Broiled cod with lemon and herbs

We’ve been on a cod kick lately! It’s good for you, not too heavy, and versatile. Not long ago I posted a recipe in a tomato-based sauce and today I’m sharing a simple butter and herb spread that is quick to make, flavorful, and allows the delicate flavor of the cod to take center stage. The recipe is from weight watchers, originally done using Halibut, and can be found by clicking here. It can be made with any of your favorite white fishes.

Marco isn’t concerned about his weight, but after some winter weight gain, he likes to prepare for bathing suit season with a focused effort using the weight watchers app. It’s a very simple system that helps users pay attention to the caloric value of foods. Rather than calories, however, weight watchers calculates point values. So, Marco has a 30 point daily target. The cod recipe pictured here is only 3 points.

When I speak with my clients about healthy eating and weight, I encourage them to think about food intake, the amount of energy we expend in a day, and the simple reality of the scale. If our weight is holding steady, then we are getting the same number of calories that we are using up. If we are gaining weight, then we are eating more than we need. If we are losing weight, this means we are using more energy than the calories we are consuming.

The beauty of the weight watchers method is its behavioral component. The act of valuing each morsel that goes into our mouths is a simple yet profound teaching tool. If I put this chocolate in my mouth, then the point value goes to my daily tally. Likewise, this glass of wine is 5 points. Then, when I learn that fruits and vegetables have 0 point values, I’m likely to eat more of these! So, in a very practical, deliberate way I am able to achieve Michael Pollan’s  maxim of “Eat food.  Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Ingredients:

  • cod
  • salt and pepper
  • butter
  • fresh lemon
  • parsley or basil

Process:

  1. broiler on high
  2. rub salt and pepper on both sides of the fish
  3. place on a pan and put small pices of butter on each piece of fish
  4. broil for 10-12 minutes or until done to your preference
  5. plate the fish, drizzle with lemon juice, sprinkle with parsley or basil

Simple Garlic chicken 

  

Here’s a very simple but elegant meal with beautiful color, mild sherry garlic flavor, and satisfying texture. Marco and I served this at our recent Spanish-themed tapas evening. It can be served as a tapas for many to share or a meal. In the photo above we served it alongside the pan roasted mix of peppers capers and balsamic vinegar (click here for that recipe).

Ingredients (recipe comes from Christine Watson’s “500 Tapas: The Only Tapas Compendium You’ll Ever Need”):

  • 4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces 
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 4 large garlic cloves 
  • 1/2 cup good quality sherry (such as fino)
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley 

Process:

  1. sauté the garlic in the heated olive oil 
  2. when the garlic is light brown, remove and set aside
  3. salt and pepper the chicken and then lightly flour 
  4. sauté the chicken for 3 minutes each side or until cooked through 
  5. return the garlic to the pan
  6. add the sherry and brandy and flambé if you’re feeling brave or gently simmer until it boils down to 1 or 2 tablespoons 
  7. stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper 

Buon appetito!

Magic bread…or bread that even Katherine can’t f**k up!

We joke with our friend Katherine about her cooking. One time, she made an Elephant Walk recipe of a French-Cambodian dish with shrimp. She was missing an ingredient and improvised a little bit. The result was a purplish-brown mush! It tasted great, but from then on we kid her about the color of her cooking and the penchant for throwing in a spontaneous spice or last minute addition. She gets an A+ for creativity but the grade for the result is not always as high.

So, our name for this bread is a nod to her chef skills. This bread is so easy that she cannot mess it up. It is also magic bread. It’s magic because you won’t believe that the floury paste pictured below can become the gorgeous loaf of bread in the photo above. Three minutes of mixing, 12-18 hours of sitting, 30 minutes in a French (“Dutch”) oven, and another 15 minutes uncovered and we have a wonderful crusty bread worthy of the best artisanal bakeries.

The recipe came from the blog “Simply So Good” and the full write up can be found by clicking here.  She credits the recipe to the New York Times and isn’t sure when it first appeared, but it was highlighting a recipe of Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery (click here), creator of “the revolutionary no-work, no-knead method.” Of course, bread has been made from flour, salt, yeast and water for 30,000 years give or take. What makes this bread unique is the ease, the fact that it is no-knead, and the French oven.

