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The Essential
Good Food Guide
The Complete Resource for Buying and Using
Whole Grains and Specialty Flours, Heirloom Fruits and Vegetables,
Meat and Poultry, Seafood, and More

Margaret M. Wittenberg
Photography by Jennifer Martiné

Ten Speed Press

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6 Introduction
10 Fruits and Vegetables
42 Grains, Flour, and Bread
124 Pasta and Noodles
136 Beans, Peas, Lentils, and Soy Products
169 Nuts and Seeds
194 Meat and Poultry
200 Seafood
207 Dairy Products and Eggs
217 Culinary Oils
235 Essential Seasonings
256 Sweeteners
279 Suggested Reading
282 Acknowledgments
288 Index

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the essential good food guide

The Intrinsic Value
of Whole Foods

Borough Market, London’s oldest fruit and vegetable
market—still trading at the same location since 1755.
While I had been to all types of farmers’ markets
in the United States, never had I seen in one place
such artistry, craftsmanship, and simple beauty celebrating good food. Since then I have returned to
Borough Market several times, and have been to
many other markets around the world, each with its
own special flavor. And, at each one I have enjoyed
watching the people as much as encountering the
food; these experiences underscore for me the universal hunger for eating good food using whole food
ingredients to make both traditional and contemporary dishes as well as our appetite for exploring
foods not yet experienced.
Truly, throughout my life I’ve had the good fortune to meet a number of extraordinary people—
farmers and producers, home and professional
cooks and chefs, scientists, food experts and food
lovers worldwide—all of whom have contributed
to the constant expansion of my knowledge and
deep appreciation of food—its extraordinary flavors
and what it takes to produce it. Continued access
to good food and good health requires everyone’s
commitment to working in concert with nature and
each other. Not only does this involve protecting the
health of the land through continual restoration of
the soil, conservation practices, and the avoidance
of toxic chemicals, but also a commitment to the
sustainable wild capture or farming of seafood, and
the welfare of food producing animals from birth
through slaughter. Without a doubt: when it comes
to ecological sustainability and the opportunity for
eating well, we humans are intrinsically connected
to every element within the universe, including our
fellow creatures.

Every day, discoveries are being made that underscore the truth that keeping foods whole, not processed or fractionated, is vital to our overall health
and well-being. Increasingly, we are learning that
isolated nutrients don’t always have the same health
benefits as the whole foods from which they were
derived. And beyond the familiar vitamins and minerals most of us know about, whole plant foods,
including herbs and spices, contain an almost bewildering array of healthful compounds known as
phytonutrients or phytochemicals (phyto means
“plant”). Pigments, flavor components, and aromatic
qualities that we once thought were primarily of
benefit to plants—helping them either to better
flourish or to protect themselves—have turned out
to be powerful antioxidants that can help moderate damage to our own cells. Phytonutrients have
also been found to enhance our immune response,
help repair DNA damage from toxic exposures, and
enhance cell to cell communication. Unlike protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals, the vast array of
phytonutrients may not be essential for keeping us
alive, but their positive effects on health, such as
helping prevent cancer and reducing inflammation
are unmistakable and certainly make living life that
much more enjoyable.
Some of the most studied phytonutrients may
sound familiar:
• Carotenes, including alpha- and betacarotenes, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein,
lycopene, and zeaxanthin as found in red,
orange, and yellow vegetables and fruits
• Polyphenols, including flavonoids
(anthocyanins, catechins, flavanones, and
isoflavones) and nonflavonoids (ellagic acid,
coumarins, tannins, and lignans) as found
in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans,
nuts, whole grains, tea, culinary herbs and
spices, dark chocolate, and red wine


