Happy New Year to you. It’s time for a fresh start, a clean slate and setting intentions for the year ahead. And for me, it’s a time to clean up my eating habits. The age-old “resolution” to lose weight after the first of the year isn’t mine. Weight loss isn’t the goal: Healthier, more intentional eating and no alcohol for a whole month is my plan.
Resolutions can be so interesting and so easily dropped for old habits. During the holidays, all the parties, sweets lying around the office and the constant gatherings make it an easy time to overindulge. January is a nice, quiet and still time. It’s cold outside, so relish in the time to slow down, read some books, binge-watch “Salt Fat Acid Heat” on Netflix, and live your life at a different pace than December. I hear people talk about how January is not their favorite month, but try embracing the stillness, and you might just come to appreciate it a bit more.
Eating healthier means making the most of the food you consume. As much fun as holiday cooking is, it can be pretty tiring, along with hosting and housing friends and family for extended stays. We’re embracing simple-to-make, fresh-ingredient cooking in our home this month. Time will tell how many times a week my husband will tolerate fish for dinner. I’m hoping to work it in at least twice a week.
Cod is a light, white fish without the fishy flavor. Its firmer, flaky texture can convert even fish-averse palates. If you or someone you cook for isn’t all that into fish, this is a good one to try. With fish cooking, its all about either the sauce or the cooking method. This recipe has chopped almonds, which add crunch; fresh parsley; and lemon zest and garlic, which add flavor. Anything with lemon and garlic pleases my taste buds, perhaps because of my Lebanese heritage.
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Sending good wishes to you. May your New Year be happy, healthy and prosperous.
Oven-roasted cod with parsley, almonds and lemon
½ cup fresh parsley
½ cup roughly chopped raw almonds
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large garlic clove
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 6- to 8-ounce cod fillets
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the parsley, almonds, lemon zest and garlic together on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, chop the ingredients until they are well combined, though some chunky texture is okay. Stir in a pinch each of salt and pepper.
In a small baking dish, arrange the onion slices. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
Drizzle a touch of oil over each fish fillet then coat each with the herb and almond mixture. Place the fillets onto the layer of red onions, herb side up. Bake the cod for 12 to 15 minutes, until it is firm.
Serve each fillet with a portion of the red onions, and drizzle any oil and juices from the pan over the fish.
Recipe from “Clean Eats” by Alejandro Junger, MD
Instant Pot acorn squash with pecan stuffing
1 cup white basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for sprinkling
2 small acorn squash
1 small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks celery
1 tablespoon olive oil or pecan oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup raw pecan pieces
Feta or goat cheese crumbles, optional
Cook the rice: In an Instant Pot or digital pressure cooker, stir the rice, sage, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 cup of water. Pressure cook on high for 3 minutes. (Note: It takes about 5 minutes for the pot to “preheat” before it starts cooking. During cooking, avoid touching the metal part of the lid.) After the pot beeps, use the Natural Release method and wait 10 minutes to let the pot cool down naturally (set a timer so you don’t forget). Then vent any remaining steam by moving the pressure release handle to “venting,” covering your hand with a towel or hot pad. (Never put your hands or face near the steam release valve when releasing steam.)
Meanwhile, prep the veggies: While the rice cooks, cut the squash in half and remove seeds, then cut it in half again (into quarters). Set aside until ready for Step 5. Dice the onion and celery. Mince the garlic.
Toast the pecans: In a dry skillet over low heat, toast the pecans for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.
Make the stuffing: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery 5 to 7 minutes until tender and translucent. Add the garlic, thyme and oregano and sauté for an additional 2 minutes until fragrant. When the rice is cooked, stir it into the skillet. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, the fresh ground black pepper, butter, and pecans.
Cook the squash: Rinse the Instant Pot and place the steamer basket in the bottom with 1 cup of water. Rub the squash quarters with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a few pinches of dried oregano. Place the squash quarters in the pot, stacking as necessary. Pressure cook on high for 6 minutes. (Note: It takes about 5 minutes for the pot to “preheat” before it starts cooking.) After the pot beeps, immediately do a Quick Release: vent any remaining steam by moving the pressure release handle to “venting,” covering your hand with a towel or hot pad.
Serve: Carefully remove the squash from the Instant Pot and sprinkle it with kosher salt. (Do not omit this step: it brings in the necessary flavor.) Spoon the stuffing over the squash quarters and serve immediately.