Healthy Recipe, Charred Zucchini and Scallion Pasta

It’s amazing how much depth of flavor can be achieved from basic ingredients with a few tweaks in the cooking, as Yasmin Fahr demonstrates in this recipe from “Cook Simply, Live Fully.” Here, summer squash, which tends to be bland, is charred first in a dry skillet with thin slivers of lemon and scallions. Olive oil, grated Parmesan, and the starchy water from the cooked pasta transforms into a creamy sauce rich with umami rather than fat. Not only is it healthy, delicious, and filling, but it’s also easy on the wallet and a snap to make. Serves 4. – Susan Puckett

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 2 large or 3 medium zucchini or other summer squash
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 scallions
  • ¾ pound rigatoni, fusilli, ziti, or other short tubular dried pasta
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, or more, as needed
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water seasoned with about a tablespoon of salt to a boil. Meanwhile, halve the zucchini or squash lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and cut into ½-inch-thick half-moons and set aside.
  2. Cut the lemon in half. Leave one half of the lemon whole for squeezing. Slice the other half into thin rounds, poke the seeds out, and cut the slices into ¼-inch-thick matchsticks. Set aside. Then trim the roots and thinly slice scallions.
  3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions until slightly underdone by a minute or two. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, heat a dry 12-inch cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the zucchini to the dry pan, season lightly with salt, spread out in an even layer and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Then flip with a spatula, scooting some of the slices up to rest on the sides of the pan if it looks crowded. Allow the slices to cook again, undisturbed, for 2 more minutes. Repeat this flipping process in 2-minute increments until the zucchini is browned in spots, 6 to 8 minutes total.
  6. Add the sliced lemon and scallions to the zucchini and cook until softened, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in the olive oil and season lightly with salt.
  7. Lower the heat to medium. Add the cooked pasta, ½ cup of the pasta water, and ¾ cup of the Parmesan, stirring well to form a creamy sauce. Add more water if the sauce looks too dry or more cheese if the sauce looks too watery.
  8. Remove from the heat, squeeze in the reserved lemon half, and stir. Season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes, if desired.

Healthy Recipe, Spiced Meatballs

Here’s a fun idea for your next outdoor get-together that’s more exciting than burgers and hot dogs and has more nutritional value to offer as well. It’s adapted from a recipe inspired by a Moroccan chef on the French Riviera in Rosa Jackson’s “Nicoise: Market-Inspired Cooking from France’s Sunniest City.”

Made with ground lamb or beef, the cumin-spiced meatballs are loaded with vitamin-rich herbs and can be cooked on the grill or stovetop. A drizzle of paprika-spiked yogurt and a side of lemony chickpea salad eliminates the need for mayo or a bun. A simple lettuce and tomato salad tossed in a light vinaigrette adds just the right touch of color and crunch to round out the meal while keeping the fat and carbs under control. Serves 4-6. – Susan Puckett

Ingredients
Chickpea Salad:

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup thinly sliced cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and pale green parts only
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus more
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Meatballs

  • 2 ounces day-old sourdough bread or baguette
  • ½ cup milk
  • 16 to 18 ounces ground lamb (or beef)
  • ½ cup finely minced red onion
  • 2 finely minced garlic cloves
  • ½ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup neutral oil (if pan-frying)

Sauce

  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika or chili powder

Instructions

  1. Make the salad: In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, cilantro, parsley, scallions, ¼ cup of the lemon juice, olive oil, and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add more lemon juice if desired. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 hours.
  2. Make the meatballs: Break the bread into chunks, place in a small bowl and cover with milk. Set aside for at least 15 minutes or until milk is well absorbed.
  3. Place the meat in a large bowl, Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, mint, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, ginger, and egg. Squeeze the milk out of the bread and add the bread to the mixture, discarding any pieces of crust that haven’t softened. Knead the mixture with your hands for up to a minute, until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  4. If grilling, prepare a medium fire in a gas or charcoal grill and shape the meat mixture into 2-inch balls (large enough so they   won’t slip through the grates) and flatten the meatballs slightly with a spatula.

