The Secret to Feel-Good Cooking (and Eating!)

Find out how chef Seamus Mullen has fun in the kitchen while eating healthy and managing his rheumatoid arthritis.

Lori Murray
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In his new cookbook, Hero Food: How Cooking with Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better, The Next Iron Chef star Seamus Mullen reveals his formula for having fun in the kitchen: Focus on addition, not subtraction. “It’s about eating fresh food that tastes good—and is good for your body. When I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) I tried elimination diets, focusing on what not to eat. But now I understand that rather than eliminate foods from my duet, it’s much more helpful to add more of what I call ‘hero food.’ ”

Here, the 37-year-old chef-owner of the Manhattan restaurant Tertulia, shares three of his favorite superpower ingredients:

  1. Ramp up nutrition with parsley: “I try to have parsley juice or a green smoothie every day,” says Seamus. He likes the underrated herb because it’s cheap, easily available and high in nutrients like folate, vitamin C, iron and potassium. Seamus tosses parsley in a blender and adds lemon juice and apple slices. Not into green drinks? Try sprinkling it over potatoes or other cooked veggies.
  2. Swap fat villains for healthy almonds: This workhorse ingredient does it all: Turn almonds into a snack, high-fiber flour, thickening paste, puréed soup—you name it! Not only are almonds high in protein and good (monounsaturated) fat, they have more vitamin E and bone-building calcium than any other nut. For an easy cold soup, soak them overnight and purée the next morning.
  3. Pack a flavor punch with mushrooms: When Seamus was in Japan competing on The Next Iron Chef, he discovered why the locals revere these small flavor-enhancers: It’s all about umami, loosely translated as “deliciousness.” Dried mushrooms especially impart this special flavor, and adding them to blander dishes like rice and steamed veggies transforms them into tasty sensations. Mushrooms are also known for their antioxidant benefits and are a good source of vitamins B and D and soluble fiber.
July 2012