BONNEE ANNEE A TOUS! This mean Happy New Year in French Soo…it is already 2015. Maybe last night over your glass of champagne, you were tearing up a bit, getting nostalgic. I was doing the same, in a fabulous apartment in the Marais district of Paris, minutes away from Hotel de Ville (City Hall), From the fourth floor balcony, we could see the belle architecture and people sur la rue, and all the lights aglow. Beauty that makes your heart ache. But with each high, come the low. Last night was about a time for goodbyes, but also new beginnings. In effect, change.
As you ponder how you will make your life different and better in the New Year, I’m sure health and feeling good are at the top of the list. Now in the States for sure there are New Year’s Resolutions to lose 10 pounds, get fit, do a six-week cleanse, etc. I think in France women do diet fairly viciously, but it is uncouth to speak about this in public. These things are just not discussed. I don’t think there’s this concept of cleansing either. As a Canadian friend of mine in Paris said, “I am clean enough!” Which I found fascinating she said this because she is a vegetarian yogi! She must have started to adopt the European mindset of moderation.
Alessandro, a Sicilian who lives in Paris, says that Americans are quite extreme, especially in the gym. Grunting, red, eyes bugging out. He eats a mostly plant-based diet, does moderate exercise on his bike or walks about 45 minutes all day, and c’est tout. And he does the same thing, every day. And he has quite a magnificent physique I have to say.
Whatever your opinions are on this topic, proper nutrition and keeping yourself healthy through the winter months is imperative. Our body is more susceptible to weakness and feeling depleted. I don’t know about you, but I have been pretty much wanting to eat a lot of heavy, food – bacon, potatoes, butter, more potatoes. A French friend of mine made an amazing tartiflette for dinner the other night. It was quite fabulous – we had wine, oysters, and a quite healthy serving of this version of scalloped potatoes replete with lardons (bacon strips), and a big hunk of ooey gooey Reblochon cheese on top. It was stinky. It was melty. It was good. The flesh of the potatoes really soaked up all the pungent aromas of cheese. On a bien bouffe (we grubbed!). However the downside of such a heavy meal is – you feel sluggish and quite unwell after the large amount of salt, starch, cheese and animal fat.
So what does one eat food, salad? Mais non! Raw cold vegetables in winter strips your body of much needed warmth in winter. We need to eat replenishing, heating foods during cold weather. What we want to eat are roasted root vegetables. Roasting forces dry heat into the food, which raises the chi, or heating energy of the food. The Chinese believe to keep our bodies in balance, we must foods that both cool and also heat the body. Heating foods include meat and fried foods; cooling foods are usually most vegetables and fruits. Roasted veggies are great because there are a lot of vitamins, it is light, but roasted satisfies your body’s need for heat, but not in such an aggressive way as frying.
Here, roasted veggies 2 ways:
Dish 1: Caramelized Roasted Parsnips with Maple Glaze
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (about 400 Fahreinheit). Double-line a roasting pan with foil (Use an extra big piece of foil that goes up the sides so you don’t have to clean the pan later!) Take 4 parsnips, and peel and cut them into 1-inch chunks. If you are not familiar with parsnips (panais), it is a root vegetable that resembles a white carrot, but drier and sweeter. I once had it as dessert, sweetened, with cinnamon, nutmeg and such. Quite delicious. Really cuts those sweet cravings.
Once your parsnips are chopped up throw in your roasting pan and toss in coconut oil (or if you must butter! try to choose a whole fat), salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence (thyme, oregano, bay leaf, rosemary), and a healthy drizzle of maple syrup over the whole lot. This caramelises the parsnips. Roast for about 20 minutes until it smells toasty and a fork in the flesh pierces easily. Oh my. I was really going to town on these. Really yummy. Try these with carrots as well, or any other root vegetable.
Dish 2: Provencal Roasted Mushrooms and Peppers
Same preparation as the parsnips, except omit the maple syrup, and throw in a couple of smashed garlic cloves (you can leave the skin on, I use a heavy glass jar to crush mine). Cut up two bell peppers, any colour, in one-inch squares, and throw in the roasting pan with an entire package of button mushrooms. Yes do not wash them, do not cut them, do nothing. Make sure you leave enough space between your veggies for the dry heat of the oven to circulate. You want to roast not steam!
After roasting for about 10 minutes, your oven may get steamy, especially if you are making it in a tiny toaster oven in my tiny Paris kitchen. If this happens, prop open the door with a wooden for a few minutes to let the excess humidity escape. Roast for 10 minutes more or so, until well caramelised and tender. When you taste each morsel of legume, it should burst in your mouth with juicy flavour.
It was quite satisfying to eat the whole pan. There are hardly any calories in this dish, so you can eat and eat and not feel sick or gain any weight. The genius of a plant-based diet I added a squeeze of lemon and some balsamic vinaigrette over mine for extra flavour. Acidity is a great way to add flavour and brighten up a dish without adding too much salt or fussy seasonings.
I am off now to make my second batch of these delicious roast vegetables, and then take a brisk walk around the city. The sun has decided to visit Paris and say hello, which this California girl is overjoyed about.
ENJOY this wonderful time of renewal. I bestow upon you HEALTH and happiness! Happy 2015!!!