Book Review: The Go Green East Harlem Cookbook

Given recent attention focused on the more tawdry side of New York politics, we thought we'd profile something good and wholesome coming out of the marble halls of governance: The Go Green East Harlem Cookbook (Jones Books, $17.95 list), edited by Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, who says "At first glance, you might not see East Harlem as the place for fresh thinking about healthy urban living -- Go Green East Harlem will change your mind."

It's true. I looked at an apartment in East Harlem maybe eight or nine years ago and I remember the thing that struck me about the neighborhood was the density of fast food establishments and plexiglass-encased deli counters. This book is an effort to expose both the general public, and the community of East Harlem (the book was given, free of charge, to many local residents) to the dire nutritional situation that exists and the efforts being made to change that situation. The fact is that it is a community filled with people who share a rich culinary heritage and given the resources, they can easily create healthy, delicious meals. That goes for all of us.

The book features tips on healthy eating from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in NYC. The book is in English and Spanish: just flip the book for the other language.

Each easy-to-prepare recipe carries icons for sugar-free, vegetarian, whole grains, dairy-free. No wacky gourmet ingredients are required. Recipes include the Go Green Salad from Melba's Restaurant, Fish in Acqua Pazza (Crazy Water) from the Flash Inn; Camaradas Vegetarian Mofongo, a dish made up of mashed fried plantains, from Camaradas el Barrio; and Quinoa Banana Muffins, from Stefania Patinella, manager of the food and nutrition programs at the Children’s Aid Society.

There is simply-written information on the health benefits of certain foods (even advice on navigating through a takeout menu to optimize health!), how to stock a kitchen and information on the controversial connection between obesity and diabetes.

Although the photographs vary in quality, it is a nice touch that they are taken by students from the International Center of Photography in NYC. Many photographs are portraits of local residents, non-profit leaders, and business owners. And the faces presented throughout the book are all proud and real. That's the truly nice touch.

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Sara Kate is the founding editor of The Kitchn. She co-founded the site in 2005 and has since written three cookbooks. She is most recently the co-author of The Kitchn Cookbook, to be published in October 2014 by Clarkson Potter.