I recently had the great pleasure of writing the lead article for this fall’s Chapel Hill Magazine 3rd Annual Foodie Issue. Gorgeous food photos and tasting notes highlight how you can take your palate on a trip around the world – without leaving Orange County! With two major universities nearby, the international talent of the Research Triangle, and a rich multicultural community, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that we have such a plethora of ethnic restaurants. But I’d forgotten how good they are. Enjoy an authentic taste of Italy, China, India, France, Korea, Viet Nam, Turkey, even Ethiopia with no need for a passport. Thanks to editor Andrea Griffith Cash and photographers Briana and Mackenzie Brough for making my piece look so good. Pick-up a copy today of the Chapel Hill Magazine September / October issue for more details.
This weekend I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Deborah Miller on her show, “SideDish” on WCHL radio in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Deborah is a fabulous full-of-life individual who gets up-close and personal with area chefs, cooking teachers and food and wine experts, and she has a gift for drawing out the best in everybody. I guess I qualified as a cross-over, having been a food and wine expert and now following my passion for nutrition. We talk about my clinical practice, which emphasizes delicious natural foods as the path to good health, and offer several great seasonal recipes for fresh corn and tomatoes.
To listen to my interview with Deborah on her show, SideDish” please visit http://chapelboro.com/pages/13454906.phpI would like to give Deborah and her team a very big, “Thank You,” for having me on “SideDish” this past weekend!
It always puzzles me why we tend to do all or nothing. Eat only vegetables or be meat and potato fanatics. Food is so pleasurable, and every ingredient has something different to offer. Why not embrace them all? That’s why I think that while a preponderance of a variety of fresh vegetables should constitute the backbone of everyone’s diet, a little red meat now and again is not a bad idea. Choose lean and organic or hormone free, if possible. Red meat contributes high-quality protein; iron, an essential mineral in appropriate quantities; B12, which is hard to come by in completely vegetarian diets, as well as B1 and B6. Lamb contains one quarter to one third of an adult’s daily requirement for zinc.
Rack of Lamb with Herbed Garlic Crust is one of my favorite dinner party dishes, because it can be completely assembled in advance. While the chops on the plate you see look hefty, they constitute at most 4 ounces of meat, albeit so flavorful and well seasoned, the satisfaction level is high. And notice, as recommended by the powers that be, three quarters of the plate are filled with vegetables.
I like this recipe primarily because it is so delicious, but also because its do-ahead aspect removes as much fat as possible from the lamb and the smell from the initial browning will disappear by the time your guests arrive. For my plate, I’ve included Yukon gold potatoes roasted with onions, roasted beets, and steamed baby broccoli and asparagus. You can choose your favorite accompaniments. And look for dessert in an upcoming blog.
Rack of Lamb with Herbed Garlic Crust
Baby racks of lamb from New Zealand are available in most parts of this country. Because they are from young animals, the flavor is mild, and if you allow one rack for 2 to 3 people, portion size is appropriate. Those prepackaged at Trader Joe’s are already heavily trimmed. Whole Foods also carries them, but be sure to ask the butcher to trim off any excess fat.You can brown the meat, layer on the crust, and finish the dish in the oven within an hour and a half of serving; or brown ahead and refrigerate until one to one and half hours before dinner. Serves 2 to 3
- 1 rack of baby lamb (12 to 16 ounces)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley sprigs, tough stems removed
- 3/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 2 to 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Trim any visible solid fat from the lamb. Season all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a cast-iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet just large enough to hold the rack. Add the rack meaty side down and brown over moderately hot heat for about 3 minutes. Turn over and brown the other side for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lamb to a plate. Pour off all the fat from the skillet, and carefully wipe it clean with paper towels. If you’ve done this preparation well in advance, cover the meat and refrigerate. If you are within an hour and a half of serving, set aside to cool slightly.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a mini-food processor, combine the panko crumbs. parsley, rosemary, garlic, and shallot. Pulse, then process, until the parsley is chopped and the breading evenly mixed.
- Paint the meaty side of the rack and the ends with the mustard. Spread the seasoned crumbs over the rack and onto the sides, pressing it firmly but gently with your hands to help it adhere.
- Return the rack to the skillet and roast until the center of the meat registers 139 degrees F for medium rare, about 15 minutes, or slightly higher if you prefer it better done. (The flavor is best if the meat is pink.) Remove from the oven and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes to finish cooking. Divide into double chops to serve.
