You won't miss the carbs

Lower your carbohydrate intake with these fresh recipes.

Roasted Middle Eastern-style zucchini with caramelized onions, feta, and pine nuts (photo credit: HELENA RYAN AND RYAN TURNER)
Roasted Middle Eastern-style zucchini with caramelized onions, feta, and pine nuts
We met Ryan Turner, a chef from Great Britain, at his exhibit at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, California, and we liked his low-carb ice cream topped with fresh berries.
Then we noticed his hefty new cookbook, Boundless – A Fresh Approach to Real Food Freedom, and we stopped to chat.
Turner’s book focuses on the low-carb eating style. His diet excludes grains, legumes, high-starch vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, bananas, apples, pears, dried fruits, milk, low-fat yogurt and, of course, sugar and flour.
“So many fad diets can be bland, boring and hard to stick with,” wrote Turner, “whereas the low-carb lifestyle approach allows you to enjoy a wonderful array of fresh meats, fish, cheeses, nuts, soft summer fruits and even cream. The reduction of carbohydrates means that you end up eating a lot more vegetables, which is another part of the diet that I am particularly fond of.”
Turner’s vegetable dishes are indeed creative. For example, he roasts zucchini and tops it with caramelized onions, feta cheese and pine nuts. (See recipe.)
“People follow a diet that is low in carbs for many reasons,” wrote Turner: “losing weight, managing diabetes, reducing gluten, cutting down on refined carbs and sugar, or increasing overall health.”
Turner developed his diet and his recipes over a period of five years while working as a private chef for a family that followed a low-carb diet very strictly. Then he found that this approach suited him, too, because it helped him to slim down and remain at a healthy weight “without any struggle or sacrifice.”
After Turner started reading ingredient labels and nutrition panels on everyday products, he was shocked at how much sugar is added “to almost everything we eat,” he wrote, “including savory products such as bread, crackers, salad dressings and potato chips.... Getting into the kitchen and taking control of the foods you eat every day... is the best way to control your diet and avoid hidden sugars and carbs.”
Turner has devised low-carb versions of dishes that are normally high in carbs. He replaces carbs and low-fat foods “with whole foods naturally low in carbs and low on the glycemic index, and plenty of healthy fat from nuts, healthy oils, avocado and coconut.”
To make crackers, he uses flax seeds instead of flour and flavors the crackers with tomato and herbs. (See recipe.) For low-carb cakes and other baked goods, instead of using the various gluten-free flours available, he prefers almond flour, coconut flour or a mixture of both.
“Fancy a pizza? Why not!” wrote Turner. He makes two kinds of pizza dough. One is made of cauliflower, shredded mozzarella cheese, eggs and olive oil; the other is a mixture of almond flour, coconut flour, eggs, and olive oil.
Instead of rice, Turner makes cauliflower rice by sautéing finely chopped cauliflower in olive oil in a covered pan. Cauliflower is also the main component of his risotto, which he enriches with cream and embellishes with roasted butternut squash, blue cheese and walnuts. (See recipe.) To help control cravings and avoid binging on high-sugar or high-carb foods, Turner recommends having snack foods ready, such as roasted nuts, salami, cheese, olives, cherry tomatoes and pickled cucumbers.
By focusing on whole foods and fresh, high-quality ingredients, Turner believes, one can enjoy tasty, satisfying meals and not miss the carbs.
Faye Levy is the author of Faye Levy’s International Vegetable Cookbook.
Roasted Middle Eastern-style zucchini with caramelized onions, feta, and pine nuts
Ryan Turner flavors his roasted zucchini with spices and serves it topped with sautéed onions, feta cheese, toasted pine nuts and fresh mint. He recommends serving the zucchini with curries, tagines and lamb dishes. If you’re serving it to accompany meat or poultry at a kosher meal, omit the cheese.
Serves 6
3 large zucchini
1 red onion
¼ cup (35 gr.) pine nuts, toasted
110 gr. full-fat feta cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. curry powder
1 pinch ground cumin
1 tsp. mustard seeds (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 sprig fresh mint, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 190°. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, slice diagonally into 6-mm. pieces, and spread out onto a large baking sheet. Sprinkle the olive oil, garlic, curry powder, cumin, and mustard seeds on top, and use your hands to mix the vegetables to ensure that they are well coated.
Place the sheet pan into oven and roast for 15-20 minutes until zucchini are just starting to turn golden brown, are fully cooked and starting to crisp around the edges. While zucchini is in oven, finely slice red onion and sauté in a little olive oil over medium-low heat until golden and caramelized (about 10 minutes).
To serve, place the zucchini on a platter, scatter the top with the caramelized onions, sprinkle with the crumbled feta and pine nuts, and top with the chopped mint.
Tomato-herb flax-seed crackers
These healthy crackers are made from a mixture of tomato juice, herbs and flax seeds. Flax seeds soaked in water, wrote Turner, transform into a gelatinous mixture which can be spread into sheets and baked in the oven or dried in a dehydrator until crispy, then snapped into crunchy cracker pieces. You can buy flax seeds at natural foods markets.
