The Art of the Salad with Chef Joshua McFadden, Author of Six Seasons

When you think of Italian food, chances are hearty classics like meatballs, osso buco and pastas with a slow-cooked ragus first jump to mind. So you might be surprised that those aren’t necessarily the most crave-worthy dishes on Chef Joshua McFadden’s Roman-inspired menu at Ava Gene’s, his much-touted restaurant in Portland, Oregon: the veggies are.

 

We call them salads by default, but there really should be a different word for McFadden’s layered and complex vegetable dishes, often made with grains, nuts, cheese, and sweet-and-savory combinations of vegetables and fruits.

 

Luckily the “vegetable whisperer” is now sharing the recipes for 200-some of these dishes in Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables. Peak-season produce is the star of each and every dish, including Cucumbers, Celery, Apricots and Pistachios, and Raw “Couscous” Cauliflower with Almonds, Dried Cherries and Sumac. Or Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Parmigiano — McFadden’s take on childhood favorite “Ants on a Log.”

 

The book is divided into six micro-seasons (Fall, Spring and Winter — plus Early, Mid and Late Summer) to help home cooks pinpoint which veggies are at their peak throughout different points in the quickly-evolving months of June through September.

 

So what inspires the chef’s balanced, unexpected, deceptively simple and very interesting “salads” (for lack of a better term)? McFadden credits an unexpected source as one of his early inspirations: a crispy watercress salad at cult-fave Thai spot Sripraphai in NYC’s Woodside, Queens neighborhood. “That was one of those moments that changed my idea of where I could go, even with simple, Italian-style food. Because the dish was at a temperature that you didn’t expect, and there were layers of ingredients like cashews, peanuts, chiles, sauce, mint, and fermented shrimp that weren’t expected. It was a symphony of flavors, instead of something one-note,” says McFadden. “And then while working at Franny’s I started working with colatura, the Italian fish sauce. From that point on, it opened up doors to start playing with flavors, and not be so classic — even with Italian food.”

 

But getting creative with your cooking shouldn’t be daunting for home cooks. McFadden likes to remind people that it should be fun: “And no one knows how to do it until they do it!” So cook your way through Six Seasons, learning McFadden’s clever techniques along the way, and then keep his four-point formula for a perfectly-balanced vegetable dish in mind as you make your own seasonal creations at home.

 

 

1. Creative Combinations

So how does McFadden come up with these combinations of cauliflower and cherries, celery and dates…and make them work? “It becomes fairly obvious when you’re thinking in the context of a season, and what ingredients you have available,” he says. “Whether it’s citrus, tomatoes, or parsnips…that’s your starting point. So what are you doing to that produce? Hopefully not much, but whatever you treat it and add to it, you want say ‘What the hell just happened?’ when you taste the finished dish.”

 

2. Acidity

McFadden considers acid to be an essential component to every dish…but not in the traditional way salads are dressed. “We don’t make vinaigrettes,” he says. “I’m a real big believer in dressing first with vinegar or lemon juice — or whatever acid you’re using — and then getting the dish to a point with salt, pepper, chile and all the other components you’re using that you don’t need olive oil. And then you taste it all and add the olive oil as its own ingredient, which brings it all together and adds another layer.” (Take for instance the recipe for Cucumbers, Celery, Apricots, and Pistachios below, where McFadden calls for the apricots to be plumped in vinegar before getting mixed with the rest of the salad.)

 

3. Texture

When McFadden was a kid, he hated crunch from nuts added to cookies or stuffing. But now he understands how texture can take dishes to the next level. “It’s fun to pull that out of vegetables and then enhance it with nuts and puffed grains. Not just for texture, but also for flavor. And it’s really cool that it’s all healthy too.”

 

4. Variation

McFadden wants the seasoning in his salads to be uniform…but likes to mix up the size and shape of ingredients. At one point while cooking at Franny’s, he realized he should stop ripping up fresh herbs, and started using the whole leaves as…well, leaves. “A basil leaf is like a salad leaf…why rip it up? Why can’t you just have explosions of flavor from herbs? I don’t want every bite of a dish to be exactly the same, so why I would I cut it up?”

Cucumbers, Celery, Apricots, and Pistachios

Recipe excerpted from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017.

Serves 4

 

This dish hits every flavor note—sweet, sour, salty, bitter . . . and it’s all kinds of crunchy. The more herbs you pack in there, the better. Mint, parsley, basil, and celery are just the beginning—you can add sorrel, every kind of basil you can find, chives, even some cooked grains or couscous. Serve this with grilled lamb, friends, the great outdoors, and cold pink wine.

