On the menu:
-Spring Vegetable Salad
-Ratatouille with Sheep's Milk Feta
-Coconut and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote

 A fundamental key when it comes to a nutritious eating regimen is being seasonally aware of the food you eat. Consuming food at its seasonal peak ensures the maximum amount of flavors, aromas, and nutrients are retained.

Most produce available in supermarkets has been picked before naturally ripening, sprayed with chemicals and preservatives meant to prolong shelf life and facilitate its survival in the incorrect season which it was produced, then flown halfway across the world. This not only compromises almost all nutritional benefits and freshness, but is unsustainable and ecologically inefficient. Eating locally and seasonally reduces the energy needed to grow and transport the food. Obviously with the climatic differences in the world, importing some goods are essential. Adversely, I discourage purchasing items, such as tomatoes, that have been transported and stripped of its original qualities while there is a nearby market providing locally vine-ripened tomatoes that are fresher, healthier, and tastier (during summer months, of course).

Besides perusing farmer's markets, another approach to obtaining unpolluted produce is through organic delivery services. For Houston and Austin residents, Farmhouse Delivery provides weekly bushels of local, seasonal fruits and vegetables conveniently brought right to your door. The contents are chosen based on harvest and quality reports the team composes. Each week's arrival invokes a sense of surprise and I enjoy coming up with meals to prepare based on what I receive. They also include a helpful list of recipe suggestions in case you aren't feeling too imaginative or receive an unfamiliar item.

It's time to reconnect with the cycle that nature intended. 

Which brings me to Spring, the season of green. A time for rejuvenation, renewal, and regrowth. After months of devouring body warming winter meals, it's a time to shift our diets to more nourishing and light sustenance. Foods I find that are synonymous with the season are asparagus, artichokes, fava beans, morels, rhubarb, and ramps to name a few.

With its colors more vibrant and delicate, spring produce is nutritionally best in its raw state as nutrients diminish when heat is applied. So while the flavors of the ratatouille grow deeper and more concentrated during its long cooking time, it is also drained of most of its vitamins. For this reason, I decided to serve it with a raw salad packed with beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, and E, and antioxidants.
I know, just when you thought eating healthily was already challenging, I throw in more demands, but I hope to show you that it's not difficult. Composing holistically balanced meals can be simple, practical, and enjoyable.

This shaved salad takes no time at all and can be prepared with any produce on hand. I chose to combine carrots, asparagus, radish, avocado and watercress. Because of its simplicity, the freshest possible ingredients are encouraged.
Ratatouille is a French provincial dish that originated in Nice and would technically be eaten during summer. Because I live in the south, the season comes early, with tomatoes and summer squash growing in abundance. It is a wonderful accompaniment to fish or meat, but here I celebrate the vegetables and serve it as a vegetarian entree.
Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert usually consisting of cream, milk, and sugar and binded with gelatin. To transform it into something more wholesome, I chose to replace the cream with mineral rich coconut milk and the sugar with honey. The vanilla bean lends another layer of natural sweetness, and of course that familiar flavor. Though this dessert takes hours to set, the hands on time is about 5-10 minutes so if you prepare these ahead of time, it is one of the simplest desserts you can make. 


For the salad-
Serves 4


4 carrots

6 asparagus stalks
1/2 red onion
2 large radishes
1 bunch of watercress
1 avocado

For the dressing:

1 tbs of good quality mustard
1 lemon
1 tbs of red wine vinegar
2 tbs of good quality olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, create ribbons with the carrots and asparagus. Slice the onion and radishes thinly. Toss together with enough dressing to coat (reserve any remaining for future salads). Add watercress and avocado at the last minute as they are both more delicate.

For the Ratatouille-
This quantity will fit 4 individual portions or 1 large family style pan.


2 red bell peppers, sliced thinly

1 large onion, slice thinly
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp of crushed red pepper
3 zucchini
3 yellow squash
6 roma tomatoes
a few sprigs of fresh thyme (about 1 tbs), chopped finely
3 tbs of olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 325 F.

Combine 1 clove of garlic and half of the fresh thyme with 2 tbs of olive oil. Allow to sit and infuse while the rest of the ingredients are prepared.

Head 1 tbs of olive oil on medium in a large pan. Add onion, bell peppers, and 2 cloves of garlic and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Turn heat down or add a bit of water to the pan if it begins to brown too quickly. Pour in the canned tomatoes, crushed red pepper, the rest of the thyme, a pinch of salt, and half a cup of water. Turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. Allow to simmer until all liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thickened. Salt to taste.

While the base is cooking, prepare the vegetables for the top. Using a mandolin (or a knife), slice the zucchini and squash thinly. Slice the tomatoes thinly and set all aside until the base is ready.

Add base mixture to the bottom of serving dish of choice. Arrange zucchini, squash, and tomatoes around until the dish is covered. Drizzle the garlic-thyme oil over the ratatouille and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with a lid or tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove lid, turn the heat up to 350 F and continue to cook for 30-45 minutes or until all juices have absorbed and the top has browned.

Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle over feta and garnish with watercress, arugula, or microgreens.

Coconut and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
Makes 4 servings


1/4 cup of cold water
3 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
2 tbs of honey
1 vanilla bean
1 packet of gelatin
1 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries
1 tbs of agave nectar

For the panna cotta-

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water, combine thoroughly, and set aside to set.

Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan to heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and the bean to the coconut milk. Add honey, bring just to a simmer and remove from heat. Whisk in gelatin until completely dissolved and strain mixture into cup or bowl of choice. (These can even be molded into ramekins and then inverted on to plate after setting.) Place into fridge to set for 5 to 6 hours before eating.

For the compote-

Add blueberries, agave (or honey), and 1/4 cup of water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the blueberries have released their juices and the sauce has reduced and turned syrupy. Add more water if the compote begins to stick during cooking. Any leftover compote could be used to top yogurt, toast, or crepes.

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