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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Caribbean Fish Stew


This savory slow-cooked stew will wake up your taste buds. And it's good for you too: coconut milk adds healthy fats while ginger and turmeric fight inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer.

This recipe is inspired by the Moosewood Collective's "Caribbean Shrimp & Vegetable Soup" in their Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook. My version uses white fish instead of shrimp, and a unique combination of seasonings. I use the zest of the lime as well as its juice and make a few other changes.

I chose Seafood Watch-approved wild-caught haddock, but you can use any non-toxic fish or seafood. If you don't have haddock, try wild salmon, Atlantic mackerel, clams, or mussels. This would be a good occasion to use canned wild salmon, which is widely available and more affordable than fresh or frozen wild salmon. Or try other canned fish like herring or sardines.

I finish this dish with cilantro and I've been known to add a whole bunch, literally. If you like it less, add less, or none at all. If you're not a fan, parsley would be a good substitute. 

  •     1 tablespoon cold-pressed coconut oil
  •     1 large onion, diced
  •     1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  •     1 organic red bell pepper, diced
  •     1 green chili pepper, Serrano or other (optional)
  •     1 sweet potato, scrubbed with skin intact and diced
  •     2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  •     1 to 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger root
  •     1 rounded tsp ground turmeric
  •     ½ teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorn
  •     1 cup diced tomatoes and juices, fresh or canned
  •     2 cups vegetable, seafood, or chicken stock
  •     1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 rounded teaspoon dried
  •     1 allspice leaf or bay leaf
  •     1 pound wild-caught haddock fillets, at room temperature
  •     1 can coconut milk
  •     1 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems finely chopped or substitute parsley
  •     2 organic limes, zest and juice (omit the zest if your lime is not organic)

  1. In a soup pot with a heavy bottom, warm the coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion, celery, and peppers. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and starting to brown. When the vegetables start to stick to the bottom, stir in some sea salt (it will release some moisture and stop sticking).
  2. Once the vegetables have softened and started to brown, reduce the heat to low and add the sweet potato, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper. Continue cooking until the sweet potatoes soften, stirring frequently to prevent the garlic from becoming over-cooked and bitter.
  3. When the vegetables start to stick to the bottom again, add the tomatoes. Stir to dissolve any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Then add the stock, thyme, allspice leaf, and enough water to cover the vegetables. Stir to combine and increase the heat to medium. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and simmer slowly until the sweet potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the coconut milk, then add the whole fish filets to the pot. Tuck them down into the soup so that they are fully covered. Return the soup to a slow simmer, cover, and cook for 10 more minutes or until the fish is fully cooked.
  5. Use the back of a spoon to break the fish up into bite-sized pieces. Turn off the heat and add the cilantro and the zest and juice of one lime. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary, adding the zest and juice of the second lime and/or more salt. Serve immediately.

This soup can be made a day in advance, but you should wait to add the lime and cilantro until just before you serve it. Follow the recipe above until the fish is fully cooked, then cool the soup to room temperature and transfer it to the fridge. Before serving, re-heat the soup slowly over medium-low heat and make your additions.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Morning Smoothie


Making a smoothie for breakfast is a quick and easy way to start the day right: with healthy fat and protein. You can make it in just one minute and it's a good way to get berries and ground flax seeds into your diet. I'm in the middle of my annual spring cleanse, so berries and ground flax seeds are at the top of my list.

This smoothie is good for almost everyone, and not just during detox. Berries contain powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer compounds. Flax seeds are full of fiber and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. They help regulate digestion, improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. (Individuals with intestinal inflammation or obstruction should avoid ground flax seeds.) Cinnamon and ginger also fight inflammation and they help our bodies eliminate toxins.

I add yogurt because it's full of healthy bacteria and whey protein that boosts the production of glutathione (which helps the liver detoxify compounds in the blood). For a dairy-free smoothie, omit the yogurt and add ¼ cup of full-fat coconut milk or 2 scoops of raw hemp protein powder or other protein powder.

Because each meal should contain a green leafy vegetable, I throw in a handful of spinach. It purées nicely, thanks to its  tender texture. You can use any leafy green you like, and if you can't use fresh greens, substitute a scoop of green powder.

Because the unsaturated fatty acids in flax seeds are fragile, they should be freshly ground, then consumed immediately or stored in the fridge until eaten. Frozen organic berries work well and add an icy texture. If you want the icy effect but you're using fresh fruit, add a few ice cubes.

½ cup organic frozen wild blueberries, blackberries or raspberries
Handful of fresh spinach leaves or other green leafy vegetable or green powder
½ cup organic whole milk plain yogurt (from grass-fed cows if you can find it)
2 rounded tbsp freshly ground flax seeds 
¼ cup water 
Pinch cinnamon
Freshly grated ginger to taste

Purée all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth. If you desire a thinner consistency, add more water. Drink immediately.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala


This colorful Indian dish gets its flavor from healing herbs and spices. Turmeric, ginger, and chili pepper reduce inflammation. Garlic, cinnamon and fennel promote good digestion and help dispel gas. And tomatoes are full of antioxidants like lycopene, which can help protect against cancer.

Daunting as it may sound, Chicken Tikka Masala is easy to make at home. Marinating the chicken in yogurt and spices overnight really keeps the chicken tender and juicy after cooking. I serve it in an aromatic tomato cream sauce, but you can substitute coconut milk if you want a dairy-free dish.

