Light, Simple, But Still Hearty

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Heading into this part of the year, otherwise known as the dead of winter, our food preferences continue toward warming, hearty comfort fare.

But a steady diet of macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, beef stew and the like can tip the scales — literally and figuratively — into an unhealthy place. For that reason, I have developed three recipes, one meat, one dairy and one pareve, that deliver a much-needed culinary hug, but keep the dishes a bit lighter and healthier.

Chicken Roasted with Eggplant and Lemon | MEAT

This recipe was inspired by a friend’s description of a chicken dish she made — I couldn’t remember the specifics but my experiment was a success. If you are not a fan of eggplant and dill, swap them for mushrooms and parsley, or squash and basil, or whatever veggie/

herb combo suits your taste. The roasted lemon slices were a bit of a revelation; they were absolutely delicious eaten whole, rind and all.

We had this with a salad and brown rice, but there was plenty going on here for this to be considered a one-dish meal.

4 boneless chicken breasts

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 eggplant

1 onion

1 handful fresh dill

1 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the eggplant and cut it into thin ribbons, then dice the ribbons into small pieces. It is important that these pieces are thin so that the oil is absorbed, and the eggplant cooks properly. Otherwise, you will end up with a spongy texture.

Place the eggplant in a colander in the sink and toss it with salt. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes or longer.

While the eggplant drains, heat the oven to 425 degrees and lightly coat a shallow baking pan with a tablespoon of oil.

Place the chicken in the pan, turning once to coat both sides with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place in the oven. Roast for five minutes, turn over and roast five minutes more.

While the chicken roasts, chop the onions and dill, and slice the lemon thinly; remove the pits.

Rinse the eggplant; mix it with the chopped onion, dill, the remaining olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Remove the chicken from the pan, cover it with the vegetable mixture and top it with the lemon slices. Return it to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Serves 4

Salmon with Lemon Beurre Blanc | DAIRY

OK, I realize that beurre blanc is not exactly diet food, but when paired with salmon, lettuce and avocado, it provides a flavorful, rich, yet somehow still-light meal.

4 salmon fillets, sprinkled with salt and pepper

Canola oil for cooking the salmon

1 large head Boston or butter lettuce

2 ripe avocados

1 shallot, chopped

¾ cup white wine

Juice of 2 lemons

1 stick butter, cut in pieces

In a small saucepan, place the shallots, wine and lemon juice. Bring it to a boil, and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by about 75 percent.

Meanwhile, prepare the salad: Place the rinsed, torn lettuce into a shallow bowl and top it with slices of avocado spritzed lightly with lemon juice to avoid browning.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the salmon, about four minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the fillets and desired doneness. While the salmon cooks, gradually add the butter into the reduced wine mixture, whisking constantly. Taste for flavor; you can add a bit of vegetable broth or water if the flavor is too lemony.

Assemble the dish: Place the salmon fillets atop the lettuce and drizzle with sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans  | PARVE

As written, this recipe is vegan, and it stands on its own just fine. But many people prefer to add Parmesan cheese and veer into the dairy zone. Others like to include cooked chicken, turkey sausage or other meat. If you prefer not to cook with wine, you can omit it and just double the amount of broth.

1 bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed, tough stems removed, and chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon (or more) red pepper flakes

½ cup vegetable broth

½ cup white wine

1 can white beans, drained

1 pound pasta (I prefer long ribbons such as linguine, but any shape is fine)

In a large skillet, heat the oil with the garlic, salt and red pepper. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the broccoli rabe and cook for about six minutes, turning over with tongs.

Add the broth and beans, and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

While the skillet simmers, heat a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente (usually 1 minute less than recommended). Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

Pour the strained pasta into a skillet with the greens and toss to blend. If the mixture seems dry, add a bit of the pasta water to allow the pasta to blend with all the ingredients. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

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