How to make healthy choices every day

Miraculous Rice-less Risotto with Ramps and Asparagus

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I had no sooner returned to Denmark from Kauai, than had to turn right around, head to the airport and get on a plane to the Netherlands. Last weekend I was teaching my Green Goodness cooking classes in Amsterdam to celebrate spring and all verdant edibles. The icing on the cake was being invited by chef Schilo van Coevorden at the Conservatorium Hotel to collaborate on a tasting menu for his restaurant, Tunes. After working together in his spectacular kitchen, we came up with three dishes that would comprise the backbone for the tasting menu, as well as the meal served at the official launch and press event.

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My favorite dish of all was a rice-less risotto. Chef Schilo is very much into taking seasonal vegetables and making “rice” out of them, simply by cutting them into grain-sized pieces. I had done this before at my raw food restaurant, but I had never tried cooking it before. Intrigued, we set out to make rice from white asparagus with a green sauce from blanched green asparagus and nettle. Combined with caramelized shallots, olive oil and some sheep’s milk cheese, it was a creative, light take on one of my favorite comfort foods.

Since I have an undying passion for wild leeks, also known as ramps, I chose to use those instead of the nettles in my version of the sauce. Ramps are popping up all throughout the forest floor here in Denmark, so they are an in-season treat that I love to forage for. Because they are from the leek family, ramps have an unmistakable allium flavour – stronger than cultivated leeks, but milder than garlic. You can use the whole part of the plant, but I like using just the leaves (easier to harvest!) in pesto, chopped up into salads, or folded into eggs. In this recipe, use just the leaves and save the little white bulbs for grilling, or use in place of onions or shallots in cooked dishes.

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The Power of Spring Foods
This time of year we are entering new nutrient territory! That means fresh, seasonal foods with a whole host of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that we haven’t been exposed to over the long winter months.

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Ramps contain quercetin, a plant pigment (flavanoid) that not-so-coincidentally helps combat seasonal allergies. It also acts as a powerful anti-oxidant, combating damaging free radicals that cause disease. Quercetin is anti-inflammatory, so it particularly helpful for arthritis and asthma sufferers. For anyone wishing to improve heart health and prevent atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and circulation problems, include quercetin-containing foods in your diet (including onions, cruciferous vegetables, berries, and many nuts and seeds).

Asparagus, both white and green varieties, contain vitamin K. This family of chemically related substances collectively allows your blood to clot normally, protects your bones from fracture and postmenopausal bone loss, helps prevent calcification of the arteries, and provides possible protection against liver and prostate cancer. Research continues to evaluate the possibilities of vitamin K’s role in protecting against oxidative damage, regulating the body’s inflammatory response, and how it supports the brain and nervous system.

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