Smart Food

A new cookbook provides insight into how food can enhance brain health, along with a host of tasty recipes built around a “culinary pharmacy.”

By Diana Price

For chef and author Rebecca Katz, the issue of brain health has personal significance; in the introduction to The Healthy Mind Cookbook: Big- Flavor Recipes to Enhance Brain Function, Mood, Memory, and Mental Clarity (Ten Speed Press, 2015; $29.99), Rebecca shares that her father, Jay, died after a decade-long struggle with dementia. Having seen cognitive decline firsthand, Rebecca says, she has always been acutely aware of the issue: “I felt like I was on a timetable, that my mind had an expiration date of age 70 or so. It wasn’t a pleasant way to feel, but justified, I thought, given my paternal genetics.”

Given her personal history and her professional passion, she has been encouraged by increasing research related to the impact of food on how the mind functions. “For the past few years, the science regarding food and its impact on mind, mood, and, yes, memory has exploded,” Rebecca says. “Put simply, what we put on the end of our fork definitely affects the brain in a myriad of ways.”

In The Healthy Mind Cookbook, Rebecca, with co-author Mat Edelson, distills many of the key findings of research, describing aspects of cognitive function that can be affected by what we eat. The range of issues with a potential impact by food—from stress and anxiety to memory and learning capacity—is truly broad. The good news: the many facets of brain health affected are matched by an array of beneficial foods that can have a positive impact on daily functioning and long-term health.

And while anyone who has tried to choke down fish oil capsules may be hesitant about recipes created to fuel brain health, rest assured that these recipes are as delicious as they are healthy. “Great, brain-boosting foods taste fantastic,” Rebecca writes in her “Building Mind-Blowing Taste and Flavor” chapter, part of a great introductory section that precedes the recipes and boosts readers’ culinary know-how. The key, she goes on to say, is tapping into basic cooking techniques that amplify flavors and engage the senses.

In the recipes—and the beauti­ful photos by Maren Caruso—that follow, Rebecca makes good on her assertion, with chapters filled with head-healthy foods that make up the culinary pharmacy in unique and flavorful ways. From Avocado Citrus Salad to Chocolate Cherry Walnut Truffles, these are bites, drinks, dollops, and meals that will have you happy to heed the demands of your head. Enjoy these recipes—and for more infor­mation about Rebecca’s process and inspiration, look to the Q&A here.


RECIPES

Reprinted with permission  from The Healthy Mind Cookbook by Rebecca Katz, copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography copyright © 2015 by Maren Caruso.

Rosemary and Pear Muffins

Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes

Here is a surprising combination. Rose­mary tends to be assertive, while pears go mellow; together they make an unbeatable team. This muffin is as Medi­terranean as they come. Draw a direct line from Florence to Provence, and this puppy’s flavor lands right in the middle.

2 cups almond meal
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 large organic eggs
3½ tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
½ tablespoon lemon juice
½ tablespoon water
1½ teaspoons Grade B maple syrup
½ cup diced ripe Anjou pear
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1½ teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 3500. Oil a mini muffin tin or line it with muffin papers. In a bowl, mix together the almond meal, salt, pepper, and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, lemon juice, water, and syrup. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well to combine. Then add in the pear, walnuts, and rosemary. Fill each muffin cup with about 2 tablespoons of batter. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Yield: 24 mini muffins

Serving size: 2 mini muffins

Nutritional information per serving: calories 182; protein 6 grams (g); carbohy­drates 7 g; total fat 16 g (saturated fat 2 g; mono-unsaturated 4 g); dietary fiber 2 g; sodium 147 milligrams (mg)

Storage: Store in an airtight container for up to five days.


Roasted Ginger Salmon with Pomegranate Olive Mint Salsa

Prep time: 10 minutes plus 20 minutes to marinate

Cooking time: 15 minutes

All I can say is get out your camera because when you make this dish, you’re going to want to take a picture of it before you serve it. It is just that pretty, with the peach of the salmon, the ruby red jewels of the pomegranate seeds, and the vibrant green of the parsley. The taste is no less sensational, the citrus and herbs playing wonderfully off the salmon’s healthy blend of omega-3 rich fats. This one will energize all of your senses.

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
½ teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, pinbones removed
Sea salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup Pomegranate Olive Mint Salsa

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, orange zest, lemon zest, olive oil, ginger, and cayenne. Place the salmon in a baking dish and season each piece with a pinch of salt. Pour half the marinade over the salmon and turn to coat well. Cover the baking dish and marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Remove the salmon from the refrigerator, uncover, and add 2 tablespoons of water to the dish. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets, just until tender and opaque and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the fillet registers 1200. While the salmon is cooking, combine the reserved marinade and the mustard in a small saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour the reduction over the fillets. Spoon ¼ cup of the Pomegranate Olive Mint Salsa on top of each fillet, and serve immediately.

