Posted 2 years ago
Happy National Nutrition Month- Celebrate a world of flavors
Every March we celebrate National Nutrition Month with a different theme. The theme for 2022 is “celebrate a world of flavors” to highlight the unique, cultural variety of foods available to people from around the world.
In looking at the top healthy cuisines from around the world the list includes some that are familiar and probably not so surprising, but also some that may not be as familiar.
It is believed that the Mediterranean Diet is based off the diet of those living on Crete – the largest and the most populated Greek Island where residents are known to have a very long life expectancy and a very low rate of heart disease and cancers. A fun fact, in Crete olive oil is called liquid gold
The Greek/Mediterranean Diet is plant based/plant focused, full or fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish and lean animal proteins. It has been shown to be healthy for your heart, can help fight inflammation, which is present and a part of so many chronic conditions and diseases, is beneficial for brain health, full of antioxidants and other cancer fighting compounds, and can be beneficial for weight management.
Traditional Japanese diets are rich in seafood and fresh vegetables. This diet also includes fermented soy products, which provide the body with probiotics known to promote healthy gut microbiome, which aids in immunity, helps fight inflammation, may play a role in weight management and improves digestion. The ingredients in this diet may be one reason why Japan has the highest average life expectancy in the world
Let me be clear, when talking about Mexican food, it is the Traditional and Authentic Mexican food that is the healthy cuisine, not the fried, covered in cheese versions we see everywhere. Traditional and authentic Mexican food is rich in beans, fruits and vegetables and heavy on tomatoes, avocadoes and chili peppers.
Among the healthiest dishes in Korean cuisine is kimchi, which is a fermented vegetable dish. It not only provides probiotics but also features healthy ingredients like ginger, red pepper, and garlic, and it may benefit your cholesterol levels. Many Korean dishes are also made with condiments like gochujang, a fermented red chili paste that adds lots of flavor and doubles as a source of gut-boosting bacteria.
Thai food is filled with intense flavors and tends to be rich in vegetables, making it one of the healthiest cuisines on the planet. That intense flavors are due to the spices used which includes turmeric, coriander, ginger, lemongrass, and chili peppers. Many of these spices are known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties.
Spain is a Mediterranean country and the diet shows that, being rich in seafood and vegetables. Another part of what makes the Spanish diet so healthy is the tapas – small shared plates- resulting in not just eating smaller portions but getting more variety with regards to the healthy ingredients and spices used.
Again, I need to be clear, when we are talking Italian we are not talking deep-dish pizzas and meat lasagna; we are talking olive oil, fresh tomatoes and herbs and a slow meal amongst friends and family. Traditional Italian cuisine places a strong emphasis on fresh foods like seafood, whole grains, fruits, veggies, and legumes, along with lots of herbs, spices, seasonings and olive oil.
Indian food is packed with flavor and typically includes a wide range of powerful herbs and spices. Cinnamon is a common ingredient that has been linked to decreased inflammation, stabilized blood sugar levels, and slowed cancer cell growth. Cardamom, coriander and turmeric are staples in Indian cuisine and have been studied for their anti-inflammatory effects. An added healthy bonus to Indian cuisine is that many dishes are vegetarian and rich in nutrient-dense ingredients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
The Lebanese diet/Lebanese food is likely not as familiar to you, but is very healthy as it has much in common with the Greek diet. In fact, Lebanon is considered the home of the worlds’ family healthy dip Hummus. Some other healthy options include tabbouleh, labneh, shaksouka, and mujadara.
Louvi Me Ta Lahana
3 cups of dried black eyed beans
1 large bunch of chard
3 large courgettes/zucchinis, roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper (optional)
- Sort through the beans removing any no stones or debris
- Soak the beans in cold water for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight
- Drain away and discard the water
- Fill a large pan with cold water and add some salt and a squeeze of lemon juice
- Bring the water to a boil
- Place the beans in the pan and cook for a while
- Remove from the heat and pour away the hot dirty water
- Refill the pan with cold water and bring to boil once more
- Gently simmer until the beans are half-cooked
- Add the chopped courgette/zucchini
- Wash your chard really well and coarsely cut
- Add the chard to the beans and reduce the heat
- Cook until everything is tender
- Drain well and transfer to individual serving bowls
- Drizzle with plenty of olive oil and lemon
- Season with salt and pepper if desired
- If you like, you can add a little finely chopped onion and parsley to the dish. It can also be served with tuna as an optional extra.
Napa Cabbage Kimchi
8 pounds Napa cabbage, remove thick outer cabbage leaves
16 cups water
5 cups Korean coarse sea salt or natural rock salt (for salt water)
1/2 cup cooking salt , medium sized crystals (for sprinkle)
KIMCHI SEASONING / KIMCHI PASTE
2 Tbsp. glutinous rice flour (sweet rice flour)
5 cups water
5 cups gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
19 ounces Korean radish or daikon radish, julienned
1 Tbsp. fine sea salt
5 Tbsp. Korean fish sauce
2 Tbsp. salted fermented shrimp , minced
2 ounces Korean chives, cut in 2 inch length
9 ounces carrots, julienned
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/2 Tbsp. minced ginger
2 Tbsp. raw sugar
6 ounces onion, blended (with a stick blender or vegetable chopper) or finely grated
Cut the Napa cabbage into quarters and rinse it in running water. Make sure the stem is intact.
Dissolve the coarse salt in the water (16 cups) in a large bowl. Dip the Napa cabbage in the saltwater one at a time and transfer it onto a tray for further salting.
