Feed Your HEART

KEEP YOUR TICKER IN TUNE WITH OUR NO-FUSS, HEART-HEALTHY, THREE-COURSE MENU

PROTECTING YOUR HEART from disease doesn't mean a lifetime of boring or flavorless meals. Quite the opposite. By using three fresh, heart-healthy ingredients and a few techniques to coax forth vivid, inviting flavors, you can eat like a gourmand for the rest of your life. Think rich, garlic-infused olive oil instead of cholesterol-saturated butter as an ultracreamy herb sauce for fish. Or a "cocktail" of fresh orange juice and extra-virgin olive oil emulsified into a nifty dressing for crisp fennel and orange salad. Or a small amount of walnut oil and a simple steaming technique to transform grape tomatoes into a sultry side dish.

I've been using my signature 1-2-3 approach for years to help everyday cooks prepare healthful meals with minimal fuss and maximum flavor. This heart-focused menu features ingredients such as olive oil, oily fish, fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruit — foods that researchers have determined keep our hearts in great shape.

"Richly colored fruits and vegetables have compounds that help strengthen blood vessels and overall heart health," explains Dale Bellisfield, R.N., a clinical herbalist practicing in northern New Jersey. "Garlic, onion, and scallions also have properties that help improve peripheral circulation." Bellisfield suggests adding dark, leafy greens; mushrooms; hot peppers; and ginger to any dish to help cut cholesterol levels and benefit overall heart health.

Best of all, working with only three ingredients per recipe (not counting salt and pepper and water) reduces shopping, prep, and cooking time. Every recipe is low in fat and completely free of trans fatty acids; and each can be prepared in less than 20 minutes. Serve them together as a tasty meal, or mix and match them with your own heart-healthy favorites. À votre santél
Shaved Fennel Salad with Blood Orange Dressing Serves 4

The oranges in this salad are loaded with vitamin C and pectin, a soluble fiber shown to reduce levels of harmful LDL cholesterol. The dressing is made from orange juice and olive oil (the oil increases beneficial HDL cholesterol while decreasing LDL levels).

To up the nutritional ante, serve this salad over a bed of spinach, which contains lutein, a carotenoid that may protect against atherosclerosis. "There are thousands of micronutrients, like polyphenols, carotenoids, and flavonoids, in fruits and leafy green vegetables," notes Arthur Agatston, M.D., author of The South Beach Heart Program (Rodale, 2007).

2 large fennel bulbs, with lots of feathery fronds
6 large blood oranges (or 4 large navel oranges)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground
black pepper

1. Remove stalks and feathery fronds from fennel bulb. Discard stalks. Finely chop fronds and set aside. Cut fennel bulb in half through the root end, then slice thinly across the width. Transfer to a medium bowl.
2. Crate the rind of enough oranges to yield 1 tablespoon zest; set aside. Cut 2 oranges in half and squeeze to yield 6 tablespoons juice. Pour juice over fennel and toss to coat.
3. Cut rind from remaining oranges; remove all pith. Cut fruit into ½-inch-thick slices. Gently toss with fennel; add oil, zest, and salt and pepper. Top with reserved fennel fronds.

Per serving: 196 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated), o mg cholesterol, 30 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 8 g fiber, 197 mg sodium (8% Daily Value).
Whole Wheat Couscous-Parmesan Timbales Serves 4

Whole grains have been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and prevent diabetes — a major risk factor for heart disease.

As for pine nuts, in 2003 the FDA approved a claim that eating an ounce of nuts five days a week may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Be sure to choose pignolia pine nuts, which have half as much saturated fat as pinyon pine nuts.

For a heart-hearth bonus, top your timbales with sautéed shiitake mushrooms, which contain a cholesterol-lowering substance called eritadenine.

½ cup pignolia pine nuts
1½ A cups water
Salt and freshly ground
black pepper

1. cup whole wheat couscous ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
2. In a small skillet over mediumhigh heat, toast pine nuts, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, 2 to 3 minutes, OT until golden. Set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine water and 1 large pinch salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and slowly add couscous. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes.
4. Fluff couscous with fork. Stir in cheese and nuts; add salt and pepper to taste. Tightly pack a standard 5-ounce ramekin with couscous. Turn over onto a plate; remove cup. Repeat to make 4 timbales. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Per serving: 205 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated), 9 mg cholesterol, 24 g carbohydrates, 9 g protein, 4 g fiber, 213 mg sodium (9% Daily Value).
Broiled Salmon with Parsley-Garlic Sauce Serves 4

Coldwater fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. "Omega-3s improve the health of the lining of the blood vessels," says Agatston. "They're thought to make platelets less sticky and blood less likely to clot-and help with abnormal heart rhythms." This dish features omega 3-rich salmon bathed in parsley (which contains lots of vitamin C, iron, and beta carotene) and garlic-infused olive oil (garlic has been shown to decrease triglyceride and cholesterol levels).

