Photography by Janet Warlick / Food Styled by Muriel H. Wilkins

 

I like to take a holistic view of nutrition and have always taken the view that food can be beautiful, delicious and nutritious. I also think that there are no bad foods, just bad choices. The swirl of fad diets, conflicting studies, conflicting nutrition guidelines and changing recommendations can leave you with no idea of what is “healthy.” Have you seen the latest hubbub about fat and sugar? I work with a registered dietician and read a lot of health news, and even I find it contradictory. One day you’re told not to eat eggs, the next to eat eggs. I suggest using common sense and a focus on the nutritional basis, or lack thereof, of food choices.

“Everything in moderation” can be a useful maxim. Here’s a simple example: Enjoy an occasional cheeseburger with salad and without a bun or French fries. Or, poached eggs with avocado and spring greens or shredded Brussels sprouts. Skip the hollandaise and fried potatoes. This month’s recipes use seasonings and texture to offer some twists that combine the nutritious and the delicious.


Asparagus and Green Beans with Peas and Sesame Seeds

(Photo at top)

This recipe uses a stir-fry type technique to maximize flavor and color. A cast iron skillet or equivalent will yield the best results.  You can vary the seasonings to your taste.

Ingredients
  • ½ tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, cut on the bias
  • ¼ pound green beans, trimmed, cut on the bias
  • ¼ pound sugar snap peas or snow peas, trimmed, cut on the bias
  • ¼ cup frozen green peas, thawed slightly
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons golden sesame seeds
Directions

Heat the canola oil in a cast iron or heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Toss in the shallots and cook, turning, until they begin to soften. Add the asparagus and green beans, and cook, turning regularly, until vegetables begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, and cook 2 more minutes.  If you use sugar snaps, they made need a bit more time than snow peas. Taste for degree of doneness — do not overcook. All ingredients should be bright green and slightly browned. Stir in the sesame oil, and sprinkle in the sesame seeds. Remove from the heat and serve.

Serves 2

Variation:  Here’s an easy creamy, lemon dressing. Whisk together: 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard; juice from half a lemon; 2 tablespoons canola oil; and 1 tablespoon of light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. Add a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust seasonings; thin with a teaspoon or so of water, if needed.

To serve, omit the sesame oil and seeds. Remove the cooked vegetables from the heat; transfer to a serving bowl. Toss gently with the lemon dressing.

Other seasoning ideas include (omit the sesame oil and seeds): pine nuts, sriracha sauce or slivered almonds.


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Poached Egg with Avocado, Spring Greens
and Crispy Cauliflower Cakes

This is really more method or concept than recipe. In my testing I used both spring greens and shredded Brussels sprouts with red cabbage as a base and various garnishes, including tomatoes, croutons, thinly sliced radishes and pickled onions. I did not use any salad dressing, but you could judiciously drizzle over a teaspoonful if you like.

Ingredients
  • fresh eggs, 1 per person
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 cup spring greens per person
  • ½ sliced avocado per person
  • Optional garnishes: sliced tomatoes, croutons, radishes, pickled onions
Directions

The main trick to poaching eggs is threefold. 1) The eggs should be fresh and not straight out of the refrigerator. 2) The pan should be shallow and wide, and the water kept at a simmer — not a boil. 3) Add a teaspoon of vinegar to the water and swirl the water as you add the egg.

Take the egg from the refrigerator and warm slightly by putting it, still in the shell, in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes while you heat the poaching water. Fill a wide skillet with 2 to 3 inches of water; bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. When you see small bubbles and steam, stir in the vinegar.

Swirl the simmering water with one hand. Gently pour the egg into the vortex with the other. Continue to swirl gently for a minute while the egg white sets. Cook about 3 1/2 minutes.

Swirl the simmering water with one hand. Gently pour the egg into the vortex with the other. Continue to swirl gently for a minute while the egg white sets. Cook about 3 1/2 minutes.

To poach the egg, crack it into a cup, swirl the simmering water with one hand. Gently pour the egg into the vortex with the other. Continue to swirl gently for a minute while the egg white sets. This takes some practice. Once you have mastered one egg, you can poach more than one at a time, depending on the size of your skillet. You may have to adjust the heat to keep the water at a simmer. Don’t overcrowd the water. Cook about 3 ½ minutes, a little more for a firmer yolk. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

To serve, put the spring greens on the plate. Serve immediately with crispy cauliflower cakes (recipe follows), topped with the drained egg. Garnish with the avocado and your other choices.

Crispy Cauliflower Cakes

Cauliflower is versatile. You can serve these as sides at breakfast or dinner, or just enjoy with salad greens at lunch.

Ingredients
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove and discard or compost the leaves from the cauliflower and break into florets. Place the florets in a food processor and pulse until they become a rice-like texture. Transfer the cauliflower to a large glass bowl, and microwave 2 to 3 minutes until steaming and cooked through. Remove the bowl from the microwave. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Finely chop the chives, or whirl in the food processor, and set aside.

Stir together the garlic powder, salt and flour. When the cauliflower has cooled a bit, stir in the chopped chives and the canola oil. Sprinkle over the flour mixture, then add the beaten eggs. Mix until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Using your hands, form the mixture into 12 patties and place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with any leftover egg. Bake 30 minutes at 375 until golden on the tops and browned around the edges.

Makes 12 cakes. Recipe can be halved.

Kitchen Note: This recipe can be paleo if you substitute coconut oil and coconut flour for conventional oil and flour.


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