Anti-Inflammatory = Red Bell Peppers + Spinach

Torte Brand

I respect and appreciate French cuisine—that’s a fact. It may be because French was the second language that I learned, or that I first watched Julie & Julia with my mom and we have even since shared a special love for Julia Child’s whimsical flare. Actually, maybe this factuation grew as I volunteered more and more at a culinary school founded by a Frenchman and based on French culinary techniques, or just simply because I enjoy French wine with French cheese and baguette. Who knows! Whatever the reason(s), exploring healthy baking recipes based on classic French creations and ingredients is always an extreme delight.

I had a pack of puff pastry in the freezer, so I found a recipe, originally by Michel Richard, that called for using this pack as well as wholesome vegetables, fresh herbs, and some of my CSA bounty. Feel free to make your own puff pastry for this recipe, but I’ve learned from other trained chefs that using frozen puff pastry is nothing to be ashamed of if short on time, energy, or the interest to make it from scratch. I modified the recipe to clarify the directions and reduce some ingredients that have high saturated fat contents.

The vegetables used for this tourte are the perfect match to help promote an anti-inflammatory diet. Red bell peppers are rich in Vitamin C, making these peppers one of the best sources for this essential nutrient. The antioxidant properties and flavonoids in such foods help protect the body from free radicals, a result that has anti-inflammatory benefits. A plant showing dark green colors are also packed with Vitamin C. So red bell peppers, meet spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of Vitamin C as well, and has several flavonoids to battle inflammation. Furthermore, research shows that spinach leaves contain glycoglycerolipids, which helps protect the digestive tract from unwanted inflammation. In the tourte, we are also minimizing omega-6 oils and saturated fats while adding herbs to assist the vegetable couple in providing anti-inflammatory benefits!

Tourte Milanese

modified from

  • 1 pound puff pastry, chilled

For the Eggs

  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh tarragon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Filling

  • 6 large red bell peppers
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and washed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 8 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces smoked ham, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt

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Preparing the Pastry:

Generously butter an 8 1/2-inch springform pan. Cut off one quarter of the pastry, cover, and set in the fridge. Roll out remaining puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick round. Carefully fit the pastry into the pan, pressing to get a smooth fit, nearly reaching the top of the pan around the edges. Place pan in fridge and take out the small piece of pastry that was already placed inside the fridge.

Roll out the smaller piece of pastry until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut out an 8-inch circle of dough for the top of the tourte and lift it onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover both the lid with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Save the scraps and put them in the freezer! Take out for another use by thawing in the fridge, sprinkling with grated, sharp cheese for a savory pastry or cinnamon and sugar for a sweet pastry, shape into a twist or other shape, and bake. An easy way to quickly make a crispy, simple treat!

Making the Eggs:

Whisk eggs, herbs, salt and pepper together. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and pour in the eggs. Gently but constantly stir the eggs around in the pan, pulling the eggs that set into the center of the pan. Slide the eggs onto a plate, without mounding them, and cover immediately with plastic wrap.

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The Filling:

Peppers: place whole and untrimmed, directly over the flame of a gas burner. As soon as one portion of a peppers skin is charred, turn the pepper. When black and blistered all over, place in a plastic bag and seal. After about 15 minutes, once cool, use your fingers to rub off skin. Cut each pepper once from top to bottom, cut away the stem, open the peppers, and lay them flat. Trim away the inside veins and discard the seeds; season peppers with salt and pepper. Cut flat peppers into thirds, and set aside, covered, until needed.

Spinach: cook in a large quantity of boiling salted water for 1 minute to blanch it. Drain spinach in a colander, rinse with cold water, and press it to extract all of the excess moisture (you may need to allow it to cool for a few minutes if still to hot for your hands). Heat the oil, butter, and garlic in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add blanched spinach and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and add a little whipping cream. Bring quickly to the boil and stir so it mixes with the spinach. Remove the spinach from the skillet with a slotted and set aside.

Assembling the Tourte:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the pastry-lined springform pan from the fridge and layer the filling ingredients in the following order: half the eggs, half the spinach, half the cheese, half the ham, and all the roasted peppers, laid flat. Continue layering in reverse order—ham, cheese, spinach, and eggs. With each layer, make certain that the ingredients are spread to the edge of the pan. Fold the excess crust in over the filling, and brush the rim of crust you’ve created with the egg wash. Center the rolled-out top crust over the tourte and gently push the edge of the top crust down into the pan, pressing and sealing the top and bottom crusts along the sides. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut a vent in the center of the crust. Use the point of the knife to etch a design in the top crust, taking care to cut only halfway into the dough. Chill the fully loaded tourte for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.

