“The idea that farm to table is revolutionary is funny to me because it is something I grew up with,” says Michael Psilakis. “I remember my mom pulling up tomatoes from our garden and slicing them and serving them with sliced onions that she had chilled in ice water. She’d serve me this as a snack so I could go and cut the grass or play baseball,” he says. With an upbringing full of such offerings, it is easy to understand why Psilakis, a first generation Greek-American who was raised in Queens, New York, has distinguished himself as an early proponent of the Mediterranean diet.
Make this tasty breakfast porridge when you need a change from the usual oatmeal routine. Creamy and warming with fragrant spices, this is the perfect dish to liven up any morning. Coconut milk adds a welcome richness to the steel-cut oats and the saffron and vanilla bean contribute an exotic twist. Sweetened by apricots and a touch of honey, this is a breakfast fit for the gods.
For more than 30 years — starting with his first professional job at Le Cirque in 1982 — chef Geoffrey Zakarian has been cooking some of New York City’s finest food. He presides over the Modern American cuisine at The Lambs Club and The National, both in New York City, in addition to being a regular judge on Chopped and a co-host of The Kitchen. In 2011, he won the title of Iron Chef on the The Next Iron Chef. Here, he tackles some questions about his healthy eating habits.
What health food trend do you wish would go away?
Low-fat and fat-free. It robs the food of its flavor and richness. Just the eat the real thing, but eat less of it. I also hate the word “trend” when it comes to eating because health should be a daily lifestyle.
What must-have items are always in your kitchen?
Coconut water, Emmi yogurt, lots of mangoes and berries and canned Spanish tuna in olive oil. I use the tuna in salads and warm pasta dishes.
Here’s your guide to healthiest ground meat picks.
High in protein and iron, beef is arguably the most popular choice. Ninety-seven percent lean may appear to be the best choice, but cutting all of the fat will also slash too much of the flavor. Ninety percent lean offers a nice balance, providing good flavor without going overboard on calories. A 3-ounce cooked portion (about the size of a smartphone) contains 180 calories, 3 grams saturated fat, 21 grams of protein and 12 percent of the daily requirement for iron.
Quinoa is fast-cooking, versatile and protein-packed. Keep a pot of the cooked grains on hand (using the basic recipe below), and these meals will come together in 10 minutes for a nutrient-rich breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Get Me a Spatula, Stat!
Last weekend,the Napa Valley branch of the Culinary Institute of America hosted hundreds of physicians for a medical meeting involving kitchen aprons, not lab coats. The draw was the Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives conference, co-sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health and part of a quickly growing trend of culinary-medical cross-pollination. Come May, for example, Tulane University will debut the country’s first teaching kitchen affiliated with a medical school. In New York, meanwhile, celebrity chefs David Bouley and Seamus Mullen have been working with doctors Mark Hyman and Frank Lipman, respectively, to develop menu items and eating philosophies representing a drool-worthy intersection of pantry and pharmacy. (Wild mushrooms with white truffle, sweet garlic, grilled toro and coconut foam, anyone?) Fueling the trend is some pretty delicious research: In one recent study of a nonprofit program, patients whose doctors wrote them “prescriptions” to redeem at local farmers markets saw their BMI drop by an average of 37.8% in a single year.
Do you reach for turkey bacon as a healthier alternative to conventional bacon? As it turns out, there’s not always a huge difference between the two when it comes to nutrition stats. An average slice of traditional pork bacon (about ½ ounce in weight) contains 35 calories, 1 gram saturated fat and 130 milligrams of sodium. Now find out how the turkey version stacks up.
“To have health and wellness,” says Marco Canora, “the best thing you can do is cook for yourself, because you control the fats and salts and you are cooking with whole foods.” These days, health and wellness are of central importance to Canora, the New York City chef who owns Hearth restaurant and five wine bars, all under the Terroir umbrella. But until a few years ago, that wasn’t the case.