Esalen Cookbook: Healthy and Organic Recipes from Big Sur, by Charlie Cascio

I often go to Big Sur to retreat for a long weekend and I can say from experience, that for me, there is no other place quite like it. Off the winding 1 on the coast, hidden on the top of the hills amongst redwoods is a place where one can get away from the sounds, smells, disturbances of city life. It's a place where one can hear thoughts, hike, be calm, nap, to truly relax. Also located in Big Sur is a place called Esalen and this is where the Esalen Cookbook by Charlie Cascio was made. A cookbook filled with recipes for healthy and organic delicious food.

For me, the Esalen Cookbook is the first cookbook I've come across that featured healthy organic food that was absolutely delicious, enticing, interesting and simple to make! For this reason I'm in love with the Esalen Cookbook. Before the Esalen Cookbook I had the preconception that healthy food was all about plain yogurts, granolas, raw foods and etc (you get my point), it was all boring all very uninteresting. But this cookbook allowed me to accept the fact that there are numerous amounts of delicious, easy-to-make foods that are interesting in flavor and are healthy- it has been a real eye-opener, a real adventure! 

The back cover says

A few recipe favorites from this book are pictured below...

Apricot Nut Bread

Marion's Living Muesli

Greek Quiche


You may look at some of these pictures and think 'that's not healthy at all?!' All the recipes use organic ingredients and some are made in ways that are healthy though they may appear not to be, for example the Panforte (which I've made 5x now) contains no sugar or butter! And, of course, it's absolutely delicious! Another feature of the book that I really appreciate are the now-and-again seen side notes on how to create vegan or vegetarian versions of the dish.

A part of healthy eating, as explained in the book, is cooking the food with love and care, a completely different and unique aspect of cooking we don't often get and see in most places, including cookbooks, cooking shows or even at home.

If you love the idea of healthy food, if you love nurturing your body and your family's with healthy organic food, if you love exotic foods, foods that make you go hmmm... then this is the perfect cookbook.

Still not sure, try one, or better yet both recipes listed below for two of my favorite recipes from the Esalen Cookbook, maybe it will help you to decide.


2 tablespoons veg oil
1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 lg yellow onions, cut in 1/2-inch half moons
2 lg red bell peppers, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
2 large green bell peppers, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
1 1/3 tablespoons sea salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup water

1. Add the oil and meat to a preheated heavy-bottomed 6-quart saucepan or cast-iron Dutch oven. Brown the meat on all sides over high heat.

2. Add the onions and lower the heat to medium. Cook the meat and onions for 1/2 hour or until the onions have fully caramelized.

3. Add the bell peppers, tomato paste, paprika, salt, bay leaves, pepper, and water. Raise the heat and bring the goulash to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Allow the goulash to simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is soft and tender.

*Goulash is best served over creamy polenta.
*Add 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary just before serving.


1 lg butternut squash
2 tablespoons veg oil
1 med-size onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons curry powder
3 cups coconut milk
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
   sunflower seeds for garnish (optional)

1. Roast butternut squash on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 1 hour. Squash will be done when a knife can be inserted into the squash with no resistance (like butter).

2. Split the squash in half and scoop out the seeds which can be discarded at this point. Scoop out the pulp and set aside.

3. Place oil in a 6-quart soup pot over high heat and saute onion until translucent (about 5 min).

4. Add celery and curry powder and saute until the celery is tender.

5. Turn the heat down to medium and add the butternut pulp, coconut milk, salt and stock or water to the sauted veg. Blend with a hand mixer or whisk by hand until it is smooth in consistency. Heat until soup is hot, and cilantro and sunflower seeds (if you are using them) and serve.

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