Most Jewish cookbooks have too many recipes with processed ingredients, not enough whole grains, too much salt and fat and too much sugar, even in savory dishes. My goal was to create recipes that use only natural ingredients. I banished margarine, frozen puff pastry, soup stocks and powders, and most jarred sauces. I gave up frying and created baked goods with as much whole-grain flour as I could. I reduced sugar; most of my desserts contain less than a half-cup. Kosher food is notoriously oversalted; these recipes have a minimal amount. I found that adding an extra pinch of kosher salt just before serving pumps up the flavor.
My recipes include Jewish classics made healthier and updated for the modern table, and American and international recipes that reflect food trends beyond the Jewish culinary world. Some do require planning and time management. You can start soaking beans or rice before you go to sleep. You can gather ingredients long before you begin to cook. Make soups and freeze them in advance. And if you have 15 minutes free in the middle of the day, make a part of the meal.
Variety is the key to a delicious, nutritious meal and the best way to persuade your people to go on a healthier eating journey with you. When I plan a meal for my family, I make sure every dinner plate has colors and textures. I offer both raw and cooked vegetables.
This is a way for you to start eating better — try a recipe or two each day. Good nutrition is about balance and finding a way to introduce into your diet more and more healthful food, as often as possible.
It’s best to use haricots verts, which are thin French string beans, if you can find them.
MAKE AHEAD: The dish (minus the basil and pine nuts) can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat the beans over low heat, then add the remaining ingredients.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ pounds haricots verts, or regular string beans, trimmed and chopped into ¾ -inch pieces
1 tablespoon water, if using haricots verts, or 2 tablespoons water, if using regular string beans
¼ teaspoon salt, or more as needed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
1 cup packed basil leaves, stacked, rolled and cut crosswise into ribbons (chiffonade)
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast, stirring constantly, until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Heat the oil in the same pan (medium heat). Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring a few times. Increase the heat to medium-high; add the beans and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the water, cover and cook for 4 minutes. If the beans are still not fork-tender, cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper, then remove from the heat.
Add the toasted pine nuts and basil while the beans are still warm. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, as needed. Serve right away.