Ok, I’m on a salad jag. What can I say? All the vegetables and fruits in the market are so beautiful, they call out to me. So why not put them together? Technically avocado is a fruit, but most of us think of it as a vegetable, so that’s how I’ll refer to it. Rich in healthful mono-saturated fat, avocados are nutrient dense, providing vitamins K, C, E folate and most of the B vitamins as well as fiber, lutein and magnesium. While we usually associate vitamin K with blood clotting, it is essential to building strong bones. Calcium cannot do it alone.
This pretty salad can serve as a first course. Or you can transform it easily into a light main-course with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and a few tablespoons of crumbled ricotta salata, dry white goat cheese, or feta cheese. For the meat eaters out there, which includes me upon occasion, a paper-thin slice or two of prosciutto wouldn’t hurt, either. Serves 2; recipe doubles easily.
- 2 cups arugula, tough stems removed
- 1/2 cantaloupe or honeydew melon, sliced, rind removed
- 1 small avocado, peeled and sliced lengthwise
- 1/4 cup blueberries
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, Banyuls vinegar, or white wine vinegar
- 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- Arrange 1 cup of arugula on each of 2 salad plates. Decorative arrange the melon and avocado slices on top. Scatter the blueberries over the salads.
- Drizzle the lemon juice or vinegar and olive oil over the salads. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Who ever said good nutrition has to be dull? Raw zucchini is highly alkalizing, rich in fiber and low in calories, containing only about 20 per cup. It provides a little incomplete protein (2 grams), which the cheese in this recipe will boost, roughly one-third of the RDA for vitamin C, a bit of vitamins A and K, two important carotenoids—lutein and zeaxanthin—some B2 (riboflavin) and B6 (pyridoxine), potassium and manganese.
This refreshing, sophisticated recipe, which I picked up on a hot afternoon at Ristorante Leo in Florence, is best made with Romanesco zucchini, the ribbed variety that produces all the flowers. It is not as prolific as more commercial types; so look for it at farmer’s markets and specialty produce stores, or grow your own. It has marvelous flavor and a firm,crisp texture, which holds up well even with cooking. Also, choose the youngest, sweetest onions you can find and shave them paper thin. Serves 4 as a first course.
- 3 small or 2 medium zucchini
- 1 or 2 small sweet white onions, about 2 inches in diameter
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 ounces shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, aged Pecorino Romano or Manchego
- 2 to 3 teaspoons white truffle oil (optional but desirable)
- Using a mandolin, a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler, or the slicing blade of a box grater, shave the zucchini lengthwise into very thin, wide ribbons. Thinly slice the onion.
- Toss the zucchini and onion with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season lightly with salt and generously with freshly ground black pepper.
- Arrange the salad on 4 plates. Scatter the cheese over the zucchini and drizzle the truffle oil on top. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.
Aioli is both the name of a classic garlic mayonnaise and a dish starring the sauce. A gorgeous colorful platter composed of raw and lightly steamed vegetables, aioli can also include fish, typically salt cod, but also fresh, or tuna usually with potatoes. I like the vegetarian version best. You cannot serve anything more tempting or more beautiful on a hot summer night. Aioli can be offered as a first course or the main event, with a chunk of artisan whole grain bread and some good cheese. As for the vegetables, choose whatever is freshest, tastiest and prettiest at your farmer’s market.
Aioli aka Garlic Mayonnaise
My aioli consisted of cooked artichoke heart; fresh fennel, grape tomatoes, radishes and red bell pepper; and lightly steamed green beans, baby broccoli and romanesco. My version is not perfectly traditional in that I add a touch of mustard. The original classic was made with nothing but garlic, salt and oil, but I find the balance of flavors and texture of this enormously appealing. I like it best the next day, when it’s had a chance to mellow just slightly.
- 6-8 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or coarse kosher salt
- 1 cup your best extra virgin olive oil (I prefer Tuscan or Spanish Arbiqueño)
- 1 organic, farm-fresh egg yolk
- 3-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Pinch of raw sugar
- In a marble or stone mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with the salt to a paste. Gradually work in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until you have a fairly smooth, almost fluffy puree.
- Briefly whirl the egg yolk in a food processor. Add the garlic puree and with the machine on, gradually add 2 more tablespoons of the olive oil through the feed tube. Continuing to process, gradually add 2 teaspoons each lemon juice and water, then slowly drizzle in the remaining 3/4 cup oil. Don’t worry if a bit of the oil remains puddled around the blade.
