Eating healthy is a breeze if the food is flavorful and interesting. Keep those resolutions intact by stirring a few new ingredients into your culinary mixing bowl. Here’s a look at the delicious and nutritious foods you must try in 2010. Watch as they appear on menus in our area; these ingredients are quickly gaining popularity in Philadelphia and across the nation.
Black Garlic may not be pretty, but this fermented ingredient’s sweet, savory and tangy flavor is winning over culinary critics. Taoism mythology said that it grants immortality, but just settle for its ultra-high antioxidant count. This new ingredient is hitting kitchens across the U.S. and locally at Zahav, an Israeli street food restaurant in Philadelphia. Find it at Wegmans or order it online at www.blackgarlic.com. Find recipes on this website for the expected, like Black Garlic Tomato Sauce and the intriguing, such as Black Garlic with Baked Bananas.
Why not try swapping your regular steaks with Bison steaks, a healthier alternative? High in protein and very lean, expect raw bison to have a deep red color - the meat has no marbling. These steaks offer incredible flavor when cooked correctly and sprinkled with a favorite seasoning. Sear the steaks until they’re just medium rare on a hot grill pan or an outdoor grill on a nice evening. Or, head to Positano Coast for Bison Carpaccio with red onion compote and kohlrabi. Ted’s Montana Grill has a menu that revolves around bison, from steaks and chili to burgers.
Ancient grains are rising in popularity and Quinoa is leading the pack. Incan civilization believed this crop to be sacred. And it’s no wonder - quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse that’s high in fiber, magnesium and iron. It’s also gluten free. First-timers, try preparing it as a hot side dish or a grain salad. Fork in Center City, for example, makes a quinoa salad with fresh mint and local apples. This grain is also being lauded as a new hot breakfast cereal - mix-in nuts, berries and raw honey to taste.
Try using Thai Basil for great flavor in Asian stir-fries and soups. Exotic herbs are the key to creating vibrant flavor in low-fat dishes. I first swooned over Thai Basil when using it as a garnish for traditional Vietnamese pho soup. (Check out Green Papaya in Exton for a whole selection of this comforting dish). Tokyo Fusion in Wayne incorporates Thai basil into many of its menu items, including a healthful salad, made with steamed calamari, thai basil, tomato, cilantro, and lime chili dressing. What’s the fast and cheap way to cooking with Thai Basil? Grow your own this summer – it thrives just as easily as Italian basil.
Lastly, explore the possibilities of Nut Butters beyond the peanut butter sandwich. Heart-healthy butters can be made with almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios and macadamias. Try melding them in soups and stews to thicken and add depth. Cashew butter makes an especially delicious spread on sandwiches. Valanni, a Mediterranean restaurant in the city, serves a Morbier cheese with cashew butter and jam. Whole Foods and other upscale/natural stores sell a variety of butters. Or, simply grind your own mixture of nuts away in the food processor till smooth. Be aware nut butters have unique textures; the higher the fat content of the nut, the smoother the butter will be.
Indulge in these natural and nutrient-packed ingredients and you’re bound to see the benefits. And stay tuned … there’s more intriguing culinary ideas to come this year!
Main Line Media News, February 2010