Mustard Salmon with Cannellini Bean Ragú

This one-dish meal tastes rich and intricate, but takes less than an hour to make. The salmon and cannellini beans are low fat sources of protein, keeping this dish healthy and satisfying despite the flavorful addition of prosciutto.

thyme and tomatoes are a standard pairing for cannellini beans

thyme and tomatoes are a standard pairing for cannellini beans

The recipe starts by simmering the shallots, garlic, tomatoes, and thyme with the beans, enriching them with flavor. The prosciutto brings in some depth and heartiness, balanced nicely by the lemon zest and fresh escarole. This was my first time cooking escarole, and I was pleased with the slight earthiness it added to the ragú. If you can’t find escarole, I have it on good authority that spinach is a suitable substitute. (Thanks for the tip, mom!)

escarole!

escarole!

Broiling the salmon as instructed cooked our filets exactly to medium. I didn’t bother with using two different mustards because I enjoy the spiciness of Dijon, but if you prefer something subtler I would recommend following the recipe exactly. Mustard is also an ingredient that you need to double check for gluten. Mustard flour contains wheat and is sometimes added to prepared mustard. I like Annie’s Naturals Dijon, which is labeled gluten free.

Actual cooking time is less than 15 minutes, so if you get the salmon in the oven while the beans are still simmering you can eat in under half an hour. Ben and I prepared this meal together, and it was a quick and easy recipe with the aid of a sous-chef. It was also delicious! This healthy, but decadent, preparation of salmon will definitely make it to my table again.

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Mustard Salmon with Cannellini Bean Ragú by Giada de Laurentis

Food and Wine May 2014

Harira

Harira is a traditional Moroccan stew made with chickpeas, lentils, and meat. This lamb version comes from the Toro Bravo cookbook, and it seemed like just the dish for a rainy Portland Spring evening. The recipe begins by sautéing shallots, parsley, and cilantro in olive oil. Although fresh herbs are typically tossed in towards the end of cooking, Moroccan dishes cook them up at the beginning to create a base of flavor. Next you add a mixture of fresh chopped ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, and saffron and stir for about a minute until the spices release their fragrance. (Moroccan cooking doesn’t benefit from substituting smoked paprika—the smokiness would overpower the other spices.) Add in the onions and lamb and stir until the lamb is cooked and the seasonings are fully incorporated into the meat. Finally, add in rinsed brown lentils, chickpeas, and high quality chicken broth and simmer for about an hour, or until the lentils are tender.

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Finish the stew off by adding the juice of one lemon and ¼ chopped preserved lemon peel. Preserved lemon is a beautiful, very flavorful ingredient. Be sure to remove the pulp and pith—the rind will give you the flavor you need without the bitterness.

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At Toro Bravo, an unforgettably delicious Spanish tapas restaurant in Portland, this dish is served with buttermilk cheese and homemade flatbread. To keep it simple and gluten free I served it with brown rice and a sour, plain Greek yogurt. It may not rival the restaurant original, but it was delectable enough for me!

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Harira via Culinate

Toro Bravo Cookbook by Liz Crain and John Gorham

Principles of Healthy Eating

 I’m not interested in fad diets. I would never give up gluten if my body would let me digest it, and I think any weight-loss based eating plan that involves cutting out an entire food group is a little bit crazy. There are many great reasons to avoid certain foods—from allergies to ethics—but just as many not-so-great reasons. I believe that the best nutrition comes from whole foods, healthy fats, and eating a varied diet. Our bodies are different and there is no single diet that will work for everyone, but there are some basic principles that I eat and live by.

Some fat is good for you. Healthy sources of fat, such as nuts, olive oil, avocado, and lean fish and meats will always be staples in my diet.

Minimized processed foods. Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooking from scratch increase the nutrition in what you eat and limits your exposure to strange ingredients, chemicals, and food dyes.

Listen to your body. I do my best to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. By paying attention to how you feel after you eat, you can identify which foods give you a natural boost of energy and keep you feeling good.

