Fish Omega-3s Linked to Lower Risk For Type 2 Diabetes

Marinated Grilled Swordfish Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Marinated Grilled Swordfish
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A new study published in Diabetes Care has linked consumption of fish-derived omega-three polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) with decreased risk for type 2 diabetes.

The study was done in Finland and found that men with the highest blood levels of PUFAs had over one third lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes than men who had the lowest levels of PUFAs.

Fish-derived PUFAs have been lauded for improving symptoms in a variety of disorders linked to inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Though the jury is still out, inflammation is also thought by some researchers to be at the root of type 2 diabetes.  Controversy exists, though, about the interplay between the benefits of PUFAs and mercury, a common contaminant of fish.

The researchers looked at 2,212 Finnish men aged 42-60 who were recruited into the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Risk Factor Study between the years 1984-1989.  Food questionnaires were used to investigate four dietary omega-3 PUFAs: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and α-linolenic acid (ALA).  The researchers also looked at hair mercury as a proxy for accumulation of mercury in the body. Risk of type 2 diabetes was analyzed using questionnaires, oral glucose tolerance tests, and hospital records.

Tuna Salad Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Tuna Salad
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The men were followed for roughly 19 years, during which time 422 men developed type 2 diabetes. Men with the highest levels of PUFAs had 33% lower risk for type 2 diabetes, compared to men with the lowest levels of PUFAs. The researchers failed to find a statistically significant association between dietary PUFAs and levels of mercury in the hair, which may indicate that high levels of fish consumption are not necessarily associated with an accumulation of higher levels of mercury in the body, at least in this study.

The major caveat concerning this study is generalizability.  Results from the Finnish population may not generalize to larger, more diverse populations, like those in the United States.

Nevetheless, the results add to evidence about the benefits of fish-derived PUFAs.  The Mediterranean Diet recommends at least two fish meals per week, preferably with fatty fish like tuna, salmon, herring, anchovy, sardines, mackerel, and sword fish.  It’s fun to learn about all the different kinds of fish, and invent creative ways of preparing them!

Citation: Jyrki K. Virtanen, Jaakko Mursu, Sari Voutilainen, Matti Uusitupa, Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen. Serum Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Incident Type 2 Diabetes in Men: The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Diabetes Care 2014;37(1):189-96.

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Photo Attributions:

Grilled, Marinated Swordfish: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMarinated_grill_swordfish.jpeg

By Kevin Saff at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Tuna Salad: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATuna_Salad.jpg

By Alpha (originally posted to Flickr as Tuna Salad) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Grilled Salmon with Turmeric and Dill:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AB%C3%BAn_C%C3%A1_H%C3%A0_N%E1%BB%99i.jpg

By Ron Diggity (originally posted to Flickr as Bún Cá Hà Nội) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Horta (Steamed Bitter Greens)

Horta far back viewHorta is a ubiquitous Greek side dish.  It’s basically steamed, bitter greens generously doused with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.  In the old times, Greek housewives would go foraging and use whatever nonpoisonous, edible plants they found growing on the hillsides.  Horta is a throwback to leaner times, a necessity that has now become a staple.

Dark green, leafy vegetables are top Mediterranean super foods since they contain tons of nutrients, including calcium, iron, folate, potassium, antioxidants like Vitamins A and C, and vitamins E, D, and K.  They’re also great sources of fiber and contain phytonutrients that may prevent some types of cancer and improve heart health.

You can use any type of green, leafy vegetable you want to make horta. In this recipe I’ve used dandelion greens, which tend to be bitter and are especially high in calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A and K.  If dandelion greens aren’t available in your market, you can substitute other dark green, leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, swiss chard, or mustard greens.  You can even use romaine or arugula!

I’ve added garlic for extra flavor, but it’s not always considered traditional (depending on who you ask.)

This recipe is gluten and dairy free.

Serve 4

Horta Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Horta
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Ingredients

1 bunch of dandelion greens, or other dark green, leafy vegetable

2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

4 lemons wedges

1-2 tbsp Water

1-2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil

Directions

1. Wash the greens very well to remove any dirt or chemicals. It may take two washings, since these types of greens hold onto dirt well.

2. Warm the oil in a cast iron skillet.  Add the garlic and cook until translucent but not crisp.

3. Add the greens and water to the skillet.  I usually add extra water so that the greens don’t become too dry, even though some of the juices will cook off the greens and make a thin sauce.  Depending on the type of greens you use, you might need to vary the amount of water (some greens contain more water than others.)  Don’t add so much water that you submerge the greens.  You want to eat the greens along with their juices, as some of the nutrients are in the juices that cook off.