Baking the Tourte:

Place the tourte on a rimmed baking pan, give it another coat of egg wash, and bake it for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until puffed and deeply golden. Remove from the oven and let rest on a rack until it reaches room temperature. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan and release the sides.

spinach leaves

Notice how we’re using salt and pepper at each step in the dish. In order to properly season your food, practice seasoning as you cook for best results. You usually end up using less salt all together, as cooking with salt distributes its effects better than sprinkling on top of your food later. Taste as you cook, too, adjusting according to your tastes. Once finished, the first cut into this pie will make your elbows flap and toes wiggle, seeing the vibrantly colored layers that pay homage to Italy’s flag (shhh, don’t tell France). Bon ap, to anti-inflammation!

Photos courtesy of Flickr member faria!; “spinach leaves”

Anti-Inflammatory = Turkey + Celery

Turkey Brand

A great chef wastes little. I’ve been watching episodes of “The Mind of a Chef” featuring Anthony Bourdain and Momofuku’s David Chang, and I’ve learned so much about how talented, curious, and resourceful great chefs must be. In fact, Chang claimed that some of the best chefs are the ones who cook with scraps and make them taste great. Even some of their most popular dishes arrived on menus in this way. There was even an episode of Scrap Iron Chef! I certainly recommend watching the series, especially the episode titled Rotten, as Chang goes over scraps more in depth.

I often have leftover sauces and random vegetables, so making meatballs with ground meat is an easy way to make a dish to enjoy the rest of delicious items still in the fridge. Ground turkey is a very healthy main ingredient for meatballs for a variety of reasons:

  • Low saturated fat
  • High in protein
  • High in B-vitamin
  • High in zinc
  • High in iron

Something that you won’t see on a nutrition label, though, is the anti-inflammation benefit. Try to incorporate more organic ground turkey in your diet as the protein content is higher, which increases the meat’s anti-inflammatory properties. Turkey also loves to hog the spotlight on your plate, welcoming any other dishes to its side. Just think of the Thanksgiving table, right? Sweet or savory, light or heavy, turkey just seems to work well with whatever is there. So turkey, meet celery. Celery is always sitting lonely in the drawer of my fridge, just waiting for a purpose. The ribs and leaves of celery attribute to the vegetable’s anti-inflammatory benefits, so it’s best to use the whole stalk, rather than just the ribs. We can thank luteolin in celery for preventing our brain from processing inflammation responses. Time for celery to get lucky, and raise our bar for delicious and healthy meatballs!

Adjust this recipe as to your leftovers options, and show Chang your skills and cleverness!

Toasty Turkey Meatballs

  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (or other nuts that you have)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound organic ground turkey
  • 1 rib celery with leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or any other fresh herb available)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard (or other type of mustard)
  • 1 green onion, copped (or small shallot)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease (or other oil)
  1. In a small frying pan, toast pine nuts over medium heat, stirring constantly, until slightly browned. Set aside.
  2. Crack egg into a medium bowl and whisk. Add turkey, toasted nuts, and the rest of the ingredients, except for the bacon grease. Mix well and form into balls the size of a golf ball, about 20 in total.
  3. Add bacon grease to a medium frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, add all of the meatballs. Stir occasionally, turning the meatballs about every minute. Fry for about 8-10 minutes total. Serve immediately.

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This quick recipe is great for evenings when you do not have much time to cook, but I suggest giving a lot to attention and TLC to the nuts and meatballs as they cook so that they do not burn and they cook evenly. I would have to add to Chang’s thoughts that in addition to making scraps taste delicious, the best chefs are the patient and attentive ones!

Flavor suggestions for sauces: Lingonberry or cranberry jam, orange with Cointreau, or Bearnaise.

Photo courtesy of Flickr member Ginger Me; “Turkey”

Anti-Inflammatory = Lemon + Rosemary

Lemon Tree

Summer humidity makes me feel puffy all over, and to a woman in her 20’s, this feeling is definitely not a good thing. I feel more sore after my workouts and feel like my shirts are sticking to my skin just a little too much. My hair feels like a cloud of bulging cotton candy, rather than silky streams of healthy shine. I can hear Snooki shouting, “puffy problems!” Whatever tumescent discomfort you encounter, try an elegant, herbal cooler to relieve the inflammation; even if it’s just in my head and just a made-up feeling, and the inflammation is only trickery perception, I made this drink so I could have more peace of mind.

My brother’s garden was overflowing with cucumbers, so his sweet girlfriend naturally brought three enormous, crunchy cukes over during a party for us to enjoy! We used up one while munching on my homemade hummus, so I decided that I’d relish the other two another time. I still had a lot of lemons from buying a big bag of organic lemons from Whole Foods, so I thought that maybe a tasty drink concoction would be the perfect fix. My mind immediately new the answer: internet! I came across this recipe: Rosemary-Infused Cucumber Lemonade. Magnifique! So lemon, meet rosemary. Pair up to rescue me from the blazing humidity and hazy heat!

