Author Archives: Ric

Asparagus, avocado, corn and feta salad with lemon-basil vinaigrette

Asparagus, avocado, corn and feta salad with lemon-basil vinaigrette

Asparagus has such a unique flavor and delicate texture. It’s also low in calories, a good source of dietary fiber and contains plenty of health-giving beta carotene, folate and potassium. The only downside to asparagus, of course, is the infamous ‘Asparagus pee.’ As far back as 1781 Benjamin Franklin noted that “A few stems of asparagus eaten shall give our urine a disagreeable odor.”

So what exactly is it in asparagus that causes this reaction? It’s actually a compound called  Asparagusic acid that when broken down in the body releases sulfur compounds that typically have an unpleasant scent. But while these sulfur compounds might be a bit smelly, they’re also very beneficial because they have anti-cancer properties. So even though there’s a bit of a downside to eating asparagus, we reckon the benefits far outweigh the risks!

Here’s one of our absolute favorite asparagus recipes — Asparagus, Avocado, Corn and Feta Salad with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette.

Potato and smoked salmon salad with creamy avocado dressing

Potato and smoked salmon salad with creamy avocado dressing

Great food that’s great for you — that’s how I’d best describe a MediterrAsian way of eating. This opulent salad is the perfect example. It doesn’t just taste wonderful, it’s also packed with nutritional goodness.

The buttery smoked salmon is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The luscious dressing is made primarily with avocado and extra virgin olive oil — two excellent sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. The crisp salad greens are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And the potato provides complex carbohydrates to fuel your muscles and brain, and they’re also a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C (and because the potatoes are eaten together with protein and goods fats, it means they’re digested slowly and don’t cause blood sugar spikes).

But the last thing we were thinking about when we were chowing down on this salad was the nutritional content. We were too busy savoring the taste!

Here’s the recipe.

Our most popular recipes of 2016

Well it’s been another year of feasting for us. From fragrant curries, comforting pasta dishes and rustic stews to warming soups, and super satisfying stir-fries, all washed down with a wine or cold beer. And not once have we counted a calorie, or worked out how many grams of fat or carbohydrate are in our meals. Yet neither one of us has gained any weight. In fact my jeans are actually feeling a little looser than they did this time last year.

But we’re certainly not surprised — it’s been like this for years now. And all we’ve been doing is simply eating how the world’s healthiest and longest living populations eat, plus we’ve been moving naturally as part of our everyday lives (which is another thing the world’s longest living peoples do).

Here are our most popular recipes of 2016. And we’re looking forward to cooking up lots more delicious and nutritious Mediterranean and Asian meals in 2017!

Italian Stew

Italian Stew with White Beans, Artichoke Hearts and Olives. A robust Italian stew with cannellini beans, artichoke hearts, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. Wonderful served with crusty bread, polenta, pasta, rice or couscous.

Thai chicken soup

Thai Chicken Soup with Basil and Lime. A warming and delicately spiced Thai chicken soup accented with fresh basil and lime juice.

Cantonese chicken stir-fry

Cantonese Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry. Bite-size pieces of chicken stir-fried with red pepper, green beans and baby corn and coated in a glossy and flavorful Cantonese sauce.

Spinach and feta stuffed mushrooms

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms stuffed with sautéed spinach, garlic, oregano and crumbled feta, and baked until tender.

Potato and asparagus salad

Potato and Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Basil Dressing. An Italian-inspired salad with asparagus and chunks of potato coated in a lemony basil dressing.

Thai-spiced baked salmon

Thai-Spiced Baked Salmon. Succulent salmon infused with a ginger, lime, chili and cilantro dressing, and baked until deliciously moist and tender.

Tuscan chickpea and spinach fritters

Tuscan Chickpea and Spinach Fritters. Protein-packed chickpea fritters with spinach and rosemary. Delicious served as a fritter with salad, and they also make super tasty veggie burger patties.