Try new things! A varied diet may increase the healthy microbes in your gut, and it certainly increases the odds that you will get more essential nutrients from the food that you eat without relying on vitamins, which aren’t absorbed as efficiently as food.

Indulge (a little.) I eat a few squares of dark chocolate every day. It satisfies my craving for something sweet and keeps me from feeling deprived, which can lead to overindulging.

This is what works for me. It keeps my relationship to food fun and balanced, and keeps my body feeling healthy and strong. I hope you discover what works for you. If you have anything to add, please share in the comments!

Moroccan Carrot Soup

I’ve been craving a meal that is full of spice—not heat, but a blend of flavors that wakes up my palate. This soup is light enough for Spring, while satisfying the remnants of my desire for rich Winter food.

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When I saw the recipe it immediately reminded me of the Roasted Carrot Harrissa I’ve written about before. With that in mind, I added a couple of cloves of garlic to the onions and carrots and was very pleased with the result. If you’re looking for a more complex flavor you can roast the carrots and onions instead of simmering them, but for me simmering allowed the toasted cumin to take center stage. On that note, take a few minutes to toast cumin seeds and grind them yourself as the recipe calls for. It’s surprising that cumin alone can add so much flavor. It’s definitely worth the extra step!

honey, lemon, and allspice are perfectly balanced

honey, lemon, and allspice are perfectly balanced

toast cumin seeds in a dry pan until they become fragrant

toast cumin seeds in a dry pan until they become fragrant

Besides being delicious, this recipe takes about 40 minutes to prepare. It’s bright and beautiful, and couldn’t be more simple.

serve with a dollop of plain yogurt

serve with a dollop of plain yogurt

Moroccan Carrot Soup via Epicurious

Bon Appétit            April 2010

Paleo Five-Minute Muffins

These protein-rich muffins are a delicious way to start the day. They are dense, but oh so good! This recipe came to me through a colleague and friend. She made significant changes in her diet to address some health problems and now we get to swap our favorite healthy recipes. This one is a keeper! The natural sweetness of the bananas goes a long way, so just a tablespoon of honey and a teaspoon of vanilla are enough to make these sweet enough for me. I typically add some slivered almonds on top before I bake them, which is more for aesthetics than flavor.

simple ingredients. I used peanut butter this time, but my favorite is cashew

Such simple ingredients! I used peanut butter this time, but my favorite is cashew butter.

Nut butter, honey, and bananas are an almost unbeatable combination. My favorite nut butter for this recipe is cashew because it is creamy and rich. I use flax eggs as the binder, which means the muffins don’t rise much but still taste great. The apple cider vinegar and baking soda help add some airiness to the texture as well. I was a little bit skeptical of making batter in a blender, but with a batter this sticky, it’s definitely the simplest way to go. Unless you grease the pan with butter, these are also dairy-free.

can you sense the stickiness of the batter?

Can you sense the stickiness of the batter?

The mini-muffins make an excellent contribution to brunch and the full-sized muffins are hearty enough to count as breakfast (if you pair it with a cup of coffee, of course.) Enjoy!

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Paleo Five-Minute Muffins via Tessa: The Domestic Diva

Lemony Chicken Stir-Fry

This simple stir-fry is a healthy version of Chinese take-out. I mean that as a compliment! It doesn’t have the complexity of an authentic Chinese recipe, but it draws flavor from some of the cornerstones of Chinese cooking–fresh ginger, scallions, sesame oil, and soy sauce (or in my case, gluten-free Tamari.) The addition of lemon zest and juice makes this a perfect meal for Spring.

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I followed the recipe almost exactly, with the minor addition of dried red pepper flakes to lend some spice. Next time I might let the chicken brown a little more before adding the tamari and sesame oil just to enhance the color and texture. I served this dish with a side of brown rice and asparagus sauteed in sesame oil. It wasn’t knock-your-socks off amazing, but it was simple and satisfying, and definitely more nutritious than take out. Be generous with the scallions–they are a key ingredient, not a garnish!

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Lemony Chicken Stir-Fry via Fine Cooking

February 2014