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: 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: 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.

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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: Sweet Potato Brownies

I’ve heard of black bean brownies before, and I have even made them on occasion, but I had never heard of sweet potato brownies until a couple of weeks ago. This recipe comes from Katherine, a newly arrived co-worker who is committed to good health, running in the sunshine, and preparing delicious, nutritious food. Lucky for us! The amount of sweetness in this recipe makes it perfect for a special dessert, though I wouldn’t hesitate to eat it for breakfast, either. 

2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 cup smooth peanut (or almond) butter
1 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup chocolate chips (dairy-free)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a small cake pan with a bit of olive oil on your finger.

Warm the maple syrup in a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat. Add peanut (or almond) butter, stirring until the nut mixture begins to take on a toasted smell. Turn off the heat, add sweet potato and cocoa powder, and mix until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the mixture to the cake pan, spread evenly, and bake for 20 minutes. Do not use a cake tester — you want it to still be very slightly damp. Allow to cool completely prior to cutting.

Yield: 9 squares


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Red Lentils & Sweet Potatoes

I’m on a kick here. I think it might be the spinach. Or maybe the garam masala. It might be the orange vegetables and their phytonutrients. This recipe is slightly simpler than the chickpea-spinach curry one I posted a few weeks ago, but it’s also out of this world. The leftovers are so fantastic that you may decide to eat them for breakfast AND lunch, both.

1 small-medium sweet potato, peeled
1 small-medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (use 1/2 tsp. if they aren’t super fresh)
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup red lentils
4 cups fresh spinach
a pinch of salt

  1. Dice sweet potato into ½-inch cubes, and set aside.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup water plus 1 tsp. olive oil, and sauté onions and garlic for one minute.
  3. Add red pepper flakes and continue to cook until all the water has boiled off. Add turmeric and garam masala, and stir well.
  4. Add broth and sweet potatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low, cover pot, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add red lentils, and simmer 7-10 min until lentils and sweet potatoes are both fully cooked. Add additional water as needed to keep ingredients moist.
  6. Add spinach and stir until soft.
  7. Add salt to taste and serve.

Serves 2.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Cherry-Chocolate Mousse

Looking for something cool to serve in small, elegant glasses on a warm evening? This lovely mix of fruits, almond and chocolate will make your heart sing and your eyes flutter. Promise.

1 small banana
12 ounces frozen cherries
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 oz. dark chocolate (70%), finely chopped

Combine the banana, cherries and almond butter in a food processor or high-speed blender. Puree until smooth and creamy. Stir in the chocolate, and spoon into bowls.

If you would like to try making a firm ice cream, freeze 2-3 hours, and then serve with a proper ice-cream scoop.

Serves 4.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Spinach & Chickpea Curry

Let this list of spices inspire you! Sure, you can reach for the curry powder in the spice cabinet, but wait! Don’t! You are not going to believe the difference between THAT and THIS. It’s diamonds vs. paste. Top shelf vs. moonshine. Everything you’ve ever wanted vs. anything you’ve ever settled for. You will be so grateful, and your tastebuds will, too.

If you’d like, you can serve this beautiful curry with a bowl of rice and a plateful of cucumber slices. The original recipe comes from So Vegan. So check it out.

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
4  large tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. hot chili powder
3 1/2 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup coconut cream
3 cups raw spinach
1 handful fresh coriander leaves
pinch of salt
1/2 fresh lemon
1 tsp. coconut oil for frying
sliced cucumber for garnish

1. Add onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes to a food processor and process until smooth.
2. Crush the mustard seeds and coriander seeds until fine, either with the side of a knife blade or a mortar & pestle.
3. Heat 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat.
4. Fry the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, mustard seeds, and chili powder for 2 min.
5. Add the onion and tomato mixture, stir well, and simmer on low heat for 20 min.
6. Add coconut cream and chickpeas, stir well, and heat for 3-5 min.
7. Add a pinch of salt, a drizzle of lemon juice, and a small handful of coriander.
8. Add all the spinach, and stir briefly until wilted.

Serves four.


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.

1 medium white potato (organic), cooked
2 small (pickling) cucumbers (approx 4 inches long)
8 grape or cherry tomatoes
2 tsp. sunflower seeds
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
a small handful of fresh herbs (choose from among chives, basil, mint, thyme, oregano)

Dice the potato into 1/2 inch cubes, and add to a bowl.
Halve the cucumbers the long way, and slice into thin half-moons.
Slice each tomato in half.

Mix together the vegetables, and add the herbs. Sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt. Mix well.
Sprinkle the top with sunflower seeds just before serving.

Thank you, Alice Waters.