Finding simple methods to get dinner on the table during the work week is always a challenge. Having the will and skills beforehand is genius thereby creating your own palate preferences.
It’s a craft and investment to a delicious life on and off the plate.
Stew on this …
As one of the principles of nutritional therapy, enjoying a properly prepared, nutrient dense variety of whole foods is essential to optimizing our five foundations: digestion, sugar handling, essential fatty acids, minerals and hydration.
Choosing the right foods for your unique nutritional needs is part of eating healthy, but how you prepare that food also plays a role.
The changing season of darker days and colder nights have us wanting to ‘sup’ on something substantial and nourishing. Preparing soups, braising and stewing foods are ideal cooking techniques that happen to be the healthiest methods of cooking. Stewing is loosely defined as cooking meat, fish or vegetables in moist heat, a process by which food is allowed to simmer in a flavorful liquid. Braising is very similar and, therefore, one pot provides two easy and healthful cooking methods! The significance of soup, stews and braising provides us with an abundance of nutrients with taste and textures to make any cold winter day a warm culinary adventure. Soup has the most liquid of texture compared to pottages that are pureed thick enough to hold onto your spoon. Stew’s texture fall into the middle of not to thick or soupy.
Great! Now we can all “sop”, or “sup”, literally the Germanic root from the word supper meaning stew.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)
In regards to the nutritional appeal of stewing, Dr. Catherine Shanahan explains in her ground breaking book Deep Nutrition, that slower cooking temperatures help reduce chemical reactions among amino acids, creatines and sugars, which prevents the production of dangerous compounds that can damage our DNA.
Our modern diets are overwhelmingly heat – processed. Foods that have been exposed to high temperatures, as in grilling, frying or toasting, tend to be very high in these compounds called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). They are harmful compounds that are formed when protein or fat combine with sugar in the bloodstream. This process is called glycation.
In a culinary perspective, it can be useful and we can appreciate the taste, for example, of a warmed gooey roasted marshmallow that has glued itself to a graham cracker. The same thing happens in our bodies when circulating sugar starts to make our proteins stick together forming advanced glycated end products.
We consume AGEs when we eat any food exposed to extreme heat and it can be created inside our body from aging and from having high blood sugar. Once in the body, research is beginning to understand the negative effects it has on our health. By having fewer AGEs circulating in our system we can prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.
The autumn season means taking a break from our summer BBQs and so it is the perfect time to start consuming less AGEs. You can also reduce your intake of AGEs by using acids, such as lemon juice or vinegar, in your marinades to help decrease AGE formation. If you love Italian food, braised meatballs in tomato sauce is a great example of this concept; the acidity in tomatoes further reduces the AGE formations in the braising of meat.
Hello Lentil Stew
My personal favorite Fall to Winter stew is lentils. They are easy to store in your pantry, cook up quickly, and are rich in protein and fiber. Rethink these little legumes as not a drab health alternative, rather a versatile and tasty meal with an abundance of preparation options. Let your taste buds lead you to your own creative version.
Makes for four servings
1 medium head of cauliflower
3 small zucchini
1 bunch Tuscan Kale
4 zucchini flowers (depending on season)
Soffritto (means “softly fried”, and it’s actually the Italian version of “sweating”, or cooking aromatic vegetables at a low temperature)
1 large onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive oil plus a tablespoon
2 cups French or Black Beluga lentils
1 large chunk of Parmesan rind
4 large pasture raised eggs
¼ teaspoon of turmeric and black pepper
Set oven to 400 degrees. Wash and Prepare vegetables to roast. Cut cauliflower up into bite sized florets, and chop zucchini to approximately the same size. Toss together in roasting pan with olive oil, sea salt and place in oven until caramelized. Approximately 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, finely chop onion, fennel and carrots. Heat ¼ oil in a large saute pot over medium heat and add salt. Stir the soffrito occasionally until soft, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and continue to cook until well combined and very soft, for another 10 minutes. Careful not to burn it.
Add lentils and 6 cups pure filtered water. Place the parmesan rind on top of the mixture and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer until lentils are tender, 35-45 minutes depending on the variety. This is a good time to taste and season with salt if necessary.
Check your roasted vegetable and set to cool on the counter.
Add your chopped kale leaves into the simmering stew. Thin stew with water by ¼ cupfuls to loosen the stew if necessary.
Crack one of the four eggs into a ramekin, and with a back of a spoon push aside lentils to create a divot. Gently pour the egg from the ramekin into the divot. Repeat this process until all four eggs are poaching and set, 8 to 12 minutes.
Carefully divide stew and eggs among 4 large soup bowls, add your roasted veggies on top, drizzle extra olive oil, a dash of turmeric, black pepper, and extra grated parmesan on top.
TIP OF MY TONGUE
Additional Tips on how to stew anything
A comparison of best crockpots for your slow cooked dinners
An 80’s cool perspective of a stew pot to serve from stove top to table – makes for a beautiful holiday gift to compliment any modern home.
For music lovers: I can’t stop watching this new music video directed my Jemima Kirke for Alex Cameron. It’s compelling, real and strangely captivating to watch.
Movies to pair with your home cooked meals on a cold winter’s night:
And the best of all Julia Child creates her famous stew.