Sunday, July 25, 2010

7/26/2010 Jennifer Chandler, Vic Parrino, Susan Davis

It's almost summer, and salads of all kinds are appearing on tables around the southland. Whether as a starter, side or even main course, salads give cooks an opportunity to mix it up and experiment. And with all the pre-washed packaged salad greens in our markets today, it's never been easier to put together an elegant, creative and extra-special salad to round out your menu.

Simply Salads, Jennifer Chandler's latest book for home cooks, contains more than 100 salad recipes, all of which start with a bag or two of packaged salad greens. The book explores both dressed-up side salads, which are largely vegetarian, and entree salads in which chicken, meat or seafood play a starring role. She also includes sections on fruit salads, pasta and other grains, and slaws.

Chandler's homemade dressings, which rarely contain more than a handful of ingredients, brighten and lighten the flavors of the ingredients and shower the dishes with pizazz. She makes good use of supermarket snack foods like chips and dried peas as garnishes. And the recipes take full advantage of the wide variety of greens available in supermarkets today: romaine, butter lettuce, mache, arugula and more.

A few of my favorite recipes:

Confetti chip salad, which tosses together romaine, bell peppers, avocado and crunchy vegetable chips and is dressed with a vinaigrette touched with ketchup

Thai beef salad, topped with flank steak and mint, and dressed with a lime-spiked Asian dressing

Butter lettuce with smoked salmon, capers and dill in a lemon vinaigrette (click here for the recipe)

Lobster salad with grapefruit vinaigrette

Layered chop salad, which is presented in a glass trifle bowl and is absolutely gorgeous

We're probably a little more salad-savvy here in southern California than in most places around the country. But even for the salad experts, Simply Salads would be a welcome addition to any collection.

Simply Salads is available on and at local bookstores.

Vic Parrino-Owner of Colombo's Restaurant

Colombo's has been around since 1954, and a visit to the wood-paneled old warhorse is an enjoyable time trip to the era of vodka gimlits, carafes of Lambrusco and oversized plates of spaghetti and meatballs. The menu also offers a respectable Caesar salad, fine lasagna, chicken Marsala, pizzas and affordable steaks. The always-crowded bar is known for its stiff drinks, which have been luring regulars here for decades. A spirited trio serves up old-fashioned piano bar tunes to complement the red-sauced dishes.
Thinking about the benefits of a new, healthier lifestyle? If you are like many people, you have cast a critical eye on your own health habits. Maybe you haven’t been putting your health first, or maybe you are concerned about the effects of aging or preventing disease. Making the decision to get on the right nutritional track is a great first step. But once you have made the decision, where do you start? According to Susan Davis, MS, RD, nutrition advisor for the Wild Blueberry Association of North America, the best way to get on track is to load your plate with color.

Among other dietary musts such as eating fish or whole grains, the importance of a diet full of fruits and vegetables is undeniable. While integrating all colors is important for getting a diet firmly on track, it is those “little blues” — tiny, delicious, Wild Blueberries — that are especially important. “It is just critical that we look at fruits and vegetables as one of the answers and get blue pigment in the diet,” said Davis in a recent interview for the Association. “It’s important to get all pigments in the diet, but the one we overlook most, I think, is blue.”

Davis is passionate about passing along her first-hand knowledge of the benefits of nutrition. As a registered and licensed dietician with a master’s degree in nutrition, and with interests in the areas of phytochemicals, probiotics and preventative health, she works with medical facilities, businesses, school systems, and community programs to promote strategies for good nutritional practices. In a new video segment called “Getting on the Right Nutritional Track” Davis explains why the importance of the berry’s blue pigment cannot be underestimated.

Research shows that diets containing blueberries actually can reverse some of the changes of aging that affect our memory and our motor skills. “Wild blueberries are a great little fruit,” Davis asserts. “They are loaded with antioxidants, and they have natural compounds. What we know is that these compounds help prevent the diseases of aging, such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration.” Because Wild Blueberries are smaller and have more skin than their cultivated cousins, she explains, they contain more blue pigment, or anthocyanin, which is responsible for the antioxidant activity that is at the heart of these anti-aging properties.

As a member of the “Bar Harbor Group,” a group of leading researchers from U.S. and Canada that meets annually in Bar Harbor, Maine as part of the Wild Blueberry Research Summit, Davis stays informed about the latest research in the fields of neuroscience, aging, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and eye health, among others. While the Bar Harbor Group remains focused on the Wild Blueberries’ important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, it also monitors exciting new areas of investigation including childhood obesity and the impact of children’s diets in the prevention of disease and longevity. While Wild Blueberries already have a clear nutritional impact, Davis contends that understanding their health benefits may have just begun. “There is not one area of health that isn’t being looked into because of the preliminary research finding with the blueberries,” she said.

Read about the highlights of the annual meeting of the “Bar Harbor Group”.

In addition to illuminating the benefits of Wild Blueberries, Davis also addresses a common misconception: that fresh fruit is healthier than frozen fruit. Because fresh fruit is picked, shipped across the country, and held for days in the supermarket, it can be two weeks by the time a consumer eats fresh fruit. In contrast, fruit frozen at the point of harvest preserves all the nutritional value and health benefits, adding convenience and economics to the already advantageous Wild Blueberry.

It all makes a strong case for this spectacular fruit. “I love Wild Blueberries. I eat them every day,” said Davis, giving blues her personal endorsement. It’s clear that there is no better way to get on the right nutritional track — adding plenty of little blues to your diet is an ideal way to bring your health into vibrant and delicious focus.

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