Culinary Waves: by Chef Mary Beth Lawton Johnson
As yacht chefs, our goal is to present award-winning cuisine – but not with the added fat, calories and sugar that will pack the pounds on our guests. Before all the diets that have emerged on the scene – Paleo, Keto and Plant-based, to name a few – chefs simply cooked, not having to think much about the nutrition of what we were serving. Not today.
The pandemic hitting the world has me, and quite possibly you as well, wondering how to boost the healthiness of the meals we serve. I mean, how to really pack the punch our bodies need in times like this. Here are a few suggestions.
There are several liposomal varieties of vitamin C out there that I turn to whenever a flu bug might be present on board. Simply squirt some into a hot tea or cold drink, or add to a shake that you might have in the morning to ward off the nasties.
Ramp up the vitamin C in your desserts with oranges or grapefruits in brûlée, or serve a power-packed pomegranate berry bowl alongside those delicious muffins in the morning.
Also, don’t forget that red bell peppers contain more vitamin C than most citrus fruits. Benefits of eating red bell peppers include beautiful skin and healthy eyes.
Mushrooms are packed with over a dozen minerals, along with being cholesterol-free, low in calories and teeming with antioxidants. If your boss or a crew member is reluctant to eat them, try disguising them in a tasty way.
I make all of my sauces using mushrooms. Simply take some tomato sauce or tomato paste, mushrooms, beef stock, onion and garlic, and sauté them until soft and until the tomato paste has cooked enough to produce a sweeter taste. Then put the mixture in a blender and purée it. You now have a wonderful base for a beef stew, using half the time and energy you would expend in a traditional recipe.
Mushrooms are also a great way to add health to a typical flour-butter recipe. You won’t even need the flour because the puréed mushrooms not only add the flavor, but also the thickness. No one will know you added them.
Broccoli is the superhero of vitamins and minerals. Cook it as little as possible. Chop it fine and use it as a rice base instead of riced cauliflower. Throw it onto salads or add it to the green, puréed shake you drink in the morning. Throw it in egg cups for a quick breakfast. Throw it into omelets, soups and stews.
Garlic isn’t only for warding off vampires that might be lurking around. It contains allicin, a sulphur compound that aids in fighting infections. Roast it in aluminum foil, add it to all vegetables, and rub meats and toasts with it. Stuff it into roasts and watch your immunity jump through the roof.
One of my favorites to add to everything is spinach. It not only contains vitamin C, but slightly cooking it releases vitamin A from the oxalic acid and it is rich in beta carotene. I make quiche with eggs and spinach, throw it into green shakes, and dry the leaves for a crunch to add atop salads. Sautéing it in garlic and a little olive oil makes a healthy side dish. Remember the less cooking of spinach the better. No one likes a soggy green mass on the plate. You will know it is cooked perfectly when you can still see the green leaves intact. Just a quick toss is all it needs.
As a side note concerning the coronavirus pandemic, lessen your chances of contracting or spreading it by following the recommended guidelines: Wear gloves, wash your hands every chance you get and use hand sanitizer if you have some. Practice social distancing and avoid groups. Only go out to get the necessities – and when you do, get enough to last more than a week. And be mindful of avoiding contact with the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions – if you pass on the virus to them, it could devastate their already weakened immune systems.
Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine, and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years. Comments are welcome below.