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• Isothiocyanates and indoles, as found
in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage,
broccoli, arugula, chard, kale, bok choy,
collard greens, cauliflower, rutabaga, turnips,
radishes, watercress, and brussels sprouts
Scientific studies have repeatedly shown the
powerful positive effects of eating a good diet, starting from the maternal nutrition we receive while
still in the womb and continuing through all stages
of life, including our senior years. Eating a good,
nutritious diet high in phytonutrients, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting sufficient exercise
are essential for reducing the incidence of myriad
chronic noncommunicable heath conditions such
as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke,
diabetes, cancer, dental diseases, and osteoporosis.
And a good diet is not a numbers game involving basing one’s diet choices on how high or low
a food is in fat, cholesterol, sodium, and the like.
Food manufacturers can process food in a variety of
ways to make it look good on a nutrition facts label,
but that doesn’t mean the food within the package
is inherently nutritious or even good for you. The
lowest rates of coronary heart disease, certain types
of cancers, and other diet-related chronic diseases
have been found in cultures where the everyday
diet is based primarily on whole foods. This diet
is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, whole
grain breads and pastas, beans, nuts and seeds, and
includes some unrefined healthy oils. It has low
amounts of eggs, red meat, fish, poultry, and dairy
products in the form of cheese and yogurt. Not only
is eating such a diet the most nutritious—remember
that phytonutrients are present only in whole plant
foods—it is also the most delicious—which helps
motivate us to maintain such a diet. The trick is to
know all the fabulous good food possibilities available in every category of food.
And that is exactly what this book is all about.
Rather than being about what foods to avoid and
why, it is an introduction to or a reminder of what
good food is and what to do with it. It is a weaving
together of descriptions, cooking suggestions, and

Dried beans

just enough history, food science, and nutrition to
give a glimpse of the wonders each food has to offer.
It is an appreciation of food for its possibilities: its
bringing together of people to the table, its melding
of cultures, its nourishment of body and soul, its
celebration of the people and plants that make it
all happen, and, of course, its extraordinary flavors.
Each chapter focuses on specific foods and related
ideas that I personally have found to be essential to
an intuitive style of wholesome, delicious cooking.
You’ll experience an abundant world of food within
these pages, which I hope will serve as a catalyst for
the development of your own natural connection
to foods. Your path of discovery will bring you not
only sheer enjoyment but also better health and
Now, it’s time to turn the page and get out your
fork. Explore and enjoy the possibilities!


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the essential good food guide









Heirloom beans, from top: (1) Arikara yellow, (2) christmas limas, (3) dapple gray, (4) scarlett runner, (5) snowcap,
(6) anasazi, (7) butterscotch steuben yellow-eye, (8) eye of the goat, (9) rio zape, (10) appaloosa, (11) borlotti,
(12) rattlesnake, (13) tepary, (14) black calypso, (15) good mother stallard, (16) jackson wonder, (17) tiger eye

brown rice and in soups, stews, and pilafs. Kichadi
is a classic Indian dish—beans and rice are cooked
together along with a variety of spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and turmeric. Mung beans
that are peeled and split, which makes them look
yellow, are called moong dal.

many ways navy beans can be served; they were
a key component of US Navy rations during the
nineteenth century. Pea beans are a smaller version
of navy beans, although often the two names are
used interchangeably.

Navy Beans

Phaseolus vulgaris
Boil and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours.
These small, white, oval-shaped, mild-flavored
beans are considered a staple for soups, stews, and
baked bean dishes. Likewise, they are also good for
purees and sandwich spreads. As their name implies,
sailors have long been more than familiar with the

Phaseolus sativum
Boil and simmer for 1 to 1½ hours for whole peas
and 1 to 1¼ hours for split peas.
Pressure-cooking isn’t recommended.
Peas have a long legacy in the human diet, going
back to around 8000 BCE. Dried peas aren’t a dried
version of the peas we generally consume as a fresh
vegetable; rather, they are a different variety with a


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Pink Beans

Phaseolus vulgaris
Boil and simmer for 1¼ to 1½ hours.
These small, oval, pale pink beans, which turn reddish brown when cooked, are used extensively in
Caribbean cooking, where they’re served with rice.
Their rich, somewhat sweet flavor and smooth texture also account for their common use in Southwestern cuisine. While they can be used interchangeably
with pinto beans in any recipe, pink beans hold
their shape better when cooked. Definitely a versatile bean, pink beans are great no matter how they
are used, be it in soups, stews, casseroles, chili, or
refried beans, or, of course, with rice.
Pinquito Beans

Phaseolus vulgaris
Boil and simmer for 1¼ to 1½ hours.
An heirloom variety of the pink bean hailing from
the 1800s, the pinquito (or Santa Maria pinquito)
bean is as pink and as small as its name would suggest. It is celebrated as an essential component of
the Santa Maria Style Barbecue menu, a regional
tradition in the Santa Maria valley in Santa Barbara
County on the Central Coast of California, the area
in which the pinquito bean is grown. Its flavor is
similar to pinto beans and as it holds its shape during cooking, it is an excellent choice for recipes
that call for long simmering, including chili, baked
beans, soups, and stews.

