Honolulu Advertiser Green Living, Good Eating
October 17, 2006
by Zenaida Serrano
When it comes to food, Renée Loux has what she calls a "360 philososhy," meaning she's mindful of everything from where the lettuce she's eating was grown, to what kind of soap she uses to wash her dishes.
Loux, who calls Maui home, is a green Martha Stewart - just out is her second book, "The Balanced Plate: The Essential Elements of Whole Foods and Good Health."
More than a cookbook (although it is filled with more than 150 recipes), "The Balanced Plate" is a household guide to an eco-friendly lifestyle.
"It's my life," said Loux, 31, a chef by trade. "I'm passionate about food and I'm passionate about living a green life."
Loux shares with readers how "healthy" and "delicious" don't have to be incompatible, and that everyday conveniences and luxuries don't have to be sacrificed for a green lifestyle.
Writing the book "was really in the spirit of wanting to share that," Loux said.
Going organic is "one of the mot powerful things we can do for our health," Loux said.
The book lists the "Dirty Dozen" - apples, tomatoes, bell peppers - foods that are the most commonly and highly contaminated with pesticides and chemicals, even after washing and peeling.
And with her Top 10 Reasons to Go Organic, Loux emphasizes benefits such as avoiding chemiclas and enjoying better taste.
However, she acknowledges that "maybe we have ideals to eat as organically as possible, but in reality, both the access and cost don't always afford us that," Loux said. The Dirty Dozen is meant to help readers make the wisest choices, she said.
"That's really a pervasive theme in the book: We should choose as best we can, whenever we can," Loux said.
She shops at the Kahului Wednesday farmers' market and buys any organic produce that appears in local supermarkets.
"Most of us shop in grocery stores. Ask the produce manager to carry locally grown food," she advised.
While some recipes sound decidedly "Mainland" (winter collard wraps), others will be familiar to Asian-leaning palates (scallion-stuffed shiitake mushrooms with natto miso).
"Hawai'i sits in an unparalleled place between East and West," said Loux. "I have definitely been influenced by Japanese cuisine. Staples like shoyu, miso and seaweeds are some of the most nutritious foods on the planet."
Loux grows her own herbs, many of them unusual varieties. For instance, besides Thai basil, she has cinnamon basil, Meyer lemon and kaffir lime trees.
She has found the garden section of hardware stores to be a good source of herbs and fruit trees. She stops often at Lowe's, Home Depot and Kula Ace Hardware ("it's the best") to check their latest arrivals.
GREEN AND CLEAN
"As a food book, ('Balanced Plate') is of course (about) considering what it is we're putting in our bodies, but the Green Cleaning section opens up the fact that the products we use to clean our homes, we in fact put in our bodies (too)," Loux said.
"I tried to break it down into simple, practical tips and tools to bring this into the home without a radical change," Loux said, "It's sensible stuff, not a far stretch."
She charts healthy cleaning alternatives, such as using diluted apple cider vinegar in place of ammonia-laden window cleaners. There's also advice on house-plant caree, water filters, making other chemical-free household cleaners and more.
Living eco-consciously makes sense on islands like O'ahu and Maui. "I live in a house on the beach, on the south side - the dry side - so I'm hyper-aware of water use," she said, noting that every chemical we use washes into the ocean. She recommends using a good water filter instead of buying bottled water - it cuts down on cost and waste.
Loux, who's married to entrepreneur and entertainment mogul Shep Gordon, moved from New York to Maui in 1995. She worked as a resort chef for a year before opening The Raw Experience restaurant in Pa'ia.
She sold the eatery to her business partner to pursue writing, consulting and teaching. Loux holds classes at New York City's Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health a few times a year.
Her jobs have introduced her to celebrities and musicians - such as Woody Harrelson, Helen Hunt, and Anthony Kiedis - many of whom have become friends. Actress and vegan Alicia Silverstone "is one of my dearest friends and was the best lady at my wedding," Loux said.
Today Loux continues to consult for restaurants, spas and private clients with a focus on green living and organic, whole foods. She
also sits on the board of Maui Tomorrow, an advocacy group for land-use planning, community design and responsible growth throughout the island.
Loux's schedule is packed with appearances on the Food Network's "Emeril Live," the Lime Network and "Green Home" on the Fine Living Network - air dates pending.
The TV spots give Loux a chance to share her knowledge about her two loves - food and the environment.
"These two elements do go hand in hand, and together, eating well and living a greener life can afford us a much higher quality of life," Lous said. "I feel like a good person trying to do the right thing."
SWEET POTATO ROLLS WITH HARICOT VERTS, CARROTS, CARAMELIZED RED ONION RINGS AND SAVORY MUSHROOMS
2 sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
pinch of sea salt
1-1/2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons shoyu
2 teaspoons umeboshi plum vinegar
1-2 teaspoons agave nectar or maple syrup
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
30 haricot verts or green beans, cut in half and sliced lengthwise
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
6-8 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1/2-inch slices, or portobello mushroom, gills removed, cut in half and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1-2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar (at least 25 years), or 1/2-1 teaspoon balsamic plus 1/2-1 teaspoon maple syrup or agave
12 fresh basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350?F
Peel the sweet potato and cut the ends off.
Slice thinly, lengthwise. If the potato is too long to comfortably or easily slice whole, cut in half across the middle of the body.
Lay flat on a baking sheet.
Bake 10 minutes until soft.
Allow to cool and gently rub with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
If they need to stand for any length of time, cover after cooled.
In a small saucepan, mix together shoyu, umeboshi plum vinegar, and agave nectar or maple. Add just enough filtered water to cover the carrots and beans. Bring to a gentle simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5-10 minutes, or just until tender. Do not disturb the veggies by stirring while they cook. The vegetables should still be firm. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 2-3 minutes.
Drain and place veggies in fridge to cool. Save the marinade to use for the red onion and shitake or to use again.
Warm olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
Add red onion slices and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until becoming soft and translucent.
Add sliced sliced mushrooms, shoyu and aged balsamic (or balsamic and maple or agave). Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of marinade from haricot verts and carrots during that time to keep the mushrooms from drying out. Cook until soft and almost all of the liquid has cooked off.
To assemble the rolls, lay 2 pieces of softened sweet potato skins on a cutting board (not touching, short end facing you, and the length of the sweet potato running away from you).
Put a few haricot verts or green beans, some carrot matchsticks, and a few onions and mushrooms slices at the bottom of one potato slice. Top with a torn piece of basil. Fold the short end of the softened potato skin over the vegetables and roll closed. The tendency is to put too much in at once. Less is more, as it will be easier to eat and go farther. Roll the second sweet potato slice around the bundle and secure with a toothpick. Follow suit until everything is used. The rolls are great as is, or may be baked at 350¢ª for 10-12 minutes to warm. Garnish with fresh ground black pepper.