If pan-frying, shape the meat into 1-inch balls. Heat the oil over medium-low heat and add enough meatballs to fill the pan without crowding. Flatten slightly with a spatula and cook, turning once, for 6 to 7 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through. (Take care not to use higher heat so the onion will have a chance to soften.)

  1. Make the sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt and paprika or chili powder.
  2. To serve: Arrange the meatballs on a platter alongside bowls of the chickpeas and the sauce. Drizzle the meatballs with the sauce or dip them into the bowl of sauce.

Healthy Recipe, Indian Okra

Okra is a staple of the American South: fried, pickled, stirred into gumbos. It’s also the primary component of a popular North Indian dish called bhindi (okra) masala, the inspiration behind this recipe lightly adapted from William Stark Dissen’s “Thoughtful Cooking: Recipes in the New South.” Bursting with bright curry spices and fresh herbs, it’s also loaded with nutrients and fiber. Pair it with rice and a yogurt-based sauce to make a quick vegetarian meal in a bowl. Serves 4.

Cucumber Raita: 

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons chopped mint leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste

Okra and Tomato Stew:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 pound okra, stems trimmed and sliced crosswise ½ inch thick
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Jasmine or other white rice and lime wedges for serving

Instructions

  1. Make the raita: In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, cilantro, mint, lime juice, cumin, garam masala, cayenne, and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Make the stew: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add the turmeric, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grindings of black pepper. Cook and stir until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes; cook and stir for a minute more. Add the okra; cook and stir for 2 minutes more.
  4. Cover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the okra is tender but not mushy, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in half the cilantro, lime juice, and garam masala.
  5. Divide the okra among serving bowls and garnish each with a dollop of raita and the remaining cilantro. Serve with rice and lime wedges.

Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.

Healthy Recipe, Quinoa Bowls 

This one-bowl vegetarian dish adapted from Clarissa Stanton’s new cookbook, “Seriously, So Good,” is so filling and flavor-packed, it’s hard to believe it’s good for you. And it’s a snap to assemble. Toss together chickpeas and veggies with a little olive oil and seasonings. Then roast them on a sheet pan while you blend lemony tahini sauce. Heap the roasted veggies and chickpeas artfully into a bowl alongside diced avocado and quinoa. Serves 4.
Roasted Chickpeas and Vegetables

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Lemon-Tahini Sauce

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ to ½ cup hot water (or more, as needed)

Bowls

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese or vegan feta (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, broccoli, red pepper and red onion. Add the olive oil, turmeric, garlic powder, ginger, salt, and pepper and toss to coat evenly.
  2. Spread out in a single layer on a large sheet pan and roast 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway through.
  3. Blend tahini, garlic, lemon juice, syrup or honey, salt, and cayenne. Slowly add hot water until the sauce is pourable.
  4. Scoop ½ cup of the quinoa into each bowl and divide the roasted chickpeas and vegetables, avocado, and feta between the bowls.
  5. Drizzle with the lemon-tahini sauce.

Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.

Healthy Recipe, Corn Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

Local sweet corn at its height of freshness is delicious straight off the cob. Here, those kernels are tossed together with other summery ingredients and simple dressing of olive oil and lime juice for a colorful, refreshing salad that’s portable for picnics and potlucks and infinitely adaptable. This recipe is lightly adapted from one in “Pizza Night,” and while it would indeed go well with your favorite slice, it also makes a nutrition-packed meal on its own when embellished with protein-rich edamame and feta cheese. It’s also good with chips. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup frozen, shelled edamame
  2. Kernels from 4 ears of corn
  3. 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  4. ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt, plus more, to taste
  5. Freshly ground black pepper
  6. ¼ cup extra virgin-olive oil, plus more, to taste
  7. 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more, to taste
  8. 1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  9. ¼ cup torn fresh mint leaves, finely chopped chives, or finely chopped green onions
  10. 1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and diced
  11. 4 ounces feta cheese, preferably in brine, cut in 1/8-inch-thick slabs

Instructions

  1. In a small pot of boiling water, blanch the edamame for 15 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water; pat dry.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the corn, tomatoes, edamame, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the olive oil and lime juice and toss.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings, lime juice, and olive oil as desired.
  4. Add the basil, mint, avocado, and feta. Toss gently and serve immediately.

Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.

Healthy Recipe, Chicken Thighs with Limes  

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a low-fat, low-cost protein source that’s convenient to have on hand. But without the skin and bones to keep them moist and hold them together, they can use some extra TLC in the prep. Here’s one fast and easy idea worth keeping in your back pocket, adapted from a recipe in Yasmin Fahr’s “Cook Simply, Live Fully. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more, as needed
  • 2 limes, zested and thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, or mint
  • Rice and green salad for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1.  Heat a broiler with a rack 6 inches from the heat source to high.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, Parmesan, sumac (if using), cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, the lime zest, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the chicken to the bowl and stir to coat.
  3. Arrange the lime rounds on a sheet pan (lined with parchment for easy clean-up if desired). Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and spread them out. Arrange the chicken pieces on the pan.
  4. Set the pan under the broiler and broil until the tops of the chicken pieces are lightly browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and broil 4 or 5 minutes longer, or until the chicken starts to darken. (To test for doneness, cut through a thick piece with a knife to see if the juices run clear.) If the chicken is charring too quickly, move the pan down a rack to finish cooking.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chicken and limes (which you can eat) with the herbs.  Serve with rice and salad, if desired.

Healthy Recipe, Rice Noodles, Shrimp and Cucumbers with Thai Flavors

Prik nam pla is the name of that little bowl of spicy, tangy, slightly sweet sauce on tables at Thai restaurants. The essential components are fish sauce, lime juice, chiles, and a touch of sweetener. Here, a version of that super-simple formula serves as a dressing for a light and lively whole-meal salad of rice noodles (often sold as pad thai noodles), shrimp, and a few vegetables and herbs. It’s based on one in Nigel Slater’s “A Cook’s Book.” Serves 2-3.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine, found in Asian food sections)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • Juice of 2 or 3 limes (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 1 minced chile pepper (Thai, serrano, or whatever you have), or dried red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 minced garlic clove (optional)
  • 8 ounces peeled, large raw shrimp
  • ½ medium cucumber, peeled
  • 1 small carrot, grated (optional)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
  • 4 ounces flat rice noodles (as for pad thai)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the fish sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, chile or pepper flakes, and garlic (if desired.) Add the shrimp, toss to coat, and set it aside for about 30 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  2. Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water according to package directions; drain in a colander.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. With a slotted spoon, add the shrimp, reserving the marinade, and let them cook for 2 minutes, just until they turn pink.
  4. Remove the shrimp to a large bowl and set aside. Then pour the marinade into the empty skillet and allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes until it’s reduced by about half.
  5. Add the drained noodles to the bowl, along with the cucumbers, carrot (if using), cilantro, and mint. Pour the hot marinade over the mixture and toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.

Healthy Recipe: Coconut Cream Overnight Oats

If you’re a fan of coconut cream pie, you’ll love this genius make-ahead breakfast idea lightly adapted from a recipe in Kat Ashmore’s “Big Bites.” Thickened with tiny, antioxidant-rich chia seeds, these grab-and-go treats are creamy, filling, refreshing, and packed with nutrients and fiber. A sprinkling of toasted coconut adds crunch. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Optional toppings: toasted shredded unsweetened coconut, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, mango, banana, toasted sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. Have ready four 12- to 16-ounce lidded wide-mouthed glass jars or other containers.
  2.  Shake or stir the coconut milk to blend if the cream and water have separated, then pour 1 cup of the blended coconut milk into a large bowl.
  3. Add the almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla, oats, chia seeds, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
  4. Divide among the jars, cover with lids, and refrigerate overnight. (The oats will keep in the refrigerator up to a week.)
  5. Serve with coconut or fruit of choice.