4.  Cover and allow the greens to simmer until they are wilted but not mushy.  Stir intermittently.

5.  Serve with olive oil generously drizzled on top and fresh squeezed fresh lemon juice.

Horta Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Horta
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

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Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranate and Tahini Sauce

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranates Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Eggplant can either taste bitter and slimy, or creamy and divine.  The difference is all in the preparation and cooking.  Pre-treating it with salt draws out the bitterness.  While cooking, the eggplant tends to absorb almost as much oil as you’re able to throw at it, making it slimy and greasy (not to mention unhealthy).

Cooking the eggplant in just the right amount of oil, and sprinkling it with a little water helps maintain moisture without becoming too dry.  The result is creamy, delicious roasted eggplant.  Topping it with tahini sauce and pomegranate seeds is the icing on the cake.

This recipe is dairy and gluten free.

Serves 4-ish.

Ingredients

Eggplant

1 medium-sized eggplant, cut in rounds

Salt

Water for sprinkling

1 1/2 tbsp.  canola or sunflower oil

Tahini Sauce

1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

1/4 cup water

1 tsp lemon juice

Garnish

Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Instructions

Eggplant

1. Sprinkle the salt on the eggplant and let stand for 30 minutes (the eggplant will look like it’s sweating when the salt draws out the bitter juices).

2. Rinse the salt off the eggplant by running each slice under water.

3. Warm the oil in a large cast-iron skillet (cooking in an iron pan adds iron to your food), then place the eggplant in the pan to cook.

4. When the eggplant begins to look translucent, flip it over and cook the other side.  You may need to sprinkle a little water in the pan at this point so that the eggplant doesn’t become too dry.  Here’s my sprinkling technique:  I wet my fingers under running water, then cup them to keep some of the water in my hand.  I quickly move my hand from the sink and sprinkle the water in the pan.  If your sink isn’t near the stove, you can also put water in a bowl and use the same technique.  Be careful, since a lot of steam can rise from the pan when you sprinkle the water.  I usually use a lid and cover the pan quickly after sprinkling.  In addition to protecting my face, it also keeps the moisture in the pan.  Which keeps the eggplant moist. Remove the lid after the steam has dissipated, since the eggplant won’t brown properly if you keep the lid on the pan.

5. When both sides are browned, remove the eggplant to a serving dish.

Tahini Sauce

1. Combine the tahini, water, and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork until all ingredients are well mixed.  The sauce should look creamy and lighter in color than the tahini paste.

Assembly

1. Spoon the tahini sauce over the eggplant.

2. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top of everything.

3. Note: There is no need for extra salt in this recipe, since the eggplant will have absorbed some of the salt from the preparation process.  If you add more salt without tasting first, you might find that the dish has become too salty!

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

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Winter Fish Stew with Paprika Potatoes

Fish Stew  Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Fish Stew
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Here in New York we’re awaiting our first big snowstorm of the season.  It’s the perfect time for comfort food like stews, chili, and the like.  There’s plenty of ways to turn sometimes heart-harming comfort fare into heart-warming comfort food.  In the spirit of a healthy start to the New Year, here’s a healthy fish stew that warms up winter evenings.

The advantages of eating fish have been acknowledged for decades, and just because the temperature drops doesn’t mean you have to give them up.  Fish– especially fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna, halibut, and swordfish– are high in essential omega-3 fatty acids.  Since our bodies cannot manufacture essential fatty acids from other nutrients, we must get omega-3′s from the foods we consume in our diet.

Omega-3′s are vital for good neural and brain functioning.  They are integral components of the gray matter that supports and nourishes the brain.  Consumption of omega-3′s has been linked to reducing risk for Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as improvement in cognitive functioning, depression, ADHD, and autism.  Diets high in omega-3′s have been linked to good cardiovascular health, especially lower cholesterol levels, though scientific consensus has yet to be reached on this issue.

Fish Stew  Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Fish Stew
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Perhaps the best evidence for the benefits of omega-3′s lies in its anti-inflammatory properties.  Many clinicians now recognize that omega-3′s can play a role in relieving the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.  People with other inflammatory disorders, such as osteoarthritis, psoriasis, or colitis, may also benefit.

So, for comfort food on a cold winter night, consider fish rather than beef stew.

