YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Diversity Salad

Magic happens when you harmonize with contributions from every color. That’s usually the best way to dish it out. Crunch.

1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, cut into quarters lengthwise, and then into very thin slices
1 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped coarsely
4 small (pickling size) cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 bunch of radishes, cleaned, trimmed, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups cooked (or canned) cannellini beans, rinsed well and strained
1 1/2 cups cooked (or canned) turtle beans, rinsed well and strained
1 cup cooked (or canned) kidney beans, rinsed well and strained.
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. huckleberry vinegar (or white vinegar plus 1/2 tsp. honey)
1/2 tsp. each salt and black pepper

Add all the ingredients to a large salad bowl and toss. Set aside to serve at room temperature.
Appreciate the diversity of flavors, textures, and colors.

Thank you, Steve at Rancho Gordo, for a prior version of this recipe.
Reader, if you haven’t checked out Rancho Gordo yet, then do so now. Absolutely sublime.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Red Cabbage with a Buzz

When I saw this recipe I knew it was for me. Generally speaking, cabbage is one of those foods that is very underrated — especially the red kind. This recipe is a red-green party, lunch for a week with spicy, crunchy, sour power! Make some for you, or your gang, or the office potluck!

1 small head of red cabbage, cored
2 bunches flat-leaf Italian parsley, rinsed well and chopped finely
1 bunch scallions (white and green parts), rinsed well and sliced thinly
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh is best, but not essential)
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup peanuts (raw or roasted), chopped coarsely
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Cut up the cabbage into small chunks, and process in batches in a food processor (short, quick pulses) just a few times until chopped roughly. Avoid overprocessing or you will have raw cabbage soup.

Remove cabbage to a large bowl, and mix in the parsley, onions, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with peanuts and chopped eggs. Serves 4-6.

Thank you to the incomparable Blender Girl for a prior version of this recipe.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Spinach Pesto

Here’s a special pasta dish with a gorgeous rainbow of colors that is perfect for when you want to make a good impression on someone special. And not only is it beautiful, but it’s so, so good for you. Each and every color represents a different phytonutrient, a building block for your good health. Nourishing yourself well is like playing roulette: you’re a lot more likely to win if you spread your bets all over the table. So think of each color as a different bet. And enjoy!

  • 2 c. fresh spinach
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 1/4 c. walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup each asparagus, red peppers, purple onion, zucchini (all cut into half-inch, bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 /2 lb. whole-grain pasta of your choice
  • 1 /4 c. pine nuts

1) Preheat oven to 400F. To make pesto, process spinach with olive oil in food processor or blender until mostly smooth. Add garlic, walnuts, yeast, salt and pepper. Blend again until smooth. adding up to 2 tablespoons more olive oil if needed to get the texture just the way you like it.

2) Place veggies on a cookie sheet with edges, and roast in oven for approx. 30 minutes, shaking occasionally. Set aside.

3) Toast pine nuts on a dry baking sheet for 2 minutes in the oven, and shake often. Don’t take your eye off them — two minutes goes quickly and pine nuts burn fast!

4) Prepare pasta according to directions. Reserve 1 /2 cup cooking water. Drain pasta, rinse, transfer to a bowl, and toss immediately with pesto. Add back a bit of reserved water at a time, just as much as you need to coat the pasta thoroughly.

5) Spread out the pasta on a large dish, top with roasted veggies, and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serves 2.

Thank you to vegweb.com for a prior version of this recipe!


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Rustic Chicken

Any minute now the tomatoes are going to begin ripening and our counters will be absolutely covered in all kinds of tomatoes, big and small, yellow and red, green and orange! If you are looking for a special recipe to use them, you’ve come to the right place! One thing that I love about this recipe is that you can do the prep work earlier in the day, set it up in no time flat, and then pull it out of the oven in time for a lovely, sunset dinner. This dish makes a great visual impression, yes, but the slow cooking process caramelizes everything to impress your taste buds just as thoroughly. Bon appetit.

