Roasting strawberries reminds me of Carly Simon’s song “Anticipation.” When you can take your time in the kitchen—or at least wait awhile for something to cook—magic happens. When you roast strawberries sloooooowly—I’m talking for 90 minutes—the alchemy that occurs is wondrous. Their flavors become so condensed and intense as they shrink. In this recipe, the strawberries are bathed in pomegranate molasses and maple syrup before roasting, for even more flavor. The last step, post-roast, is a mouth-blast of basil (a super anti-inflammatory).
If you’re familiar with that famous scene from I Love Lucy, where Lucille Ball freaks
out on the chocolate assembly line, that’s the way I feel about making finger food. I get overwhelmed, I grow two left thumbs, and I want to cry. (It’s really pitiful how cooking calamities can make me feel like a three-year-old.) This salad started off as an appetizer for company, but as their arrival approached, I had made only a few. So I said (and this is the mild form of what I really said),“Screw it!” and threw everything into a bowl. Honestly,
the format doesn’t matter in the least because the flavors work so well together, with sweet dates, peppery arugula, creamy goat cheese, toasty walnuts, and sprightly mint do a lovely dance together. One of the longevity stars here is dates, which first made their earliest culinary appearance (as date honey) in the Old Testament. Who knows, maybe I’ve stumbled upon Methuselah’s secret for a long, long, long life.
Variety isn’t just the spice of life; it will also keep you from falling into a food rut. People often tell me that they love salad but get bored with the same old version they always make. This disenchantment can lead folks away from the greens their bodies really need. If that sounds like you, let this salad serve as a springboard for endless seasonal varia- tions. Eating with the seasons isn’t just a catch phrase. Each season brings new foods just hitting their peak; in this case, strawberries and arugula, some of the welcome early harbingers of the spring. In addition to having an incredibly sweet taste, strawberries have anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, when combined with mint and a lemony balsamic vinaigrette, they make for a salad that feels like Pop Rocks going off in your mouth.
This dressing lends a light, refreshing flavor to all manner of foods. Since it could hardly be easier to make, I recommend keeping some on hand at all times. I know I do.
When Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food,” there’s little doubt in my mind that he was referring to foods drawn from the brassica family. Ounce-for-ounce, brassicas contain more healing properties than any other branch of food.
However, it takes a certain amount of culinary courage to go one-on-one with a brassica for the first time. You can feel like you need a machete, thankfully Laura Russell author of Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables, so wonderfully explains, a sharp large knife and a good cutting board can whittle any brassica down to size quickly and efficiently. Aside from their sheer bulk, brassicas have a reputation for being bitter tasting. Let’s face it, most of us encountered brassicas when we were young, and if the cook didn’t know how to counter the pungency–something Russell excels at–we ended up looking at the brassica with disdain, a nasty ‘pill’ of culinary medicine to be swallowed versus a dish to be savored.
If ever there was a dish that proved I wasn’t Italian, it’s meatballs. And that’s kind of embarrassing, because not only do I love to make Italian food, I even studied (okay, suffered, but it amounted to the same thing) under an Italian signora on the Isle of Elba. But no matter how hard I tried, I could never figure out how to keep my meatballs from falling apart, until I tried basmati rice. Now my meatballs not only taste great, they also don’t disintegrate on the fork. These are actually mini meatballs, closer to the Latin-American version known as albondiguitas, with the ginger providing a little zing. If timing is an issue, the meatballs can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until you’re ready to cook them. Also, this recipe makes twice as many meatballs as you’ll need for the soup. To save the remainder for later, place them in the freezer for 1 hour to firm up, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Root veggies, especially when roasted, are a real comfort food, and this is the kind of soup that’s a real reviver during chilly months. Chinese medicine associates root vegetables with lung health; other peer-reviewed studies have found squash such as the nutty Kabocha squash here are immune boosters filled with gut cleansing fiber. Soups like this just welcome a spice blast, and we’ve obliged this one with cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and thyme. Downing a bowl is like lighting your internal fireplace to keep winter’s chill at bay.
This healing concoction of sweet potato comfort. I crave sweet potatoes, which aren’t really potatoes at all but rather an edible root from the morning glory family. Enzymes in the root convert starch into sweetness as it grows, yet the root still retains plenty of nutrition, including vitamin B6 and potassium.