This recipe is dairy and gluten free

Serves 4.

Ingredients

Stew

Four filets of Halibut, Swordfish, or any other fish you prefer

6 Italian plum tomatoes, diced

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 cup sliced green olives

1-2 tsp dried oregano

1-2 tsp dried sage

Canola or Sunflower oil for cooking

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling

Potatoes

3-4 medium-sized red skin potatoes

1 tsp Spanish paprika

Sunflower or Canola oil for cooking

Fish Stew Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Fish Stew
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Directions for Stew

1. In a covered sauté pan, cook the fish in the oil and a little bit of water (about 1-2 tbsp) to keep it from sticking.

2.  While the fish is cooking, in a separate stew pot cook the garlic in oil for a few minutes.  Add the tomatoes when the garlic becomes translucent.  Cook the tomatoes on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the olives and herbs.

3.  Turn down the heat and allow the tomato mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft but not mushy.

4.  Add the fish to the tomatoes.

Potatoes

1. While the tomatoes are simmering, add the potatoes to a large sauté pan.

2. Sprinkle with paprika and cook in oil.

3. When browned on one side, turn the potatoes over with a spatula and brown them on the other side.

Assembly

1. Separate the potatoes into four portions and place into bowls or on plates.

2. Top with fish stew.

3. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

4. Note:  The stew can be eaten directly after cooking.  Allowing it to sit in the refrigerator overnight, though, allows the flavors to mix.  Surprisingly, this stew is even more flavorful the day after it’s been made!

5. Happy New Year!

Fish Stew  Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Fish Stew
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

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Christmas Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Avocado, and Pistachios

Christmas Salad Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Christmas Salad
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

This salad is one of simplest tasks you might undertake this holiday season.  The ruby red pomegranate seeds provide a vibrant contrast to the green ingredients.  Pomegranate seeds are high in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. The avocadoes are high in monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acids, especially oleic acid.  They also have more potassium than bananas.  Chopped pistachios add crunch and another layer of green.  Nuts are recommended as part of a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet, and have been linked to decreased risk for heart disease and other inflammatory disorders.

This recipe is gluten and dairy free.

Serves 4.

Christmas Salad Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Christmas Salad
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Ingredients

1 medium-sized head of Boston lettuce

1 1/2-2 cups pomegranate seeds

2 avocadoes, cubed

1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

Directions

1. Break up the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and arrange in four bowls.

2. Divide the chopped avocado equally and place atop the lettuce.

3. Scatter the pomegranate seeds atop the avocadoes.

4. Sprinkle each salad with chopped pistachios.

5. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze.

6. Happy Holidays!

Christmas Salad Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Christmas Salad
Photo by Veronica Hackethal


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Astoria: Athens in New York City

Pomegranate Seeds for Sale on the Streets of Astoria, a Greek Neighborhood of Queens Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Pomegranate Seeds for Sale on the Streets of Astoria, a Greek Neighborhood in Queens
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

On Saturday, I ran out of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO to the initiated).  So I voyaged to Astoria, the Athens of New York City.  The Greek section of Astoria centers around 30th Ave., and  shopkeepers here greet you with “Yassas.”  Newstands carry Greek newspapers.  Produce markets label fruits and vegetables with their Greek names.  And locals congregate in the many sidewalk cafes, to while away the afternoon.

I can’t go to Astoria without developing eyes as round as saucers. I usually bring an extra bag for collecting the spoils of my foraging, but it’s never big enough. At the end of the day, my arms always feel like they’ve stretched down to my ankles with all the heavy bags I’m carrying.  Things don’t look nearly as heavy on the shelf.

While I was discovering all the amazing food, I got so distracted that I forgot the olive oil!

Omonia Café

Located one subway stop away from 30th Ave., Omonia Café at 32-30 Broadway was established in 1977.  Aside from the jaw-dropping desserts, Omonia is famous for making the wedding cake in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”  The cafe has since expanded into Omonia Next Door at 32-18 Broadway, which overflows with tempting Greek and Italian pastries and over-the-top cakes.  Browsing is guilt-free, as long as you can resist going overboard.

My favorite cookies are the simplest:  Melomakarona. They’re Greek honey cookies staggered with walnuts.  My theory allows rare indulgences.  Melomakarona are so sweet that one or two cookies completely satisfies.  Or share a dessert with a friend.  Don’t eat the whole thing yourself!

