If you’re like me, your cookbooks are getting a workout during these stay-at-home days. I find it’s easier to keep busy and refrain from wallowing when engaged in physical tasks. Of course cooking fits that bill, feeding body and soul while boosting the immune system in the process.
Pivot to my current cookbook of choice, The Blue Zones Kitchen, 100 Recipes To Live To 100 by Dan Buettner. Working in conjunction with National Geographic, Buettner defines blue zones as those areas of the world where people live the longest. Among them are Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece and Loma Linda, California. Although numerous factors play a role in human longevity including genetics, exercise, and community, food is a major factor. What to eat and what not to eat is key.
So why not inject some blue zones wisdom into your daily food routine? In addition to keeping us healthy during these trying times, the ingredients relied upon in these areas are simple, budget-friendly and easy-to-find.
Here is a summary of the “How To Live To 100” cooking and eating guidelines:
1. To the greatest extent possible, eat a plant-based diet. In 4 of the 5 blue zones, meat is consumed, but sparingly. Instead, enjoy in abundance a variety of vegetables and leafy greens, as well as fruits and nuts.
2. Beans should be enjoyed daily. As Dan Buettner says, “Beans reign supreme in the blue zones and are the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world.”
3. Olive oil is the fat of choice, particularly enjoyed at room temp drizzled on finished dishes.
4. Strive to eat only whole grain or sourdough breads.
5. Keep consumption of dairy, eggs, and fish in check. Again, these items are not forbidden but rather consumed in moderation.
6. Eliminate added sugars and processed foods to the greatest extent possible.
7. Drink mostly water. But the good news is that it’s also OK to drink coffee, tea and red wine. Once again, everything in moderation.
8. And perhaps most importantly, the people of blue zones cook at home. They prepare their own meals, enjoying the fruits of their labors in community.
This evidence-based relationship between food and longevity should convince you once and for all to take that cooking class and now you can do so virtually with The Chopping Block. Or how about organizing a private virtual cooking event with friends? Have fun; stay healthy!
In the hopes of chasing the clouds away, I am cooking up a heart-warming pot of Sardinian Minestrone Soup from The Blue Zones Kitchen. Minestrone is one of the most customizable soups out there. Add your seasonal favorites to please your particular palate and eyes. Ingredients such as zucchini and spinach come to mind in the summer and perhaps butternut squash and chard in the winter. The specific recipe below belongs to the Melis family, the world’s longest lived family… and they enjoy this soup for lunch every day.
Melis Family Minestrone
7 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2.3 cup)
2 medium celery stalks, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups chopped fennel (bulbs, stalks and fronds)
1/4 cup loosely packed Italian parsley leaves, chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 15-ounce cans beans of your choice, drained *
1/2 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained *
6-8 cups water
2/3 cup Sardinian fregula, Israeli couscous or acini di pepe pasta
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring often until soft (do not brown), about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds.
3. Stir in the tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley and basil. Add water so everything is submerged by at least 1 inch. The soup may seem too thin but will cook down.
4. Raise the heat and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat and simmer slowly, uncovered for about 1 hour or until vegetables are just tender.
5. Stir in the drained, canned beans and the pasta, salt and pepper. Add more water (up to 2 cups) if the soup seems too dry. Simmer uncovered until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.
6. Season to taste. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil in each bowl before serving.
- Dried beans can be used here resulting in deeper flavor and potentially greater nutritional absorption. Feel free to use dried beans of your choice, 1/2 cup each of 3 kinds, soaked overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Add them to the soup along with vegetables in Step 3 and increase cooking time to 1 1/2 hours. FYI, the Melis family favors fava, cranberry and garbanzo beans.
Bon Appétit and Santé - may you live to be 100!