YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: White Beans with Roasted Tomatoes

This recipe makes a simple and lovely meal that could not be more delicious or satisfying! Like many recipes whose featured ingredient is one or more types of beans, it still tastes wonderful even if you fiddle with the ingredients a little. The name of the game is flexibility.

This particular and extraordinary white bean recipe includes a spice called za’atar, which is used commonly in many Middle Eastern cuisines. Za’atar translates into hyssop in English, but you should feel free to substitute powdered thyme instead if you don’t feel like tracking down a source for za’atar. 

Also, you don’t have to cook your beans from dry. Of course, if you want to, that’s great, but if your preferred strategy involves taking a can or two from the closet, then I would definitely say that’s the plan. I keep a whole shelf of all kinds of beans in the cabinet, because you just never know what you’re going to need.  

  • 2 large tomatoes, cored and sliced into thick wedges
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar (or thyme, powdered)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 cups cooked Great White Northern or cannellini beans
  • 1/4 cup freshly shaved parmigiana cheese (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (any combination of basil, mint, oregano, marjoram, lemon balm, chives)
  1. Heat the oven to 375F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Add half the za’atar (approx. 1 tablespoon), a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons olive oil to a medium-sized bowl, and mix well. Add the tomato wedges, mix well, and spread out on the sheet pan. Roast tomatoes until soft and fragrant, approx. one hour.
  3. Divide the beans between two bowls. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt to each bowl, and mix well to coat the beans. Top the beans with the roasted tomatoes, chopped herbs, parmigiana cheese if using, and a final pinch each of za’atar and salt. Serves 2 — bon appetit!

Thank you to Maureen Abood at her blog Rose Water & Orange Blossoms for a prior version of this wonderful recipe.

 


Can You Believe It? Fat is Good for You!

A few years ago I read a cookbook called Fat, a celebration of flavor written by Jennifer McLagan. A few days later, I tried the sage butter sauce recipe with pasta: Fry 30 fresh, whole sage leaves in ½ lb. butter on medium heat for about 10 minutes, just until the butter begins to brown and the leaves turn crispy. Meanwhile, boil ­­­3/4 pound of pasta in salted water and drain when done. Pour the sauce over the cooked, hot pasta and serve with a simple green salad and some fruit. I added steamed beet greens to the pasta as well. It was heavenly. The sage lost its tangy, sharp, fuzziness as it was transformed into something much softer around the edges. The gentle, flavorful crunch paired with the chewy, slippery pasta was unbelievably satisfying, and we ate nothing more that evening — no popcorn, no chocolate, no ice cream.

One-half pound of butter?! It sounds like a lot, though each serving ended up with significantly less, of course. A small portion is extraordinarily satisfying; a large portion is overdoing it. You need fat, and you’ll get it wherever you can if you don’t get it from nourishing sources. The “French paradox,” the observation that the French remain slender despite the quantity of butter and cream in their diet, is only a paradox if you believe that fat is the enemy. There is no paradox. Fat is nourishing. Good fats, that is.

Fat nourishes and satisfies. Fat is absorbed by a pathway that uses virtually no insulin. That’s why, one hundred years ago, before there were any medications for diabetes, the ONLY treatment for diabetes was a high-fat diet. Fat is dense with nutrients, vitamins and, most of all, flavor.

The low-fat, no-fat message is a major contributor to America’s diabetes and obesity problem.

You may already know about the variety of nourishing fats in olive oil, avocados, dark chocolate, nuts (and nut butters), seeds (like pumpkin or sunflower), and deep sea fatty fish. If not, I hope you’ll start to include a lot more of them in your diet.

The butterfat in dairy products is unique, in part because it contains an unusually diverse collection of fatty acids. These fatty acids serve as building blocks for the ceaseless repair and remodeling that goes on all our lives. Of course, they are especially important for all young mammals, who are busily building and growing their bodies in the months and years immediately after birth. 

Which fats aren’t food? The fats that were invented in the 20th century. Like soybean, corn, “vegetable,” cottonseed oil. When did cotton enter the food supply? I’m not sure about canola either, frankly. Canola stands for CANadian Oil Association. That’s not the name of a food.

Where do you find those fats? In synthetic fat products, such as margarine, Crisco, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, coffee whiteners, and refined, ultra processed oils. These products are not food. They are food-like, but they do not nourish you. You may put them into your mouth and swallow, but they do not sustain you. Let’s talk about margarine. Any way you slice it, margarine is not butter. Most margarines are made from hydrogenated soybean oil. Sometimes with a little bit of butter. But don’t be fooled.

The word margarine is related to margalit, the Hebrew word for pearl. Margarine exits the machine a pearly gray color. My mother, born in 1936, remembers when “oleo” was sold with a tiny bead of red food coloring. Kneading the red bead into the gray, waxy material, as she did with her thoroughly modern Aunt Helen, slowly turned the gray wax into a yellow-colored product that more closed resembled butter. In those days, the dairy lobby was more powerful than the soybean lobby. Now it’s the reverse.

One way to identify products that are not really foods is by their names. Instead of being called by names our great-ancestors would have recognized (like butter and yogurt), they have fanciful names with healthful, pseudo-scientific, old-fashioned, or playful connotations that are meant to evoke all kinds of warm, cozy feelings. 

Product categories like margarine, with its endlessly creative, industry-generated names, are not food. Think about Smart Balance (seesaw), Blue Bonnet (hi granny!), Promise (not really), Country Crock (old-fashioned, homemade), Benecol (bene means good, col evokes cholesterol), or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (why not—we just told you?). These are not foods, and your own granny would likely have told you the same.

One last point I’d like to make. When you choose animal-based fats, such as dairy from cows or eggs from poultry, do your best to choose products that come from the most well nourished animals to which you have access. I know these products cost more, but if that means you eat better quality animal-based food less often, and eat more vegetables and beans at other times, that’s a win. 

Remember that you are what you eat, and you are also what what-you-eat eats. Any time you eat anything that ate a substandard diet, you concentrate it up the food chain. Into you.   


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Two Parsley Salads For You

There is a warm and cozy spot in my heart where the parsley goes. Parsley doesn’t usually get people riled up in the same way as basil, thyme, and oregano, but that’s about to change! What’s great about these recipes is that parsley is not the garnish but the main event. It’s the green, the herb, the everything. No competition, no second fiddle. It’s not a decoration, it’s just the parsley, and it’s definitely meant to be eaten this way. Continue reading



YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Hugs (Lentils) and Kisses (Carrots)

Bring a platterful of this amazingly delicious recipe to the table, full to the brim with tiny round hugs (lentils), and cross-hatched X’s (carrots), and share the love all around. Everyone will be so glad you did. You can serve it warm, or at room temperature. It’s great either way. Continue reading



YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Simplest Salad

I’ve been making this salad for breakfast, yes breakfast, for months now. I know it’s a bit unconventional in the U.S. to eat salad for breakfast (though not in Europe and the Middle East), but it’s such a great way to start the day. Its success is built on simplicity. My strategy remains similar, week in and week out. It is never quite the same, and always delicious. Thank you to Alice Waters for teaching me to eat simply. This salad makes one single serving, but is infinitely flexible if you’d like to invite a friend or an army to your table to share a meal. Continue reading