-cooking vegetables, cooking meats and fish or making soups and delicious baked goods, this time-tested method of cooking has become a modern and healthy way of cooking. Today’s clay cookware and bakeware are created to go straight from the oven or microwave to the dining table.

Craftsmen in Pomaire, Chile, have been making unglazed clay cookware since the 19th century. These products are healthier because little or no oil is needed as the food steams in its natural juices. Clay pots also hold in nutrients, while foods that are boiled often lose them during the cooking process. Foods cooked in clay dishes also retain more flavor than in traditional cookware. Clay pots are free of lead and aluminum and are safe to use in the oven up to 450 degrees F, in the microwave and on the stovetop or grill.

Researchers have discovered that traditional cookware contain substances that are harmful to our health. For instance, not only will acidic foods cooked in aluminum leave a metallic taste in the mouth, but there is also a risk of heavy metal poisoning. Cookware that contains tetrafluoride (Teflon), a fluoride compound that produces a toxic gas when heated to over 500 degrees F, can cause an illness known as the Teflon flu.

Even when cooking with the freshest organic ingredients, people will often saturate the pan with butter, oil or cooking spray, which turns healthy food into an unhealthy meal. There are other safety concerns when using traditional cookware that include pots boiling over, scorched pans and burned hands from the stovetop. Those that grill food have to watch for sudden bursts of flames and scorching.

During the cooking process, natural juices are created. As the food cooks, the juices increase the steam, which creates a moist cooking state. The clay distributes and retains the heat. Being porous, water is released from the clay during cooking, allowing food to remain moist. The result is juicy and flavorful food. Clay is healthy because it seals in the nutrients so you do not have to add fats and salts, and seasonings are able to penetrate deeper in the food, as well.

Green and Red Lentils Soup/Stew

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:Clay Bakeware

1 cup green lentils
1 cup red lentils (I use the dry lentils and rinse them)
1 (32 oz) box of organic vegetable broth
4 cups (total) chopped vegetables (carrots, red potatoes and sweet potatoes)
3 cups (total) chopped onions, sweet peppers (red, yellow, orange), celery, cilantro, parsley, green onions and small piece of jalapeno pepper

1 (16 oz) can of organic cream of tomato soup, or pasta sauce
4 Tbsp oil for sautéing (I use a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and macadamia oil, which I keep in a glass jar with several cloves of garlic.)
Mixed spices (paprika, turmeric and cayenne pepper to taste)
Cracked black pepper to taste
Himalayan salt to taste
Chanterelle seasoning spices to taste (or seasoning mix)
6 to 8 cloves of crushed garlic

Directions:

1. Put the 4 cups of chopped vegetables, the 3 cups of chopped onions, etc. with the 4 Tbsp of oil mixture in a 6-quart Pomaire clay pot and sauté for a few minutes, just to bring out the flavors, then add the rinsed lentils, vegetarian broth, and bring all to a boil.

2. Turn down to low and simmer for an hour, or until the lentils and vegetables are cooked, and then add the can of tomato soup/pasta sauce and simmer for another 10 minutes.

3. Turn off stove and add 1 tsp of mixed spices. Add cracked black pepper and Himalayan salt to taste, two tsp of chanterelle seasoning, and 6 to 8 cloves of crushed garlic. Add more heated vegetarian broth to the pot if you like it more soupy than stewy.

4. Let the soup sit for about 15 minutes for the spices, salt, pepper and garlic to flavor it. After that, give it a good stir. If you prefer it soupy, it can be served with a scoop of cooked brown rice.


Isabella Samovsky is the owner of Solay Wellness, 4819-4821 W. Main St., Skokie, which carries a wide variety of Fair Trade clay cookware and Himalayan salt products. For more information, call 847-676-5571 or visit SolayWellness.com.