Peruano Beans

Phaseolus vulgaris
Boil and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours.
Plump, medium size and canary yellow in color, the
peruano bean, also known as Mayacoba or canary
bean, is a common bean served in many parts of
Mexico that merits familiarity and admiration far
beyond those borders. Slightly sweet, its flavor can
best be described as a cross between great northern
and pinto beans. Although thin skinned, it has a
great meaty texture and holds its shape very well
after cooking. Peruano beans are excellent as a pot
bean and ideal as a featured part of the plate served
along with rice or other grains. Try them also in
salads, or even in soups and stews.

Beans, Peas, Lentils, and soy products

higher starch content. Both green and yellow dried
peas are available; they are often split. Although they
are cooked similarly and are comparable nutritionally, green peas have an overall earthier flavor, while
yellow peas taste milder and sweeter. Whole peas
can be used in casseroles or as a side dish, or be
pureed and made into spreads, dips, and croquettes.
Whole peas should be soaked before cooking. Split
peas have their skins removed by a machine, then
are sent to another machine to be split in half. Although split peas don’t require presoaking, if you
soak them for at least 30 minutes they’ll keep their
shape after cooking. Still, the creaminess achieved
from unsoaked peas is the texture that most people
expect and find most appealing.

Pinto Beans
Pigeon Peas

Vigna unguiculata
Boil and simmer for 1 hour.
Most commonly used in Caribbean and African cuisines, pigeon peas are small, oval, and beige in color
with light brown speckles and a nutty, somewhat
strong earthy flavor and mealy texture. Because
they cook fairly quickly, pigeon peas are commonly
cooked together with rice, or cooked ahead and
served with seasoned rice, usually with hot, assertive seasonings.

Phaseolus vulgaris
Boil and simmer for 1½ hours.
In Spanish, the word pinto means “painted,” an apt
description for these oblong beans with a mottled
salmon pink and brown pattern. One of the more
frequently used beans in Southwestern cuisine and
enjoyed for their mild, nutty, earthy flavor, they have
a mealy texture that makes particularly good refried
beans. A natural served with rice, pinto beans are
also great in dips, soups, chili, and stews.


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the essential good food guide


with. The red exterior and white interior colors of the
lobster mushroom remain present in its dried form.

Also known as Italian brown mushrooms, criminis
are closely related to the common button mushroom. In fact, they are variants of the same species,
Agaricus bisporus, but criminis are much richer in
flavor and meatier in texture, primarily due to their
lower moisture content. Use them as you would
white button mushrooms, raw or cooked.


Also known as hen-of-the-woods, maitake are a
smoky brown color and look somewhat like a head
of curly lettuce or perhaps—with a little imagination and a nod to its nickname—feathers. Maitake
can grow to immense sizes—over fifty pounds! Its
texture, when cooked, is tender but firm, and its
flavor is somewhat earthy and nutty. Cut maitake
as you would a cauliflower, breaking it into wedges
or clumps and cleaning them thoroughly before
cooking—a task more critical for wild varieties than
cultivated. Indigenous to both North America and
Japan, it is very good in Japanese-inspired soups
and dishes. Although it’s best braised, stewed, or
cooked in a sauce, it can also be roasted. Or sauté it
with onions, covering the pan for a few minutes in
the middle of the process to allow the mushroom to
become tender and absorb juices and flavors.


These are mild-flavored, creamy white mushrooms
with long slender stems and very small round caps.
Originally grown on the stumps of the enoki tree
in the mountains of Japan, enoki mushrooms are
now commercially produced on a growing medium
of moist sawdust and rice bran packed into plastic
containers. Their crisp, tender texture makes them
a delicious raw addition to salads. If using them
in a stir-fry or other cooked dish, stir them in just
before serving to preserve their exceptional texture.

Hedgehog mushrooms are wild orange-gold mushrooms with a cap that has a depression in the middle.
They are characterized by tiny spindles on the underside of the cap. Their wonderful flavor and dry
texture is reminiscent of chanterelles, for which they
can be substituted. Braise, roast, or sauté them, and
because they’re a bit dry, cover the pan so they can
simmer in their own juices.