I made my own Garam Masala, a fragrant blend of Indian spices (recipe follows). I like to grind spices myself because they have the most flavor when they're freshest. If you lack the ingredients, equipment, time, or desire to make it  yourself, use a store-bought blend instead.

(In New York City, my favorite spice shop is Kalustyan's on Lexington Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets. While you're there, don't miss the urfa biber or freshly dried curry leaves.)

For the marinade (make in advance):

1/2 cup grass-fed/organic whole-milk yogurt
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger root
1 tbsp Garam Masala
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 pounds boneless pasture-raised chicken (breasts or thighs), cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks

Mix together all of the ingredients except the chicken. Once it's well-combined, toss the yogurt sauce with the chicken pieces and coat them thoroughly. Store them in a covered glass container in the fridge overnight.

For the meal:

1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or grass-fed/organic butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger or more to taste
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 tbsp Garam Masala
Sea salt
3 cups crushed tomatoes
 1/2 cup grass-fed/organic heavy cream
Fresh cilantro, chopped, or substitute parsley

Bring the chicken pieces to room temperature before cooking.

Melt the ghee or butter in a skillet with a heavy bottom over medium-low heat. (For this dish I like to finely chop my onion in the food processor but you can also do it by hand.) Add the onion to the melted butter and cook until soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the ginger and garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes aromatic, then stir in the Garam Masala. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking. Stir occasionally and once the mixture starts to stick to the bottom, or when it becomes very soft, stir in the sea salt, then the tomatoes. Stir to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Cover and cook for 10 more minutes. Stir in the cream and taste for seasoning. Adjust if necessary, then cover and warm over lowest heat until the chicken is ready.

While the tomato sauce is cooking, preheat the broiler. Use clean hands to wipe most of the marinade off the chicken pieces before transferring them to a baking sheet. If you can, avoid dripping marinade onto the baking sheet because it may burn. Broil the chicken until golden brown, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of your pieces.

If your chicken is cooked through (the juices should run clear and the center should not be pink) you can serve it on top of the sauce, garnished with cilantro. Or you can stir it into the sauce, along with the cilantro.

If you aren't yet ready to eat the chicken, or if you're not sure it's thoroughly cooked, toss the pieces back into the sauce, cover the pan, and cook it a bit longer on the stove top.

When you're ready to eat and the chicken is thoroughly cooked, stir in chopped cilantro or parsley, as much as you like. Garnish with more fresh herbs if you like and serve immediately.

Garam Masala


Most kitchens in India have their own special spice blend called Garam Masala. It's a warm and sometimes hot mixture of up to a dozen different spices. Each cook can vary the individual ingredients and/or the amounts of spices to make her/his own signature recipe.

My version contains turmeric, which isn't traditional, but it's a healthy addition. Because it has powerful anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer actions in the body, I cook with turmeric whenever I can.

There are eight other spices in this recipe. If you are missing one or two, don't let that stop you. The other flavors will make up for what's missing and your blend will be unique. If some of your ingredients are already ground, feel free to use what you have. Note that this spice blend doesn't contain salt, which can be added during cooking.

(In New York City, my favorite spice shop is Kalustyan's on Lexington Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets. While you're there, don't miss the urfa biber or freshly dried curry leaves.)

I like to make small batches at a time so the flavors are always freshest. This recipe makes just under a quarter cup, about three and a half tablespoons. If you require a more, increase the amounts in this recipe as needed.

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp corriander seeds
1 tsp mixed peppercorns
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ nutmeg, chopped
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp  ground cinnamon or 1/3 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
¼ tsp green cardamom seeds (remove them from the pods)
½ tsp crushed red pepper
¼ tsp cloves

Add all of the ingredients to an electric grinder and grind until smooth.

Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle to grind the spices.



Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Simple Spring Starter


Asparagus is one of my favorite things about spring. Here it stars in a simple dish that can be served for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. With one egg it can be a first course, with two eggs it's a main course.

I dress broiled asparagus with lemon and butter, serve it over a bed of shaved sweet red pepper, and top it with an egg or two (depending on the other components of the meal). The result is a symphony of flavors and textures: it's hot and cool, soft and crisp, tart and rich.

This dish is gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free. And it's also a lot like spring: light, satisfying, and colorful.

2 tbsp grass-fed butter 
1 bunch asparagus
Sea salt 
Ground peppercorn
1 small red bell pepper 
Organic lemon, zest and juice

Preheat the broiler and melt the butter in a large skillet.

Arrange the asparagus in a shallow baking dish and pour some of the melted butter over the stalks, just enough to coat. Toss them together, then sprinkle with sea salt and ground peppercorn. Broil until crispy and starting to brown, about 5 minutes or more, depending on the thickness of your asparagus. Set aside to cool.

Thinly slice the red bell pepper with a mandolin or a very sharp knife. Arrange the slices on a serving plate. Once the asparagus is cool enough to handle, place it over the red pepper slices.

Use the rest of the butter in the skillet to cook the eggs to your preference. I recommend cooking them lightly to allow the yolk to act as a sauce for the vegetables when you eat them. When they're perfectly cooked, turn off the heat and place the eggs on top of the asparagus.

Working quickly before the eggs cool, zest some lemon peel into the skillet and squeeze in some lemon juice. Stir them into any leftover butter (as long as it hasn't burned) and pour it over the eggs. Garnish the dish with more grated lemon zest or freshly ground black pepper if you wish. Serve immediately.