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March 31, 2014

Coconut Squash Soup

by Chef Richard LaMarita



¾ lb. butternut squash, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 lb. shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

¾ lb. kombocha squash, peeled and diced

2 cups coconut milk

2 cups vegetable stock

vegetarian nuoc cham to taste

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 oz. cilantro leaves, chiffonade

¼ cup pumpkin seeds, lightly roasted in oil


1.      Preheat oven to 400º F. Toss the butternut squash with the olive oil and roast in oven until softened, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

2.      In a pot, sweat the shallots until softened. Add the kombocha squash and cook for a few minutes. Add the roasted butternut squash, coconut milk and vegetable stock. Bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes until the squash is cooked.

3.      Stir in the vegetarian nuoc cham and cook an additional few minutes. Blend the soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

4.      Transfer soup to a blender and blend to desired consistency.

5.      Serve soup garnished with cilantro and pumpkin seeds.



March 12, 2014

Food Over Figures:  Dietary Guidelines That Make Sense
by Kayleen St. John, RD

From the ill-advised food pyramid to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, how to eat healthfully in this country has been anything but clear.  Without a calculator, food database, and tracking system it would be extremely difficult to know if your daily food intake meets or surpasses the guidelines set forth by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Health and Human Services.  The most recent set of standards, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, focus on specific nutrients and additives like sodium(<2,300 mg) , saturated fat (< 10% of calories), and cholesterol (< 300mg).  Also contributing to the confusion, these guidelines  introduced the term SoFAS (Solid Fats and Added Sugars), without concisely describing the foods and ingredients that contain SoFAS.  By focusing on specific nutrients and their recommended intake levels, these guidelines lose sight of the issue at hand; we don't eat "nutrients”, we eat food.

Last month, Brazil's Ministry of Health released new "food based" dietary guidelines that focus not only on real foods, but also on eating behaviors and enjoyment of meal times.  Brazil's new guidelines take it one level further and even consider the cultural, economic, and environmental implications of food choices.  There are ten guidelines in total, but three main rules highlighted:

Make freshly prepared foods and dishes the basis of your diet

Use oils, fats, sugar, and salt in moderation in culinary preparations

Limit intake of ready-to-consume products and avoid ultra-processed foods

Food behaviors supported within the complete set of guidelines include eating and preparing the majority of meals at home, paying attention to food as it is eaten, and even advising consumers to be critical of commercial advertisement of food products.  These highlighted food behaviors are extremely important as research from the International Journal of Obesity has shown a correlation between increased number of meals eaten outside the home and heightened obesity.

While some may argue that Brazil's new set of guidelines oversimplify healthy eating, this generality is likely for the best.  By endorsing freshly prepared, homemade foods and limited processed foods, the Brazilian guidelines would inherently lead to a diet rich in essential nutrients and a reduction in those detrimental to our health

The US issued its first set of guidelines in 1980 with the intent to educate Americans on how to eat a healthy diet.  However, since that time we've seen increases in obesity, chronic diseases, and greater reliance on processed convenience foods.  Perhaps it's time for a change.  The next set of American guidelines will be issued in 2015 and hopefully we will follow Brazil's lead and leave our "nutrient-based" approach to eating in the past.  

Since Dr. Annemarie Colbin founded Natural Gourmet Institute in 1977, we have been promoting seasonal, local, whole, traditional, balanced, fresh & organic, and delicious food. We feel that Brazil has made great strides in promoting a health-supportive diet for their people. 


February 28, 2014

7 Lentil Recipes to Get You Through the Long Winter
by Chef Celine Beitchman

What I love about living in a temperate climate is how seasonal changes connect me to the natural world.  Winter has me dreaming of earthy comfort foods.  While the farmer’s market is a constant source of inspiration, I can find winter comfort on my local supermarket shelf in the form of lovely little legumes.  According to some sources lentils are the oldest cultivated bean – its domestication dating back to 7000 BC.  Whether dried or canned or vacuum-sealed these nutritional powerhouses are low-calorie and nutrient dense.    A one cup cooked portion packs in fiber, folate, magnesium, calcium, 50 grams of protein and almost 40% of your daily iron RDA. 

When fresh lettuce is scarce at your winter’s farmer’s market sprout your own greens for a daily immune-boost of vitamin C!  In a ball jar, soak two tablespoons of any whole non-irradiated lentil in one cup of water overnight.  The next day and for two to three days after rinse lentils and return to jar and cover with a piece of cheese-cloth secured with twine.  Set the jar upside down over a bowl on your kitchen counter to thoroughly drain in between rinses.  When lentils sprout a ½  tail they’re ready to sprinkle on your favorite dishes or eat out of hand.

For a veggie twist on a classic French-style paté, puree two cups cooked brown lentils with ½ cup toasted walnuts, ¼ cup parsley and salt and pepper to taste.  When smooth (or slightly rustic to your liking), serve alongside whole grain baguette, Dijon mustard and crisp radishes. 

For an umami-rich salad toss one cup French lentils with two thinly sliced scallions, juice of half a lemon, two tablespoons of truffle oil, salt and cracked black pepper.  Serve over frisee or endive spears or make a meal of it with a poached egg and hearty whole grain toast.

Nothing brings warmth to the body and soul like a steaming bowl of long-simmered soup.  When time’s short, lightly brown two cups onions with one tablespoon of your favorite curry spices in a soup pot then add a bay leaf, two cups red lentils, one cup of coconut milk and half-gallon of vegetable stock.  Simmer for ½ hour then puree soup to a silky texture or eat as is with a dollop of cilantro-spiked greek-style yogurt.

