It’s become extremely apparent in the last six months that we live in a nation divided.
On one side of the aisle, there are the Paleo peeps, and on the other their Plant-Based brothers and sisters.
(Oh, did you think we were about to talk about politics? Well, only kinda sorta…)
These two groups truly are the Sharks and Jets of the food world. The only commonality in their belief systems is that blueberries are awesome, so long as they’re organic and not flown in from Chile. And each side is likely to point a You’re-Fake-News finger at the other when it comes to the rest.
I remain permanently, decisively on the fence.
Emotionally, I prefer to eat mostly plants. Physically, I have to admit that I feel pretty good when I cut out grains. Those two things may not seem mutually exclusive on the surface. But I’ve found it’s pretty hard to eat out in the world as a grain-free person if you’re not willing to put more meat on your plate.
My biggest issue with pushers of high protein, low carb diets is how extreme some of their arguments are.
Just this weekend I attended a talk with a functional medicine doctor. Her shtick (and they all have an unwavering one) is that we all need to be eating 100 grams of animal protein a day. That’s the equivalent of three 8-ounce chicken breasts. She had some interesting things to say, but I bristled when she went so far in her defense of this protein protocol as to call the sustainability and environmental issues with meat production a myth.
Eat what you want to eat. But that my friends, is not fake news.
If you’re eating more meat, and are not making your own meals 100 percent of the time, it inevitably means you’re going to be faced with the prospect of eating conventionally raised meat, which is packed with hormones that are problematic for thyroid health (and any endocrine condition).
So are we better off eating animals injected with hormones just to get our protein, or eating plants instead?
Her answer, if you can call it that, was “I would tell you to start prioritizing your health.”
She then recommended that I hire a private chef if I had to. (Which made me smirk.)
The exchange pretty much summed up every single reason I wrote The Wellness Project.
I wrote it because there are too many doctors who preach that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, yet one solution is all they preach. These Upper East Side practitioners can’t fathom that their solutions are not accessible or affordable for the majority of the population. And they make the rest of us feel crazy, guilty or ashamed when we voice the hard choices we make to fit health into real life.
My mission has always been to talk about them.
No matter how many people in the wellness space choose to broadcast their way of living in terms of right or wrong, very few of our health modalities and beliefs in practice are black and white; wine or kale; carbs or carne. For the average person, these choices are nuanced, and often times, yes, hard.
In order to make them easier, I say it’s important to tune out the noise and the fear, and try a few different diets on for size. Once you find your hard lines and your wiggle room, that’s when the questioning gets easier.
The sweet spot I’ve found between health and hedonism in this area is to eat my grains with plants, and plants with my meat. This way I always ensure my plate is 50 percent veg. It’s also how I manage to get my One Part Plant meal of the day in!
This Milanese-style saffron risotto recipe is one of my new obsessions, and was my attempt to make a plant-based version of one of my favorite grain-free dishes in the book: a turmeric-braised chicken. The vegetarian version here has similar hues, but uses saffron instead of turmeric.
Since saffron is on the more expensive side of the spice aisle, you can easily substitute 1 teaspoon of turmeric to get the same effect instead. It’s all about fitting this shit into your life, remember?
For the veggie topping, I used a variety of spring produce: carrots, radishes, leeks, golden beets. Feel free to switch it up with whatever looks good at the market. Asparagus, shallots, and fennel would all make excellent additions to the mix. The veggies get braised in lemon juice and white wine until their juices create a luscious bath for the risotto, but the flesh still has a nice bite.
What are some of your biggest hard choices around food and health in general? I would love you to share them in the comments section. Here’s hoping that this saffron risotto recipe with lemony braised spring vegetables can make some of them that much easier (and tastier).
And if you haven’t ordered The Wellness Project book yet to help you sort through the rest, I hope you will! There are only two weeks left until launch, and your pre-orders really help in getting the publisher’s sales team rallied around the book, which means it will get in the hands of more people, and that many more collective hard choices will get easier!
Much love from one healthy hedonist, to another,
Saffron Risotto with Lemony Braised Spring Vegetables
- 1 bunch radishes , greens removed and halved
- 3 medium golden beets , scrubbed, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 large leek , white and green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced into thin half moons
- 1 bunch carrots , peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 cloves garlic , minced, divided
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- 3/4 cup dry white wine , divided
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 small yellow onion , diced
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup finely chopped chives , for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a large oven-proof skillet or 9x13 baking dish, toss the radishes, beets, leeks and carrots, and 2 cloves of minced garlic with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons sea salt. Arrange in an even layer (overlapping is fine), and drizzle 1/4 cup of wine and the lemon juice over the veggies. Braise in the oven for 1 hour, redistributing the vegetables once halfway through, until they are fork tender but still have a slight crisp bite.
- Meanwhile, make the risotto: heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or deep saucepan. Sauté the onions over medium high heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cloves of minced garlic, the saffron threads and the rice. Cook for 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and the rice has started to lightly toast. Pour in the remaining 1/2 cup wine and 1 teaspoon sea salt. When nearly all absorbed, add 1 cup of the stock. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally until nearly al absorbed. Repeat this process, adding stock by ½ cup, until the rice is tender, about 25 minutes.
- To serve, spoon the risotto onto plates, top with the braised vegetables, and garnish with the chives.