Mediterranean chopped salad

Mediterranean Chopped Salad. A delicious medley of Mediterranean ingredients including chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, cucumber, red onion and walnuts coated in an oregano-infused red wine vinaigrette, and served on a bed of mixed salad leaves.

Infographic: The World’s Healthiest Diets

I was recently sent this interesting infographic about the world’s healthiest diets, and I thought I’d share it with you. It shows how the Mediterranean diet and the Japanese diet are very different when it comes to cooking techniques and seasonings, but both traditional diets share the same key nutrients which can help us to live longer and healthier lives.

The infographic explores the nutrients which make these diets so powerful, the dishes in which they can be found, and provides practical steps you can take towards healthier eating habits.

World's healthiest diets

Chicken, broccoli and mushroom stir-fry

Chicken, broccoli and mushroom stir-fry

We were planning on sharing this stir-fry recipe with you earlier, but three days ago our region in New Zealand was hit by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. Just after midnight we leapt out of bed when we felt our house shaking from side to side. We ran out on the lawn and the ground was swaying so violently that it felt like being on the deck of a ship in a storm. It was over in less than a minute, but that had to be the longest minute of our lives. Luckily we were far enough from the center of the quake that the damage around here has only been minimal, and at the moment we don’t have any running water. Here’s a photo of the wine section of our local supermarket after the quake:

NZ Quake

Unfortunately there has been much more extensive damage to those areas that were closer to the center of the quake. And tragically two people lost their lives in an area not far from us. So we count ourselves very lucky.

NZ quake

Anyway, better late than never, here’s our latest recipe, Chicken, Broccoli and Mushroom Stir-Fry.

Roasted butternut squash soup with miso and ginger

Butternut squash soup with miso and ginger

In Japan, miso has been respected as both food and medicine for centuries. High in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, miso is a culinary staple in the Japanese diet and is used in soups, hot pots, noodle dishes, sauces, spreads and dressings.

Miso is made by mixing soybeans and a grain such as barley or rice with a culture starter (called Koji) and leaving it to ferment and develop beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Studies have shown that regularly eating miso improves the balance of gut bacteria, helps digestion, and boosts immunity.

Miso

If you haven’t tried miso, or have a tub of miso in the back of the fridge that you’ve been meaning to use, this soup is a great way to nourish yourself with this delicious fermented superfood.

For this recipe we use white miso which has a mellow flavor profile that’s savory, salty and slightly sweet — so it really enhances the flavor of the butternut squash, which takes on a caramelized sweetness when it’s roasted.

Here’s the recipe.

Health experts and chefs agree: ‘MediterrAsian’ way of eating is best

Eating the MediterrAsian way has immeasurably improved our health and wellbeing, and it’s also introduced us to a world of wonderful new tastes. That’s why, for over a decade, we’ve been saying to forget restrictive diets and look to Mediterranean and Asian populations (who are the healthiest, leanest and longest living peoples on earth) for dietary and lifestyle inspiration.

Unfortunately, sensible messages about nutrition rarely get much publicity. But what the media — including social media — keeps lapping up is fad diets. And it seems that the more controversy a fad diet can stir up, the more popular it becomes. That controversy might come from banning foods that were “once thought to be healthy” or by turning foods that were “once thought to be unhealthy” into health foods. The net result is that we’re more confused than ever about what constitutes a healthy diet.

Thankfully, the tide is slowly starting to turn. More and more voices of authority are speaking up for common sense. And it’s not just health experts who are speaking up about the benefits of combining traditional Mediterranean and Asian eating practices — a growing number of world-renowned chefs are joining them.

Let’s start by looking at some of the scientists, doctors and dietitians who are embracing a MediterrAsian way of eating.

