Most chefs focus on the immediate dining experience—how a dish looks and tastes as soon as it's placed on the table—but James Beard award–winning chef Rocco DiSpirito doesn't stop there. When penning his new cookbook Rocco's Healthy & Delicious, he wanted to create dishes that will make you feel great after the meal too, which means most of his recipes are plant-based and all are gluten-free, dairy-free, and carb and calorie corrected.
He doesn't just focus on predictable healthy recipes like soups and salads. DiSpirito also tackles the food we'll likely crave for this fall and winter: Creamy risotto, crisp pizza, and juicy burgers. Yes, it is possible to make healthy comfort food. "One of my secrets for making dishes that are both healthy and delicious is to create 'tension' in the food—by balancing sweet, salty, bitter, and sour flavors until the combination captivates the taste buds," he says.
This is what a healthy chef makes when he's craving carbs.
2 heads cauliflower, broken into florets
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped chives
In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower florets eight to 10 times, until it resembles small grains of rice.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sweat until translucent, about four minutes.
Add the cauliflower and vegetable stock, and cook until the cauliflower is softened and enough liquid has evaporated to make the mixture creamy, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the Parmesan, and let sit five minutes to thicken. Finish by stirring in the chives.
Protein Pizza Crust
2 cups baby spinach
1 scoop Rocco's Protein Baking Mix or your favorite baking mix (such as Bob's Red Mill)
Pinch of salt
1⁄4 cup liquid egg whites
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or use an ovenproof nonstick pan.
In a food processor, combine the spinach, protein baking mix, and salt, and pulse until it is almost the texture of sand, eight to 10 times. With the processor running, pour in the liquid egg whites and whole egg.
Transfer the dough to the baking sheet, and bake until the center of the pizza crust is set, 12 to 15 minutes.
Turkey, Spinach, and Red Onion Burgers
1 clove garlic, smashed with a meat mallet
10 ounces spinach
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1 pound lean ground turkey
1/2 cup rolled oats
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the garlic and spinach, and cook to wilt. Drain on a paper towel.
Roughly chop the spinach mixture and add to a large bowl.
Add the onion, turkey, and oats to the bowl, and mix with your hands until just combined. Portion into four balls.
Place a large sauté pan over high heat, and coat with cooking spray. When the pan is very hot, add the burgers, and smash them flat with your hand or a spatula. Cook until a crust has formed on one side. Flip, and brown the other side.
Place on a baking sheet, transfer to the oven, and cook until the patties are cooked through, about five minutes.
Next up: Stock up on these kitchen and cooking essentials to make your healthy habits stick.