Review by Norene Gilletz
The Twelve Best Foods
A GREAT GUIDE TO EATING WELL!
Each day, TV, radio, magazines and newspapers announce the newest study that demonstrates the value of today’s latest “superfoods” – foods with health-enhancing, disease-fighting micronutrients. Dana Jacobi, an award-winning food writer, chef and author of five cookbooks, shows you how easy and delicious it can be to enjoy and prepare these superfoods in her latest cookbook, 12 Best Foods Cookbook: Over 200 Delicious Recipes Featuring the 12 Healthiest Foods (Rodale).
Jacobi identifies the 12 foods containing the most potent micronutrients in an easily digestible way. Her list includes blueberries, black beans, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, salmon, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, chocolate, walnuts, soy and onions. Almost all of her recipes contain at least two or more of the 12 best foods. Each recipe comes with nutritional information and there are useful tips on shopping, preparation, food safety, food facts, plus much more. The recipes are organized by chapters, from delectable dips to delicious desserts.
Jacobi exploits each food’s abundant nutritional value in irresistible dishes like Lean Mean Chocolate Chili, Spinach Strudel, French Toast with Hidden Blueberries and Hot Chocolate Soufflé with Strawberry Salsa. You’ll discover the pure pleasure of eating foods that are truly best for you. Most of the recipes are suitable for the kosher cook, and there is certainly much food for thought!
Here is a small sampling of Jacobi’s kitchen wisdom on broccoli from The 12 Best Foods Cookbook plus some recipes for your summer eating pleasure. To your good health!
- To preserve its nutrient content, broccoli must be kept very cold from the moment it’s picked until the moment you cook it. Store broccoli up to three days in the refrigerator in a loose plastic bag in the vegetable drawer.
- Frozen broccoli, which is mostly florets, may actually have more nutrients than fresh, including up to 35 per cent more beta-carotene, because most of its supernutrients are in the florets and because frozen broccoli is processed rapidly.
- Drier, briefer cooking methods retain more of broccoli’s water-soluble vitamin C and folate. Sautéing, stir-frying and steaming are best. Steam 1-inch florets and sliced stems for 3 minutes, either in a steamer basket over a saucepan of boiling water or in a deep narrow saucepan with less than an inch of boiling water in the bottom. Drain immediately and plunge into a waiting bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and preserve the vegetable’s bright colour.
- Discover broccoli stems! Called “poor man’s asparagus” by the French, broccoli stems are delicious. Simply cut off their branched top and tough bottom, then cut the stems crosswise into thick slices, or stand the stem on a cutting board and run a paring knife from top to bottom, cutting deeply enough to pare away the tough outer layer. Eat the crunchy stems raw or cook them along with the florets. Enjoy…
The silken texture of this chilled dairy-free soup comes from the pureed potatoes. For dinner, Jacobi recommends eating a cup of soup the minute you walk in the door. Then get comfortable and get the rest of dinner ready. With the edge off your appetite and in a better mood, you’ll eat smaller portions and enjoy putting a balanced meal together instead of grabbing the first thing you see.
1 bunch broccoli
2 leeks, white parts only, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
½ to 1 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. snipped chives, for garnish
Chop the broccoli florets, including the thinner stems just below the florets. Reserve the lower stems for another use. Place the broccoli in a large saucepan or a small Dutch oven. Add the leeks, onion, shallot, potatoes, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Pour in 4 cups water and bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the soup sit for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Purée the soup in a blender until it is smooth or use an immersion blender in the pot. Chill thoroughly, 3 hours to overnight. Adjust the seasoning. Divide the cold soup among 4 bowls and garnish each with one-quarter of the chives.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 103 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 4 g protein, 22 g carbohydrtes, 4 g fibre.
ROASTED SALMON WITH FRESH GARDEN SALSA
Elegantly simple, roasted salmon topped with juicy salsa makes a perfect dish. This is a technique for cooking fish that chefs often use. Searing the surface, then finishing the fish in a hot oven gives it good colour and keeps it succulent, but remember that the pan will be very hot when it comes out of the oven – and make sure it doesn’t have a rubber or plastic handle.