Dr. Gerald Rimbach, Professor of Food Science at the University of Kiel, Germany, has published a number of studies looking at the protective effects of various foods that are staples in Mediterranean and Asian cultures—such as olive oil, fish, green tea and turmeric. In 2013 he led a research team that looked at the benefits of combining traditional Mediterranean and Asian diets. This groundbreaking research found that a MediterAsian diet helps activate a gene in the body called sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), which is known as the ‘longevity gene’ because it extends cellular life and helps in the repair of DNA. The findings were published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. “We suggest that a so-called MediterrAsian diet combining sirtuin-activating foods of the Asian as well as Mediterranean diet may be a promising dietary strategy in preventing chronic diseases, thereby ensuring health and healthy aging,” they wrote.

Professor Eugenio Iorio, Founder and Director of the International Observatory of Oxidative Stress (a non-profit scientific network of more than 3,000 researchers from 35 Countries), is a strong advocate of the MediterrAsian diet. He has held popular lectures about this way of eating, and says that “the ideal paradigm for our health would be a MediterrAsian diet.”

Dr. David Colquhoun from the University of Queensland School of Medicine wrote about the benefits of a MediterrAsian way of eating in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, where he said that a MediterrAsian diet “may be the optimal diet.”

Dr. Mariangela Rondanelli and a team of scientists from the University of Pavia, Italy, conducted a systematic review this year looking at the benefits of combining Mediterranean and Asian foods to improve cholesterol levels. They found that a MediterrAsian diet boosted “good” HDL cholesterol, and reduced heart disease risk. The review titled “MediterrAsian diet products that could raise HDL cholesterol: a Systematic Review” will be published in the journal BioMed Research International later this year.

Dr. Nadia Anna Fiorentino from San Raffaele University Hospital in Milan is a proponent of combining traditional Mediterranean and Asian eating practices: “The abundance of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, red wine, soy, green tea, and fish provides an excellent supply of bioactive molecules. Such molecules, working in a synergistic manner, are able to counteract the effect of free radicals and thus are able to prevent the development of chronic degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and cancer,” she says.

Dietitian Caroline Fernandes is convinced that a MediterrAsian diet is the best diet for health and longevity. She now recommends her patients follow a MediterrAsian way of eating, and the outcome has been highly positive: “In practice, we observed that patients do not feel they are on a diet, in the restrictive sense of the word, but a transition to a new lifestyle that involves flavors, foods and seasonings with a harmonious blend.”

Virginia Messina is a registered dietitian and author of more than ten books on vegetarian and vegan cooking. She is also an advocate of a MediterrAsian approach to eating, and devotes a section of one of her latest books to a meatless version of a MediterrAsian diet. She also created this visual guide showing how easy it is to enjoy a MediterrAsian diet, even if you don’t eat animal products.

Dr. Antigone Kouris from La Trobe University, Melbourne, has published almost 40 scientific papers, and has co-authored 5 university text books. She is also a vocal proponent of a MediterrAsian diet. Her MediterrAsian cookbook You are what you cook was published in 2012, and recently she has developed a range of MediterrAsian cookies using Mediterranean and Asian inspired ingredients which contain 50 percent less sugar than normal cookies.

Renowned chefs also embracing a MediterrAsian way of eating

As I mentioned earlier, a MediterrAsian way of eating doesn’t just benefit your health, it very much benefits your taste buds! So it’s not surprising that a growing number of renowned chefs are also enthusiastically embracing the concept of MediterrAsian eating:

Executive chef Tiffany Poe—who collaborated with Food Network star, The Pioneer Woman, on three of her New York Times number one bestselling cookbooks—is helping blaze the trail for MediterrAsian cooking. After reading our book, The MediterrAsian Way, she was so inspired that she teamed up with fellow chef, Trey Wilson, to start a MediterrAsian food truck in 2013. She was recently appointed as the Clinical Professor of Food Studies at Oklahoma State University, where she continues to passionately spread the word about the health and gastronomic benefits of a MediterrAsian way of eating.