Nose to Window:  Temptations Abound at Omonia Café Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Nose to Window: Temptations Abound at Omonia Café
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Baklava-- Of Course! Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Baklava– Of Course!
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Baklava Cheesecake Anyone? Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Baklava Cheesecake Anyone?
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Omonia Café Takes Strong Willpower--  Share with a Friend! Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Omonia Café Takes Strong Willpower– Share with a Friend!
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Christmas Cookies at Omonia Next Door Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Christmas Cookies at Omonia Next Door
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Definitely Share with a Friend! Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Definitely Share with a Friend!
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Melomakarona are so good that only three were left.  I bought them out! Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Melomakarona are so good that only three were left. I cleaned them out!
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

More Melomakarona, and Powdered Almond Paste Cookies.  There's a cherry inside! Photo by Veronica Hackethal

More Melomakarona, and Powdered Almond Paste Cookies. There’s a cherry inside!
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

United Brothers Fruit Market

United Brothers Fruit Market, on the corner of 30th Ave. and 33rd St. literally overflows with fresh fruits and vegetables.  The quality is higher and the prices lower than you’ll see in Manhattan.  Here you can find bitter greens for your horta fix (stewed bitter greens with lemon and olive oil, ubiquitous on Greek tables).

United Brothers Market on 30th Ave, in Astoria Photo by Veronica Hackethal

United Brothers Market on 30th Ave, in Astoria
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Whole Pomegranates-- Mediterranean Super Foods! Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Whole Pomegranates– Mediterranean Super Foods!
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Dandelion Greens for Horta at United Brothers Fruit Market Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Dandelion Greens for Horta at United Brothers Fruit Market
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Baby Eggplant at United Brothers Fruit Market Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Baby Eggplant at United Brothers Fruit Market
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Artichokes at United Brothers Fruit Market Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Artichokes at United Brothers Fruit Market
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Ocean Fish

Ocean Fish, at 3508 35th St. at 30th Ave., carries all sorts of fishy delights.  From live eels, to live lobsters, to fresh clams and oysters, it’s easy to stock up with fish high in omega-6 fatty acid.  Above the register, the shop displays a sign that reads “Seafood– For a Better life.  Healthy Beginnings. Strong Hearts. Long Lives.  Smart Minds.” Who said healthy and fun don’t go together?

Ocean Fish Carries All Manner of Fresh Fish, Crustaceans, and Other Watery Creatures. Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Ocean Fish Carries All Manner of Fresh Fish, Crustaceans, and Other Watery Creatures.
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Lobster! Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Lobster!
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Deciding What's for Dinner can be Challenging at Ocean Fish Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Deciding What’s for Dinner can be Challenging at Ocean Fish
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Mediterranean Foods Inc.

Feta, and (Who Knew?)Greek Flags! Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Feta, and (Who Knew?) Greek Flags!
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Mediterranean Foods Inc. carries almost any kind of Greek food you could ever want.  There’s feta in every shape and size, a bar with olives from all over Greece, honey from Cyprus, dried herbs in colossal quantities, and even jam made of mastic (a piney-tasting tree resin).  I was so distracted by the prostate and blood-fat lowering teas that I completely overlooked the olive oil.  But there’s plenty of that, too.

Olive Bar at Mediterranean Foods, Inc. Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Olive Bar at Mediterranean Foods, Inc.
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

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Harvard Researchers Find Nut Consumption Linked to Lower Mortality

Almonds are packed full of nutrients, including calcium!

Almonds are packed full of nutrients, including calcium!

A new study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine has found nut consumption to be linked to decreased all-cause mortality.

In the study, researchers at Harvard Medical School looked at 76,464 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study (which includes over 121,700 female nurses in 7 states, begun in 1976).  They also looked at 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (comprised of 51,529 men in 50 states, begun in 1986).  The eating habits of men and women were investigated using self-reported food questionnaires.  The women were followed for 30 years, and the men were followed for 24 years.

The researchers found that there were 16,200 deaths among the female study group, and 11, 229 deaths among the male study group.  People who ate nuts more frequently had a 20% lower all-cause death rate, than people who refrained from eating nuts.  More specifically, nut-eaters were less likely to die from cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. The consumption of peanuts versus other types of nuts did not seem to make a difference in the reduced death rate.

Since nuts are high in fat, people sometimes have concerns that nut consumption can lead to weight gain.  But the Harvard researchers found no evidence to bear this out.  Instead, their study showed nut consumption to be associated with less weight gain, a finding that has been corroborated by other studies.

