FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Best seller fails to whet appetite
By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor
The Healthy Kitchen" by Andrew Weil and Rosie Daley (Knopf, $24.95) is No. 1 on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list this week not the cookbook list, the best-seller list, quite an achievement for a special-interest cookbook and indicative of people's hunger to learn healthier eating approaches.
The book landed on my desk some weeks ago and I've spent considerable time with it. It is a collaboration between Weil, the cheerful-looking bearded guru of self-healing, and Rosie Daley, who gained fame as Oprah Winfrey's private chef ("In the Kitchen with Rosey," Random House, 1994).
It's an odd marriage. Weil, although he is a clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of Arizona at Tuscon, is pretty out there. This is a man who once ingested a bellyful of magic mushrooms to test a shaman's claim that they'd cure what ails you.
Daley comes off as a cross between Sue Ann Nivens in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and your Weight Watchers instructor serious to a fault about all this, but also a bit motherly.
The book is a sort of dialogue between the two, with Weil offering his personal recipes and short essays on various nutritional issues, and Daley contributing cooking techniques and more recipes. He is mostly a vegan. Even the recipes that include meat are designed to be converted to vegan.
Because I'm particularly interested in learning how to cook beans in my new pressure cooker (watch for a story in the Taste section later about the new pressure cookers and their uses), I first picked a spicy bean and rice dish from Costa Rica. It proved to be pretty simple to toss together black beans, rice, sauteed onions and peppers and some flavorings. But the end result was dry and uninteresting, so I doctored it with tomato paste.
A quick stir-fry with Weil's Spicy Miso Dressing seemed to have possibilities. The dressing's blend of white miso, sesame butter, lemon juice, shoyu and turmeric interested me. My husband loved this over stir-fired onions, kale, Napa cabbage and red bell peppers with brown rice, but I thought it was too salty; the other flavors were driven out by the miso. I'm going to play with the ingredients to get a less palate-searing effect.
In the end, I'd have to give Weil and Daley a C+/B- and offer these observations. If you're already eating a whole-foods diet, this book would probably be remedial reading. It has more to offer to those who are making the transition from a conventional American eating plan. The nutrition breakdowns inexplicably do not include sodium, and many of the recipes rely on shoyu, miso and other salt-rich flavoring agents. And the endless photos of them smiling into the camera or offering each other "tastes" got a little old.