World champion sushi master Pepi Anevski, whose parents are from the Mediterranean region, is a big fan of combining Mediterranean and Asian flavors. Earlier this year he developed a range of MediterrAsian sushi for the Ocean Basket chain of seafood restaurants (which serve over a million customers a month worldwide) and they have been a smash hit.

American chef, Jesse Koide, thinks that fusing together Mediterranean and Asian cuisines is a perfect match. His MediterrAsian restaurant, Pink Zebra, was named as one of the top 25 restaurants in the U.S. by GQ magazine in 2015.

Reif Othman, former regional executive chef of Zuma restaurants, has combined his love of Japanese food with his passion for Mediterranean ingredients at the recently opened MediterrAsian restaurant, Play, in Dubai. It’s quickly become one of the most popular restaurants in Dubai, and recently won the title of “Dubai’s best new fine dining restaurant” at the Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards.

Just the beginning

We’re confident this growing chorus of voices is just going to get louder and louder in the future. And why wouldn’t it? Eating great food that’s great for you is a concept I think we can all embrace! And of course we’ll be doing out utmost to continue spreading the word about a MediterrAsian way of living. That includes making an announcement soon about a big MediterrAsian project we’ve been busily working on for the last three years. So watch this space…

Thai shrimp noodle salad

Thai shrimp noodle salad

I eat a lot of whole grains. For breakfast, I regularly have whole grain cereal such as oatmeal or muesli; or toasted whole grain bread with toppings (such as natural peanut butter, avocado, or sliced cheese and tomato). A typical weekday lunch is a sandwich, stuffed pita or a wrap made with whole grain breads. When we make pizza at home, we’ll often use a large whole wheat pita as the crust. I also love bulgur (which is made from whole wheat) topped with stew, or in tabbouleh salad. And if I feel like a snack, I’ll often have some air-popped popcorn (popcorn is a whole grain) or a whole grain cracker.

But I’m not a fan of all whole grain foods. I’ve tried brown rice several times, in several different ways, and each time I was disappointed — not only with the flavor, but also the texture. In comparison, white rice is light in texture and subtle in flavor. It embraces the flavor of the food it’s paired with, whereas I find that brown rice does just the opposite and tends to overpower the taste of other food.

So I basically gave up on brown rice a long time ago. And I’m not the only one. White rice has been far more popular than brown rice throughout Asia and the Mediterranean for many generations. And no wonder — I couldn’t imagine sitting down to plateful of brown rice sushi, or eating brown rice paella or risotto either.

But what about those naysayers who preach that white rice is highly fattening and unhealthy? What nonsense! The leanest, healthiest and longest-living peoples in the world eat white rice regularly. This makes it obvious that white rice is far from a dietary villain.

Indeed, research has found that over the last 35 years rice consumption in Japan has dropped by more than 50 percent. This is because many Japanese, particularly the younger generation, are embracing a Western-style diet rich in meat, sugar and junk food. And guess what’s happened over the same time period? Obesity rates, as well as rates of heart disease and type 2 diabetes have climbed steadily. And Alzheimer’s disease rates rose from 1 percent in 1985 to 7 percent in 2008.

Rice

Now I’m not saying that the answer to a leaner healthier body is to rush out and grab a sackful of white rice. But what I’m saying is that white rice, in all it’s wonderful varieties (including Italian arborio, Indian basmati, Thai jasmine, Spanish calasparra, and Japanese koshihikari), can fit perfectly into a varied and balanced diet.

The key is to eat white rice like people from Mediterranean and Asian cultures do: in sensible portions (yes, calories still count), and mixed with slowly-digesting foods like fish, beans, nuts, plant oils, and vegetables. This not only makes the rice taste better, it also means that it’s digested at a slow and steady rate — so you won’t get blood sugar swings and rebound hunger.

This tasty Thai salad — which contains a mix of rice noodles, shrimp, vegetables, cashew nuts and sesame oil — is a great example of what I mean.

Here’s the recipe.