The seed for the creation of Earth Day was planted when Rachel Carson’s bestseller “Silent Spring” was published in 1962. It made the need to protect the environment and public health part of the national conversation. Earth Day and the birth of the modern environmental movement were based on an idea from Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson. The devastating environmental damage of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1969 had a profound impact on him. He wanted to start a national political movement to protect the earth from the ravages of air and water pollution.
On April 22, 1970, some 20 million Americans took part in a national rally and organized protest against the deterioration of the environment, oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.
“It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”
Today, Earth Day is a worldwide movement reaching hundreds of millions of people. It uses social media to organize and inform people about current environmental issues such as recycling, global warming and clean energy. For example, A Billion Acts of Green launched an international initiative last year with “Avatar” director James Cameron to plant 1 million trees, and tripled its online base to more than 900,000 community members.
Celebrate Earth Day with my recipe for Spring Stew with Tomato Garlic Pistou. It’s the perfect showcase for local, fresh and environmentally friendly vegetables.
Spring Stew with Tomato Garlic Pistou
Pistou is a French version of pesto without any pine nuts, almonds or walnuts. Adding the Tomato Garlic Pistou to the finished Spring Stew not only enhances the presentation of the soup, it also adds a burst of acid, brightening the flavors. Any extra pistou can be refrigerated or frozen. It’s a healthy accompaniment for grilled or steamed fish and shellfish. Or use it as a base for a salad dressing by whisking it with a little more olive oil and balsamic, red wine or sherry vinegar.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups yellow onions, finely diced
2 cups carrots, peeled, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 quarts unsalted vegetable stock
1 cup green beans, fresh or frozen, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups asparagus, tips and tender parts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup shelled fresh peas (about 1 1/2 pounds unshelled) or frozen peas
2 cups yellow squash, medium dice
3 ounce ditalini, tubettini or other small pasta
Tomato and Garlic Pistou (recipe below)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1. Heat the oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven set over medium-low heat until oil is hot, but not smoking. Add in the onions and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently until onions soften. Toss in the carrots, red bell pepper, salt and pepper. Turn up heat to medium and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. Don’t let the vegetables caramelize.
2. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer the soup for a few minutes before adding green beans, asparagus, peas, squash and pasta. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes or so, until the pasta is cooked and the vegetables are tender. Serve soup with a large dollop of pistou (recipe below) and freshly grated Parmesan. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
4 large cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup tomato paste
30 fresh, large basil leaves, washed and patted dry
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
Add garlic, tomato paste, basil leaves and Parmesan cheese to the bowl of your food processor. Pulse the mixture until it is a chunky paste. With the motor running, add the extra-virgin olive oil in a steady stream and process until it becomes creamy. Transfer pistou to a small container, and cover it with a thin layer of olive oil and an air-tight lid to keep the colors bright until ready to use. Makes 1 cup. ••
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her Web site is www.divapro.com