Ful medames, a staple dish of fava bean porridge in North Africa and the Levant, has many regional variants. In Egypt, it’s often served for breakfast, accompanied by flatbread and pickled vegetables. My version adds black and kidney beans and red lentils for a more varied nutritional profile, as well as turmeric and black pepper. Add as garnishes the ones suggested below or more olive oil, vinegar, mint, parsley, chopped garlic, berbere or other hot pepper, or other ingredients of your own choosing. Continue reading
This recipe is an example of the kind of dietary diversity that is important for any healthy diet. Add, subtract, or substitute ingredients freely in this highly adaptable salad, and as long as you include members of the Allium, Brassica, Capsicum, and Citrus (thus, “ABCs”) families, the results should both delight and richly nourish you. Note that these ingredients work synergistically to create a dish that’s healthier than the ingredients eaten separately. Black pepper magnifies turmeric’s powerful properties, the mustard and radishes boost broccoli’s benefits, and the nuts, seeds, and olive oil aid the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.
Nuts come with their own biochemical preservatives (phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors) to keep them from spoiling until conditions are right for them to sprout. You can rid them of most of these mildly harmful chemicals by soaking them for 24 hours or so in slightly salt water. Many people find that soaking nuts also also makes them easier to digest. I keep a cup of almonds in a jar of water in the fridge, from which I scoop a handful or so every day as a healthy snack. When the water turns cloudy, pour it out and replace with fresh. For storage longer than a week or so, dry the nuts in a dehydrator or warm oven until no longer moist.
The inspiration for this dish is Louisa Shafia’s recipe for Ash-e-reshteh in her wonderful book (and blog), Lucid Food. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of my version, which I have tweaked considerably, but it’s both nutritious and delicious—a great combination any time of year. In springtime, you could add wild-foraged greens to the pot. Continue reading
Fresh lemons, limes, and oranges are full of nutrients, but you’re throwing away some important ones if you toss away the outer rinds and the white pith between rind and flesh. Wash the rinds (even if organic) with diluted vinegar or a fruit & vegetable soap, then use a microplane or box grater to grate off as much of the zest as you can and store it in a small container in the fridge or freezer. Use the zest to add flavor & nutrition to many dishes. Shred the pith and store it in another container; add it to smoothies, soups, or other dishes, for added fiber and phytosterols. Taste before adding rinds or pith, though, because some can be on the bitter side. And because rinds are high in oxalates, they are best avoided if you have gallstones, kidney stones, or concerns about calcium absorption.
Along with her many literary gifts, Maya Angelou also gave the world a cookbook, Great Food, All Day Long. Although many of her culinary creations fall outside the parameters of this blog, this recipe for pears poached in port would be delicious as an occasional indulgence–especially with the addition of some whole spices (such as cloves, cinnamon, and allspice) and orange rind, and substituting cashew cream for the accompanying ice cream. “Second or third servings [reserved as leftovers] could be eaten in the morning with coffee or in the afternoon with a cup of aromatic tea,” Ms. Angelou suggested. Excellent breakfast fare, indeed. Continue reading
This lighter alternative to hummus has received rave reviews wherever I have served it. Continue reading
This colorful summery Middle Eastern bread salad is infinitely adaptable to incorporate whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand, and makes a welcome addition to picnics and potlucks. The red cabbage, while not traditional, boosts nutritional values that are already near the top of the chart. Continue reading
The healthiest foods are usually the least processed versions, which retain more of their nutrients. They often taste better, to boot. In the case of oats, while there’s little nutritional difference between instant, rolled, and steel-cut oats, the latter (least processed) have a lower glycemic index, and therefore take the laurels for both healthiest and tastiest. Continue reading
When you buy or pick fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint, scallions, etc.), put them in a jar of water on the kitchen windowsill. This way, they’ll stay fresh longer (and keep producing chlorophyll in the sunlight) than if tucked away in the crisper drawer, where you’re likely to forget about them until you pull out a sodden bag of decomposing stems a few weeks hence. You’ll also be more likely to pluck a few stems to chop up and add to salads or soups or smoothies, or just pop in your mouth as a mini-snack as you’re cooking or washing the dishes.