I saw a portion of a travelogue the other evening on the Provençal region of southeastern France. The host was walking through a farmers’ market in Nice. I was astonished and delighted to see rows of grab-and-go baskets filled with Ratatouille (rat-ə-TOO-ee) vegetables. Truly fast-food shopping at its healthiest. Each basket looked rather similar to this handsome Ratatouille Family portrait featuring the vegetables in my Ratatouille. For me, just the sight of farmers’ markets and home gardens bursting with late summer produce turns my thoughts to Ratatouille. And, propels me into action.
Ratatouille and I Go Way Back
Our relationship goes back to my college days in Berkeley. My new friend across the hall ate Ratatouille mixed with cottage cheese for lunch almost daily. At the time, it seemed much too weird for me to even consider trying it. Eggplant and peppers and summer squash—no way!
Until last summer, roasting was my preferred way to cook beets. (Actually, the only way I cooked beets.) I’d not heard of nor considered steaming beets. Though, steam them I did. To my surprise, the wedges of steamed beet were tender and retained both their flavor and color. While hot, I tossed them in a balsamic vinegar, fresh herb and garlic dressing. By adding some favorite beet accompaniments—toasted walnuts, fresh mint and feta cheese—a new, healthy, delicious, and gorgeous Balsamic Beet Salad was born. Plus, I can now recommend two excellent cooking methods for beets: roasting and steaming.
Steaming Beets Is a Win-Win
Steaming beets retains both their vitamins and minerals as well as their gorgeous color and flavor. Plus, they cook in about a third to half the time of roasted beets. Depending on their size, in 30–45 minutes, steamed beets are tender and ready to eat. Great as an easy side dish with just a sprinkling of salt. And, especially delicious as a side or main dish Balsamic Beet Salad.
It’s rather incredible—the impact of tiny, little nutrient-packed seeds. Whether it’s a 2000-pound mammoth pumpkin, a giant 20-foot-tall sunflower, or a 3-foot-tall sesame plant, each of these plants got their start from a small, nutrient-rich seed. Seeds contain easily available protein, healthy fats, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. It’s these same nutrients that also make seeds so beneficial for our health and wellness.
Last year, with all the concerns about Covid, I noticed a number of articles recommending ways to strengthen our immune system and health. Many of these articles mentioned the benefits of zinc.
When looking at the lists of foods containing zinc, pumpkin and sesame seeds spoke to me. Inspired, I dry-toasted them in a pan on the stove, then tossed them in a bit of oil and a dusting of salt. Voila! In minutes, I had a condiment that added texture, taste, and zinc (plus many other nutrients) to sprinkle on most everything.
Nourishing, mild and earthy flavored lentils have been a part of our diets for thousands of years. Archaeological remains in modern-day Turkey, for example, suggest that farmers grew lentils as far back as 7000–8000 B.C. Highly nutritious and low in calories, lentils consist of over 25% protein, as well as being an excellent source of fiber, a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium.
Lentils come in a range of colors, including white, yellow, pink, red, brown, green and black. Brown lentils, the “everywhere lentil,” are the most common variety. Brown lentils are larger than most other varieties and have a flattened lens-like shape. They cook in about 30-40 minutes and hold their shape well. Older lentils take longer to soften.
What Makes a Dish Turkish?
Combining Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Central Asian influences, wonderfully spiced Turkish cuisine has been refined over many centuries. Here are a few of the main ingredients in the Turkish pantry. Almost all of them star in Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew.
♥ Olive oil (but of course!)
♥ Onions and garlic provide a flavorful base for many dishes
♥ Tomato paste adds color along with intense tomato flavor
♥ The most commonly used herbs and spices include Greek oregano, Turkish bay leaves, mint, parsley, dill, sumac, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and crushed red chili pepper flakes, such as Aleppo, Marash or Urfa
♥ Brown lentils, red lentils and chickpeas are included in many soups, stews and salads
♥ Pekmez: Grape, date, fig or pomegranate molasses
♥ Yogurt consumed plain or as a side dish is crucial to Turkish cuisine
Make a big batch of deeply flavored, vegetable soup throughout the year using this recipe template as your guide. Customize the ingredients to suit your taste, the season, and what’s in your pantry, refrigerator or garden. With this Versatile Vegetable Soup recipe in hand, you can easily prepare a healthy and delicious vegetable soup all year long. Your kitchen will smell wonderful; you’ll have a great pot of soup simmering on the stove and soon, a nurturing meal-in-a-bowl on the table.
