Thursday, June 20, 2013

Healthy & delectable converge in two cookbooks

Eat smaller portions; ramp up the veggies; snack sparingly and well; nix on the sugar fix; beware of sat fats; make friends with fish; be suspicious of salt; eschew processed food; engineer some daily exercise for yourself—do all of these guideposts to a healthier, slimmer you wheel around like a maelstrom in your brain?
Well, here's a place to touch down. The two books I'm featuring today are full of recipes for tasty, healthy, delicious dishes, some of which just might become your new comfort food! They require very little prep or kitchen expertise—just the foresight to shop ahead for the ingredients.
Scandinavians are apparently way healthier than Americans. Why? Cured salmon, root vegetables, kale, cabbage, and vitamin-packed whole grains are part of the answer, as well as an impressive amount of bicycling. ("There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing" is apparently a mantra in Denmark.) Trine Hahnemann's The Nordic Diet is subtitled "Using local and organic food to promote a healthy lifestyle." Her recipes look downright yummy, including Leek soup with rye croutons; Cauliflower soup spiced with green chile and served with shrimp on skewers; Brussels sprouts with apples and walnut oil; Fishcakes with potatoes and asparagus; Savoy cabbage fish rolls with spelt salad, and Chicken with braised rhubarb. If you're resourceful enough to locate some, she even has super recipes for rabbit, venison, goose, pheasant, and duck.
A Hahnemann concoction such as Smoked mackerel salad on rye bread just calls out for the last ingredient to be homemade, so I've dug up her rye bread recipe (see end of blog), which she shared with the New York Times's Mark Bittman. (Hahnemann also has a page on her website with variations on the traditional Smørrebrød, or Danish-style open sandwich, all of which look scrumptious.) 
How beneficial is the Nordic approach anyway? "A fairly simple diet based on healthy ingredients from the Nordic countries can result in a substantial improvement in health for people who are at risk of developing coronary heart disease and diabetes" reports one study, which you can read about here.
Here's how Hahnemann's book stacks up with The Guardian's food writer, Catherine Phipps:
Game is married with gingered red cabbage, rhubarb or lemon verbena. Our recent obsession for foraging is catered for with recipes including elderberry, nettles, crab apples and that scourge of the garden, ground elder (it had quite passed me by that this was actually edible), and there is of course a lot of fish, mainly of the sustainable sort. I like some of the combinations, such as the beetroot burgers served with a barley salad…. The foods mentioned are extremely healthy – blueberries, kale and brussels sprouts, oily fish and game have benefits that are well chronicled. Rye, oats, barley and spelt are high in fibre and protein, are difficult to eat to excess and are a good source of slow-release carbohydrates. For me, this is the one area which scores points over the Mediterranean diet, which uses much more in the way of white, refined grains in pasta, rice dishes and bread…. So surely it makes sense to embrace the foods of both diets, or just to carry on having as varied, seasonal and balanced diet as possible? I am going to be using The Nordic Diet as a winter recipe book when I need fresh inspiration.
Michel Biehn's Healthy Recipes: International Cuisine from a Provençal Table offers an approach akin to the Mediterranean, sans the deficiencies Phipps mentions. Here, amidst beautiful photos of meals ready to be consumed in picturesque nooks both inside and outside of a French chateau, you will find recipes for penne a la puttanesca, Niçoise salad, tomato tartare, orange and yellow peppers stuffed with a mixture of of rice, pine, nuts, onions, peas and cumin, meat-and-cheese stuffed tomatoes, saffron-dusted chicken and shrimp, roasted salmon, spring rolls, olive bread, vegetable couscous, zucchini and pea risotto, lemon pasta, artichoke fusilli, strawberry and raspberry cake, figs wrapped in Parma ham, hot chocolate à l'ancienne, and more. Bon appetit!
Find more to savor in the "Food for Thought: Nourishing a Smarter Mind" showcase of our current online Forum ("Healthy Brain/Healthy Life"). It's pretty fab!