3 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil, divided
2 packed cups curly or flat-leaf parsley, plus a few sprigs
for garnish
2 tablespoons water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 4-ounce salmon fillets

1. Place 2 tablespoons garlic oil in a small ramekin; freeze several hours or until solid. (Freezing will help add thickness to the sauce.)
2. When ready to cook, preheat broiler. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add chopped parsley; boil 1 minute. Drain. Transfer warm parsley to bowl of food processor. Add frozen oil and water. Process until very smooth. Transfer to small saucepan; add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Brush salmon fillets with remaining garlic oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place on rimmed baking sheet.
4. Broil salmon for 3 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
5. Carefully transfer salmon to serving platter or large individual plates. Gently heat parsley sauce and spoon over fish. Garnish with parsley sprigs.

Per serving: 270 calories, 18 g fat (2 g saturated), 104 mg cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrates, 25 g protein, 2 g fiber, 197 mg sodium (9% Daily Value).
Burst Crape Tomatoes with Scallion Serves 4

Bring zesty flavor and tantalizing texture to any meal with a side of grape tomatoes sautéed with fresh scallions. Grape tomatoes are smaller and sweeter than cherry tomatoes, and their thicker skins hold up better during cooking. Tomatoes are an excellent source of the carotenoid lycopene, which has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Scallions contain sulfur compounds, chromium, and vitamin B6, all of which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Nut oil adds a healthy dose of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Add a big pinch of cayenne pepper or hot pepper flakes toward the end of cooking; the capsaicin helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and reduces the stickiness of blood platelets.

1 bunch scallions, trimmed
1 tablespoon walnut or hazelnut oil
2 pints grape tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Thinly slice scallions. separating white bulbs and green leaves.
2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and scallion bulbs; cook over high heat 8 minutes, stirring often. Cover and cook 2 minutes more, or until tomatoes are wilted.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with scallion leaves, and serve.

Per serving: 69 calories, 4 g fat (o g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 3 g fiber, 74 mg sodium (3% Daily Value).
Marinated Strawberries in Warm Maple-Lemon Syrup Serves 4

Strawberries are rich in fiber and cholesterol-lowering phytochemicals. They also contain folic acid, a vitamin that's been shown to lower blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Lemons are loaded with vitamin C, whose antioxidant properties help fight free-radical damage to blood vessels and arteries. For an extra layer of flavor, add a large pinch of powdered ginger, which may also act as a natural blood thinner.

2 pounds ripe strawberries, stems removed
1 large lemon
2/3 cup pure maple syrup

1. Halve berries lengthwise and place in large bowl; set aside at room temperature.
2. Grate 1 tablespoon zest from lemon; set aside. Squeeze lemon to yield 2 tablespoons juice.
3. In small saucepan, combine syrup, lemon juice, and 1 pinch salt. Cook over medium-high heat until small bubbles appear, about 3 minutes.
4. Pour warm syrup over berries. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir in reserved zest. Serve warm. If desired, garnish each serving with a long twist of lemon zest or paper-thin lemon slice cut from an additional lemon.

Per serving: 10 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 53 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 4 g fiber, 42 mg sodium (2% Daily Value).
THE MENU

Shaved Fennel Salad with Blood Orange Dressing

Broiled Salmon with Parsley-Garlic Sauce

Whole Wheat Couscous-Parmesan Timbales

Burst Grape Tomatoes with Scallions

Marinated Strawberries with Warm Maple-Lemon Syrup

PHOTO (COLOR): Ingredients like salmon, olive oil, tomatoes, scallions, nuts, and whole wheat couscous will satisfy your taste buds and keep your heart strong and healthy.

PHOTO (COLOR)

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By Rozanne Gold

Additional reporting by Sharon Boone; Photography by Dasha Wright

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