Pinch some cooking salt (1/2 cup total for all pickled cabbages) and rub over the thick white part of the cabbage. Open each leaf gently and sprinkle the salt over the thick white part. Repeat this for the rest of the cabbage. Reserve the saltwater from when you soaked the cabbage for later use.
Put the salted cabbage in a large food grade plastic bag or large bucket (wedge side of the cabbage to be facing up) and pour in the reserved saltwater from step 2. Close the plastic bag. If using a bucket, get something heavy on top of the cabbage to press down (e.g heavy pot with water).
Set the cabbage aside for 6 hours to pickle. Rotate the cabbage upside down every 2 hours. Using a large food grade plastic bag will make the turning process much easier than using a large bucket.
Once the soaking process is finished, rinse the cabbages in running water, especially the thick white part of the cabbage, to get rid of the salt. Place them in a colander and allow to drain for 1 hour.
While waiting, prepare the glutinous rice paste. Mix glutinous rice flour with the water (1.5 cup) in a saucepan and boil it over medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until it thickens. Once ready, transfer the rice paste to the medium-size bowl and let it cool. Add Korean chili flakes once it has cooled. Then, combine them well.
Prepare a large mixing bowl and add radish, fine sea salt, Korean fish sauce, and salted shrimp. Leave it for 10 minutes for the radish to salt down. Add Korean chives, carrots, minced garlic, minced ginger, sugar, blended onion, and the Korean chili flakes mixture from step 5. Mix them well. Now the kimchi seasoning / kimchi paste is made, ready for use.
Place a quarter of a cabbage on a tray. Spread the seasonings over each leaf. (You only need to season one side of the leaf.) 1 to 2 small fistfuls of seasoning is enough per quarter of cabbage. Repeat this step for the rest of the cabbage. Don’t pull the cabbage leaves off the stem, leave them attached so it holds together better.
Transfer the kimchi into a kimchi container or an airtight container (and put the lid on). Leave it out at room temperature for 24 hours, then move it to the refrigerator. While you can start eating it once it has chilled, you may want to wait 3-4 more days for it to develop more flavor.
Chana Masala (Indian Chickpea Curry)
1/4 cup neutral oil such as avocado or grapeseed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
5 garlic cloves crushed
1-inch piece ginger crushed
1 small green chili pepper (such as Serrano or Thai chili) sliced
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp red chili powder
2 medium tomatoes finely chopped or puréed in a food processor
2 cans (around 15-oz each) chickpeas rinsed and drained (See Note 1)
1 1/4 tsp sea salt or table salt or to taste
1/4 tsp baking powder (or sub baking soda) (optional – for extra tender chickpeas) (See Note 2)
1/2 tsp garam masala or chaat masala
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 tbsp. cilantro leaves chopped
julienned ginger optional, for garnish
1/8 tsp freshly cracked black pepper optional, for garnish
Heat a medium, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and onion. Sauté for 7-8 minutes, until golden. If the mixture gets dry, deglaze with 1-2 tablespoons of water.
Add the garlic, ginger, and green chili pepper and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a tablespoon of water (if needed), and add all the spice powders. Give it a few stirs to roast the spices, and then add the tomatoes. Continue to sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Mix in the chickpeas, baking powder (if using), salt, and 2 cups of water.
Raise the heat to high to bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium, cover and let cook for 25-30 minutes, until the chickpeas are very tender.
Uncover and raise the heat to high. Use a wooden spatula to slightly crush the chickpeas. Sauté for another 2-3 minutes to desired consistency. Taste and adjust salt and seasoning. Turn off the heat and add the garam masala or chaat masala, lemon juice, and cilantro leaves. Sprinkle with julienned ginger and black pepper, if desired.
Note 1: This is about 3 cups cooked chickpeas (~475g).
Note 2: Baking Powder is not as strong. If you would rather not add it to the curry, marinate the drained chickpeas in the baking powder (or soda) before rinsing and adding them to the curry. You can also just add them without rinsing.
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
6 Vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped (about 6 cups chopped tomatoes)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
6 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (about 0.2 ounces or 5 grams)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (about 0.2 ounces or 5 grams)
Heat 3 tbsp. olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Add the onions, green peppers, garlic, spices, pinch salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Uncover and cook a bit longer to allow the mixture to reduce and thicken. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
Using a wooden spoon, make 6 indentations, or “wells,” in the tomato mixture (make sure the indentations are spaced out). Gently crack an egg into each indention.
Reduce the heat, cover the skillet, and cook on low until the egg whites are set.
Uncover and add the fresh parsley and mint. You can add more black pepper or crushed red pepper, if you like. Serve with warm pita, challah bread, or your choice of crusty bread.
- Make Ahead Tip: You can prepare the tomato mixture (or sauce) part of this shakshuka recipe one night in advance. Follow steps #1 and #2 to prepare the shakshuka tomato sauce. Let cool completely, then store in the fridge in a tight lid glass container. When you are ready the next morning, warm up the shakshuka sauce in a skillet, add the eggs, and follow steps #3 to #5.
- Leftovers Storage: Leftovers will keep for 1 to 2 days if stored properly in the fridge in tight-lid glass containers. Warm up over medium heat, adding a little more liquid to the shakshuka sauce if needed.
- To add meat: If you want to add meat, cook about 1/2 ground beef or ground lamb in some extra virgin olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Once fully cooked, remove the meat from the skillet, wipe the skillet well and follow steps #1 and #2 to make the shakshuka sauce, only this time, add the cooked ground meat to the skillet to simmer with the tomatoes for 15 minutes or so before adding the eggs.
I hope you will celebrate National Nutrition Month by celebrating a world of flavors and embracing the foods and flavors of your heritage and other global cultures.