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Mark Bittman in the New York Times:
Finally, I came to the realization that great 100 percent whole-grain bread can be made only with sourdough (it’s about the difference between how whole grains respond to store-bought yeast and how they respond to acid, or a combination of acid and wild yeast), and I discovered that via a combination of driving other people crazy with questions and a recipe from “The Scandinavian Cookbook,” by my friend Trine Hahnemann. When I visited Hahnemann just over a year ago, I requested a lesson in Danish rye and got one. That plus her recipe has propelled me at least halfway up the mountain.
Sourdough Rye
For the sourdough starter
    •    2 2/3 cups rye flour Pinch instant yeast
For the dough
    •    Sourdough starter
    •    2 cups rye flour
    •    2 cups whole-wheat or white flour
    •    1 tablespoon kosher salt
    •    1 1/2 cups cracked rye or rye flour
1. To make the starter: In a tall, narrow, nonmetal container (a tall, narrow bowl is fine), mix 2/3 cup rye flour with 1/2 cup water, along with the tiniest pinch of instant yeast — less than 1/16 teaspoon. Cover and let sit for about 24 hours, then add the same amount of both flour and water (no more yeast). Repeat twice more, at 24-hour intervals; 24 hours after the fourth addition, you have your starter. (From now on, keep it in the refrigerator; you don’t need to proceed with the recipe for a day or two if you don’t want to. Before making the dough, take a ladleful — 1/2 to 3/4 cup — of the starter and put it in a container; stir in 1/2 cup rye flour and a scant 1/2 cup water, mix well, cover and refrigerate for future use. This starter will keep for a couple of weeks. If you don’t use it during that time and you wish to keep it alive, add 1/2 cup each flour and water every week or so and stir; you can discard a portion of it if it becomes too voluminous.)
2.To make the dough: Combine the remaining starter in a big bowl with the rye flour, the whole-wheat or white flour and 2 1/4 cups water.
3. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight, up to 12 hours.
4. The next morning, the dough should be bubbly and lovely. Add the salt, the cracked rye and 1 cup water — it will be more of a thick batter than a dough and should be pretty much pourable.
5. Pour and scrape it into two 8-by-4-inch nonstick loaf pans. The batter should come to within an inch of the top, no higher.
6. Cover (an improvised dome is better than plastic wrap; the dough will stick to whatever it touches) and let rest until it reaches the rim of the pans, about 2 to 3 hours, usually. Preheat the oven to 325 and bake until a skewer comes out almost clean; the internal temperature will measure between 190 and 200. This will take about 1 1/2 hours or a little longer.
7. Remove loaves from the pans and cool on a rack. Wrap in plastic and let sit for a day before slicing, if you can manage that; the texture is definitely better the next day. YIELD 2 loaves


  1. alla puttanesca--in the style of a prostitute.
    I know, I know, it's a tomato sauce with garlic and anchovies and olives...
    but the mind wanders to---did the chef have a particular puttanesca in mind when he named his sauce?

    1. that one is so my favorite ... la gioconda puttanesca perhaps?

    2. That would be the Happy Hooker--add Szechuan peppercorns to the already spicy puttanesca, giving all who taste her a lasting lisp!

  2. Wow, thanks Janet - that sourdough rye recipe looks great! I've been debating whether to cultivate my own sourdough starter or pick up a little from some of the bread folks at the farmer's market. Now I have a recipe as soon as make up my mind :)

  3. Thanks for the recipe. The very idea of bread makes me so nervous yeast is tricky, but I totally think I am gonna try this.

  4. I went through a Betty Crocker phase, when I was game for any home baking. But living alone, I found that spending 2 to 3 hours working on a loaf of bread, which I would consume with self-satisfaction, was too "Sunday morning coming down".
    If you have a hungry family, or friends who can smile at your homemade gifts with no hypocrisy, bake in quantity happily. It costs no more to do 2, 3, or 4, and that feels like a more efficient use of time.

    1. sounds like a plan ... a moveable feast w/ each one contributing their own specialty.

  5. Are brains on the smorgasbord? Pig brains make the menu in China (but then, what doesn't?)