Not only are lemons excellent sources Vitamin C and potassium, helping your skin and heart, but drinking lemon juice will help your body remove uric acid from your joints, thereby reducing inflammation.

Rosemary is available year-round at grocery stores, and can grow extremely well in containers at your home. My mom has a strong, fast-growing rosemary plant, which I like to clip from time-to-time, taking a few strands with me.  When I lived in France, enormous rosemary bushes grew along the side yards of homes (same with lemon trees, come to think of it) and in the forests, so we would put strands in our water bottles, as flavoring agents. Rosemary can help with digestion, and I recently found out, is one of the best herbs to help fight inflammation. Continual use of rosemary in your diet can really contribute a lot to reducing any joint pain.

Okay, enough research… time to drink!

Lemonade Cucumber Drinks

Rosemary-Infused Cucumber Lemonade with Mint Simple Syrup

  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2/3 cup water, or water mixed with whey (for a vitamin boost)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mint simple syrup, or any sweetener of your choice
  1. Peel and thickly slice cucumber into about 1-inch chunks. Take rosemary leaves off of the stem and chop up the leaves.
  2. Puree both cucumber and rosemary in a blender or food processor. Pour the puree through a fine-mesh strainer (if you don’t have one yet, then the first place to go is the internet, right?! Grab up this one) into a medium bowl. Using a rubber scraper, press on the pureed solids to extract as much juice as you can. Only about a half cup of solids should be left.
  3. Add water (or water-whey solution), lemon juice, and simple syrup/sweetener  to the juice. Stir and pour into two glass with ice.

This lemonade is also a great date or picnic companion. Nevertheless, it’s a refresher—a healthy one—deflating your worries. I’m looking forward to looser limbs and normal skin! Bon ap, to anti-inflammation!

Photo courtesy of Flickr member Simon Hammond; “lemon tree”

Anti-Inflammatory = Red Onions + Cayenne

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As a runner and typical young professional trying to keep an active lifestyle post-school years of team sports and post-city lifestyle, I know that I need to have a diet that includes foods to help my cardiovascular health. Otherwise, my restless legs will give me those guilty aches, reminding me that I’m not taking good care of myself physically.

So I went to the Rockville Farmers Market **http://bit.ly/18wfyyn** (yes!) to pick up some red onions. Parking is never an easy task here, garage or street parking. After circling three times and almost giving up to just take care of my Staples run, I finally found a spot on the street by the library with some time still left on the meter. Hurray! Cloth bag, keys, doors locked, phone with grocery list on it… um, okay, go! Past the passersby and couples doing lunch on the sidewalks, we all kept to our activities hiding behind our sunglasses, but curiously glancing secretly at what the others town dwellers are up to. I kept to my mission: market fresh product. After crossing the street, hearing little girls asking their mom what fruit was in their bag for home, I made it up to the closed street where four tents stood for the Wednesday market. I saw a crate of onions… bam!! I grabbed the red ones, and then the green beans and apples that were looking too good to pass up. I’ll enjoy those later.

Late lunch back at home at the apartment. My boyfriend confessed that there was a recipe his father would make back in South Africa, and he could basically just live off this spread/dip/mix as it was so delicious and healthy! The textures and tastes hit on all the complexity that our senses yearn for, yet there was only a few ingredients to make it all.

I took my avocado from the bamboo table bowl, where I’ve left the avocado out for two days at room temperature, and replaced it with another avocado from the fridge…

  • I ran my chef’s knife around the avocado to cut it in half, pitted the fruit, and then spooned out the inside.
  • I chopped about a quarter of my new red onion and mixed it in with the avocado.
  • Next is the real star: sardines. We can discuss the benefits of sardines another day, but the olive oil from the tin and sharp wild-caught fish flavors truly add to the tantalizing texture and make every bite truly tasting different, which is a hallmark of French cuisine, if that’s your style (as I’ve been accused of!).
  • Lastly, add some salt and pepper to taste (I suggest more salt than pepper), and some fresh lime juice, or lemon, if available to you. Add some cayenne pepper (about 1/4 tsp or double it if that heat is what you want) and mix to complete this thick and versatile bowl of goodness.

Serve with multigrain chips, rye toast, pita chips, celery, cherry tomatoes, or other vegetables. (For a South African touch, have some banana slices as well!)

Stop… I suggest you showoff at this moment to your friends and family using your iPhone camera .

Nutrition: both RED ONION and CAYENNE have anti-inflammatory benefits and improve oxygen consumption. Our muscles need these ingredients so that we can continue to be active, boost our metabolism, and make choices in a proactive way to help decrease our chances of having cancer.

This delicious duo in this recipe is an easy way to use local produce and throw in other leftovers that you may have, such as parsley, cilantro, shaved carrot, or flavored oil. Share your suggestions, too! Bon ap to cardio benefits!

Photo courtesy of Flickr member Market Manager; “Red Onions”