Certainly one of the greatest culinary challenges I’ve ever faced occurred last month, when my dear friend Food As Medicine Executive Chef and author (soon to publish her 4th cookbook) Rebecca Katz — aka, one of the most famous and sublime healthy chefs in the US — came to lunch at my house.
What to cook?
When I entertain friends and family, and I REALLY want things to go well, I use Rebecca’s recipes. Now what?
Rebecca Katz, Chef, Author and Food As Medicine (FAM) Executive Chef, demoed this recipe in her kitchen on stage at the end of FAM last year. It’s become a staple in our summer menus. We thought you’d like it, too!
Some folks like shots of tequila. Well, my choice of a shot is much, much healthier. Take this Mediterranean gazpacho. It makes a hit of V-8 look like amateur hour. The great part about gazpacho is it’s really a vegetable orgy; cucumbers, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onions, fennel, garlic. At this point readers often scream, imagining they’ll look like a bunch of nine-fingered piano players after all that veggie chopping. Believe me, I know—at culinary school, gazpacho prep is the equivalent of Ninja Knife Skills Boot Camp, where teachers walk around the kitchen with (I’m not kidding) rulers to make sure each veggie is uniformly diced. That’s nuts, and unnecessary; here we toss everything–veggies, spices, herbs, oil–all into Vinny the Vita Mix, add a little olive oil and shazam! It’s party time. I took this to an Independence Day dinner and poured out the cheer into shot glasses topped with a little avocado cream. You know you’re doing something right when everyone corners you for the recipe (I’m an easy touch on that one). This is like a drinking a Virgin Mary. No hangovers. Promise.
Gleaming black olives, dusty purple eggplants, emerald kale, a splash of scarlet tomatoes on freshly made golden corn tortillas. I cook with my eyes. Color matters, texture matters, flavor matters. I rarely use recipes. I find my art supplies at the farmer’s market on Saturday morning, and my favorite season is now, summer, when the market is brimming with seasonal surprises. Crisp sugar snap peas and sweet baby carrots (with ferny leaves still attached) to snack on. Red and golden beets, pink and white French breakfast radishes, organic blueberries, and Rainbow chard. I can smell the rosemary as I approach the herb table, and can’t leave without a bunch. There are 3 or 4 kinds of kale and pale green lettuces to melt in your mouth. The tomatoes are starting to come in, and little squashes, and tiny orange peppers so beautiful and hot you must use with caution. 6 kinds of mushrooms, purple potatoes, and new things each week. I never eat corn until it’s fresh in the farmer’s market. Cooking with the vibrant, fresh piles of produce that appear before you, rather than buying from a list, makes life intense and interesting. Slender asparagus, spring onions, and in late June, ruby red cherries. In my kitchen, my son and I chop and saute these lovely things, both familiar and new. We arrange our creations artfully, on plain or patterned plates, to appear to their best advantage. A fragrant treat for the eyes, redolent of the sun in which they grew, plucked by the strong hands of the farm crew, and cooked with love. What can I say but thank you.
Jo Cooper just retired after 9 years as Food As Medicine Program Manager and Director of Nutrition Programs at the Center, and is now our Marketing Director.
If you are ready for some fresh spring asparagus that is crisp, lemony and divine—and can be on the table in a snap—our Food As Medicine Executive Chef Rebecca Katz’s recipe is just the thing. Ummmm good.
The produce manager at my local Whole Foods caught me appreciatively smelling the organic Bartlett pears on sale last night (1.69 a pound) and asked if I had ever tried Abate Fetel? He led me to a mound of slender, elongated greenish pears and explained that they are Italian, and only available briefly at this very time of year.
A seasonal delight you won’t want to miss: cranberry beans, with their burgundy and white shells. I spotted them at my farmer’s market on Saturday, and rhapsodized over their appearance all day before cooking them that evening. Flat out gorgeous!
I was inspired to create a combination of fresh green beans and cranberry beans by David Tanis in this delightful episode of Alice Water’s In the Green Kitchen video series, each of which features a simple standout dish. David spends half the year in Berkeley as head chef at Chez Panisse and the other half in Paris. Oooh, nice! I love watching him in this video, serenely topping and tailing green beans, the very essence of relaxed mindfulness.
Alas, the cranberry beans turn grayish in cooking, but I still found the final dish a pretty picture. And my friends, the taste! One of those deeply satisfying kinds.
Method: cook the cranberry beans in the shell in boiling, lightly salted water for 20 minutes. During the last 4 minutes, throw in the green beens, which have been topped and tailed and cut into reasonably bite-sized lengths. Drain everything. Shell the cranberry beans and toss them all on a platter (the better to admire), sprinkle with a little high quality olive oil and some sea salt– I used some fleur de sel. Just a little. Sheer delight with corn and sweet potatoes fresh from the farm market!
Learn more about cranberry beans on this nice site called The Heart of New England, which has lots of nice food ideas.
This was one of the most popular dishes at Food As Medicine 2010– perhaps because it’s such a glorious eye-full?
In her book The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, from whence this recipe cometh, Rebecca Katz says, “…I set out to create the most colorful salad I could, using purple beets, orange carrots, and fresh mint. If I’d had a vegetable crisper instead of a box of crayons as a kid, this salad would have been the result.”
