Think beyond the pea pod. Succulent pea shoots have long been a staple in Chinese cooking, and some U.S. farmers are now growing peas especially for their shoots and leaves. Look for pea shoots in late spring, and enjoy them in any dish as a replacement for greens like spinach, Swiss chard, or kale. You can add raw pea shoots to salads for an extra kick, but wilting them really brings out their flavor.
Garlic scapes are the tender shoots of the garlic plant that grow up and out of the stem, curling their way toward the sky. Most commercial growers remove the scapes to preserve the energy of the garlic bulbs and increase yield. For home cooks, though, they’re a real treat. Look for scapes at farmers’ markets in early summer. You can chop and prepare them like green beans or slice them thinly and sauté to bring out their delicate aroma. Scapes have a far milder taste than mature garlic.
Zucchini is more than a ubiquitous plant that grows out of control in summer. Along with other summer squashes like yellow crookneck and pattypan, it’s a symbol of Mediterranean cooking. The tender textures and light flavors are inextricably linked to summer and sun.
A gremolata is a condiment made from chopped aromatic herbs and citrus zest. This variation is a particularly pretty one, and tastes great served with roast lamb, other roasted or grilled meats, or fish. Lemon zest is used traditionally, but you can change it up by trying lime, grapefruit, or orange zest.
This beautiful winter salad combines tart pomegranate with tangy citrus, rich avocado, and deep-dark leafy greens. Substitute arugula, endive, or baby kale greens for the spinach if you like. For a little extra crunch, sprinkle with a handful of toasted walnuts or pecans.
Pomegranates transform humble, roasted sweet potatoes into a dish perfect for entertaining.
Eggs deliver a nice dose of vitamin B12, which has been linked to improved memory and a lower risk of cognitive decline later in life. And there’s something about sunnyside-up eggs that make me smile. Here we bake the eggs in little ramekins filled with a sautéed mix of chard, onion, garlic, parsley, and olives, with tomatoes on top.
Scientists have promised that someday little nanobots will act like tiny microprocessors in our brains, helping to make us smarter. Why wait? We already have a teensy legume that does that. Ounce for ounce, lentils pack an amazing quantity of brain boosters, including iron, which is essential to the function of the myelin that supports quick information gathering. It’s a myth that to prepare lentils you have to soak them overnight; just a quick rinse will do. You can substitute fennel, which is a good digestive aid, for the celery to add more depth to the flavor.
Packed with 45 varieties of antioxidant flavonoids, kale delivers outstanding amounts of brain-enhancing vitamin K (for memory), vitamin A (for learning), and vitamin C (for mood). The anthocyanins that give the sweet red grapes in this recipe their deep color are phenomenal antioxidants that may also enhance memory. The olive oil’s fat increases the bioavailability of kale’s fat-soluble nutrients.
Purely from a taste perspective, this broth is versatile, delicious, and nutrient dense. But it’s also incredibly healthy for all parts of the body, including the brain. It’s loaded with magnesium, which is incredibly calming. The sweet potatoes and kombu provide a sense of umami, a savory taste that scientists claim is the hidden element behind cravings. If you’re going to have cravings, this is one of the healthiest and tastiest you can indulge.
Chicken is absolutely loaded with tryptophan, which can boost mood and help sleep come easier. It’s also high in vitamin B3 (a.k.a. niacin), which the Chicago Health and Aging Project found may slow cognitive decline. Here we take chicken thighs and jazz ’em up with a tantalizing minted chimichurri. The scent of mint has been shown to increase alertness, and the taste is perfect for waking up chicken and other meats.
Cooking delicate scallops quickly over high heat prevents moisture and flavor loss. By searing deeply on one side, you’ll allow the scallops to develop a crisp golden crust. Then all you have to do is flip them to allow the skillet to “kiss” the other side. Don’t be afraid to use a hot pan.
Sautéing apples enables you to cook them through without dehydrating them like baking or roasting does, and it allows the apples to maintain their shape and not get mushy. Serve with plain yogurt, a drizzle of cream, or a crumble of goat cheese.
Sautéing these sturdy vegetables over medium-high heat caramelizes their natural sugars, developing rich color and flavor. For additional pizzazz, toss and coat with various seasonings at the end, such as fresh lemon juice and herbs, or a tablespoon of butter and minced garlic.
Braising hearty greens helps make them tender, and finishing them with a splash of vinegar brightens their flavor. Play with different combinations by switching up your oils and acids: Instead of olive oil and vinegar, try coconut oil and brown-rice vinegar, or ghee and fresh lime juice. Other nice flavor additions include grated fresh ginger, crushed garlic, or minced jalapeños.