January always heralds a promise to eat healthier following the excesses of the festive season, so this week Weekender begins a new series looking at dishes that you can prepare at home that are packed with nutritional value and so tasty you will want to incorporate them into your weekly menu. We start the series with two recipes which eliminate red meat and amp up the vegetables and oily fish.
The benefits of a mainly fruit- and vegetable-based diet have long been heralded, as highlighted by recent studies that say our five-a-day of fruit and veg portions is not sufficient to promote health; we should actually be eating seven-a-day. It’s important to vary the fruit and vegetables that we eat, too, so that we broaden the nutrient base.
Chef Dylan Benoit oversees five local restaurants – The Waterfront, Mizu, Dukes Seafood & Rib Shack, Fidel Murphy’s pub and the new Craft Food & Beverage Co,, formerly the Triple Crown pub. Here he shares two of his and his Waterfront sous chef, Alan Pressly’s recipes that are healthy, delicious and red meat-free.
The first recipe, created by Benoit, is a polenta burger – a big, “meaty” stack of heart-warming textures and flavors that fills you up just as much as a regular burger. In fact, Benoit says, he has orders of this burger just as much from the guys as from ladies looking to watch their weight and reduce their red meat consumption. The red meat itself is forgotten with the first bite, especially with the addition of Portobello mushroom, which gives a further “meaty” dimension to this dish.
- 6 cups water or vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan
- ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
- 4 burger buns
- 4 Portobello mushroom caps
- 4 tablespoon goat’s cheese
- tomato slices
Begin by making the polenta. Bring six cups of water to a boil in a heavy, large saucepan. Add two teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, for about fifteen minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter and Parmesan, and stir until melted. Fold in the parsley.
Line a shallow cookie sheet with parchment paper, then spread the polenta onto the sheet. The polenta should be approximately three quarters of an inch thick, then allow to cool.
Once completely cooled, cut out patties using a round cutter or a plastic cup. Lightly oil the patties and Portobello mushrooms with olive oil and grill as you would a hamburger. When nicely charred and heated through, place on the burger buns and garnish with goat’s cheese (which adds a really lovely tangy note to the dish), arugula (for a peppery bite) and tomato slices (a regulation condiment for burgers). Serve with sweet potato fries or a fresh salad.
Salmon with warm potato salad
The second dish, created by Pressly, incorporates healthy oily fish and plenty of fresh vegetables. Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, are a great source of Omega-3 oils, a type of polyunsaturated fat that studies have shown helps to reduce your risk of heart disease. While some diets appear to drastically reduce a person’s fat intake, “good” fats such as the Omega 3 oils are essential for good health, especially for metabolism. Olive oil, another component of the dish, is also considered a “healthy” fat because it contains monounsaturated fatty acids which also may have benefits for the heart. The more pure the olive oil (extra virgin olive oil) the higher the amount of good fats it has.
This dish also plays with the marriage of the oily salmon and the sweet maple hints that run through the dressing, a particularly delicious combination that you just have to try to believe how good it is.
For the dressing:
- 17 fluid ounces maple syrup
- 3.5 fluid ounces soy sauce
- 6.5 fluid ounces vegetable oil
- 2 fluid ounces vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl until well combined.
For the salmon and potato salad:
- 4 fillets of salmon
- A little olive oil
- 1 pound baby mix lettuce
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
- ½ cup green peas
- 1 carrot, julienned
- 12 cherry tomatoes
- vegetable oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Garnish: crispy fried potatoes
Begin by boiling the cubed potatoes in salted water until tender, then strain and reserve until needed. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and a drizzle with a little olive oil. In a hot frying pan, drizzle with a little olive oil and sear however many salmon fillets you can fit in the pan without overcrowding it, skin side down, until a caramel color appears on the skin, then flip the salmon over and repeat the procedure with the remaining fillets. Remove from heat and allow to rest.
Sauté the onion and cooked potato in a bit of oil and then add carrots, peas and cherry tomato, and lightly sauté them. Season to taste.
When you are ready to serve, arrange the sautéed vegetables on the plate surrounded by some of the lettuce. Top with the salmon and drizzle the whole plate with dressing. Garnish with some crispy potatoes and serve.