Mid-summer is the time when locally-sourced produce offers optimum value, freshness, quality, flavor and nutritional value. Markets are bursting with a full spectrum of brilliant colors, deep greens and nutrient-rich offerings – referred to as whole foods.
Whole foods are micronutrient-rich, as close to their natural state as possible; have little or no processing and retain most, if not all, of their original nutrients and fiber. Micronutrient-rich foods are relatively low in calories and provide substantial amounts of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (naturally-occurring, plant-based compounds that contribute to flavor and color; are not vital for life, but have health-promoting qualities that protect from disease).
As we discuss in a book on the subject I’ve co-authored, Eat Real Food (or Else), “the body is an infinitely complex machine, the source of countless interactions. Food operates as a whole, and when nutrients are isolated and limited, they don’t work as well, or don’t work at all”. With that said, we need to consume the widest possible variety of foods, while following three simple guidelines:
(1) Seek colored, micro-nutrient-rich foods (blue-indigo, purple-red, orange-red to yellow pigments)
(2) Seek whole, real food: Food as produced by nature “pulled from the ground, cut from the flesh, and plucked from the plant”
(3) Seek healthy sources (local, seasonal, organic, pesticide-free)
The other important aspect of proper eating is frequency and portion control: smaller plates – more often. One of my favorite food quotes is, “Eat for what you are going to do, not for what you have done.” Meaning, fuel yourself for the day as opposed to starving yourself and over-eating later at night after a long work day. Everyone is challenged by schedules. If possible, eat breakfast (keep it simple, include protein); eat small, nutrient-rich portions every 3 hours (to keep your system and metabolism active) and avoid eating after-hours (beyond normal dinner hours).
To get you started, I have included one of my popular recipes, Italian Chicken Salad, full of colorful vegetables, unique flavorings and poached chicken breast – a cooking technique that I recommend which results in a moist, flavorful – and not dry – chicken breast. This method alone is worth the take-away and provides a great protein source that can be added to any salad or just as a snack. Also, I recommend the Amphora products (olive oil and white balsamic vinegar) – great additions without over-powering the natural flavors of the ingredients.
Ed: If you would like to learn more, or get personally signed copies of this book, Eat Real Food (or Else), A Cookbook for the 21st Century, they are available directly from Chef Charlie. Contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The book offers a healthful approach to food and cooking. Great message, content and 75 step-by step recipes!
Italian Chicken Salad
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (OR 2 breasts from a pre-roasted chicken; skin removed and the meat shredded)
2 romaine hearts, cut into thin strips, washed and spun dry
1/2 small head radicchio, shredded
1 cup baby arugula
5 leaves Lacinato kale, rinsed, ribs removed, and leaves cut into thin strips
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 bunch broccolini, stems removed, florets chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons Amphora olive oil blend
2 tablespoons Amphora Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or shaved Parmesan
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved or quartered depending on size
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• To Poach the Chicken Breasts: Season the presentation side of the chicken breasts with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. In a non-stick skillet, heat olive oil until hot. Place chicken breasts seasoned-side down, and sauté until lightly brown, about 2 minutes. Season second side with kosher salt and black pepper, turn, and sauté the other side for 1 minute more.
• Add 1/2 cup chicken broth to the pan and cover. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 12 – 15 minutes until firm to the touch. Remove chicken from pan to a plate and rest 5 minutes before shredding. Set aside.
• In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, romaine, radicchio, arugula, kale, peppers, zucchini, broccolini and onion, and toss to combine. Add the olive oil and vinegar and toss to combine. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste, and adjust the amount of dressing and seasoning. Careful not to over-dress.
• Divide the salad among serving plates and garnish with the cheese, olives, and pumpkin seeds.
• Serve immediately.
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