Here’s the full recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Process:

  1. in a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast
  2. add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.
  3. cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours, overnight works great
  4. heat oven to 450 degrees
  5. when the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes
  6. meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball
  7. cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating
  8. remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough, cover and return to oven for 30 minutes
  9. after 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes
  10. remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.

This is the look of the dough rising for the 12-18 hours. Be sure and have it in a bowl that allows it to double in size:

The dough on the floured surface, before making it into a ball:

Here’s the ball:

The ball covered with plastic for 30 minutes while the French oven is heating up:

The dough dropped into the oven:

After the 30 minute baking time, taking the cover off:

Voilà!

Had to add this photo so that you can see more of the magic:

Buon appetito!

Live-it, don’t die-it!


A client came to my office this week with a healthy eating pamphlet in her hands and a vow to begin a diet. While I supported her goal, I also shared my opinion that diets don’t work. Research suggests that once a diet ends, people generally gain the weight back and then some! It’s better to create lifestyle habits that promote health and wellness. She decided to make a couple of small lifestyle changes in her eating habits.

Another client shared the frustrations of losing his memory as he ages. He also asked if I would do a little research on foods that promote brain health and improve memory. One food that kept coming up in the literature is fish. Salmon, in particular, is one of the proteins that is promoted for brain health because of the Omega 3 fatty acids. In addition to helping with depression and memory, this is a helpful food for coronary health.

The salmon meal pictured here came from a recipe through Weight Watchers (click here for the recipe). It’s a quick, healthy, and tasty meal. We had it with some Haricots Verts parboiled and sautéed in a little butter. In addition, we threw some whole grain red rice in the rice cooker to add a nice nutty grain to our balanced meal. Apart from the hour in the rice cooker, the prep and cooking time for the fish and the beans is under 20 minutes.

In my counseling practice, I promote lifestyle medicine (click here to learn more). It is a simple idea that our lifestyles, including the foods we eat, the movement in our days, the meditation or relaxation techniques we practice, the quality of our sleep, and the social connections we cultivate all have an impact on our overall health and wellness. And, while the idea is simple, the practice of lifestyle changes is not. The part of our brain that forms habits like addiction, sugar, fat, and salt craving, and other unhealthy habits operates quickly and easily. We all know this by how hard it is to resist the things that harm us. On the other hand, the part of the brain that involves self-regulation is much more complicated and makes it harder to do the things that, over time, keep us much healthier and well.

The hard reality is that we often have to use the power of our will and determination to do the things that produce healthy outcomes. So, we have to push ourselves to take that walk despite the yucky weather conditions. The conscious self-talk of the Japanese who say before a meal, “I will eat till I’m 80% full” might help us to monitor meal portions. A 10-minute body-soothing, mind-calming relaxation response practice each day will be the mechanism to manage the stress response from our anxiety filled lives.

Buon appetito!

Ten minute tomato cod


The Mediterranean diet is often held up as one of the healthiest. The Mayo Clinic summarizes it this way:  “The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:  1. eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, 2. replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil, 3. using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods, 4. limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month, 5. eating fish and poultry at least twice a week, 6. drinking red wine in moderation (optional)” (citation here). Marco and I pretty much follow this model, and, we love to eat good food while still keeping our doctor happy with the medical numbers.

This week’s recipe is an excellent example of the Mediterranean way of life (I dislike the word diet). It is a quick and delicious north Atlantic cod cooked with olive oil, some garlic, capers, anchovies, and our canned fresh tomatoes. You can play with the numbers, but for us three we used 5 ounces of cod per person, 2 cloves of garlic, one anchovy, 2 tablespoons of capers, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 cups of canned fresh tomatoes, and salt to taste.

First, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the garlic slices, capers, and anchovy.

Then, add the tomatoes and let simmer on low heat for about 6 minutes, adding salt to taste.

When you’re ready to eat, add the fish, cover the pan and cook gently for about 4 minutes.

We had the fish with haricot vert and a baguette!

Buon appetito!