I recently visited the Lodge at Woodloch, a beautiful resort/spa in the Poconos. In addition to the myriad fitness classes, hikes and spa services, the lodge hosts an array of educational classes taught by its illustrious staff.
Talia Segal-Fidler is a board-certified holistic health and nutrition counselor who serves as the in-house nutritionist. I had the good fortune to attend her cooking class during my stay, and I learned quite a bit. But first, a bit about Segal-Fidler.
A native of Israel, she came to New York to study art history many years ago. Upon arrival, she described her adoption of what she calls the “SAD” (Standard American Diet), aka the “MAD” (Modern American Diet).
“I gained a lot of weight and developed a thyroid condition. I was about to be put on medication, and I decided to change my diet and see if I could use the ‘food as medicine’ approach to cure my condition,” she said. “It worked, and I never looked back. I switched from art history to nutrition, and I’ve been helping people get and stay healthy ever since.”
Segal-Fidler talks passionately about the healing properties of food.
“The kitchen is your pharmacy; the spice rack is your medicine cabinet. Ginger, fennel, turmeric and cinnamon are all anti-inflammatories. Cumin is a digestive aid. Lemons contain polyphenol, which are powerful anti-oxidants,” she said. “Garlic is an anti-fungal, and sesame seeds contain high amounts of omega-3 and calcium. The list is nearly endless of the benefits of plant-based eating.”
Segal-Fidler shared her recipes for hummus and roasted cauliflower with tahini dressing. She spoke of hummus as an ancient food, one that in Israel is traditionally eaten early in the day because of its heartiness.
She also emphasized the importance of avoiding waste and how all parts of a vegetable can provide sustenance. To demonstrate this, Segal-Fidler sliced the cauliflower stalk, which is often tossed, into discs that she used as “chips” to dip in the hummus.
When cooking, she always saves cauliflower leaves, broccoli stalks, celery leaves, carrot tops, the tough stems of greens, onion tops and any other “refuse” to be simmered in water to make a healthy vegetable stock that can be drunk or used as a base for soups, sauces, risotto, etc.
She offered a handy tip on how to make this a convenient, sustainable habit — keep a large zip-seal bag in your fridge or freezer and toss the discarded vegetable bits in as you cook. When it is full, make the broth.
Makes about 2½ cups
2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed (reserve ¼ cup for topping the finished hummus to add texture)
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
⅓ cup tahini
Juice of 2 lemons (about 6 tablespoons)
1½ teaspoon salt
Dash of paprika (optional)
6 dashes Tabasco or other hot sauce (optional)
Garnish: ¼ cup reserved chickpeas, 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, ¼ cup chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil
Place all the ingredients except for the garnish items in a food processor. Mix it until blended but not completely pureed; it should have a coarse texture. Scrape it into a shallow bowl, and top it as desired with garnishes.
Talia’s Spiced Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce
The sauce makes more than you need to dress the cauliflower, and it is delicious. Use it on salads, vegetables, fish and baked potatoes or in place of mayo or mustard on a sandwich.
For the cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower cut in florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
For the tahini sauce:
½ cup tahini
2 garlic cloves
Juice from ½ lemon
¼ cup cool water
¼ teaspoon salt
Heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with all of the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice and fresh parsley. Spread the florets in a single layer in the pan and roast them in the heated oven for 25-35 minutes, until golden and tender.
While the cauliflower roasts, prepare the tahini sauce. Puree the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
When done, transfer the cauliflower to a bowl, and toss it with the lemon juice and parsley.
Top it with tahini sauce and serve.