From amaranth to zoodles, grocery store aisles are packed with trendy health foods. But once you get such items home, turning them into delicious meals isn’t easy. Here, culinary whizzes share tips for how to make superfoods actually taste good.
“Riced cauliflower can be very satisfying as a rice alternative, but if you overcook it, it’s like eating mash,” says Laurence Edelman, executive chef of Left Bank in the West Village. He recommends cooking it in a sizzling hot pan with olive oil for just a minute, so it’s barely cooked. Transfer it to a Mason jar and let it continue steaming a little bit. Then dress it with a pesto sauce. “It really brightens up the cauliflower, visually and flavorwise,” says Edelman.
Zucchini noodles can get soggy if you cook too many at once, or if the pan isn’t hot enough, says Carmine’s executive chef Glenn Rolnick. He suggests heating olive oil and butter in an extremely hot pan, adding the zoodles and cooking for a few minutes, until they get light brown. Don’t overcrowd the pan or the veggies will create too much steam and get mushy. Top them with more olive oil, cheese and sauteed garlic. “I cook these all the time at home,” says Rolnick. “They look like a pasta but can almost taste even better.”
Rich in potassium and vitamin C, these root vegetables are considered a superfood, but they don’t always taste great. Chef Christina Bartoli of Little Italy’s Gelso & Grand likes to boil peeled beets in orange juice instead of water, dress them with vinegar and oil, then top them off with goat cheese and nuts. “It makes the flavor less earthy, and brings a slight pickled and sweet taste to them,” she says. Craig Koketsu, executive chef of Quality Eats, recommends roasting peeled and sliced beets with olive oil and a light mixture of palm sugar and salt. “The caramelized sugar goes really well with the beets’ earthiness,” he says.
Freekeh, amaranth, bulgur, wheat berries and the like are rich in fiber and other nutrients, but they can taste like rocks if not cooked enough and get mushy if overcooked. Ayesha Nurdjaja, executive chef of Soho restaurant Shuka, recommends toasting grains in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Then, cook them in a mixture of broth, shallots and garlic until they’re al dente and they’ve absorbed all the liquid. (Look to the basic instructions on the grain’s package to determine the right amount of broth.) Add cooked grains to a bitter green salad with a seasonal vegetable dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. “When you’re eating healthy, a carbohydrate like this can give you something to sink your teeth into,” Nurdjaja says.
The probiotic benefits of fermented cabbage are well-established, but it can be hard to incorporate this funky condiment it into everyday meals. Cookshop chef de cuisine Andrew Corrigan suggests chopping it up like a relish to serve alongside grilled fish or meat. “Kimchi really helps cut the fattiness of meat,” Corrigan says. Chef Hillary Sterling of Vic’s in Noho loves topping off hot dogs and grilled meats with it. “You’re adding this delicious funk that really stands up to those roasted and braised flavors,” she says.