  • 4 chicken legs (drumsticks + thighs connected)
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil (use whole leaves plus stalks, chopped fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups red and/or yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2-4 ripe plum or beefsteak tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 whole bulb garlic, broken into cloves (unpeeled, skins intact)
  • 1 large pinch of dried chili flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • One 14.5-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced
  • sea salt & fresh ground black pepper
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and jam together in a shallow pan in a single layer, skin sides up. Add cannellini beans and potatoes. Add basil leaves, basil stalks, and tomatoes.
  2. Scatter the garlic cloves and chili flakes on top, drizzle with olive oil, and mix, pushing tomatoes under the chicken. Place in oven, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours until the chicken skin is crisp and the meat is falling off the bone. Halfway through the cooking, flip the exposed tomatoes.
  3. If desired, to crisp the skin further, raise the temperature and/or switch to convection, or turn on the broiler for a bit at the end, rotating the pan occasionally. Watch closely to avoid burning. Prior to serving, squeeze the garlic out of the skins. Serves 4.

Thank you to Jamie Oliver for a prior version of this gorgeous recipe.

 


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Creamy Dreamy Hummus

Did you know that chickpeas are a bean? And that edamame, lentils and peanuts are also members of the legume family? It’s not just kidney beans and black beans you’re after, it’s all of them! Remember that variety is an independent value when it comes to nourishing yourself. What’s the best bean? One you haven’t eaten for a while.

Now, if you’ve ever wondered how they make that unbelievably smooth hummus, here’s your chance. Finally. Year-round, this stuff is addictive. Many thanks to Zahav and Chef Michael Solomonov for making this recipe available to us mere mortals.

1 cup dry chickpeas
2 tsp. baking soda, divided in 2
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 cup ice water
2/3 cup best-quality tahini*
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
best-quality olive oil and paprika (sweet or smoked) to garnish

1. Place the chickpeas into a large bowl with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and plenty of water. The chickpeas will double in volume, so use a LARGE bowl, and more water than you think will be necessary.

2. Soak the chickpeas overnight at room temperature. In the morning, drain the chickpeas, rinse under cold water, and place in a large pot with the remaining teaspoon of baking soda. Add enough cold water to cover the chickpeas by at least 4 inches.

3. Bring the chickpeas to a boil over high heat, skimming off any clouds of scum that rise to the surface. Lower the heat to medium, cover the pot, and continue to simmer for about 1 hour until the chickpeas are completely tender. Then simmer them a little longer, because the secret to creamy hummus is overcooked chickpeas. Yes, you want them to be mushy and falling apart. Drain.

4. Meanwhile, process garlic, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor until coarsely puréed, and allow to rest 10 minutes to let the garlic’s sharpness mellow somewhat.

5. Strain the garlic mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pressing solids with the back of a spoon to release as much liquid as possible. Return the liquid to the food processor, and discard the solids.

6. Add tahini to the food processor, and pulse to combine. With motor running, add 1/4 cup ice water, one tablespoonful at a time, and process until mixture is very smooth, pale, and thick. Don’t be surprised if the mixture seizes up at first. Just keep going.

7. Add chickpeas and cumin and puree for several minutes, until the hummus is smooth and extremely creamy. Then purée it more! Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, lemon juice, and/or cumin, as you like.

8. To serve, spoon approximately 1 1/2-2 cups of hummus onto a small-medium sized plate, and spread almost to the edge with the back of your spoon. Then dust with paprika, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Perfection on your plate. Should be enough to serve 2-3, more if the table is covered with a large variety of colorful salads.

*FYI, Chef Solomonov loves Soom Foods Pure Ground Sesame Tahini, which you can get on line.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Summer Corn Salad

Now that fresh corn is starting to show up at the local markets, it’s time to put it to work! Feel free to double this recipe, or to put aside some of your corn kernels in the freezer so you can make this recipe in a few months, when you are feeling like you really need a taste of summer.

3 ears of fresh corn on the cob
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped finely
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Sriracha
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp. crumbled feta (optional)
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp. each salt and fresh ground black pepper

1. Stand each of the three corn cobs vertically in the center hole of a bundt pan, and use a very sharp knife to carefully slice the kernels right into the pan.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, and add the corn kernels. Brown 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a spatula or wooden spoon, until the corn is beginning to pop and turn slightly brown.

3. Add the red pepper, and cook 2-3 minutes more, but don’t overcook. The peppers should still retain some crunch. Remove pan from heat, and add Sriracha. Mix well.

