Pros: format, photographs, fresh look, quantity of recipes
Cons: hypocrisy, lack of culinary innovation, quality of recipes
Reviewed by: Susan Sterling
Aaah Canyon Ranch. I’ve always longed to check in there for a week of luxury and wellness. Especially their Tucson, Arizona location, though their Berkshires location in Lenox, Massachusetts would do just fine in the summer season. The idea of waking up at the crack of dawn, drinking NO COFFEE as advocated by the Ranch, and going for a serious hike in the foothills of the Santa Catalinas or the Berkshires actually appeals to me. Especially with good, healthy cuisine awaiting.
And so, I was very excited to see that the Ranch has come out with another cookbook, this one called Nourish: Indulgently Healthy Cuisine.
On first glance, it appears to be a beautiful and excellent book. It’s a nice format, with lots of enticing food photographs, and more than 200 recipes.
The book begins with a section featuring information on healthful eating, and “Canyon Ranch Nutrition Basics.” You know, all the typical healthy-living stuff, eating lots of fiber from plant food, minimizing added sugar, healthy fats in moderation, eating colorful foods, and limiting white foods, including white flour. Fair enough.
Then... we get into the recipes. After a brief but festive little section with booze-free mocktails, and a decent array of starters and side dishes, I delved further into the recipes and realized the book’s deep hypocrisy. I really started to get my yoga tights in a twist.
Simply put, the recipes don’t practice what the book preaches. After the sermon on how to eat healthfully, the recipes just don’t reflect what they have said constitutes healthy eating. Too many of their creations rely on the very ingredients they have just finished lecturing you to avoid. They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk!
On the other hand, if your idea of spa food is white flour, butter, and sugar (aka evaporated cane juice), you’ll have no problem with this book.
In 2010, I expect more creativity and innovation in spa cuisine, but this book is too locked into old, uncreative ways. There are unique and beautiful ways of creating decadent food from simple healthful ingredients, but Nourish is not hip to them. For example, the “raw food” movement has shown us some very creative ways of making healthful versions of indulgent foods that actually do avoid butter, sugar, and flour . This book just tells you to avoid these ingredients, then uses them in recipe after recipe. I’m not saying you can’t eat a little buttah, but if you’re going to go on about how healthy eating means using extra virgin olive oil and expeller pressed canola and no sugar and flour, then use buttah buttah buttah in your recipes, it’s time to check the dust jacket to see if this book is written by one of those former politicos who spent their career in the GOP preaching abstinence and homophobia and family values, until they got scandalously caught in the cookie jar.
And speaking of the dust jacket, in the profile that promotes the Ranch on the cover, they brag that “In 2000, Canyon Ranch was named Best Spa for Food by Gourmet magazine.” 2000! Citing an accolade from ten years ago! And from a magazine that sadly no longer even exists! I don’t know about you, but I prefer a place that has good food now, rather than one which had good food ten years ago.
Now, all this kvetching aside and with my mother’s voice in my head saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all...” I must say that I think this book represents good value, and knowing what I know now, I would gladly buy it again. At $40 retail, with the wealth of recipes it contains, it is certainly a good springboard for ideas for a spa chef or creative home cook.
But I sure got my $40 worth, as it completely cured me of any desire to spend thousands attending the Ranch!
Chicken Pot Pies
For the Crust:
1-1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp evaporated cane juice
4 T chilled unsalted butter, diced
4-6 T ice water
3 T unsalted butter
Four 4-oz boneless skinless chicken breast halves, diced
2 cups diced yellow onions
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 T minced garlic
1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
4-1/2 cups chicken stock
¼ tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried sage
3 T cornstarch
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2T chopped flat leaf parsley
1 T fresh lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- For the crust, place the flour in a medium bowl. Add the salt and cane juice and mix well. Cut the butter into the flour, using a pastry cutter, until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing gently after each addition. The dough will begin to form a ball when enough water has been added. Gather the dough with dry hands and form into a ball. Let rest for 5 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 6 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece into a circle large enough to fit the top of an 8-ounce ramekin.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Brown the chicken on all sides. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and vegetables and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until slightly golden in color.
- Whisk 4 cups of the chicken stock, the thyme, and sage into the chicken mixture. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Combine the cornstarch and the remaining ¼ cup of the chicken stock in a small bowl. Mix well. Slowly whisk the paste into the chicken and vegetable mixture and cook over medium heat until thickened. Stir continuously to avoid burning.
- Add the salt, pepper, Worcestershire, parsley, and lemon juice and remove from heat.
- Place 1 cup chicken mixture in each of six individual 8-ounce ramekins and top each with a dough circle. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crusts are golden brown.
40 g carbohydrate
15 g fat
86 mg cholesterol
24 g protein
734 mg sodium
3 g fiber