Anya von Bremzen circles the globevisiting Spain, France, Turkey, Russia, India, China, Japan, Ecuador and moreto find some of the healthiest, and tastiest, dishes on the planet.
STEAMED GINGER SALMON
The ancient Chinese lauded ginger for its digestive properties. Researchers today praise salmon for being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also single out dark greens as an exceptional source of powerful antioxidants. Steaming is also the world's healthiest cooking method; it preserves flavor without adding fat or depleting nutrients.
SOBA IN BROTH WITH TOFU
"Buckwheat is sweet, relaxes the nerves, eases irritability and helps clear out the stomach," a 1697 Japanese nutritional text reportedly proclaimed about soba noodles' main ingredient. Modern science confirms that soba contains rutin (a compound that lowers cholesterol) and thiamine (which just might calm your nerves). Another nutrient in soba, choline, is good for the liverwhich is why inebriated Japanese men pack soba parlors after a night out on the town.
BULGUR AND WALNUT SALAD
Everything that's healthful and alluring about Middle Eastern cooking comes together in this Turkish recipe from Istanbul food journalist Engin Akin. Bulgur (rich in cancer-fighting insoluble fiber), chickpeas (full of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber) and walnuts (a source of omega-3 fatty acids) team up in a warm salad drizzled with pomegranate molasses.
WINTER BORSCHT WITH BRISKET
Hot borscht is an iconic Russian dish. Nutrition has something to do with it: Cabbage contributes vitamins A and C and phytochemicals; beets offer betacyanin, a pigment believed to be a cancer fighter; and potatoes have vitamins, potassium and iron. Some versions of borscht are loaded with fatty meat, but this recipe uses lean brisket.
Baking whole fish in an armor of sea salt keeps it beautifully moist and concentrates its flavor without making it excessively salty and without adding any fat. The sea bass steams inside the crust, preserving its omega-3 fatty acids. (Striped bass and snapper can also be cooked this way.) The accompanying sautéed cherry tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C and lycopene, a potent antioxidant.
APRICOT AND ALMOND SOUFFLÉS
Soufflés ("puffed up" in French) usually bring to mind rich ingredients, like cheese, chocolate and egg yolks. But the French also fashion delicious soufflés from egg whites and fruit purees. Not only is this one vividly flavored and as light as an air kiss, it's also healthy, since dried apricots are an incredible source of potassium and beta-carotene, and almonds are higher in calcium and fiber than any other nut.
Many of the recipes in this story are adapted from Anya von Bremzen's forthcoming book The Greatest Dishes!: Around the World in 80 Recipes.