 

1 1/2 pounds cucumbers (a mix of varieties if possible)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 medium celery stalks (leaves reserved)

1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered

1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup pistachios, lightly toasted (see below) and chopped

1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves

1/2 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves

1/2 cup lightly packed celery leaves (if you have them)

1/4 teaspoon dried chile flakes

Extra-virgin olive oil

 

Peel the cucumbers if their skins are tough or waxed. Trim the ends of the cucumbers, halve lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Cut the halves crosswise on an angle into very thin slices.

Put the cucumbers in a colander and toss them with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Set aside for at least 20 minutes to extract their water and give them a “quick-pickled” flavor.

Meanwhile, cut the celery crosswise on an angle into very thin slices and soak in ice water for

10 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and pile into a serving bowl.

 

Put the apricots, garlic, and vinegar in a small bowl. Let the apricots plump for 10 minutes.

 

Pat the cucumbers dry and add to the celery, along with the pistachios, mint, parsley, basil, and celery leaves (if using). Remove the garlic from the apricots and discard it. Add the apricots and vinegar to the bowl, along with the chile flakes and 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with black pepper, but don’t add more salt yet because the cucumbers will have absorbed a bit. Toss, taste, and adjust the flavors with more salt, vinegar, chile flakes, or black pepper until it’s bright and zingy. Finish with another drizzle of olive oil. Serve right away.

 

 

Toasted Pistachios

Quantity is up to you

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Spread the nuts on a pan in a single layer. For a small quantity, a pie plate is good; for more, use a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake until you smell the nuttiness and the color is deepening slightly, 6 to 8 minutes for most whole nuts.

When the nuts are done, transfer them to a plate so they don’t keep cooking on the hot baking pan. Determining doneness can be tricky, because the final texture won’t develop until they’re cool, so at this stage, you’re mostly concerned with color and flavor. To be safe, take them from the oven, let cool, taste one, and if not done enough, pop them back into the oven.

 

Photographs by Peden + Munk (top) and Laura Dart and A.J. Meeker (bottom).

 

Per serving: Calories 279; Fat 21 g (Saturated 3 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 654 mg; Carbohydrate 21 g; Fiber 5 g; Sugars 11 g; Protein 6 g

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Can Packaging Give Your Food a Health Halo?

We all try our best to eat healthy and buy nutritious food for our families. But the amount of information, misinformation and just plain marketing speak we’re hit with every trip to the grocery store can make goal hard to achieve. “Many foods contain front of package nutrient claims that make you think you are eating a healthy food,” says Alissa Rumsey M.S., R.D., author of Three Steps to a Healthier You. “This so-called ‘health halo’ often causes people to overeat foods they think are healthy.”

 

A recent study, published in the Journal of Business Research, supports this theory. Researchers presented two different foods (a cookie and a granola bite) in two different packaging options (an unportioned bag or a bag that contained several individually packaged single-serving packs) to a group of 171 students. What they found is that the granola bites had a powerful health halo that that cookies did not — and that affected how much the students ate. So when faced with a full, unportioned bag of granola bites, the students ate substantially more of them than they did of the cookies. “They perceived the granola to be a healthier snack alternative and chose to eat more of it,” explains Myla Bui, associate professor of marketing, Loyola Marymount University, and lead author of the study. “Consumers are paying less attention to nutrition information and serving sizes and relying instead more on preconceived notions regarding a food’s healthfulness.”

 

Interestingly, the participants said they would eat about the same amount of cookies or granola bites if eating them from the individually portioned packages. So if you are worried about intake of even seemingly healthy (but in the case of the granola, high in calories and fat) snacks, portion-control servings are the way to go. “For foods that are easy to over-consume, never eat them directly out of a large bag,” advises Rumsey. “Make your own portion-controlled packages by putting a single serving into plastic snack bags or reusable containers.”

 

Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Q&A with Chef Aaron Adams of Farm Spirit

Aaron Adams knows a thing or two about making vegan food taste delicious. That was certainly my conclusion after eating at Farm Spirit, his dinner club style restaurant located in Portland, Oregon. At a cozy, 14-seat counter, he and his chefs prepare and serve a series of small dishes, featuring produce, grains, and nuts from local farms — none of which are more than 105 miles from the restaurant. By the end of the meal — up to 13 courses in all — you might imagine you’d have to roll home. Not so. Aaron’s light touch leaves you feeling satisfied, not over-stuffed. What’s more, there’s a lovely smug feeling that comes with consuming what might just have been one of the healthiest meals of your life. Recently, I had the chance to ask him about what inspires his ultra-healthy cooking style, and how home cooks might up their vegan game.

