In a beautiful world, we would cook and share delicious meals that satisfy our senses, nourish our bodies and keep our minds sharp.
Let’s start now.
The MIND diet has been shown to cut the risk for Alzheimer’s disease in half. It combines the best elements of the heart-healthy DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet with extra emphasis on foods shown to help protect brain health—leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish and wine. Read the details in Bottom Line Personal’s “The Diet That Cuts Your Alzheimer’s Risk in Half.”
You can find lots of recipes using a little bit of this and a little bit of that from the MIND diet. But to bring MIND into our kitchens in a powerful way, we asked Susan Stuck, a food writer, cookbook author and accomplished cook who lives in Vermont, to imagine a meal that incorporates nearly all the elements of the MIND diet in one dinner. We can’t promise you that making this meal and serving it to your family will mean that everyone will stay healthy in body and mind for years to come. But the first step to eating healthier is to find dishes that you really want to welcome into your home. Here are Susan’s main course, two side dishes and dessert. Let’s get cooking!
SALMON’S ALASKAN COUSIN
Pecan-Crusted Arctic Char
Makes 4 servings.
The pecan crust contrasts nicely with clean-tasting arctic char, a salmon cousin with a milder taste. If you cannot find arctic char, substitute freshwater trout, sea trout, pampano, halibut or mahi mahi.
- 4 fillets arctic char, about 6 ounces each
- ⅔ cup finely chopped pecans
- 3 Tablespoons whole-wheat panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- Lemon wedges, for serving
1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Place fish skin-side down in an oiled shallow baking dish or on a broiler pan. Mix pecans and panko. Mix mustard and mayonnaise, and smear onto the fish. Season with black pepper. Press the pecan-panko blend onto the fillets. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
3. Cook under the broiler until the topping has browned and the fish is cooked through, about six or seven minutes.
4. Transfer the fillets to dinner plates with a spatula and serve with lemon wedges.
SWEET LEAVES IN A PAN
Makes 4 servings.
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- About 2 pounds braising greens such as kale, collards, mustard greens or turnip greens, sliced into ribbons
- 1 Tablespoon molasses (not blackstrap)
- ½ cup chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and golden, about seven minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute.
2. Pack greens into skillet. Add molasses and broth or water. The greens will wilt quickly, so you will be able to fit them all into the pan. Cook over medium-low heat until very tender, about 25 to 30 minutes, adding more broth or water if the greens look dry
3. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Makes 4 servings.
This is not your grandmother’s succotash—it’s got a little kick to it. If you don’t have jalapeño jelly on hand, substitute one Tablespoon of honey and a dash or two of Tabasco sauce or Texas Pete Hot Sauce.
- 2 cups shelled butter beans or one 10-ounce package frozen baby lima beans
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from one large ear of corn) or frozen kernels
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 tomato, preferably vine ripened, seeded and diced
- 2 Tablespoons snipped chives or scallion greens
- 2 Tablespoons jalapeño jelly
1. If using fresh beans, cook in boiling water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add corn kernels and cook another 30 seconds. (If using frozen beans, boil for two or three minutes only before adding corn.) Drain and place in a bowl. Add diced pepper, diced tomato and chives or scallion greens. Stir in jalapeño jelly.
2. Serve warm or cold. The succotash can be made a day or two ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
BEAUCOUP OF BLUES
Makes 4 servings.
- 2 pints (about 1½ pounds) fresh blueberries or blackberries
- 2 Tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate or lemonade concentrate
- ½ cup plain or lemon-flavored low-fat Greek yogurt
- Flaked almonds, for sprinkling
1. Put about 1 cup (½ pint) of the berries in a bowl. Add orange juice concentrate or lemonade concentrate. Mash with a potato masher or a fork to a chunky puree. Add the remaining berries and stir to combine.
2. Spoon the berry mixture into four dessert dishes. Top each with a spoonful of yogurt and a sprinkling of flaked almonds and serve.
Wine in moderation is part of the MIND diet, too, so if you drink wine, you might want to try a fresh and slightly fruity Spanish white such as Albariño or an Italian Chardonnay (not oakey) such as a Bramito—they are wonderful with this meal!
For more healthy ways to protect your heart and brain, see Bottom Line Health’s “DASH: The Easiest, Most Healthful Diet Ever” and “Your Guide to the Mediterranean Diet.”
And let us know how this meal turns out for you! Maybe you cooked up a variation that other readers would like to try. Post a comment and let everyone know.