Health & Fitness

By Dr. Alexandra Lansky and Chef Josyane Colwell

Guest Writers Dr. Alexandra Lansky and Chef Josyane Colwell have teamed up to provide BN readers with a menu sure to keep your romantic ‘dinners-for-two’ a heart healthy affair.

The month February marks not only Valentine’s Day but also Heart Health Month, making it the perfect time to both think with your heart and take care of it. Dr. Alexandra Lansky, the esteemed cardiologist leading the Women’s Heart Health Initiative at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation, and Chef Josyane Colwell, the founder of the famous New York catering company Le Moulin Catering, have teamed up to put together the ultimate heart healthy Valentine’s Day menu that is easy, elegant, and impressive.

To start off, Chef Colwell recommends a Fresh Tomato and Fennel Soup. Dr. Lansky advises that tomatoes, which are full of lycopene, have amazing antioxidant benefits. In the area of food and phytonutrient research, nothing has been hotter in the last several years than the studies on the lycopene in tomatoes. The carotenoid found in tomato (and tomato products) has been studied for its cancer-preventing properties, as it has the ability to help protect cells (and other structures in the body) from oxygen damage, and has been linked in human research to the protection of DNA inside white blood cells. Fennel also has unique phytonutrients with antioxidant and health-promoting effects. The fennel in this soup provides flavonoids, rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides – all strong antioxidants!

Once you’ve had your fill of antioxidants, continue with an entrée that is packed with Vitamin B6 and monosaturated fat: Chicken with Malaga Raisins and Pignoli Nuts. Skinless chicken is lean and contains Vitamin B6, which not only aids in energy metabolism but also plays a pivotal role as a methyl donor in the basic cellular process of methylization. For those who don’t have biology degrees, this process reduces the accumulation of molecules such as homecysteine that can be so damaging to blood vessel walls that high levels are considered a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. When it comes to pine nuts, these delicious additions have been used homeopathically for ages to promote heart health, lower cholesterol, and control weight.

Complement your chicken with Savory Braised Artichokes, which are not only an amazing source of fiber, incredibly low in calories and full of protein, but also a delicious vegetable delivering a hearty dose of vitamin A, magnesium, chromium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, iron and calcium. Because artichokes are so well endowed with nutrients and phytochemicals, many health researchers believe they may contribute to the prevention of certain types of heart disease, cancer and birth defects.

Even when dining mindfully, no romantic dinner is complete without dessert, and Josyane Colwell’s Fragrant Poached Pears are the perfect balance of sweet and smart. Dr. Lansky sites that the fiber in pears does a lot more than ensure regularity; fiber has been shown in numerous studies to lower cholesterol levels, which is good news for people at risk for atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease.

With the help of two consummate New York based experts, you can effortlessly create an elegant, romantic dinner for your sweetie that will keep both of your hearts healthy as well as happy. For more information regarding Dr. Lansky and heart health in women, please visit http://www.hearthealthywomen.org, the only comprehensive source for gender based cardiovascular health information. For more information about Josyane Caldwell and her award winning catering & event planning firm, Le Moulin Catering, be sure to visit http://www.lemoulincatering.com.


(BN’s February Guest Writers: Dr. Alexandra Lansky & Chef Josyane Colwell)

RECIPES

Fresh Tomato and Fennel Soup (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
2 organic onions, finely chopped
2 to 3 cloves organic white garlic
2 organic fennel bulbs, finely chopped
2 lbs roma tomatoes, roughly chopped with seeds squeezed out
Approximately 4 cups tomato juice
Fennel to garnish
Pinch of sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and lightly fry the onions, garlic, and chopped fennel until very tender — about 10 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and tomato juice. Simmer until slightly thickened and flavorful — about 15 minutes.
3. Strain the soup and return to a clean pan. Add the remaining ingredients and heat through. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Chicken with Malaga Raisins and Pignoli (Serves 4)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 whole roasting chicken, cut into 8 pieces and skin removed
1 cup nonfat, low sodium, organic or homemade chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
1 bouquet of aromatic herbs (thyme, bay leaf, and rosemary)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup pignoli nuts
1 cup malaga or corinthe raisins
Wild rice (optional)

Directions:
1. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet and sautee the onions until golden. Add the chicken pieces, and continue to sautee until golden.
2. Warm chicken stock separately. After chicken pieces are golden, add warm stock, white wine, bouquet of herbs, and salt and pepper to skillet with chicken. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Add pignoli and raisins. Continue to simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender and juice has reduced by approximately half and is golden brown in color.
4. Serve warm on a bed of wild rice.

Artichokes (serves 4)

12 Small (baby) artichokes
12 stalks celery
12 Mushrooms
8 baby Leeks or six large leeks cut in half
8 small green Onions (similar to scallions)
12 pearl onions
2 tomatoes
2 lemons
1 glass white wine
thyme
olive oil
sea salt/pepper

In a heavy cast iron pot with lid, saute small baby onions in olive oil. When golden, add tomatoes (skinned and seeded), mix and let ingredients reduce; stir constantly. Add additional olive oil and increase heat. Incorporate mushrooms, diced celery, leeks, artichokes and scallions. Add pinch of fresh thyme. Cook for 10 min on high flame. Add 1 glass white wine and the juice of 2 lemons. Reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes.

Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Cool and serve.

Poached Pears (serves 2)

Always choose firm pears.

2 Pears
Juice from 2 Lemons (or 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice)
Water
Sugar (preferably brown sugar or raw honey)
Fresh mint leaves

Peel pears and cut into quarters. Remove seeds. Soak in water (enough to cover) and add the lemon juice.

Remove pears and place in heavy saucepan. Cover with lukewarm water, 1/4 – 1/2 cup honey (depending on desired sweetness), mint leaves.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Cook until pears are tender (approx. 30 min.). Remove from juice. Cook juice longer until it thickens.

Serve in bowl with mint leaf garnish.

Originally published February 2009
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