Good and Good for You
With our bright, outdoorsy lifestyle and burgeoning love of farm-to-table restaurants, organic grocers and farmers’ markets, Colorado and its new Denver restaurant True Food Kitchen (opened last October in the Cherry Creek North shopping district) are a match made in heaven. The concept and menu, which play up seasonal, fresh and high-quality ingredients, are the brainchild of healthy lifestyle expert Dr. Andrew Weil, CEO of Fox Restaurant Concepts Sam Fox, and the restaurant’s executive chef, Michael Stebner.
For Coloradans inspired to bring these healthy eating habits into their own homes, the powerhouse team shares some of the restaurant’s favorite selections in True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure (Little, Brown and Company). The 125-plus recipes in the cookbook all speak to the trio’s mantra: “Meals can be both flavorful and good for you.”
Mouthwatering pairings like sweet potatoes and poblanos, tomatoes and tuna, and roasted mushrooms and winter squash lighten up the recipes, providing an accessible base from which to add many new and intriguing ingredients. And the cookbook introduces a pantry full, like the astragalus root and maitake mushrooms that appear in the recipes to follow, ingredients that not only boost flavor but increase health benefits.
Some recipes are extremely simple to make; others require the preparation of a dressing, sauce or condiment, which can easily complement other recipes in the book. Case in point: the versatile Umami Sauce, which stars alongside halibut and Brussels sprouts in two of the following recipes. This intriguing sauce, made of just six straightforward ingredients, is a breeze to make and elevates everything from salads to grilled fish and steamed vegetables.
So jump in and give these recipes a try. The flavors will surprise you and the health benefits just might make you to rethink the way you eat.
A quick chat with Dr. Weil:
Do you see Americans eating differently since the inception of your restaurants?
I do, but I don’t know how much credit the restaurants can take for that. A lot of doctors are recommending my anti-inflammatory diet, so I’m hopeful. I see it going both ways: Certainly better quality foods are available in grocery stores; on the other hand, Americans are still eating huge portions. I do observe that on the coasts and in Colorado, food consciousness is growing and moving in a better direction. Our main purpose is to show that delicious food can be good for you, which I hope will influence other restaurants.
If people want to make a change in their diet, what single step would you advise?
Eliminate refined, processed and manufactured food. It’s that simple.
Your cookbook has received great reviews for the photography, design and flavorful recipes. The most common complaint is that the book uses hard-to-find, exotic ingredients. Would you change that if you could do it again?
No. I tell people where to get them in the book, and they are available online. But
I’ve been getting pressure to do another cookbook, and the theme might be even simpler recipes.
After a long workday, how do you like to cook at home?
I always cook for myself. I’ll have a salad, baked or broiled fish, or a simple pasta dish. I’ll see what I have on hand and throw something together—simple, quick. I’ll have a glass of wine or sake with my dinner, and I usually have a piece of good dark chocolate for dessert.
Halibut with Fingerling Potatoes and Umami Sauce
Makes 4 servings
Halibut is a delicate fish that is easy to cook under the broiler, a method that seals the surface and renders it moist and flaky. Alaskan halibut is in season through spring and summer, and Seafood Watch gives it a high sustainability rating. Umami Sauce and wok-style vegetables complement halibut’s light, gentle flavor. (photo above)
1 pound fingerling potatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 (5- to 6-ounce) halibut steaks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons expeller-pressed canola oil
3 cups Roasted Mushrooms (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon Wok Aromatics (recipe follows)
1/2 cup Umami Sauce (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange the potato cubes on the prepared baking sheet and toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and set aside. Preheat oven to broil.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water. Plunge the asparagus into the boiling water for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them from the hot water to the ice bath for 3 minutes. The cold water allows the asparagus to keep its bright green color. Drain them in a colander.
Pat the halibut steaks dry with a paper towel and season with the salt. Heat an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold the fish in a single layer over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil until it shimmers. Put the fish in the hot pan and immediately place under the broiler. Cook until golden brown or to the preferred doneness, 8 to 10 minutes.