- Scrape the aioli into a small bowl, using a scraper to get all the oil out of the machine. Whisk in the mustard, sugar, and additional lemon juice if you’d like. Season with additional salt to taste. If not using at once, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Some darling young yellow squash and zucchini, tender and just off the vine, called out to me at our local farmer’s market. With fresh corn and tomatoes just starting to appear, I couldn’t resist this sweet/tangy vegetable mix, loaded with antioxidants and healthy fiber. You can serve it warm, at room temperature, or even slightly chilled, so it’s perfect for a picnic, good with roast chicken, grilled shrimp or fish. Serves 4 to 6.
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed, plus 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed hot red pepper
- Kernels from 2 ears of corn.
- 5 or 6 small yellow squash and zucchini (about 12 ounces total), sliced or diced
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 2 large Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. In a large skillet, sauté the onion in the olive oil over moderately high heat until soft and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the bell peppers, garlic, cumin seeds and Aleppo pepper. Cook for 3 minutes longer.
2, Add the corn and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until it is almost tender. Add the squash, tomatoes, ground cumin, and oregano. Sauté for 3 minutes longer.
3. Pour in the chicken stock or water, cover, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until the squash and zucchini are just tender. Season with the lime juice and salt and black pepper to taste.
I like to think of salad as a bowl—or plate—of colorful vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vegetable protein, and who knows how much more. Not to speak of great, refreshing taste and stimulating texture. Numerous studies have shown that populations with higher intake of vegetables have lower rates of many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. And salad as a side dish, starter or main course is a great way to increase both the amount and variety of vegetables you eat.
Here are half a dozen easy rules for making a GREAT salad.
Vary Your Vegetables: Include cut-up or grated raw vegetables with lightly steamed. Brief cooking of some vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower, enhances color, flavor and bioavailability of many vitamins and minerals. Greens might include velvety soft butter lettuce, pungent arugula, sturdy baby Russian kale, crisp Romaine, or pleasingly bitter Belgian endive or radicchio.
Make It Beautiful: Whether it’s a tossed salad in a bowl or a beautifully composed salad on a plate, choose a variety of colors, textures and flavors.
Add Some Protein: Even just a couple of ounces of cheese, eggs, beans, seafood, chicken or lean meat will enhance the health benefits of your salad, especially if it is serving as your main dish at lunch or dinner.
Top with Seeds or Nuts: Just a tablespoon or two of sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts or almonds add valuable omega-3’s and B vitamins.
Enhance with Fresh Herbs: Fresh chives, dill, basil, parsley, and mint are my favorites, but you can experiment with any you have on hand, not just as a garnish, but generously as a flavoring.
Dress It with Style: Spend what you can on the very best extra virgin olive oil, perhaps some toasted walnut oil, and an excellent vinegar, preferably sherry or Banyuls wine vinegar. Forget about the classic 3:1 ratio, which never works quite right. Go for 2:1, with no mustard or sugar;\. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of walnut oil, if you feel like it, and always include a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon juice. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. A teaspoon of minced shallot will also add spark.
Photo of vegetables in basket: purneydesign.com
Barley Couscous with Spring Vegetables
Barley is often overlooked as a whole grain, which is a shame because it has such a pleasing mild flavor and phenomenal chewy texture, a tip-off to its high fiber content. I like to pair it with a little fresh corn and a colorful assortment of vegetables. This makes an admirable vegetarian main dish, but you can throw in some leftover roast (rotisserie) chicken at the end, if you like. 4 servings
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup pearled barley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups fat-free chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons dried currants
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1 small (6-ounce) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 3/4 cup corn kernels, preferably cut fresh from 1 ear
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 3 to 4 baby broccoli spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 to 5 asparagus spears, tough ends removed, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper
- In a large skillet or stovetop casserole, cook the onion in the olive oil over moderate heat until it is soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the barley, coriander, cinnamon, Aleppo pepper, saffron and salt. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes to toast. Pour in 2 cups water, cover, and cook until the barley is partially tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth, currants, carrots, and sweet potato. Cook, partially covered, until the barley and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes longer.
- Add the corn, zucchini and asparagus and cook until the green vegetables are just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with additional salt to taste and a generous grinding of black pepper.