1 tsp. canola, grapeseed or olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1½ lb. salmon fillet with skin, cut in 4 pieces
Fresh Garden Salsa (below)
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Season each piece of fish with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Heat the oil in an ovenproof medium skillet. When a drop of water dances on the surface of the pan, add the pieces of fish skin side up. Cook until they are seared and have a golden crust, 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the fish skin side down. Slip the skillet into the oven and roast until the fish is pearlescent in the centre, 8 minutes for a 1-inch thick fillet. Transfer the salmon to a serving platter or individual plates. Add 1/2 cup of the salsa to each plate and serve.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 228 calories, 15 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 23 g protein, 0 g carbohydrates, 0 g fibre.
Food fact: In salmon, most contaminants, including PCBs, concentrate in the fat and skin. According to some scientific studies, farmed salmon contain more of these toxins, making wild or organically raised fish the ideal choice for this dish.
FRESH GARDEN SALSA
Colourful as a fiesta, this mild salsa combines summer squash and sweet roasted red pepper with warmth from a poblano chile. Oregano adds an earthy note. This salsa goes well with grilled salmon or black beans, or spooned over steamed green beans. As an hors d’oeuvre, serve it with blue corn chips.
1 small zucchini squash
1 small yellow squash
4 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 small roasted red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 roasted poblano chile pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano, or 1 tsp. dried
juice of ½ lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dice the zucchini and squash into uniform pieces by cutting off the bottom and standing each up on a cutting board. Vertically slice off a strip about 3/8-inch thick by about 3/4-inch wide. Rotate the vegetable and cut off 3 more strips. Cut each strip lengthwise into 3/8-inch wide strips. Stack these strips and cut them crosswise into 3/8-inch cubes. Transfer them to a bowl and combine with the tomatoes, bell and poblano peppers, and onion.
Mix the oregano and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Let the salsa sit 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to meld.
Makes 2 cups.
Per serving (1 tbsp.): 6 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g fibre.
To Roast a Poblano Chile: Use tongs to hold it over an open flame. Keep turning the pepper until the skin is blistered and charred all over, about 6 minutes. Place the pepper in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set it aside to steam for 15 minutes. Slip off the thin peel. If not wearing plastic gloves, wash your hands immediately, scrubbing well under the nails. Slit the pepper lengthwise. Be sure to remove the stringy ribs as well as the seeds.
BLUEBERRY AND STRAWBERRY PIE
This simple dessert of sliced strawberries arranged over fresh blueberries in a prebaked pie shell always comes out picture perfect. The berries mixed with melted fruit spread, which sweetens and glazes them, are ready in mere minutes. Because the fruit is uncooked, it provides maximum health benefits.
1 cup wild blueberry fruit spread
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1½ pints fresh blueberries
1½ tsp. grated lemon zest
1 9-inch prebaked pie shell
¼ cup strawberry fruit spread
6 to 8 large strawberries, hulled and cut vertically into 1/4-inch slices
In a medium saucepan, melt the blueberry spread with the cinnamon over medium heat. Off the heat, mix in the blueberries and lemon zest until the berries are coated. Spoon the berries into the crust.
Melt the strawberry spread in a small pot over medium heat. Mix the strawberries into the melted spread to coat them. Using a fork, arrange the glazed strawberries in a ring on top of the blueberry filling, placing them with the wide against the edge of the crust and the point inward. Form an 8-pointed star in the centre, with 4 slices pointing outward and add 4 smaller ones arranged on top of them. Serve within 1 hour of filling. Makes 6 servings.
Per serving: 310 calories, 3 g saturated fat, 2 g protein, 61 g carbohydrates, 2 g fibre.
Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author, cooking teacher and food consultant. For information, call 416-226-2466.
12 Best Foods Cookbook: Over 200 Delicious Recipes Featuring the 12 Healthiest Foods
by Dana Jacobi