The researchers propose that the types of fats and nutrients contained in nuts may explain their health benefits.  Nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins such as folate, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and phytochemicals like carotenoids, flavonoids, and and phytosterols.  Flavonoids, in particular, have antioxidant and antiinflamatory properties that could be helpful in promoting heart health and protecting against cancer.

Limitations of this study include recall bias, which is the propensity for some people to inaccurately report past events due to difficulty remembering them.  Recall bias is an inherent problem in most studies that rely on self-reported food questionnaires.  However, this study’s large size and long follow-up period help to decrease inaccuracies that could arise from recall bias.

Past studies have linked nut consumption with improved heart health, blood cholesterol, blood sugar control, and reduced risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer and other gastrointestinal diseases, as well as reduced death from inflammatory disorders.  Since 2003, the FDA has recommended that eating 1.5 oz of nuts per day, in conjunction with a lowfat diet, can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Nuts have the added advantage of promoting feelings of satiety, which helps curb hunger and aids in weight control.  So the next time you need a snack, consider reaching for almonds or walnuts rather than a bag of Ruffles.  Just make sure you stick to a handful of nuts, and go for the unsalted kind.  And for Pete’s sake, stay away from chocolate-coated versions!  Over time, you might start to prefer pure, natural nuts, and your heart will thank you.

Walnuts.wikimedia

Walnuts are satisfying for dessert, combined with a piece of fruit like an apple, orange, or even figs. Yum!

Photo Attributions:

Almonds: By Koyaanis Qatsi at en.wikipedia Later versions were uploaded by Ericd at en.wikipedia. [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Walnuts: By Silvio Tanaka (originally posted to Flickr as Árvoros somos Nozes) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Roasted Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranite Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

With three main ingredients, this recipe’s as simple as it gets.  But don’t let that fool you.  It’s bursting with flavor.

Tahini (roasted sesame paste) naturally complements the eggplant.  Sesame is popular in the Middle East, where it’s thought to have been domesticated more than 3000 years ago.  The long history of sesame reveals itself in its name, which derives from Latin (sesamum), Greek (sésamon), Hebrew (sumsum), Arabic (simsim), Aramaic (shūshӗmā), Babylonian (shawash-shammu), Assyrian (shamash-shammū) and ancient Egyptian (sesemt).  All of which sound suspiciously like sesame, and mean something like “plant oil.”

The medicinal uses of sesame are mentioned in ancient Egyptian papyri. In ancient Babylon, sesame was mixed with honey to make halva, and eaten to enhance beauty and youth.  Roman soldiers may have eaten halva for strength and energy. Sesame plants contain a lignin which has been studied for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential.  Due to its high oil content, sesame also acts as a natural laxative (so use moderately).

Tahini sauce usually contains lemon juice.  I have left out the lemon juice, since the pomegranate seeds (also very high in antioxidants) already contribute enough acid to this recipe.

This recipe is gluten and dairy free.

Ingredients

Tahini Paste Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Tahini Paste
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into slices

Ground salt (for preparing the eggplant)

1-2 tbsp sunflower oil

2 tbsp tahini paste (roasted sesame paste)

4 tbsp water

1/4-1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1. Prepare the eggplant:  Sprinkle with salt and let stand for about 30 minutes.  This draws out the bitterness from the eggplant, making it taste more creamy when cooked.

2. Rinse the eggplant of any extra salt.

Note:  There is no need for extra salt in this recipe, as the eggplant absorbs some of the salt during its preparation. It is important to rinse off extra salt to avoid too much salt in this dish!

3. Heat the sunflower oil in a cast-iron skillet (I like to use cast-iron for roasting– it holds heat better and adds a little extra iron to the food).

4. Place the eggplant in the skillet and roast on medium heat until the top side glistens slightly.  When one side has browned, flip over and brown the other side.

5. While the eggplant is cooking, prepare the tahini sauce:  Add the water to the tahini paste, and mix well with a fork (you can also do this with a blender, but it makes for messier clean-up).  Add more water as desired.  The sauce should not be too thick, as this will mask the flavor of the eggplant.

6. Remove the eggplant once it has browned on both sides.  Place in serving dishes. Drizzle with the tahini sauce.  Scatter the pomegranate seeds on top.