For an easy and elegant side dish toss two cups of roasted cauliflower florets with one cup of cooked black beluga lentils, sea salt and chopped tarragon.

My favorite no-fuss dish is a casserole made with leftover s and couldn’t be easier to prepare.  Brush a deep sauté or gratin dish with extra virgin olive oil then layer in 1 cup cooked brown rice, one cup cooked brown lentils, 1/2 cup diced tomatoes  and ¼ cup of diced red onion.  Sprinkle top with ¼  grated jalapeno jack and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes until bubbly and browned. 

For a lentilicious dinner from stove to table in under 15 minutes, sauté one sliced red pepper until lightly browned, add ½ pound  sliced chicken sausage, and one cup chopped kale and cook for three minutes more.  Add one cup cooked black lentils and one cup white wine.  Simmer five minutes, season with salt, cracked black pepper and a little chopped parsley.  Serve alongside cornbread, over whole grains or al dente pasta.


February 12, 2014

Eat One Health-Supportive Meal and Call Me in the Morning

Anthony Fassio, CEO Natural Gourmet Institute

Throughout history and across cultures, food has been recognized as an essential component to maintaining good health and encouraging healing. However, in the last century, particularly in the West, this connection has become fractured. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC): “unhealthy diet and physical inactivity can contribute to or aggravate many chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.”  In 2012, the CDC estimated that “7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases.” 

It seems intuitive that something, such as diet, that is easy to change and has such an immense impact on health would be well integrated into the medical system. Unfortunately, it is not. Doctors prescribe pills and treatments to appease symptoms, but preventative dietary directives beyond eat a ‘low salt’ and ‘low cholesterol’ diet are hard to find coming from your Primary Care Doctor. Cooking wholesome foods and nutrition from a holistic perspective are lessons that have been left out of most medical schools. 

Until now.

While instigating change in the medical system is a huge undertaking, there are a few inspiring doctors who are forging a path to a medical community that acknowledges diet as the cornerstone of health. Dr. Robert Graham, Director of Integrative Health & Therapies at Lenox Hill Hospital, is one of these doctors. Dr. Graham is a visionary, introducing healthy cooking to resident doctors and hospital chefs so that they can, in turn, pass this information on to their patients.

Natural Gourmet Institute has had the pleasure of partnering with Dr. GrahamMeatless MondayLenox Hill Hospital and North Shore-LIJ Hospitals to teach their students, staff and colleagues how to cook healthy, delicious and inexpensive plant-based meals.  Natural Gourmet Institute founder, Dr. Annemarie Colbin, understood early on that whole, fresh, organic, local, and traditional foods are key to maintaining optimum health. Since 1977 Dr. Colbin has been building these concepts into a health supportive curriculum for the next generation of chefs.  It is exciting that this group now includes doctors and institutional chefs. 

Chef Richard LaMarita and Laura Rosenberg, MS, RD, CDN have led each class. Chef LaMarita has focused on teaching the students how to make delectable menu items such as: Creamy Vegan Polenta with Mushroom Ragu, Farro Risotto with Sweet Potato, Oyster Mushrooms & Brussel Sprouts, Corn Fritters with Spicy Papaya Emulsion, Cilantro-Lime Quinoa and Spiced Lentils with Parsnips & Swiss Chard. Laura Rosenberg presents the participants with the nutritional makeup of the menus from a clinical perspective.  

Is your mouth watering yet? Soon you’ll be heading to the hospital to get your next nutritious, gourmet meal. 

Dr. Graham will be returning to NGI with his residents on March 10. View photos from their last visit here.

January 31, 2013

Natural Gourmet Institute Celebrates Social Mission

On Thursday January 23, 2014, Natural Gourmet Institute transformed our kitchens into a bustling party, celebrating partners, organizations, students and staff that make it possible for them to carry out their social mission each day.

Natural Gourmet Institute is committed to improving lives in our community, as detailed in our social mission:

Natural Gourmet Institute is dedicated to empowering individuals and communities to take charge of their own health and well-being through a holistic relationship with food and its environment. By making mindful, deliberate decisions about what we consume, we promote a sustainable food system that respects the earth's resources and the people that make each meal possible. Through education, advocacy, and collaborative partnerships, we create and nurture health-supportive culinary initiatives that strengthen communities through an ongoing dialogue about eating in harmony with nature and tradition.

Event attendees include representatives from Natural Gourmet Institute’s valued partnerships such as: All-Clad, The Doe Fund, FamilyCook Productions, B Lab, Koppert Cress, North Shore LIJ, Lenox Hill Hospital, Wellness in the Schools and more.

Mitchell Davis, Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation gave an honorary speech at the event.

Guests enjoyed libations from partners Brooklyn Brewery, Macari Vineyards and snacks prepared by Chef-Instructor Hideyo Yamada using locally-sourced ingredients from FarmersWeb and Cascun Farm. They also had the chance to win prizes from Edible Manhattan, Mercer Cutlery, Dirt Candy and Natural Gourmet Institute.


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January 15,2013

Kitchen Pharmacy


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Chef-Instructor Alexandra Borgia Tells Us What to Keep in Our Cabinets during Cold and Flu Season

At the first signs of the sickness make sure to stock your kitchen 'medicine cabinet' with these natural wonders:

Ginger root and ginger tea to help eliminate toxins

Raw garlic for its anti-viral and antibacterial properties

Dried shiitake mushrooms in broth or tea to soothe inflammation

Pumpkin seeds which are a rich source of immune boosting zinc 

Cinnamon tea to help relieve congestion

Lemons to help fight infection

See below for a delicious broth recipe to help cure what ails you. Check out our public classes  for more coursework on food that heals.



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