4. Add the parsley, cheese (optional), salt, and black pepper. Mix again, and set aside until mealtime. Squeeze the lime into the corn salad just before serving.

p.s. We like to toss our spent cobs into the chicken coop, and then let the girls finish up the job, pecking away until not a speck of corn remains.

Many thanks to food52 for a prior version of this wonderful summer spectacle.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Mario Batali’s Radishes Al Cartoccio

I’m gonna take a guess that you’ve always eaten your radishes fresh and raw, like in salads. I can certainly promise you that was the case for me up until just a couple of years ago. But then I began to cook them, and it was a whole new game. Like onions, cooked radishes release their bite to ease into a lovely, complex kind of sweetness with an entirely new set of flavors.

Here’s a little gift of a recipe from the great chef Mario Batali. Its name, Radishes Al Cartoccio, means that the radishes are wrapped and then cooked inside a package, in this case foil. I’ve also seen salmon cooked al cartoccio, as in this wonderful recipe from Cook for Your Life.

I even remember making burgers this way, as a kid. Preparations for going camping included a pile of packets consisting of hamburger patties from the previous year’s steer, thick slices of onion and green pepper, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. We placed them in the cooler for the ride, and then tossed them into the coals as soon as the fire was established. This was our traditional first evening meal while camping.

You can make all kinds of things al cartoccio — let your imagination steam away.

2 pounds large mixed radishes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. summer savory leaves, finely chopped (substitute fresh thyme if you want)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 450F.
2. Cut two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, approx. 16 x 12-inch, and lay them out with the short ends toward you.
3. Combine the radishes, onions, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and savory in a large bowl. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently and mix well.
4. Divide the mixture in two, placing half in the center of each piece of foil. Fold the short foil edges up and over the mixture, doubling over the edges twice to form a tight seal. Then fold up the side edges in the same way to form two tightly sealed packets.
5. Place both packets on a baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes. Transfer to a large serving platter, and allow to rest for 10 minutes, unopened.
6. Bring the platter to the table, and then slice open the packets right at the table for dramatic effect. You can use tongs for the radishes, but remember to include a serving spoon to collect the juices.

Serves 8-10 (side dish).


Celebrate!

Here’s one of my all-time favorite posts, reposted from July 4, 2010:

 

It’s the fourth of July today, and my sibs and I have converged on the family home for the great annual bash. On and off since yesterday evening, five strapping grandsons have been carrying cartons of beer, wine, soda, water, and iced tea up to the deck, where great drums of ice stand ready to receive them all.

I walked upstairs this morning to see my mother arranging a mountain of rolls, just collected from the local Italian bakery, in a huge, blue-striped-cloth-napkin-lined basket. My dad was outside using his kaboda, a mini-tractor, to position grills, chairs, and recycling bins. Tall piles of burgers (from our own steer) were thawing in the kitchen, and my mother’s delicious homemade cole slaw and potato salad were blending their flavors in the refrigerator. The gorgeous, cool green cabbages for the cole slaw were harvested from my mom’s garden last night. An early morning, last-minute trip down to the vegetable garden has yielded the last of the season’s lettuce greens. My assignment is to cut and arrange trays of peaches, plums, and mangos for the celebration. I have blueberries, raspberries and cherries to add, too. Raspberries are ripening all over my parents’ farm this time of year.

Across the street, our neighbors Connie & Duane are in the process of composing several magnificent marinated salads, and my mouth is watering as I contemplate the taste of them. Just the other night, to give you an example of the spectacles for which Connie & Duane are known, they arrived for a different meal with a large tray laden with mounds of marinated asparagus on one side, haricot verts on the other, triangles of sharp Parmigiana, leaves of basil and lettuce, and thickly cut tomatoes sprinkled with fresh oregano and fresh black pepper. Humble and generous, they would have you believe they tossed it together in just a few minutes. Connie is the daughter of a fireworks scion from the Midwest, a fact which always makes me feel like we have fourth-of-July royalty in our midst.