With a name meaning “pine mushroom,” this highly
prized wild mushroom grows primarily under pine
or fir trees the Pacific Northwest, gathered in the
fall and winter. It is white or brown in color with
a firm, short broad stem. With its meaty texture,
powerful and distinctive piney aroma, and earthy,
subtly smoky, spicy flavor, it is best prepared simply
roasted, steamed, or grilled. It has a special affinity
with Japanese cuisine. Store for up to a couple of
days in a basket in a single layer, covered with a
towel. Matsutakes are also available dried.


These mushrooms are known for their distinctive
red exterior color, which gives some understanding of the origin of its name, but it turns out that
lobster mushrooms really aren’t mushrooms at all
but, rather a fungus living on a couple of species of
mushrooms (Russula and Lactarius genera), both of
which, ironically, would otherwise be unpalatable.
Still, they are prepared as if they were mushrooms,
primarily providing color and a firm, meaty texture
to dishes. The lobster’s natural flavor is mild, but it
readily absorbs flavor from other foods it’s cooked


Morels, which look like elongated sponges or honeycombs with stems, can be yellow, brown, or black.
Gathered from woodland areas during the spring,
particularly within recently burned forests, morels
have a deep, earthy, nutty, smoky flavor and a crisp,
chewy texture that is terrific with creamy sauces,
pasta, rice dishes, fish, or poultry. For optimal flavor

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These mushrooms are very flavorful, meatytextured, dark brown Italian mushrooms whose
broad flat caps range from three to eight inches in
diameter. Unlike their cousins, criminis and common button mushrooms, which are picked while
their gills are still enclosed, portobello mushrooms
are picked when their gills are fully exposed. Sometimes referred to as “vegetarian steak,” portobellos
are exceptional when marinated and grilled. They
can also be sliced and sautéed with olive oil or butter
and seasonings such as tamari or rosemary. Serve
the slices with a thick piece of crusty bread or as
a side dish.

Oyster mushrooms

and texture, use them quickly after purchase. Dried
morels are also available.

These are fan-shaped mushrooms that grow on
the trunks and limbs of trees. True to their name,
these mildly flavored mushrooms look somewhat
like oyster shells. Lightly sauté them and add to
sauces, soups, pasta, and rice. French horn (or king
trumpet) mushrooms are a particularly large variety
of oyster mushrooms. Long and conical in shape,
French horns have a thick, meaty texture and a taste
reminiscent of sweet, buttery, nutty-flavored porcini. They are delicious sautéed, braised, or roasted.

f r u i t s a n d v e g e ta b l e s

Also known as king boletes or cèpes, porcini are
woodland mushrooms gathered during late summer to late fall. Light brown in color with flat, very
large caps and chunky stems, they are prized for
their rich, meaty, nutty, assertive flavor. Instead of
gills underneath the cap, as found in many other
mushrooms, this variety of mushroom has a spongy
layer consisting of pores and tubelike crevices. Grill
the caps, or slice them and braise or sauté for adding
to sauces or pasta and grain dishes. Dried porcinis
are also highly valued.


Shiitakes have a woodsy, almost smoky flavor and
meatlike texture, making them a favorite in both
Asian and Western dishes. They are named from
their origins in Japan, where they’re grown on the
wood of the shii tree; in other parts of the world they
are grown on wood from other varieties of oak. Just a
few shiitakes will impart a delicious flavor to soups,
stews, stir-fries, and pasta dishes. Because they have
a tendency to dry out and burn easily, for maximum
flavor and meatiness, keep the caps whole or cut
them in bite-size chunks rather than slicing them.
When cooking, first lightly sauté them, then simmer
in a little liquid until dry. Eat the caps only, and use
the tough, woody stems for stock. Herbs and spices


Also called bear’s head or lion’s mane, pom-poms
look like small heads of cauliflower with a slightly
furry texture. Their delicate flavor is enhanced when
baked whole or sliced and sautéed.


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Copyright © 1995, 2007, 2013 by Margaret M. Wittenberg
Photographs copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Martiné
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of
the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Ten Speed Press and the Ten Speed Press colophon are
registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Previous editions of this work were published as Good Food: The Complete Guide to
Eating Well by The Crossing Press, Freedom, California, in 1995, and as New Good Food:
Essential Ingredients for Cooking and Eating Well by Ten Speed Press, in Berkeley,
California, in 2007.
Instructions on page 67 courtesy of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file with the publisher
ISBN 978-1-60774-434-4
eBook ISBN 978-1-60774-435-1
Printed in China
Cover and text design by Sarah Adelman
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Third Edition

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