Makes 35 crackers
2 cups (275 gr.) whole golden flax seeds
½ cup (120 ml.) water
1 cup (240 ml.) tomato juice
½ tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
½ tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. sesame seeds
2 tsp. whole brown flax seeds
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients (except for the brown flax seeds and the sesame seeds) in a large, deep bowl. Use an immersion blender to blitz for 1 minute (the mixture will become much thicker). Line two dehydrator trays or baking sheets with parchment.
Spread mixture out in a thin layer onto trays, and sprinkle the brown flax seeds and sesame seeds on top. Lightly press mixture down, using the palms of your hands. Using a flat spatula or knife, mark your desired size of crackers in a grid pattern, so you can easily snap them into pieces once dried. Dry the batter for approximately 24 hours at 65°, checking regularly, then snap into individual crackers.
If you prefer a baked taste or don’t have a dehydrator, bake the batter at 150° for approximately 40 minutes, then turn off oven and leave crackers (without opening the door) for at least 2 hours until they have fully crisped and are starting to pull away from the parchment paper. Remove baking sheet from the oven and snap into crackers. Store in airtight containers.
Variation: Walnut flax-seed crackers Omit tomato juice and use 1½ cups water. Omit thyme and cayenne. Add 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary and 2 teaspoons soy sauce. Instead of sesame seeds and brown flax seeds, sprinkle with 3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts and 2 teaspoons whole golden flax seeds.
Tomato flax seed crackers (photo credit:HELENA RYAN AND RYAN TURNER)Tomato flax seed crackers (photo credit:HELENA RYAN AND RYAN TURNER)
Cauliflower risotto with butternut squash, cheese and walnuts
This risotto recipe, made with cauliflower chopped into pieces the size of rice grains, offers the creamy texture of risotto in a healthier format, wrote Turner. He called it “the perfect accompaniment to any grilled meat or fish.”
Turner makes the risotto with chicken stock; to make it kosher, use parve chicken stock or vegetable stock. For serving it with meat in a kosher meal, use margarine and nondairy cream and omit the cheese.
Serves 4
1½ cups (210 gr.) peeled, diced butternut squash
1 large head cauliflower
½ white onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick (110 gr.) unsalted butter
1 cup (240 ml.) parve chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 cup (240 ml.) heavy cream
½ tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
½ tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1½ cups (135 gr.) Parmesan cheese, shredded
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. crumbled blue cheese
1 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
Arugula leaves (for garnish)
Olive oil (for drizzling)
Preheat oven to 190°. Place diced butternut squash on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden and tender.
Remove leaves and stalk from cauliflower and discard. Roughly chop cauliflower florets, place them in a food processor, and pulse until they are chopped into rice grain-size pieces. If you do not have a food processor, use a cheese grater for this step.
Place onion and garlic in a large saucepan and sauté in the butter over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until softened. Add cauliflower and continue to cook for another 2 minutes, stirring well.
Add stock, half the roasted squash and the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a steady simmer, add the herbs and seasoning and continue to cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until liquid has reduced to a creamy sauce and the cauliflower is tender. Add the Parmesan cheese and cook for another 5 minutes until melted. Taste the risotto and add more seasoning if needed.
Sprinkle the remaining squash, 1 tablespoon of crumbled blue cheese, and 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts on top before serving. Garnish with a few arugula leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Serve immediately.
Cauliflower risotto with butternut squash and hazelnuts (photo credit:HELENA RYAN AND RYAN TURNER)Cauliflower risotto with butternut squash and hazelnuts (photo credit:HELENA RYAN AND RYAN TURNER)
Pan-fried fish with puttanesca sauce
The tangy, and salty flavors of puttanesca sauce, an Italian tomato sauce that Turner makes with red wine, olives, onions and garlic, complement the crispy fish, he wrote. Turner prefers sea bass for this dish. You can use halibut instead.
Serves 4
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch dried chili flakes
A 400-gr. can diced tomatoes
¼ cup (60 ml.) red wine
1 Tbsp. capers, chopped
¼ cup pitted, mixed olives, roughly sliced
4 boneless sea bass fillets of 170 gr.
1 small handful fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil and onions.
Cook for 5 minutes until softened, add garlic and chili flakes and cook for a further few minutes to release the flavors.
Add tomatoes and red wine and bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes, until sauce thickens. Stir in capers and olives, set sauce aside and keep warm.
Season fish fillets with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place a frying pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When oil is hot, add fish and cook for approximately 3 minutes on each side, until just cooked in the middle and golden and crispy on the outside.
Reheat the puttanesca sauce and stir in the chopped parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
To serve, spoon the sauce onto 4 warm serving plates and top with the sea bass fillets and a little more sauce, then sprinkle with fresh, chopped parsley to garnish.