 

Healthy Eats: How long have you been eating vegan and what inspired you to make the change?

Aaron Adams: I’ve been a vegan for 12 years now. It wasn’t an overnight thing. At the first restaurant I owned in Jacksonville, Florida, I started out by serving foie gras! But the more I learned about the practices involved, the more I couldn’t stomach it. After taking foie gras off the menu, I started asking more and more questions of my purveyors. I even took my cooks to a slaughterhouse to see what the animals went through to get to our restaurant! Eventually, I decided that I couldn’t ethically serve meat anymore and I shut down the restaurant.

 

HE: Do you think that vegan diets are healthier?

AA: Yes! I’m a big guy and I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure before going vegan. I got those numbers way down and I lost 100 pounds. Now, I actually have very low cholesterol. I can’t conclusively say that it’s the healthiest diet for everyone, but it’s been a healthier way for me to eat. And it’s definitely better for the environment!

 

HE: What do you do to stay fit?

AA: I do power lifting 4 days a week and I’m on a power-lifting team.  I can bench press 300 pounds, and deadlift 500. A lot of people say you can’t get enough protein to build strength from a vegan diet, but I say ‘hogwash!’ Besides eating vegan ‘mock meats’ I drink smoothies made with pea protein. Pea protein is the best for weight lifting because it doesn’t have too much fiber — it’s also great stirred into a pancake or waffle batter.

 

HE: Before you opened your latest restaurant, Farm Spirit, you owned another restaurant called Portobello Vegan Trattoria. What’s different about the new place?

AA: With Portobello, we wanted to create a restaurant that was vegan but would also be accessible to non-vegans. We went with Italian because most people have an idea of what Italian food is. We also liked the spirit of Italian cuisine with its emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. Ultimately, I opened Farm Spirit because I love doing small plates and tasting menus, and I wanted to focus even more on local ingredients. Farm Spirit is really hyper-local cuisine. But it’s not just about being local, it’s about creating a new cuisine with a bio-regional identity. We are really serving a modern interpretation of ‘Cascadian’ food — the food grown and enjoyed in the Northwest.

HE: Can you share a secret tip for making vegan food delicious?

AA: One thing people can do to add dimension to vegan food is to use the power of fermentation. That will give any dish you make a more complex flavor, not to mention adding in healthy probiotics. I like to say that fermented foods fill in the flavor gaps. We use a lot of nut yogurts at the restaurant for this purpose. We also ferment Hakurei turnips and purée them to make a sauce with a wonderful acidity to it. Then we take that purée and fold it into sautéed vegetables. That’s something you can do at home, too, by whizzing up some sauerkraut in a blender with some of the brine and a bit of oil. You can then use that to dress all sorts of vegetables. Really, anything you can do to add brightness to your food — acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar — will help make the flavor pop.

 

HE: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about a vegan diet?

AA: I always say that people who have had a bad vegan meal hold onto that experience too hard. I mean, they’ve had thousands of bad omnivorous meals, but they still keep going back for more, right? Part of the problem is the concept. What even is the definition of vegan food? To me, it means having a meal that is purposefully free of animal products. People object to vegan diets because they think it means they have to give up something. I say, stop worrying about having choices taken away from you, and think more about making healthy choices for yourself and the environment. For people who live in communities with good access to ingredients, it’s really not necessary to eat meat. I would never say you should feel guilty about not being vegan. If you’re poor or live in a food desert or have kids to feed, it might not be an option. But for many people, it’s just not that difficult.

 

HE: What is your favorite lazy-man dinner to cook at home when you’re short of time?

AA: At home, I use more convenience products, I’ll admit it. I’ve been cooking all day! I cook vegan burgers, or make a salad and top it with a vegan ravioli and a nice tomato ragú. Probably the dinner I eat the most at home involves sautéing up a lot of different colored veggies — whatever I have on hand — like peppers, carrots, squash or whatever’s in season, along with some tempeh. On the side, I’ll have a baked potato. Another yummy meal my wife came up with is Asian tacos. We pick up some steamed bao buns at an Asian market and serve them stuffed with BBQ tofu and a spicy slaw of cabbage and carrots dressed with a Sriracha lime-mayo.

