Holidays are synonymous with indulgence. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s something to be said about a little balance. Here are five recipes that are not only healthy and wholesome but also delicious — and they look great on a holiday table.
The first three tasty dishes come from the restaurants of culinary vegan superstar Chef Matthew Kenney (you can find his fare locally at the recently-opened and very popular restaurant Baia). The last two comforting but healthy concoctions are from local health food celebrity Dean Ornish M.D., the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito.
Butternut Squash Carpaccio
Quince Purée. Pickled Mustard Seeds. Candied Pepitas. Apple.
Ingredients (Serves 8):
1 pound butternut squash
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil 8 sprigs lemon thyme
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup quince, peeled and chopped
2 slices/shaves of lemon peel
1 vanilla pod, split 12 sprigs of lemon thyme, wrapped and tied in cheesecloth 1 cup cane sugar
Pickled Mustard Seeds
1⁄2 cup brown mustard seeds, whole
1⁄2 cup yellow mustard seeds, whole
1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar 1⁄2 cup agave 1⁄2 cup water, filtered
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 1⁄4 cups pumpkin seeds
1⁄2 cup filtered water
1 cup organic cane sugar
1⁄2 cup maple syrup
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted 1 pinch salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, small dice 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pinch sea salt
2–3 kumquats, seeded and sliced
1 small Chioggia beet, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1⁄4 cup black cured olives
Herbs (chervil and mint recommended) Oxalis
Cut the squash right above the bulb where the seeds are stored and reserve the round bottom for another use (not used in this recipe). Peel the squash with a peeler and slice into rounds, using a very sharp mandoline slicer. Toss the squash with olive oil, thyme, and sea salt. Arrange squash rounds into round flower shapes and place them in between parchment paper. Store them on a flat sheet pan in the refrig- erator until ready to serve.
Place quince and the remaining ingredients, except the cane sugar, in a saucepan and fill with water, just enough to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes. Re- move from heat and strain. Discard all ingredients except the quince and lemon peel. In a high-speed blender, purée the quince and lemon. Place the cane sugar and quince purée in a saucepan and cook on low for 1 hour.
Pickled Mustard Seeds
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Let sit for about an hour to allow the mustard seeds to bloom. Remove half the mixture, blend in a high-speed blender, then pour the blended mixture back into the remaining mixture. Stir. Let the mixture sit out at room temperature 1–2 days.
Toast the pumpkin seeds over medium heat in a pan, con- stantly moving the seeds around the pan so they do not burn. Remove from the heat as soon as they begin to brown around the edges.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of a medium saucepan. To ensure an accurate temperature reading, make sure the candy thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pan. Heat the water, cane sugar, and maple syrup over medium high heat. Remember to stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the liquid starts to boil. Stop stirring, increase the heat slightly, and allow the mixture to boil until it reaches 285°F.
At this point, add the pumpkin seeds to the saucepan and stir continuously, making sure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan, until the temperature reaches 300°F. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. The baking soda will cause the mixture to bubble slightly. This is expected.Working quickly before the liquid begins to harden, pour the mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Use the back of a wooden spoon to spread the batter evenly across the sheet. Allow the brittle to completely harden at room temperature, about 2 hours. Break the cooled candied pepitas into shards and store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.
Combine the apple with the lemon juice and salt. Set aside.
Dehydrate at 155°F in a dehydrator or an oven for 12 hours, or until completely dry. Transfer the dehydrated olives to a food processor and pulse a few times until they are roughly chopped.
Almond Ricotta. Roasted Fennel. Creamy Polenta. Kale Pesto. Spigarello. Cherry Tomatoes.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
2 cups almonds, soaked 1 quart water
1⁄2 tablespoon citric acid Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 bulb fennel, core removed, halved, then quartered 1 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 sprigs thyme
1 cup polenta
5 cups water
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast 1⁄2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt, for blanching 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed 3 cloves garlic, roasted 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 bunch spigarello
1 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄2 pint cherry tomatoes 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
Blend the almonds and water in a high-speed blender until smooth. Strain the mixture to separate the almond milk from the pulp. Discard the pulp.
Pour the almond milk into a large pot and bring up to 194°F. Whisk in the citric acid, lemon zest, and salt. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, pour into a strainer lined with cheesecloth, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate, allowing the ricotta to drain for a few hours before transferring to a sealed container. Discard the liquid.
Preheat the oven to 350°F°F. Toss fennel with oil, salt, and thyme. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast for 20–30 minutes, flipping halfway through, after the first side is caramelized.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the polenta on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Bring the water, salt, and nutritional yeast to a boil, and stream in toasted polenta, whisking vigorously to avoid clumping. Re- duce heat to low and simmer until polenta is soft and creamy, about 45 minutes. Stir frequently and add additional boiling water if polenta gets too thick. Stir in the olive oil at the end.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add enough ko- sher salt so the water tastes salty, like the ocean. Blanch de- stemmed kale for about 3 minutes, or until kale is tender and tears easily. Shock blanched kale in ice water and squeeze out any remaining water. Roughly chop. Reserve blanching water for blanching the spigarello.