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

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Pumpkin Soup with Caramelized Onions, Turmeric and Coconut Cream

Pumpkin Soup with Caramelized Onions, Turmeric, and Coconut Cream Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Pumpkin Soup with Caramelized Onions, Turmeric, and Coconut Cream
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

This soup is a pretty starter for Thanksgiving dinner– or any meal, for that matter. It’s light and simple to make.  The few ingredients don’t mask the fresh, natural taste of the pumpkin.  Turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory properties, helps maintain the pretty yellow color of the pumpkin.

Rather than heavy cream or milk common in many pumpkin soup recipes, I use powdered coconut cream.  It can be found in many Asian specialty food markets.  Here in New York, where buying groceries entails carrying heavy bags down long blocks and sometimes up and down subway stairs, the powdered coconut cream doesn’t weigh down my grocery bags.  Another advantage is that I can reconstitute it with as much, or little, liquid as required (and it’s also less expensive than canned coconut milk).  If you can’t find powdered coconut cream, canned coconut milk still works nicely, though.

This recipe is dairy and gluten free.

Powdered Coconut Cream Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Powdered Coconut Cream
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Ingredients

1 small sugar pumpkin

1 tsp turmeric

1 packet powdered coconut cream

2 cups water

1 medium sized yellow onion, sliced

1 tbsp sunflower oil

Garnish:  sprigs of rosemary

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling

Directions

1. Cut the pumpkin into quarters, scoop out the pulp and seeds (you can save the seeds for later, for making roasted pumpkin seeds).  Wrap the pumpkin in tin foil, place on cookie sheet, and bake in oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the pumpkin is soft when punctured by a fork.  If you have a vegetable steamer that is large enough, you can also steam the pumpkin.

Note:  Do not boil the pumpkin.  The nutrients will leach out into the water as it boils.

2. When the pumpkin is soft, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool.

3.  Once cooled, scoop the pumpkin out of the rind.  Discard the rind, and place the pumpkin in a large sauce pan.  There is no need to puree the pumpkin, as the pulp will break down with stirring as the soup cooks.

4. Reconstitute the coconut cream with two cups water, and add it to the pumpkin.

5.  Add the turmeric.

6. Simmer the pumpkin soup for about 15 min. Add more water as necessary.

7. While the pumpkin is simmering, saute the onion slices in the sunflower oil on medium heat until translucent.  Then turn up nearly to high heat to caramelize them, stirring almost constantly so that the onions don’t burn.

8. Once the onions have caramelized, turn off the heat and remove them from the pan (if you leave them in the pan, they will continue to cook in the hot oil).

9. Ladle the soup into bowls, arrange onions on top, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil as desired.

Pumpkin Soup with Caramelized Onions, Turmeric and Coconut Cream Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Pumpkin Soup with Caramelized Onions, Turmeric and Coconut Cream
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

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Broccoli with Orange Zest, Garlic, and Anchovies

Brocolli with Orange Zest, Garlic, and Anchovies Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Broccoli with Orange Zest, Garlic, and Anchovies
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Recently, Michael Moss and the New York Times started a Broccoli vs. Kale War.  They enlisted one of the nation’s top ad agencies to gussy up broccoli’s image.  Call me clueless, but I don’t know what all the hoopla is about.  Quite honestly, I’m sick of kale.

Broccoli has always been one of my favorite veggies.  Especially when it’s served with orange zest, garlic, and anchovies, like in this recipe.  If the last ingredient gives you jitters, don’t worry.  This recipe doesn’t taste fishy at all.  The anchovies just add depth of flavor and a little bit of salt, making a salt shaker unnecessary.

This recipe is dairy and gluten free.

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients

One bunch of broccoli, cut into medium-sized florets

4 cloves of garlic

Zest from one orange

Fresh squeezed juice from one orange

3-4 anchovies, chopped

1-2 tbsp sunflower oil (for cooking)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling

Brocolli with Orange Zest, Garlic, and Anchovies Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Brocolli with Orange Zest, Garlic, and Anchovies
Photo by Veronica Hackethal

Directions

1. Add the oil and garlic to the pan.  Cook for a few minutes on medium heat, until the garlic starts to glisten but before it starts to brown.

2.  Add the broccoli and orange juice, stirring to disperse the garlic so that it doesn’t stay on the bottom of the pan and brown (Or– horrors– even burn!)

3. Cover and cook about 15 minutes, until the broccoli is bright green and slightly tender, but not mushy.

4. When the broccoli is cooked, turn off the heat.  Add the orange zest and anchovies, stirring well to mix.

5. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive oil.

6. Kale better run and hide. It’s got serious competition.

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