 

HE:  What vegetable doesn’t get enough love, in your opinion?

AA: I always say that kohlrabi is that veggie you let rot in the bottom of your CSA box or produce drawer. People just don’t realize what you can do with cruciferous veggies, like kohlrabi, cabbage and cauliflower. They are so savory, particularly when roasted.

 

HE:  Favorite season of the year for cooking?

AA: The next one! I’m just excited about what’s happening next. If I had to say, I would pick Spring. When I see that first asparagus I get pretty emotional. The winter stuff is running out by March, but there’s hardly anything fresh to eat yet. When the nettles and Miner’s lettuce show up at the market, I think ‘We made it!’

 

HE: Favorite vegan junk food?

AA: There’s so many! Do I have to answer only one? Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups. I also really like Stonewall’s Jerquee. It’s an old-school vegan snack —basically just flavored soy protein — but it’s darn tasty.

 

Abigail Chipley is a freelance recipe developer, writer and cooking teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon.

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5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with Watermelon

It’s no surprise that watermelon is a healthy, hydrating and gorgeous looking summer fruit, but there are more uses for this melon than you might realize.

 

Tap It

With the help of a few power tools, turn a watermelon into a tasty adult beverage and a serving vessel. It’s one-stop shopping with a batch of this punch for 275 calories per serving.

Recipe: Watermelon Punch Keg (pictured above)

Grill It

A quick sizzle on the grill and cool watermelon makes a hot salad! Cooking also enhances the cell-protecting powder of the antioxidant lycopene.

Recipe: Grilled Watermelon Salad

Scoop It

Grab a bag of tortilla chips and call over the neighbors. If you thought tomato salsa was refreshing try this recipe on for size; your guests with beg for the recipe.

Recipe: Watermelon, Mint and Jalapeno Salsa

Pickle It

Dunk the flesh and the rind into a sweet and salty brine, you’ll cut down in waste and have a fabulous snack to show for it.

Recipe: Pickled Watermelon Rinds

 

Juice It

Got a ton of watermelon on hand? Get more mileage out of that fruit by juicing: the only equipment required is a blender and a fine mesh sieve. Use the juice for cocktails and smoothies; it can be also frozen or mixed with pectin and sugar to make a stunning watermelon jam.

Recipe: Watermelon Juice

 

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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6 Little Tricks to Prevent Vacation Weight Gain

With summer in full swing, I’m daydreaming about the travels I have planned for the season — including a couple of weeks in Europe — and about ways to make my travels healthier too. The tactic I’m using for part of my Europe trip: renting an apartment. This allows me to prep breakfast and even dinners — plus, I get the bonus of getting to cook with local produce! When my boyfriend and I were visiting the Pacific Northwest last summer, we whipped up the most delicious meal in our apartment rental, using mushrooms and huckleberries from a local farmers’ market.

 

To help you have the healthiest vacation possible, I rounded up top tips from my dietitian colleagues. I hope you put them to good use!

 

Load up on local produce. Hello, papaya and passion fruit! “Resort and cruise buffets are jam packed with fruits, vegetables, as well as lean protein options, which can help you feel full on fewer calories,” says Marisa Moore, RDN, owner of Marisa Moore Nutrition. “Fill up on those foods during your first trip to the buffet. If you’re heading to a tropical location, indulge in the abundant local fruits and vegetables, which are naturally nutritious and lower in calories.”

 

Pick your own fruit. “Looking for an activity that also happens to get you active and eating healthier?” asks Christy Brissette, RD, a spokesperson for the Blueberry Council. “Go blueberry picking on your vacation. It gets everyone outside for some fresh air and sunshine — and after you’re done with the fun of picking your own blueberries, you’ll have a low-calorie, nutrient-packed snack for the car ride.” Pencil a pick-your-own farm into your vacation schedule—you can pick raspberries, cherries, and peaches, too.

 

Plan in activity. “Walking is the best way to see a city,” says Moore. “In cities from New York City to Amsterdam, many hotels have bikes that you can borrow or rent to explore the city. If you’re enjoying a resort or community that has a shuttle or golf carts designated for getting around, walk or bike instead. Many resorts have free bicycles to check out and get from your room to the beach or other attractions.” Also go ahead and book a kayaking adventure or a dance lesson. “One of my favorite vacation memories is from a Merengue lesson during my first trip to the Dominican Republic.” adds Moore.