And not only beautiful, but brimming with antioxidants. We all know we’re supposed to be tracking those down and including them in our diets like crazy, right? Turns out, as Rebecca says, “Generally speaking, the right way to go is to cast a wide net instead of focusing on a single antioxidant.”
This is one stunning combo. As you see, the Capital Hilton kitchen did the colors side-by-side, and they are equally gorgeous tossed, with the green flecks of mint dancing amidst the shredded orange and burgundy. A great choice if you are looking for that wow factor for a healthy lunch or dinner dish. And beets and carrots are in season, in local farm markets (at least in the mid-Atlantic region), right now.
Photographs of Food As Medicine 2010 by Erin Goldstein
Shredded Carrot and Beet Salad
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup peeled and shredded carrot
1 cup peeled and shredded red beet
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Whisk the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, ginger, and salt together
until thoroughly combined. Put the carrots in a mixing bowl, drizzle
with half of the dressing, and toss until evenly coated. Place the carrots
on one side of a shallow serving bowl. Put the beets in the mixing
bowl, drizzle with the remaining dressing, and toss until evenly
coated. Place the beets in the serving bowl next to the carrots for a
beautiful contrast of red and orange. Top with the chopped mint before
From Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, Celestial Arts, 2009.
Rebecca is a core faculty member and our Executive Chef for Food As Medicine, and designs all our food for the program. OMG. Eating like this for 4 days is SUCH a treat!
Thank you for sharing, Rebecca!
With temperatures over 100 degrees and code orange air alerts (“unhealthy for sensitive groups”) here in Washington, DC, who feels like cooking? Or for that matter, eating?
My solution last evening: a rainbow salad. Everything organic, nearly everything purchased at our local farm market the evening before. Nothing much to it: two kinds of lettuce, blueberries, strawberries, pine nuts roasted with just a little ground coriander (my son Arran who is a chef teaches me these haute cuisine tricks), sliced carrots, and a little finely sliced peppermint, tossed with a tad of high quality olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Ta-da! As quick as it sounds and as delicious as it looks.
Summer’s harvest is rolling in! See the riches we plundered at the Farm Market on Saturday, including the first corn of the season (white), and little orange ‘Sundrop’ tomatoes, organic strawberries, black raspberries, and small plums (well, everything we purchased is organic), and mountains of greens (kale, chard, dandelion, arugula, baby spinach, Boston lettuce), herbs (peppermint, parsley)… This rainbow cornucopia inspired our first summer feast: steamed corn (several of us thought it so rich and succulent it didn’t require butter or any other spread), green beans with a spritz of lemon and a pinch of fleur de sel, quinoa salad (details below), soft boiled fresh farm eggs and sliced plums with black raspberries.
A simple recipe for the quinoa salad: Start with 2 cups of quinoa, well and repeatedly washed to remove the bitter saponins and cook on stove top or in rice cooker with 4 cups water. Meanwhile, prepare the following: toast 1/2 cup pine nuts in a heavy pan over a flame– shaking to keep from browning too much, and adding a pinch of coriander. Chop a handful each of washed mint leaves and washed parsley. Saute a few cloves of garlic, minced, in olive oil. When the quinoa has finished cooking, squeeze in juice from half a lemon and drizzle in some olive oil. Stir in all the other ingredients, along with 1/2 cup of dried cranberries. I made this up as I went along, and it’s really nice– very subtle. It was particularly delicious slightly warm, but Alex enjoyed a taste cold at the office on Monday.
It’s such fun to experiment this time of year, with a glorious palette of possibilities!
ps– I’ll have a wonderful slide show and some other goodies from Food As Medicine shortly.
There is a difference between good food and sublime food. Restaurant Nora serves the latter. Hint: President Obama brought Mrs. Obama here for her birthday a few months ago. Chef / Owner Nora Pouillon, a hero to the slow food movement, started her restaurant 30 years ago and has supported the best local organic agriculture in the Mid-Atlantic region ever since. Restaurant Nora was the first certified organic restaurant in the US in 1999, and 95% of what the restaurant serves is organic. The elegant menu reflects a moving feast of our local harvest.
A recent dinner provided 3 hours of uninterrupted bliss. The atmosphere of the restaurant, with it’s perfect acoustics (you can actually hear your dinner companion speak), charming mixture of Amish and Mennonite crib quilts and architectural garden sculptures on the walls, and a large skylight in the ceiling of the dining room, is both cheerful and soothing. The wait staff is outstanding– informative, friendly, never intrusive. And, the food– cooked that evening by Ben Lambert, Chef de Cuisine–was utterly, divinely delicious. There’s nothing I like better than expertly prepared vegetables, and Ben provided an unforgettable feast for a gluten-free vegan, starting with the roasted asparagus salad in the picture below. My husband enjoyed the chilled asparagus soup, a salad of mesclun greens with roasted pear and pecans, wild Alaskan salmon, rhubarb pie and fresh strawberry ice cream… I’d never seen the man eat so much in his life!
Light softly falling from the skylight slowly faded and the warm lighting in the restaurant increased gently as one course gracefully followed another. It was a dinner and an evening to remember.
Thank you to Nora, who for many years has served on the Advisory Board
for Food As Medicine. Thank you to Ben, the kitchen and the wait staff for a lovely experience.
And very special thanks to my dear colleagues, who made this beautiful
anniversary celebration possible for us.