Place kale, garlic, and sea salt in a blender and purée un- til smooth, stirring occasionally. A few tablespoons of water may be needed to loosen the mixture. Slowly drizzle in olive oil to finish.
Cut thick bottoms off the spigarello. Blanch in the same water you used for the kale for 1–2 minutes, or until stems are soft. Shock in ice water and drain. When ready to serve, heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat and cook the spigarello until heated all the way through.
Heat a sauté pan over high heat. Toss tomatoes in olive oil, salt, and sugar. Add tomatoes to hot pan and stir frequently until the tomato skins begin to blister.
Mix 1/2 cup of creamy polenta with 2 tablespoons of kale pesto. Place on the bottom, right half of a bowl and, using the back of a spoon, swirl the polenta into a “vortex.” Place the tomatoes, spigarello, and fennel at the bottom of the bowl with dollops of almond ricotta and spicy greens, preferably mustard greens. Garnish with flowers.
Pumpkins Roasted in Almond Oil and Market Lime Leaf
Squash. Roasted Grapes. Pepitas.
Ingredients (Serves 4-6):
1 large kabocha squash
1 small cheese pumpkin
12 makrut lime leaves
24 sprigs lemon thyme
2 cups cold-pressed almond oil 1 tablespoon sea salt
2 cups red grapes
2 tablespoons cold-pressed almond oil 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
12 sprigs lemon thyme
1 cup pumpkin seeds, roasted 1 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut squash and pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. In a large Dutch oven, place half the lime leaves and half the thyme on the bottom, then place squash and pumpkin, cut-side up, and top with almond oil. Sprinkle with salt and top with the rest of the lime leaves and thyme. Cover and roast for 35 minutes. Remove lid and let roast for 10 more minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toss grapes in almond oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and top with thyme. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Toss all ingredients and set aside.
Remove squash and pumpkin from oil and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Break into irregular-shaped pieces and scatter on a large round plate. Place roasted grapes around pieces of squash and pumpkin and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Using a microplane, shave almonds over the whole plate.
Originally published in Undo It by Dean Ornish, M.D. and Anne Ornish
Ingredients (Serves 12):
3 tablespoons flaxseed meal, divided
1 teaspoon ground ginger, divided
8 oz. low fat graham crackers (about 12 crackers)
1 can (15 oz.) unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 cup unsweetened soy or oat milk
3 ½ tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon stevia powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
- Preheat oven to 325F. In a small bowl, stir together 1 ½ tablespoons flaxseed meal, ginger, and 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water for the crust.
- In another small bowl, stir together the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons flaxseed meal and ¼ cup water for the filling. Set both bowls aside until thickened, about 10 minutes.
- In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, crumble the graham crackers. Pulse until fine crumbs form. Add the spiced flax mixture and pulse until mixture holds its form when pressed. Scrape from the processor into a 9-inch non-stock pie pan and press evenly onto the edge, if possible. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set on a rack to cool slightly. Raise oven temperature to 350F.
- To make the filling, place pumpkin, milk, maple syrup, corn starch, vanilla, cinnamon, stevia, salt, ginger, remaining ½ teaspoon ground ginger, nutmeg cloves, and remaining flax mixture in a blender. Blend until smooth.
- Pour into prepared crust. Bakle for 35-45 minutes or until set at the center and temperature reaches 170F, checking after 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving.
Originally published in Undo It by Dean Ornish, M.D. and Anne Ornish
Ingredients (Serves 4):
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon corn starch
6 cups cauliflower florets (about 3 lbs from one large head)
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives or nutritional yeast for garnish
- In a large saute pan, combine onion with ¼ cup water over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are tender and liquid has evaporated about 10 minutes. Add soy milk, garlic powder, thyme, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer but be careful not to boil.
- In a small bowl, combine corn starch and 1 tablespoon water. Whisk cornstarch mixture into onion mixture. Cook, 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick and creamy, Remove from heat and set aside.
- Place a vegetable steamer basket in a saucepan and add water to just below the bottom of steamer basket. Over high heat, bring water to a boil. Add cauliflower florets, cover and steam until tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove steamer basket and discard steaming water from pot before placing steamed cauliflower back in the pot.
- Using a hand masher, whisk or immersion blender, mash to desired consistency or blend in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
- Taste for seasoning, adding more as needed. Serve warm with a sprinkle of chives or nutritional yeast.
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For more on Better:
- 5 Perfect Pumpkin Recipes for National Pumpkin Day
- Trick-or-Treating, Costumes, and More: Tips for Celebrating Halloween Safely in 2020
- World Mental Health Day: Tips, Inspiration and Resources to Help You Prioritize Your Emotional Well Being
Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.