“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are,” Brillat-Savarin wrote in his masterwork, The Physiology of Taste, a collection of recipes and parables with topics ranging from “the inconvenience of obesity,” to digestion, to food’s effect on dreams, and so much more.
“Those who have been too long at their labor, who have drunk too long at the cup of voluptuousness, who feel they have become temporarily inhumane, who are tormented by their families, who find life sad and love ephemeral…they should all eat chocolate and they will be comforted.”
Elsewhere he asks of Adam and Eve, “You first parents of the human race … who ruined yourselves for an apple, what might you not have done for a truffled turkey?”
When thinking about diet, or sitting down to dinner, it often strikes me that comfort, and for that matter, pleasure, beauty, and happiness, is at least as important as nutrition.
After all, how you eat is an essential expression of who you are. And often, this expression has little to do with what you eat. A cupcake eaten with joy is superior to a bowl of brown rice eaten with penance. Good food, eaten with good company, inspires an inner joy so simple and sustaining that even a tiny olive fulfills. Without this joy, the most wholesome food can seem tasteless and unsatisfying.
In this spirit, I hope to offer a smattering of “lockdown recipes,” each developed with wholesomeness and pleasure in mind.
The “morning elixir”–the term was coined, to my knowledge, by Paul Pritchford–refers to a morning cleansing drink. Often, upon awakening, we are thirsty but not hungry; often, too, our stomachs are empty, and we might benefit from a cleansing elixir.
Depending upon your constitution, typical elixirs might include purified water, herbal tea, warm broth, vegetable juices, greens drinks, or fresh lemon juice in purified water.
After my morning tonic, I fast (see below) until lunch or sometimes until dinner, drinking only one cup of organic coffee with theanine in the morning and organic green tea or organic turmeric tea in the afternoon.
I’ve followed a routine of time-restricted eating for a decade or more. Most people might do this inadvertently, but most of us also snack and nibble throughout the day between meals. For me, the key is to not eat anything between meals, for a period of 12-22 hours or more.
My personal practice is quite simple: I skip breakfast. By skipping breakfast, I usually create about 16 hours (from about 8:30 PM the previous night to 12:30 PM that day) when I do not consume food.
The emerging science behind time-restricted eating has discovered that when fasting our bodies may switch from growth to repair mode–a process known as “autophagy.”
A Japanese scientist, Yoshinori Ohsumi, won the 2016 Novel Prize for “his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.” As the prize committee states: autophagy is “a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.”
More importantly, however, time-restricted eating has helped me discover a greater joy in my diet. I am more conscientious about how, why, and when I eat.
A Perfect Pot of Oatmeal
This recipe, which I originally developed for Whole Foods, takes cues from both Cook’s Illustrated, who suggest using longer-cooking steel-cut oats and Peter Berley, who suggests soaking the oats overnight in a souring agent, such as yogurt, to promote lactic-acid formation. The final dish is delicious and creamy with a slight tang. Steel-cut oats take longer to cook than rolled oats, but much of the cooking time requires minimal attention.
1 cup steel-cut oats
3 1/2 cups spring water
1/4 cup plain full-fat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh sliced apples, yogurt, or nuts for topping
In a heavy saucepan, combine the oats, water, and yogurt. Cover the pan and soak overnight, 8 to 10 hours.
In the morning, put the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a lively simmer. Simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the salt and stir lightly with a wooden spoon. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until oats have absorbed most of the water and the oatmeal is thick and creamy, 5-7 minutes.
Let the oatmeal stand off the heat for 5 minutes. Serve topped with fresh apple slices, yogurt, or crushed nuts.
Other Good Morning Options:
During “normal” life, many of us eat hurried lunches in harried environments. If anything, the quarantine offers an opportunity to recalibrate our relationship with lunch.
My own relationship with lunch is informed by the time I spent in Italy and Spain during my early twenties. Both cultures view lunch as the main meal, a time to rest and relax with family and friends.
When I do not have time for a proper lunch, I often fast or eat simply: a few poached eggs or sardines and salad. When I do have time for a proper lunch, I inevitably start with soup, the true centerpiece of my diet, perhaps my life. I also usually eat tempeh and salad.
Carrot Ginger Soup
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or grassfed butter
2 medium onions (preferably sweet onions), diced
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh turmeric
1 teaspoon dried turmeric powder
5 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ slices
5 cups vegetable stock or bone broth
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup full fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, cover, turn heat to low, and sauté until translucent, 10-12 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, turmeric powder, and1 teaspoon sea salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, for two minutes.
Add broth, carrots, and baking soda. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat. Cook until carrots are tender (20-25 minutes).
When cooled, working in small batches, puree soup with coconut milk in blender until very smooth. Return pureed soup to pot and add carrot juice and vinegar. Bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste.
In this recipe, thick rounds of zucchini are seared in a piping hot pan — cast iron is best — until just blackened, then tossed with olive oil. This is a summer recipe that adapts easily to most seasons. In Philly, we get local zukes (hothouse) throughout the fall, even into the winter, but summer zukes are undoubtedly the best.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large green zucchini
Slice zucchini into large rounds. Warm a 10-inch skillet (cast iron is best) until very hot. Place zucchini in pan and sear over high heat, until blackened, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip onto other side and sear additional 2 to 3 minutes, until both sides are blackened. Toss with olive oil and sea salt. Serve as is or with mashed avocado.
Good Lunchtime Recipes:
I look forward to dinner all day. To me, dinner is the point. Dinner absolves the day’s hassles. Dinner redeems the day’s failures. Without dinner, the day has no structure, no purpose. Dinner is not only food–it is communion, with others, with ourselves. Immersed in our daytime ambitions and jobs and twitter accounts, we might lose sight of those we love; we might lose sight of ourselves. Dinner saves us. When we sit down to dinner, we settle back into ourselves; we become human again.
Perfect Grilled Chicken
One small chicken – 3 1/2 pounds
2 teaspoons each sea salt, sugar, and brown sugar
To stuff: 1 chopped onion, sliced lemon, or chopped apple, tossed with herbs or spices
Pat the chicken very dry and season on all sides (and inside the cavity) with sea salt, sugar, and brown sugar. Air dry on a rack in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days before cooking. Before cooking, stuff the bird with any of following: chopped onion, sliced lemon, or chopped apple, tossed with any of the following: chopped fresh parsley, oregano, or thyme, or dried crushed fennel seeds.
When you’re ready to grill the chicken, cook breast-side down over indirect heat on medium-high (400-425 degrees) for 25 minutes. With a pair of tongs, flip the bird breast-side up for another 25 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the grill and set on a cutting board. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve.
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and left whole
4-6 tablespoons grassfed butter
1/2 cup coconut milk (full-fat is best)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 25-35 minutes. Drain. Reserve pot for mashing.
Meanwhile, warm the coconut milk in a medium saucepan over low heat. Season the coconut milk with sea salt, and black pepper to taste.
While still warm, cut each potato and place the potatoes, skin-on, into a food ricer or food mill. Extrude into empty pot.
Alternately, gently mash the potatoes with a potato masher.
Add grassfed butter. Add the warmed coconut milk, and gently season with additional salt and pepper, adjusting seasonings to taste.
Boiled Potatoes with Grassfed Butter and Herbs
1 1/2 pounds petite red or fingerling potatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons grassfed salted butter
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Place potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a knife, 18 to 20 minutes. Drain well.
In a small mixing bowl, add butter, olive oil, and sea salt to taste to drained potatoes and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding additional salt and pepper if needed.
Good Dinnertime Recipes: