A recent conversation with my father prompted this collection of tasty recipes to help you ‘trim the fat’ from your menu; he lamented that the main topic of conversation amongst his friends these days is sickness of one kind or another. While my particular father is in his late 70s and thus the topic hardly seems surprising, it struck me: cooking for one’s parents requires an extra degree or two of attention. This is especially true if they find themselves with high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, et al. So, how to plan a celebratory menu with delicious, decadent-seeming food that is also good for you?
Fortunately, the fundamentals remain the same. In the famous words of Michael Pollan, “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” Add salads and vegetable sides to as many meals as possible, and cut down on the amount of meat served (smaller portions or cuts can help). Add healthy whole grains to the mix (quinoa, for example, is a remarkably versatile pantry staple) and eliminate all the bleached and processed. Be choosy about your fats- cut out saturated fats wherever possible and stick to heart-healthier types like Extra Virgin olive oil. If you can’t quite let go of the rich fatty goodness of butter, try substituting coconut oil- though it is a saturated fat, studies show that the type of fat may in fact improve your levels of good cholesterol.
Desserts can be especially tricky, but here simple truly is best- you’ll be amazed at how far fruit will go when you get out of the habit of refined sugar. A simple dish with raw almonds and dark chocolate (over 72% cacao) makes a lovely pre-biotic snack for the table. (For the die-hard bakers, there is an ever-evolving world of gluten free, sugar free, dairy free etc. recipes being discovered every day and shared across the web).
For a little extra help this Father’s Day, here are a few of my favorite feast-worthy dishes that blur the line between indulgence and clean eating:
I have had shockingly good reviews of this white-bean dish, which can easily serve as an appetizer, side, or even main dish. Not only a good source of protein, Cannellini beans are actually among the lowest glycemic beans, making them especially good for diabetics. These little white beans are also packed with antioxidants, and have been shown to have a detoxifying effect on the body.
This is a slight twist on a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook with Julia Turshen, “It’s All Good.” The recipe for “White Beans, French Style” serves 4 and calls for extra virgin olive oil; my version uses coconut oil, and I highly suggest doubling up. These make phenomenal leftovers.
- 1 ½ tbsp. organic virgin coconut oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (add more if you love garlic)
- Leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme (about 2 tsp.)
- 1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
- A 14 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- Coarse sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
First, cut your garlic! Then it will sit for the ten minutes needed for you to get all the benefits before you add it to the heat. Cut your shallot while you’re at it (get those tears out of the way before you bring it to the table).
Next, heat the oil in a large pan or skillet over medium heat for a few minutes. Add your rested garlic and let cook for a few minutes or until a light golden brown. Stir occasionally. Add the thyme and shallot, cook for a minute or two. Add the beans and cook, keep stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper to taste, along with the vinegar, and cook for another 5 minutes. Note, cooking longer has shown no side effects other than softer beans. Remove from heat and let sit for a minute or two before serving. Expect compliments from people who didn’t know they liked beans.
I go to this Jean-George Vongerichten recipe every time I need a dinner party show-stopper that is much easier to prepare than it looks, From his book “Home Cooking with Jean-Georges,” the original recipe calls for sea bass- I have made it with trout, snapper and even cod with great results.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Fennel bulbs, cored and sliced ‘paper thin’ (or thereabouts)
- 2 Tsp. fennel seeds
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 whole black sea bass, about 4 lbs., gutted and scaled
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 Meyer lemons, cut into very thin slices
- ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup dry white wine
The directions are as follows: preheat the oven to 400°. Coat a large roasting pan with the oil, and arrange the sliced fennel in an even layer to cover the bottom. Sprinkle the fennel seeds over this and add salt & pepper to taste.
Next, place the fish in the center of the pan. Season inside and out with salt & paper. Scatter your halved tomatoes around the fish, and then cover it with the lemon slices and parsley. Add the wine and season it all with more salt & pepper.
Roast for approximately 30 mins, or until “a knife pierces the flesh of the fish with no resistance and the blade feels warm.” Remove from oven, let cool for 10 mins., and serve.
I had the pleasure of working at a restaurant where Jean-Georges was the head Chef while attending college in NYC, and can attest to his prowess. Don’t despair if you cannot match all the ingredients exactly- this dish is delicious with non-Meyer lemons as well.
On a recent trip to Boulder, CO I was introduced to Bison Steak by my (organic pioneer and Bison-raising) colleague Dave Carter, and it was mouth-wateringly delicious. I had thought I knew from bison (a burger or two over the years), but had no idea it was so versatile and, well, gourmet.
Bison is leaner than beef and contains more iron, making it a natural switch for carnivores; additionally, standards for raising bison preclude the use of growth hormones and other steroids, which are best kept out of one’s food supply.
This being the case, you can imagine my delight at finding this Bison Steak recipe from Dave’s very own kitchen:
While I pride myself on my pastry retinue, I have yet to master the art of the healthy dessert; I am a frequent experimenter and lover of the Internet as a source of recipes. Here I defer to the many great cooks and dedicated bloggers who have gone before me:
I hope this helps make your father’s day feast a little bit easier, a little bit healthier, and maybe even a tiny bit tastier.