Have you ever wished you could sit down and ask a professional chef — let’s say, for instance, Molly Basile, the executive chef at Marche bistro in Lewiston — for a few of her most favorite recipes and a little cooking advice?
If so, you might want to check out one of Basile’s classes at Life Ideals — a counseling, health and wellness center housed in a bright and airy studio space on the third floor of 178 Lisbon St., Lewiston — in which she will graciously share all the above.
Life Ideals owner Karen Burke Lane is a licensed clinical social worker whose practice focuses on six types of integrative self-care, nutrition being one of them. In collaboration with Basile, Lane hopes the classes will lead people to explore healthier diets or begin to change their eating habits.
As a followup to Basile's earlier class called “Grains and Greens” (in which she prepared baked quinoa patties with kale, made buckwheat soba noodles with tofu, and created a mint salad with arugula, wheat berries, walnuts and green apples, capped with mint vinaigrette), Basile’s most recent class was all about "superfoods" — something about which she has become quite passionate.
You’ll have to believe me when I say she really packed a lot of “super” into her array of menu items for that class. In developing her recipes, she said, “I took what I knew about superfoods, used my favorite parts of them and put them all together.”
The evening’s menu included nutrient-rich foods from A to Z (well, Y, actually): arugula, avocados, beets, blueberries, broccoli, edamame beans, garlic, macadamia nuts, olive oil, tomatoes, quinoa, watercress, wheatberries, white beans and yogurt.
She was pleased to share two of the numerous recipes she made during the class:
— A lovely, delicate quinoa-crusted salmon, topped with a Dijon dill sauce, served with a side dish of roasted beets;
— A broccoli and white bean ragout with romano cheese, which can be used as an appetizer or side dish. She will often serve it paired with shrimp or sausage, or as the bed beneath a main entree, replacing the more typical rice, potato or pasta. She also loves it topped with crumbled bacon, if you’d like to try something a bit more decadent. While the recipe calls for cannellini beans (white kidney beans), you can substitute large white butter beans (lima beans) instead. With its mixture of roasted broccoli, garlic and romano cheese, it was very well received by the nine class participants.
Because blueberries are at the top of Basile's list in terms of high nutritional impact (providing potent doses of antioxidants, vitamins C, E and K, manganese and fiber), she began the class by making up a batch of blueberry muffins to use as an accompaniment for dinner, reminding us that “breakfast is something that is overlooked.”
One of her tricks to making a recipe more healthful it to use unbleached flour, and to exchange half of the designated amount for whole wheat flour. Most recipes, she said, will become too tough if you substitute the full amount with whole wheat flour. And because processed white sugar is “too far from the original,” she prefers to use brown or raw.
While the muffins were baking, Basile followed up by preparing the salmon so it could cook in the oven, along with the roasted beets. Basile’s advice on making the salmon: When you pat the quinoa onto the salmon, press quite firmly to make sure it sticks, in what she referred to as a “not too thick, but not too thin” layer. And when it comes to the searing, “be patient,” she said. Lift an edge periodically, to make sure the crust doesn’t burn. The goal, she said, is “to make a light, airy, crispy crust.”
Although salt and pepper are not superfoods, Basile laughingly admitted she is “a firm believer,” and uses both liberally in her cooking — stating the additional seasoning really does help bring out more flavor in the food you’re cooking.
Next up was the salad. “In this salad,” she said, “it’s all superfood!” It was made with tossed watercress (which has more vitamin C than orange juice, she noted), baby spinach and arugula, which she added because “watercress alone can be a little intense.” She also mentioned she prefers baby arugula because it offers a nice, peppery flavor without the bitterness of full-grown arugula. Sprinkled on top were cherry tomatoes, bright green, shelled edamame beans (soybeans), cooked wheatberries and macadamia nuts. Because of the avocado, basil and cilantro, the homemade dressing was a vibrant green, adding a bit of flare to this course.
One class participant was Central Maine Medical Center physician Erica Lovett, whose medical practice is based on the principles of integrative medicine. Integrative medicine, she said, “combines evidence-based conventional and complimentary therapies to help provide a holistic treatment goal.” She said she found Basile’s nutrition information useful for both personal and professional reasons.
I recommend you bring your appetite to one of Basile’s classes: At the end of the class, participants were treated to a full, meal-sized sampling, along with cups of jasmine tea served by Lane.
Basile has two upcoming classes scheduled at Life Ideals: “Cooking for a Restricted Diet” from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 19, (in which she will delve into gluten and dairy intolerance, as well as sugar substitutes), and a to-be-scheduled “How to Throw a Dinner Party” (in which she will provide both delicious recipes and advice on how to make it stress-free). The two-hour classes cost $35 each, and fill up quickly. To reserve your spot, call Life Ideals at 333-3507.