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LiveWell: In the Kitchen

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Top chefs from around the city share healthy recipes and tips to try in the New Year.

Have your cake and eat it too! Well, not literally, but there is no reason you can’t enjoy scrumptious cuisine and keep your resolutions to forge a way through to a healthier you. Although New Orleans is known for her indulgences, especially when it comes to food, these fabulous local chefs offer their recipes for a sumptuous success.

MiaCalamiaNOLeditChef Mia Calamia
La Divina Gelateria

A passion for cooking and entertaining for friends drove Mia Calamia to seek apprenticeship under some of the best chefs that New Orleans has to offer. From a fortuitous gig at Herbsaint Restaurant under chef Donald Link, to aiding chef Aaron Burgau in launching Restaurant Patois, Calamia has honed her skills and created techniques and recipes all her own, much to the benefit of her current employers at La Divina Gelateria on Magazine Street.

Although New Orleans is not known for its healthful cuisine, Calamia has made a considerable effort to elevate an often-overlooked dish: the salad. “I love salad,” Calamia admits unabashedly. “I love lettuce and seasonal vegetables, nuts and seeds, and, like any girl from Texas, I love ranch dressing.” As a teenager, she fondly recalls dipping her pizza in ranch dressing, but, as an adult, realizes that while salad may be good for you, heavy dressings are not. In her Kitchen Sink Salad recipe, Calamia has created a salad with dressing that uses Greek yogurt as a base.

Kitchen Sink Salad
Serves 2-4

1 baked chicken breast, cubed
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
½ cucumber, peeled
1 small squash, peeled
½ red pepper, sliced
½ cup broccoli, cut into small florets
1 avocado, cored and cubed
3 radishes, sliced
1 head of romaine or Boston lettuce, washed and torn
¼ cup Inglewood Farms pecans, toasted and chopped

Tangy Ranch Dressing
1 cup Greek yogurt (full-fat or 2 percent)
5 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
Salt and fresh pepper to taste

Put ½ cup Tangy Ranch Dressing in the bottom of the salad bowl. Toss lettuce, other vegetables and chicken on top. Use your washed hands to gently toss the salad (tongs tend to bruise fresh, delicate vegetables). Serve immediately. Add more dressing as necessary. Always add salt and pepper when tossing your salad — you will be amazed at how much of a difference it makes.

*Healthy Tip from Chef Mia Calamia
“My husband and I eat healthy — most of the time,” she says. “We eat real food; vegetables [and] lean protein, and [we] stay away from the middle of the grocery store in general. I find that I make unhealthy choices when eating out or snacking. It’s easier to avoid bad eating decisions when you prep things ahead of time. Every week, we buy the produce box from Hollygrove Market and take it as a challenge to have no waste. When I get home from the market, I prep my vegetables: wash, blanch, trim, peel and chop. This early preparation makes it easier to throw together a curry or a stir-fry instead of ordering out on busy nights. Or, I can grab a handful of blanched green beans or broccoli instead of chips when I [feel like snacking]. I’ll also make a pot of brown rice or quinoa at the beginning of the week to make creating mid-week meals much quicker. Spending a few hours on Sunday morning to prepare for the week makes eating well and making healthy choices that much smoother.”

GUY SOCKRIDEReditChef Guy Sockrider
Nottoway Plantation

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Guy Sockrider has had a long and illustrious career — collecting countless awards along the way, including the New Orleans Chef of the Year Award and the Southern California Restaurant Writers Gold Award. During his career, Sockrider has been the Executive Chef at several famous New Orleans hotels and restaurants, such as Bourbon Orleans Hotel, Royal Sonesta Hotel, Muriel’s and Tomas Bistro.

Try Chef Sockrider’s Pistou Vegetable Soup with Mussels recipe to warm your insides during the cold winter months without adding unneeded, empty calories. Pistou is a Provençal cold sauce made from garlic cloves, fresh basil and olive oil, similar to Italian pesto without the pine nuts.

Pistou Vegetable Soup with Mussels
Makes four servings

Pistou
3 cups basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in mortar, and grind very fine with pestle.

Beans
½ cup white beans, soaked overnight
1 clove garlic, peeled and split in half
2-inch piece of peeled carrot
½ small onion, peeled and split in half
2-inch piece ham rind
1 branch fresh thyme
Fresh ground white pepper
3½ cups water

Place all ingredients in a medium pot, and cook until tender. Then strain, discard aromatics and reserve beans.

Mussels
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

2 lbs. cleaned mussels
¾ cup dry white wine
¼ bunch parsley leaves and stems

Braise the shallot and garlic in oil until softened; then add the mussels, wine and parsley. Cover and cook until mussels open; then drain, and reserve the mussels and cooking liquid.

Soup
3 cups fish fumet
1 ½ cups water
½ cup carrots, diced
½ cup fennel, diced
½ cup zucchini, seeded and diced
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
Lemon slices

Combine the reserved mussel liquor with water to make approximately 4½ cups liquid. Add the carrots, fennel and zucchini, and bring to a simmer until vegetables are tender (about 12 minutes). To serve, add the tomatoes and beans, bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add the pistou. Divide the mussels between four bowls, ladle the soup (making sure the aromatics are evenly distributed) and squeeze lemon juice over the top before serving immediately.

*Healthy Tip from Chef Guy Sockrider
“Always buy fresh, locally sourced ingredients,” he says. Sockrider knows that buying local ensures the freshest available products instead of grocery-store items that are often shipped long distances and not picked at their peak. With local ingredients, you always know that an item came directly from the farm, and is as fresh as if you went out and harvested the produce yourself — rich in nutrients and free from unwanted cleansers and preservatives.