 

Healthy Recipe, Branzino with Asparagus and Scallions

Branzino is a mild, flaky white fish from the Mediterranean Sea that’s traditionally served whole, roasted or grilled, with little more than a squeeze of lemon to accentuate its naturally sweet, delicate flesh. Due to overfishing, much of it nowadays is farm-raised, making it widely available throughout US markets. In this recipe, adapted from one in Olga Massov and Sanae Lemoine’s “Hot Sheet,” branzino is the centerpiece of a fast, low-carb, one-pan meal. Rainbow trout or snapper will work just as well. Serves 2-4. – Susan Puckett

Ingredients

  1. 12 ounces asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  2. 2 bunches scallions, trimmed of dark green parts with roots intact
  3. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  4. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  5. 2 head-on whole branzino, gutted and scaled (1 to 1 1/2 pounds each); or 4 skin-on fillets of approximately the same size and shape (about 4 to 6 ounces each)
  6. 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  7. 1 lemon, thinly sliced, plus lemon wedges for serving
  8. 8 sprigs flat-leaf parsley (plus extra for garnish)
  9. 4 sprigs thyme, rosemary, or oregano (plus extra for garnish)
  10. Flaky sea salt

Instructions

  1. Position rack in middle of oven. Preheat to 450. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Place asparagus and scallions on parchment-lined pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, season with ½ teaspoon salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Shake pan lightly to coat.
  3. Pat dry fish dry and drizzle both sides with a little olive oil. If using whole fish, season inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff the fish cavities with garlic, lemon slices, and herb sprigs. If using fillets, sprinkle the flesh side with salt and pepper and cover two of the fillets evenly with the minced garlic, lemon slices, and herb sprigs. Lay the remaining fillets on top of each, flesh side down.
  4. Set reassembled fish on top of vegetables. Transfer pan to oven and roast 12 to 15 minutes or until the fish skin starts to blister, flesh turns opaque, flakes with fork.
  5. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes. (Fish will rise in temperature a few degrees out of oven, so don’t overcook.)
  6. Garnish fish and vegetables with extra herbs and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing, olive oil for drizzling, and flaky sea salt for sprinkling.

—  Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.

Chicken Peperonata

Peperonata is a rustic southern Italian dish of stewed sweet peppers, tomatoes, lots of garlic, and other savory ingredients. In this recipe, adapted from Ashley Rodriguez’s “Rooted Kitchen,” the mixture is a simmering sauce for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. But it would be just as delicious paired with shrimp, fish, white beans, or tofu for a low-carb, gluten-free meal. Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

  1. 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  2. Kosher salt
  3. 1 recipe Peperonata (recipe follows)
  4. 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley, basil, or mint
  5. Polenta, pasta, rice, or crusty bread for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Season both sides of the chicken thighs with about 1 teaspoon of salt.
  2. Scrape the Peperonata into a large skillet and submerge the chicken in the mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through.
  3. With tongs, remove the chicken to a cutting board, let cool slightly, then slice the chicken into ½-inch-thick strips. Return the strips to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes longer to fully heat through.
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. Serve warm, over pasta or grain of choice if desired, garnished with chopped herbs.

Charred Peperonata

  1. 2 pounds sweet peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips (use multi-colored peppers or all red — all green can be too bitter)
  2. 8 ounces cherry tomatoes
  3. 1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced
  4. 10 garlic cloves, sliced
  5. ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  6. ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  7. 2 teaspoons honey
  8. 2 teaspoons kosher salt (plus more, to taste)
  9. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  10. ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  11. ½ cup fresh basil leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the peppers, cherry tomatoes, onions, garlic, chile flakes, oil, vinegar, honey, 2 teaspoons salt, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine. Spread in a 9-by-13-inch pan.
  2. Roast for 30 minutes; stir and roast 30 minutes longer. Stir in the basil and continue to roast another 30 minutes or longer, until the peppers are meltingly tender, charred in some places, and almost saucy — about 1 ½ hours total.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool, the pack in a jar or other airtight container with a lid. The Peperonata will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to a year.

—  Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.