variety is the spice of life…


I’m a few days away from the end of the detox diet, and really, it hasn’t been a bleak food existence for me. I’ll admit, though, as an omnivore (rough translation-I like to eat all kinds of food), I have had…cravings. What’s on the list of things I’ve missed? First, I’d say my homemade yeast breads, which I’ve missed as much for the therapeutic process of making them as eating them. I’d add cheese, that all-purpose food enhancer, as a close second. Hmmm…bread, cheese…okay, third would be pizza. Finishing the list is wine, and of course, chocolate.

When I can choose whatever I want to eat, I have to admit that I often get stuck in a rut. So sometimes an imposed limitation can foster creativity. It liberates you from following your usual routine and forces you to find a solution, and you experience something new. In jazz music, a player is bound to follow the chord changes of the song, but when improvising over those changes, the only boundaries are the extent of a musician’s skill, knowledge and imagination. In music and food, variety keeps life spicy.

What are some things I’ll probably do differently after the detox? I’ll try to eat much less refined sugar. I haven’t missed it terribly, and with options like fresh fruit, medjool dates and honey, I don’t need to. I’ll focus on eating more vegetables and fruits on a daily basis. I’ve also discovered raw chocolate, and I’d like to try some new recipes with it. But overall, varying what I eat works best for me.

There are, of course, simple dishes that remain true over time. You can make little improvements, like reducing the amount of meat and increasing the amount of vegetables, but the foundation is still sound. The following dish is one of my favorite things to fix that always makes me feel good. It’s not a strict recipe, but more of an improv on fresh, whole ingredients. Feel free to jam with whatever vegetables and meat or fish you like. Just keep it real.

Chicken Sautéed in White Wine with Roasted Vegetables

1 whole breast of chicken, divided
1 large yam
1 summer squash
1 zucchini
1 yellow onion
1/2 head of garlic
1 lemon
sea salt and pepper, to taste
extra-virgin olive oil
dried or fresh herbs (for dried, I like Herbes de Provence)
dry white wine

Heat oven to 400ºF.

For the chicken:
Split the whole breast in half. Wrap halves in plastic and pound with a meat tenderizer until thinner and larger. Unwrap from plastic and put in a container. Sprinkle with sea salt. Squeeze juice from 1 lemon over halves. Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of extra-virgin olive oil. Store in the refrigerator to marinate while you prepare the vegetables.

For the vegetables:
Rinse, scrub and dry the yam, then wrap it in plastic. Microwave on high for 3 or 4 minutes, (depending on the size of the yam), until it is slightly softer. (You don’t want to fully cook it). Let cool, unwrap, and cut in half lengthwise, then slice into 1″ wide pieces.

Rinse squash and zucchini, and slice into 1″ wide rounds.

Cut the onion in half, lengthwise, remove skin, cut the halves in two, and cut off the stem ends. Separate the layers.

Remove skin from garlic cloves by lightly smashing the clove with the side of a knife, and cut off the woody end where it was attached to the bulb.

Put all vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with 2 to 3 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with the desired amount of dried or chopped fresh herbs. Use your hands to toss everything together in the bowl, letting the oil, salt, pepper and herbs coat the vegetables well.

Line a large baking sheet with foil. Spread vegetables evenly over the sheet. Place on the middle rack in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes. Turn the oven on broil for the last five minutes of cooking. Watch carefully so as not to burn the vegetables. Remove from oven when done and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

During the last 5 minutes broiling the vegetables, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and heat a 10″ sauté pan on medium-high on the stove with a little extra-virgin olive oil. Sauté the chicken until slightly browned. Remove chicken breasts to a separate plate. While the pan is still hot, add about 1/2 cup of white wine to de-glaze the pan. Reduce the liquid until it has thickened slightly. Put the chicken back in the pan with the reduced liquid and coat with the sauce, warming slightly on both sides. Remove chicken breasts to a separate plate, and pour the remaining sauce over them.

Divide chicken breasts and vegetables between plates. This dish is especially good served with white wine or fruity red wine and crusty whole grain bread.

Serves two.

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