Cook’s note: Like Goldilocks and the porridge, fish has to be just right. Too much time in the oven or on the grill leaves fish dry. Too little time and you will have raw fish. As with many other proteins, fish continues to cook for several minutes after you take it off the heat. This is called carryover cooking. Let an instant-read thermometer be your guide, and pull the fish away from the heat at 1200. By the time you are ready to serve it, the fish will be perfect.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutritional information per serving: calories 298; protein 37 g; carbohydrates 5 g; total fat 14 g (saturated fat 3 g; mono-unsaturated 6.5 g; dietary fiber 0.5 g; sodium 195 mg

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.


Pomegranate Olive Mint Salsa

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: Not applicable

Painting, like cooking, is all about getting into a zone, which is probably why I like doing both. They are complementary in another way, too: I am visually driven, and when I’m working on a painting—as I was this past summer—I am drawn to foods that create a color sensation on the plate. Don’t ask me why—maybe there is some­thing about color that affects taste—but foods that blend well visually also taste fantastic together. I know that not many people would put pomegranate seeds together with olives and fennel, but you have to trust me on this one; not only is it a dance party for the mouth but your eyes will widen at how good it looks.

1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup finely chopped mint
½ cup Kalamata or green olives, chopped
½ cup finely chopped fennel
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt

Put the parsley, mint, olives, fennel, pome­granate seeds, walnuts, scallions, olive oil, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, pepper, and a pinch of salt in a bowl and stir gently to combine. For optimal flavor, cover and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. Taste; you may want to add another squeeze of lemon or pinch of salt.

Yield: about 2½ cups

Serving size: ¼ cup

Nutritional information per serving: calories 33; protein 0.5 g; carbohydrates 1.5 g; total fat 3 g (saturated fat 0.3 g; mono-unsaturated 1.6 g); dietary fiber 0.4 g; sodium 97 mg

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.


Curry Spiced Sweet Potato Hummus

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 12 minutes

Hummus has been popular since at least the thirteenth century, when it appeared in an Egyptian cookbook. And as far as its being too exotic to make, well, that’s really not the case. Hummus is simply a mix of pureed chickpeas, lemon juice, and tahini, which is just ground-up sesame seeds (fortunately for your brain, they are full of zinc). Hummus is a great foundation for experimentation, and here I have pumped up the colors and flavors by introducing sweet potatoes topped with pomegranate seeds and mint. There is an earthy, mellow taste to this creamy hummus that resonates on a deep level, with cumin, curry, and ginger spicing providing just the right level of ahhhhhh.

8 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
Sea salt
1 cup cooked chickpeas or 1 (15-ounce) can, rinsed
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Extravirgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, for garnish
1 tablespoon minced mint, for garnish

Set a steamer basket in a pot, then fill with enough water to hit just below the bottom of the basket. Add the sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and steam, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender.

In a bowl, mix the chickpeas with a spritz of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Combine the sweet potatoes, chickpeas,

2½ tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, tahini, curry powder, cumin, ginger, ½ teaspoon of salt, and water in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Taste; you may want to add a pinch more salt or squirt of lemon. Trans­fer to a small bowl and garnish with pomegran­ate seeds, mint, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Cook’s notes: Here is a quick trick for remov­ing pomegranate seeds from the fruit: Cut the pomegranate in half crosswise. Then, working over a large bowl, hold one half with the cut side facing down into the bowl. Give the uncut side of the fruit a few good whacks with the back of a large wooden spoon to release the seeds, letting them fall into the bowl. If no pomegranate seeds are available, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses will do.

Served immediately, this hummus is smooth and dippable. After refrigerating, the potatoes soak up moisture and it becomes more of a spread.

Yield: about 2 cups Serving size: ¼ cup

Nutritional information per serving: calories 229; protein 6 g; carbohydrates 26 g; total fat 12 g (saturated fat 2 g; mono-unsaturated 7 g); dietary fiber 6 g; sodium 237 mg

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to one month.

Reprinted with permission from The Healthy Mind Cookbook by Rebecca Katz, copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography copyright © 2015 by Maren Caruso. http://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Mind-Cookbook-Big-Flavor-Function/dp/1607742977/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427908114&sr=1-1&keywords=the+healthy+mind

Q&A with Rebecca Katz