Sara Dickerman, photos by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriot
I'm a cook, not a nutritionist.
So to create the annual Food Lover's Cleanse -- Bon Appétit's two-week healthy-eating plan to help you balance the excesses of the holiday season -- I partner with New York-based registered dietitian Marissa Lippert. She makes sure the recipes are sensible. My job is to make sure the food tastes good. There's no way I'd survive a diet of dull foods, so I pack the cleanse with bold, fresh flavors.
SEE MORE: The Food Lovers' Cleanse
The FLC program is cooking-intensive; we provide recipes for every meal so you can get in the kitchen and enjoy the pleasures of preparing whole foods (plus tips if you can't cook on a given day). Since two weeks of cooking can be more daunting than forgoing potato chips, this year we offer several do-ahead items to have on hand that will make it easier to add sparkle to the lean proteins, whole grains, and seasonal veggies that dominate the plan.
SEE MORE:Ingredients We Can't Cook Without
Here we preview a few favorites -- from an emerald-green tahini sauce that works as a fish marinade, a dip for vegetables, and more, to a slightly sweet seed and nut mix that can top salads, yogurt, or a bowl of oatmeal. My hope is that they taste so good that you'll return to them throughout the year, just for the pleasure of it.
If you leave this on the thicker side, it’s a great crudités dip. Or, thin it and pour onto salad. INGREDIENTS 2 cloves garlic, peeled 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more 1 bunch watercress, thick stems trimmed 1 cup fresh mint leaves ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves ½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste) 2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice PREPARATION Cook garlic in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water until slightly softened, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer garlic to a bowl of ice water; let cool. Return water in saucepan to a boil. Cook watercress, mint, and parsley just until wilted, about 15 seconds; drain. Transfer watercress and herbs to ice water; let cool. Drain watercress, herbs, and garlic and squeeze between paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible; coarsely chop. Purée watercress, herbs, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, 1 tsp. salt, and ¾ cup water in a blender until smooth, thinning with more water as needed to reach desired consistency; season with salt and more lemon juice, if desired. DO AHEAD: Sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Shake before using.
If the vibrancy of this dressing fades, perk it back up with more lime juice. INGREDIENTS 1 red Fresno chile, with seeds, finely chopped ¼ cup vegetable oil 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 2 tablespoons white miso 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds ½ teaspoon grated peeled ginger PREPARATION Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. DO AHEAD: Vinaigrette can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.
A spoonful of this sweet, earthy condiment perks up eggs, grain dishes, and simply prepared proteins. INGREDIENTS ¼ cup walnuts 2 red bell peppers (about 1 lb.) 1 clove garlic, grated 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 teaspoon (or more) Aleppo pepper or ½ hot smoked Spanish paprika ½ teaspoon (or more) fresh lemon juice ½ teaspoon pomegranate molasses or balsamic vinegar Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper PREPARATION Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darker, 8–10 minutes. Let cool; coarsely chop. Heat broiler. Broil bell peppers on a broilerproof rimmed baking sheet, turning occasionally, until softened and skins are blackened in spots, 20–25 minutes. Transfer bell peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam 15 minutes. Peel peppers, seed, and chop. Toss bell peppers, garlic, mint, oil, Aleppo pepper, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, and walnuts in a small bowl; season with salt, black pepper, and more Aleppo pepper and lemon juice, if desired. DO AHEAD: Relish can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.
For a salty, savory, crunchy boost, sprinkle this on roasted vegetables, soups, and hot cereal. INGREDIENTS Nonstick vegetable oil spray 1 large egg white 1 teaspoon light agave syrup (nectar) ½ teaspoon garam masala or curry powder ½ teaspoon kosher salt ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper ¼ cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped ¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas) ¼ cup shelled sunflower seeds PREPARATION Preheat oven to 300°. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk egg white, agave, garam masala, salt, and cayenne in a medium bowl. Add nuts and seeds and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mixture to baking sheet, letting excess egg drip back into bowl. Bake, tossing once, until mixture is golden brown, 20–25 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet. DO AHEAD: Crunch can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
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