I like to embed recipes in my stories, and here’s one for a delicious homemade ranch dressing without secret ingredients: Add the following to a blender or food processor: 6 Tbsp. sour cream, 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise, 1 chopped green onion, 1 tsp. each honey and mustard, 1 Tbsp. chopped celery leaves, 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar, 2 chopped garlic cloves, and salt and fresh pepper to taste. Puree the ingredients for a minute, and add shredded Parmesan for more taste if desired. This dressing may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

In a few hours, the holiday table will be piled high with cornucopias of plenty. I saw the fixings for a gallon of black bean, corn, and cilantro salsa on my sister-in-law’s counter yesterday morning. If we’re lucky, Aunt Gerda will show with a bowl of the same creamy arborio rice pudding she brought to my wedding 30 years ago. Libby always brings one of her beautiful fruit pies, some years peach and other years strawberry-rhubarb, and sometimes she brings her guitar, too. My sister, a cantor, has also invited a bunch of her musician friends. So in addition to the great sights and smells, there should also be some great sounds coming from here in a little while. Food is not the only thing by which we will be nourished today. The music, food and friendship should last late into the night.

I indulged a desire for a bucket of silly bands to share with all the children we’re expecting today, and I picked out a few of the red, white and blue ones for myself. Ever since the grandparents taught a bunch of their grandchildren to play cribbage a few years ago, and then began to attend competitions together, the big kids have been honing their skills. So some of them will definitely be spending the afternoon playing cribbage inside, in the air-conditioned living room. The annual soccer game will convene down in the field, and it will most likely end with a large influx of young people doing cannonballs right into the pool. I expect that the pool will see even more activity than usual today, with temperatures expected to reach the mid 90’s.

I hope you enjoy your celebrations, large and small, this week.

————————————————————–

When we no longer have good cooking in the world, we will have no literature, nor high and sharp intelligence, nor friendly gatherings, nor social harmony.  Marie-Antoine Carême

Eat wonderful meals brimming with taste. Dance, drink, laugh, love. Think Zorba the Greek meets Julia Child.
W.C. Willett

Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.  Wendell Berry

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.  Erma Bombeck

 


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Roasted Onions

Today I have in mind a recipe for a simply different idea: roasted onions. Can you ever have too many onions in the pantry? Probably not. But, just in case, here’s one way to use up a whole bunch, all at the same time!

4 medium-sized, whole yellow onions, peels ON
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
balsamic vinegar

Turn the oven to 425F, and place the rack all the way down, on the bottom-most rung. Slice the whole onions in half, width-wise, and toss them into either a large plastic bag or a large bowl with a lid. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil. Close the bag or bowl, and shake until well mixed. Remove the onion halves and place each, cut side down, on a baking sheet with an edge. Roast the onions approximately 25 minutes until tender and golden. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar for extra zing. These roasted onions are really, reeeeeally good, and they add a special something to every meal you can imagine, whether simple or fancy, indoors or out, like barbecue, or an omelette, or a bowl of greens, beans and brown rice.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Conner’s Own Spectacular Granola

Karma is when you discover that the yoga course for which you registered (how silly to think that it was solely in order to learn yoga!) brings you to Conner Speigner, a gifted chef from Cleveland, Ohio. 

Conner learned her craft at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC. She is proud to share that her world travels and adoption of a plant-based diet led her to discover her personal mission: to heal with food, and to prove that nutritious is delicious! You won’t find any arguments from me. This granola really is delicious. Try sprinkling it on coconut milk yogurt the way Conner does, or feel free to use it however you like.

1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
2 apples
1 orange, peeled
all the zest of that peeled orange
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup maple syrup

1. Soak the walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds for 8 to 12 hours (overnight is good). Drain the nuts and seeds, blend in a food processor until you have a minced texture (do not overblend or you’ll end up with nut butter), and remove to a large bowl. Set the mixture aside.
2. Place the fruits, lemon juice, and maple syrup in the food processor and blend until smooth.
3. Add the fruit mixture to the nut mixture, and combine well.
4. Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a dehydrator tray, and dehydrate 36-48 hours at 115F.

If you do not have a dehydrator, use your oven as follows: Spread a thin layer of mixture on cookie sheet lined with either parchment paper or a silpat (silicone mat). Bake at 200 F (or the lowest temperature) for at least 2 hours. Leave the oven door cracked open for approximately 6 more hours. If you do this right before bed, the granola should be perfect by morning!

Conner is currently employed as a chef at The Root Cafe, located in Lakewood on the west side of Cleveland, where she serves up organic, local, vegetarian, vegan, and raw vegan fare. If you’d like to learn more about what Conner can do for you, you can reach her at connerspeignerAToutlook.com.