OK, I want to state for the record, I am not a dietitian, a nutritionist or any kind of medical specialist.
But I am a highly trained chef with more than 50 years of cooking experience. So, what does that all mean? As a chef, it is important I keep up with all the latest trends, diets, new ingredients, food preparation techniques, kitchen equipment, science and how foods react together, storage and sanitation procedures.
When I was with Volusia County School District, I worked in the Student Nutrition Department where I collaborated with a registered licensed dietitian, Evelyn Klironomos. Together we presented healthy cooking demos to many schools, students, school staff members and state conferences for almost 20 years.
It was great, and I learned a great deal from Evelyn. The experience was wonderful. She would come up with the guidelines for good health, and I would come up with the cooking technique that would work. We both understood and respected our roles and how to make it a good learning experience.
In working together all those years, I found she was very skilled in the science of good health, but cooking technique she would leave to me. I truly miss those times.
Now, years later, I am being asked to do healthy cooking demos for hospitals and organizations that want to offer their employees information on eating healthier. The internet has opened the door for many people to download healthy recipes, but in reading these recipes I find the cooking techniques just don’t work well, or not enough information is given.
First, what cooking methods are the healthiest and best to use? The best way to prepare food is one that requires the least amount of oil. By using different cooking methods, you can bring out different flavors in your food and retain nutrients. Air frying is healthier than deep frying or pan frying.
Oven baked foods are easy to prepare and preserve nutrients. The flavors of the protein and the vegetables are retained and enhanced by roasting. Roasting vegetables is usually done on high heat (for about 20 minutes) with a spritz of olive oil or chicken stock. The flavors of the protein and the vegetables are retained and enhanced by roasting.
Steaming usually requires a steamer, a vessel with perforated holes. The benefit of steaming is there is little loss of vitamins and minerals. Lack of flavor is sometimes a complaint. Adding herbs and spices to the water is a great way to overcome that problem.
Stir-frying uses high heat, so the food cooks quickly. Vegetables and protein go in a wok with very little oil. Due to the quick cooking, vegetables maintain their nutrients, flavor and color. If you don’t own a wok, now is a good time to buy one.
So, the idea is to use high heat and quick cooking time for the best results in maintaining the nutritional value of the food. Here is a recipe to try out your new wok!
Thai basil stir fry
½ cup chicken stock
1½ tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1½ tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, minced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined; or 1 pound chicken, pork or beef, thinly sliced
2-3 cups diced vegetables (zucchini, summer squash, onions and/or peppers)
1 bunch of fresh basil leaves
Combine the stock, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl, and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Just before serving, heat a wok over high heat. Swirl in the oil. Add the garlic, scallions and cook for 15 seconds or until fragrant, but not brown. Add the shrimp and vegetables, and stir fry for 1-2 minutes.
Add the sauce and most of the basil leaves, and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the main ingredient is cooked and the vegetables are tender-crisp. Correct the seasoning, adding fish sauce as necessary. Garnish the dish with the remaining basil leaves.
Costa Magoulas is dean of the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management at Daytona State College. Contact him at (386) 506-3578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.