Heat another skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil and heat until it shimmers, but do not let it smoke. Add the potatoes and cook until crisp. Stir in the Roasted Mushrooms, asparagus and Wok Aromatics. Add 1 tablespoon water and cook until hot and the water evaporates. Add 2 tablespoons of the Umami Sauce and toss to coat.
To serve, divide the potato-mushroom mixture among warmed plates. Top each with a piece of roasted halibut and drizzle on some of the remaining Umami Sauce. Serve with any remaining Umami Sauce on the side.
Makes about 3 cups
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and
6 ounces oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 ounces maitake mushrooms, torn into
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Toss together all of the mushrooms in a large bowl. Add the oil, salt and pepper, tossing to coat the mushrooms. Arrange the seasoned mushrooms in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until soft, lightly browned and beginning to become crisp. When cool, transfer to a lidded container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
1 lemongrass stalk, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
5 or 6 scallions, white part only, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons sambal oelek (or Sriracha sauce)
Combine the lemongrass, ginger and scallions in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Transfer to a lidded jar and add the sambal oelek, and mix well to combine. Use immediately and freeze any left over.
Makes 12 cups, 6 servings
This tasty soup is perfect when you feel the need for a little immune-system boost.
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, mashed
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and
2 large carrots, thinly sliced on the bias
2 1/2 pieces astragalus root (about 15 inches total)
10 cups mushroom stock
2 tablespoons tamari or low sodium soy sauce
2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup chopped scallions
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the shiitakes, carrots, astragalus root and mushroom stock. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the tamari and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Add the broccoli florets and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Remove the astragalus root pieces. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with scallions before serving.
Brussels Sprouts with Umami Sauce
Most people who say they hate Brussels sprouts have never eaten them properly prepared. The secrets: choose fresh, smallish, young sprouts; do not overcook them; and enhance them with the right seasonings. Here, halved sprouts are quickly stir fried with garlic, then tossed in True Food’s Umami Sauce. Spring these on a Brussels sprouts hater and change a life.
1 1/2 teaspoons expeller-pressed canola oil
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, halved
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/3 cup Umami Sauce (recipe follows)
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat wok or skillet over high heat. Add the oil. When hot, add the Brussels sprouts and garlic, and sauté for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup water, cover and cook for 2 minutes, tossing to cook evenly. Remove the cover and stir in the Umami Sauce, lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper. Continue to cook while occasionally tossing until the liquid is reduced to a thick sauce, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate and serve hot.
This novel, intriguing sauce is so simple to make. Most people cannot guess the ingredients, particularly the nutritional yeast flakes that give the sauce its rich ochre color and imparts that clear “fifth taste” (umami). Keep a jar of it in your refrigerator and use it on everything from steamed vegetables to broiled fish. It’s great on salads, but add it at the last minute and don’t toss it with delicate greens, lest they wilt.
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons tamari
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
8 garlic cloves, mashed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place the vinegar, water, tamari, yeast flakes and garlic in a blender or food processor and blend until well combined. Remove the feed tube and, with the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
Blend well until the mixture becomes thick and emulsified, like mayonnaise. Adjust the seasoning with salt as needed. Pour the mixture into a lidded jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Bring the sauce to room temperature and shake well before using.
Tuscan Kale Salad
Makes 8 servings
Here's the signature dish of True Food Kitchen. People who never imagined eating raw kale quickly become devoted. Unlike most salads, this one gets even better in the fridge overnight. Make the extra effort to find Tuscan kale-also sometimes labeled as black kale, Russian kale, cavolo nero, or dinosaur kale-its deeper color and more complex flavor really lift this into the salad stratosphere.
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, mashed
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 bunches kale (about 14 ounces), ribs removed and leaves sliced into 1⁄4-inch shreds
1⁄2 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (grated on a Microplane)
2 tablespoons toasted whole wheat bread crumbs
Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shavings, for garnish
In a salad bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. Add the kale and toss well to coat. Let the salad sit at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes. Add the grated cheese and breadcrumbs and toss again.
Garnish with cheese shavings before serving. Cover any leftovers and refrigerate for up to 2 days.