 

Stock up on groceries. “The best way to ensure you’re having a lighter breakfast is to go to a deli or supermarket and pick up some fresh fruit, nuts, and yogurt to start your day,” says Brissette. “That also means you can get going earlier with any activities you have planned!” You can also schedule a farmers’ market visit and use that excursion to load up on local produce.

 

Get cooking when you get home. Indulging on vacation is completely normal! Just make sure to get back to your normal, healthy habits upon return — and pronto. Keep the vacation spirit alive while whipping up inspired, nutritious dishes. “Think of travel as an opportunity for cooking inspiration that will last for years,” says Stephanie McKercher, MS, RDN, recipe developer at The Grateful Grazer. “Remember the flavors and ingredients used in your favorite dishes so you can recreate them once you’re back at home. You can always give your homemade versions a healthier twist, like switching from white to whole-grain pasta or incorporating an extra serving of vegetables.”

 

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. She’s a regular contributor to many publications, including ReadersDigest.com, Shape.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Dr. Oz the Good Life, Runner’s World, and more—as well as WeightWatchers.com, where she was a longtime editor. She also pens a recipe-focused blog, Amy’s Eat List.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Understanding the Patient Experience to Improve Patient Access to Medical Records

Melissa Crawford is a mother from Concord, NH.  Her two year old daughter, Ava, has a congenital heart defect and was recently diagnosed with epilepsy.  Melissa loves Ava’s physician’s patient portal since it allows her to easily book appointments and refill Ava’s medications online.  But when Ava’s pediatrician needed medical records from Ava’s five specialists, […]

The post Understanding the Patient Experience to Improve Patient Access to Medical Records appeared first on Health IT Buzz.

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How to Use Your Slow Cooker All Summer Long

Grills get all the credit in the summer, but what if you don’t have a grill? Or what if you’re a bit timid around open flames? (I am!) Slow cookers are a perfect way to keep the kitchen cool and still get dinner on the table. Plus, they hold enough for a crowd, so whether the party theme is Tiki Time or Margarita Night, the slow cooker can make entertaining a snap.

 

Time for Tiki

Dust off your Tiki glasses and Tiki torches. A Polynesian-themed party is easy to plan with these set-it-and-forget-it recipes. Make the dessert first, then refrigerate. Either pork recipe could be served straight from the slow cooker.

A mix of coconut water and coconut milk highlights island flavors in this Coconut Brown Rice Pudding while keeping it from being too rich. Serve with fresh pineapple and mango.

Set out lots of toppings like purple cabbage, pineapple salsa and avocado to go with our Slow Cooker Pork Tacos (pictured above).

Who needs a grill when you can make Slow Cooker Pepper Pork Chops so tasty in the slow cooker?

Breakfasts to Fuel Summer Fun

Oatmeal is for winners. Besides containing a type of fiber that seems to keep kids and adults fuller longer, oatmeal contains muscle-boosting protein. Add more protein by topping your bowl with milk or yogurt. These slow cooker recipes can be made the night before and both include a healthy mix of whole grains and fruit. And by the way, there’s no crime in serving oatmeal for dinner.

Our Whole Grain Breakfast Porridge (pictured above) brims with cranberries, oats, farro and wild rice.

Bananas make this Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats extra creamy.

Weeknight Dinners

Farmers markets and gardens are bursting with a bounty of vegetables. Use them up in produce-packed soups and stews. One tip to make a summer pot of slow-cooked veggies taste fresh is to add bright green summer herbs at the end, just before serving.

A squeeze of lemon added at the end of our Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup gives the soup extra zip.

Easy-to-grow Swiss chard greens up this Slow Cooker Squash Stew (pictured above). Use summer squash instead of winter squash: it will melt into the soup as it cooks, making it velvety thick.

Chillin’ with Chili and Margaritas

While the margaritas are optional, eating spicy food – like chili – in the summer is a good idea. Hot, piquant flavors can actually help cool the body. Plus, the healthy capsaicin in hot peppers is a powerful inflammation reducer. Capsaicin may help curb appetite and could help you feel fuller sooner.

Another tasty way to use up the abundance of summer veggies is with Vegetarian Chili.

Toppers make Slow Cooker Chicken Chili (pictured above) even better. Think chopped bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, sweet onions and cilantro.

Our Slow Cooker Chili calls for only five ingredients, including brewed coffee and beef chuck.

 

Serena Ball, MS, RD is a food writer and registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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