Change Up the Grains, Lentils or Other Legumes
Cooking brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro, wild rice, lentils, etc. in some of the soup stock makes for a rich flavor and smooth-textured broth. When cooked, stir them into the soup about 5 minutes before adding the greens.
Customize Your Versatile Vegetable Soup
♥ Start with the basic vegetables, i.e., members of the onion family plus garlic, carrots and celery.
♥ Vary the rest of the vegetables, including longer-cooked (i.e., root vegetables and winter squashes), and faster-cooking vegetables (i.e., summer squash, green beans, broccoli, corn).
Shorter days of sunlight and cooler temperatures call for perfectly comforting, soul-satisfying, easy-to-make soup. Whether you’re feeling cold or have a cold, a steaming bowl of aromatic soup both increases your sense of well-being and calms inflammation.
Fall’s farmers’ market carrots are now tasting exceptionally sweet and flavorful (thank you, frost). Along with a high-powered blender, such bright, sweet, deeply colored carrots make a rich, delicious and velvety-golden Vegan Carrot Ginger Soup to fall in love with.
Today’s recipe makes a big batch. That way you’ll have enough delicious soup to add a container to your freezer plus enough to enjoy as a quick meal or two throughout the week.
During these past few months of staying-at-home-and-cooking days, most of us have had the opportunity to experiment with recipes and discover new favorites. With its complex flavor, chunky-smooth texture, and straightforward preparation, vegan Lentil Walnut Pâté is one of those recipes. Just as it has in our refrigerator, this pâté may soon replace the ubiquitous container of hummus in your refrigerator, too. Enjoy it enfolded in a lettuce leaf, or as a tasty, quick, and satisfying high-protein appetizer or snack. With the addition of a few sliced vegetables, that snack easily transforms into a light, nutrient-rich and healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Pâté (pah-TAY) can be creamy smooth, chunky, or molded. A pâté is usually a blend of seasoned, ground vegetables and poultry, seafood, or meat. Instead, Lentil Walnut Pâté is a richly flavored blend of lentils, toasted walnuts, cremini mushrooms, and fresh herbs. Its texture seems “meaty,” though it is vegan. The pâté can easily be made gluten-free with wheat-free tamari replacing the soy sauce. Thus, a pâté for most everyone!
Every child remembers summer-fun foods—my favorite was watermelon! When my first child was 8 months old, she grabbed my watermelon rind and started teething on it—her first food! Since then, I have watched and studied for information on these wonderful balls of Mother Nature’s purest water. Here’s a sampling.
Starting in 1979, Dr. N.W. Walker, who wrote Colon Health—The Key to Vibrant Life, states: “The cause of death is colon neglect. Flush it out! Maintain the water balance in your systems. The human body consists of 65% to 70% water. About one gallon is eliminated every 24 hours and must be replenished.”
In 1988, Ann Wigmore, ND, DD, in The Alchemy of Change, wrote: “Watermelon is a real treasure! It is classified as both a fruit and a vegetable. It is the most alkaline of any of them. It provides a great aid for overcoming any acid condition. Considering our present hazardous water conditions, watermelon contains the best natural water.
“Cooking is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. What matters most is not any particular nutrient, or even any particular food: it’s the act of cooking itself.”
Sheltering in place these past few months has certainly given us many opportunities to cook. We’re cooking a lot, whether it’s perfecting omelets, making one-pot meals or executing grand kitchen projects, such as baking sourdough bread, exploring fermentation or making big batches of soup. I’m guessing that along the way, you, too, have also discovered the joy of cooking and connecting with food. To engage in meal preparation can often be a great de-stresser. It keeps us centered in the moment, while activating and delighting each of our senses with visuals, aromas, tastes, touch and sounds. At these times, home cooking truly becomes a recipe for living a life well lived.
Along with versatility and flavor, cauliflower also brings its superfood pedigree to the table. As a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower belongs to the same plant family as broccoli, kale, cabbage and collards. Each of these vegetables offers numerous anti-inflammatory benefits as well as support for our cardiovascular and digestive systems.
Cauliflower earns recognition as a superfood by being an excellent source of vitamins B6, C and K along with folate and pantothenic acid. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and manganese. And, along with minimal calories, cauliflower proves to be a good source of vitamins B1, B2 and B3, in addition to protein, niacin and magnesium. Whew, that’s a superfood!