KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: A Cure for the Mean Reds
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Friday, February 16, 2007
A Cure for the Mean Reds
Happy St. Juliana's Day. Her life, or at least, her martyrdom, sounds much more interesting than St. Valentine's. She got to wrestle with the devil. She got molten metals poured over her naked flesh while tied between two pillars. She even got to act in a high drama courtroom scene in which the devil himself played witness for the prosecution. And she died a virgin. Perhaps that last bit that doesn't market itself well. She is not the patron saint of anything as far as I can tell, but at least she got her own name day. Today. When depicted in art, she is shown leading the devil, or a dragon, around by a chain. Our local bondage mavens, at least the Catholic ones, should stand up and take notice. If they can get up off their Catherine Wheels to do so.

Okay. Enough of St. Juliana. I was just trying to avoid talking about St. Valentine.

I am tired, tired, tired of his Feast Day. I'm not against romance. Not in the least. I am just against the idea of a special day reserved for lovers. I'm not thrilled about the existence of a day where unrealistic expectations of love perfection are foisted upon couples, especially newly formed ones for whom boundaries have not yet been drawn, for whom the depth of feeling towards each other has not been thoroughly examined. Then, of course, there are all those single people out there.

Oh, you single people might tell yourself, "It's just a silly Hallmark holiday. It means nothing to me."and That may be well and true, but I won't believe you.

I used to say the same thing, even on those Valentine's days that coincided with my being in a relationship. That is, until one signal year when I found my boyfriend giggling in the kitchen with a young ballet dancer. At 7:30 in the morning. In the house we had bought together seven days earlier. On Valentine's Day.

Bitter, party of one? Oh, that's me.

Well, not so much any more. Today, it's just a funny/sad story. But it certainly didn't help to cure me of my VD depression.

In an effort to alleviate the above-mentioned funk. I did a bit of research on antidepressant foods. How to self-medicate without, um, medication? Here's what I came up with. A Valentine's Day cure, if you will.

The ingredients are basic and all shown to be very helpful in combating depression. Thank you, Forbes Magazine, for your article on antidepressant foods...

Salmon is very high in omega-3 fatty acids which not only help the body fight against heart disease and some forms of cancer, but are now showing great promise in fighting depression and stress.

Beets contain uridine, which can increase one's levels of cytidine in the brain. Cytidine, in turn, affects the level of dopamine. Dopamine, as you runners might already know, affects mood. In a good way.

Walnuts are a good source of alpha linolenic acid (one of the omegas). You don't need to eat a whole bowlful, either-- an ounce will do nicely. These dear little nuggest also help fight heart disease and, on Valentine's Day, one's heart needs all the protection it can get.

Molasses also containes uridine. Remember my posting last month about molasses? No? Well, I wrote one. I just didn't know why I enjoyed writing it so much. Now I know.

Here's the recipe-- a combination of all four ingredients. It's very easy to make. We'll call it:

Michael's Valentine's Day Plate of Armor


1 1/3 to 1/2 pound salmon filet. You are eating this alone, aren't you? Chose a really fatty salmon like King. You need all the fatty acids you can get.
4 beets- red, golden, chioggia-- take your pick. Save the green tops, too
1 ounce walnuts-- toasted. I like mine tossed with sugar and salt fresh from the oven.
1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon mustard (I used a sweet and hot style)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (champagne or white wine vinegar will work, too.)
1 teaspoon shallot, finely minced
4 tablespoons olive oil for vinaigrette, plus one tablespoon for pan roasting the salmon, one tablespoon for roasting beets.
Salt and pepper to taste.


Roasted Beets:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet or Pyrex baking dish with aluminum foil.
  3. Wash beets thoroughly and trim both ends
  4. Pat beets dry with paper towels, then lightly coat with olive oil and a little salt.
  5. Place beets on baking sheet and roast in oven for 45 minutes or until done. Obviously, smaller beets will take less time than larger ones, so please exercise judgement.
  6. Remove beets from oven when done (to test, poke one with a paring knife. If the knife slips in easily, the beets are done).
  7. Let cool.
  8. To remove skin, gently rub beets (one at a time, of course) between paper towels. If you've roasted them properly, this should be easy. If you haven't, I just don't know what to tell you.
  9. Dice beets into your favotie, easy-to-carve shapes and set aside.
For Molasses Vinaigrette:
  1. in a small bowl, add molasses, vinegar, mustard, shallots and salt (as much as you like, to help balance the sweetness of the molasses). Whisk bravely.
  2. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking as you do so.
  3. Adjust flavors to suit your own tastes.
  4. Set aside
  1. Rub salmon with salt on both sides-- skin and flesh.
  2. In a size-appropriate saute pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until very hot, just not quite smoking.
  3. Add salmon filet to the pan, skin side down. Cook for about two minutes over the heat. Do not try to move the salmon. Let it stick. It will give in. It will release its grip on the pan.
  4. Throw (or place gently, whatever your mood) salmon into the still-425 degree oven for approximately five minutes or as long as you want, depending upon how well done you like your salmon. I like mine a medium rare. Actually, I like my salmon raw, but this recipe calls for a more thorough cooking.
Beet Greens:
  1. Throw well-cleaned beet greens into saute pan that has one tablespoon of olive oil already heating in it. Throw in a pinch of salt, too.
  2. Cover and steam, moving the greens about now and then, for about 5 to 7 minutes. Many people might argue that greens need to cook for longer, but I don't think that is necessary in this case. We're going for nutrients here, not slow-cooked-with-bacon goodness. They're still good this way. Just try it.
To assemble:
  1. While salmon is roasting, warm the already-cooked beets and toss with vinaigrette (Better whisk the dressing again, because it will have separated by now).
  2. Shake excess liquid from beet greens and place on a platter. Add vinaigrette-tossed beets, walnuts and feta (I like it with a bit of Feta, but you may leave this out if the whole fish-and-cheese combination makes you squeamish, which it shouldn't, by the way. Think tuna melt.) Grind a little pepper, sprinkle a little salt.
  3. Slide salmon on top and drizzle the dish with the vinaigrette. Eat while hot. Actually, the dish is fine (minus the greens) to eat cold, too.
  4. Think happy thoughts.

Just think how healthy you'll be after eating this dish. Whether you're now ready for a healthy relationship is another matter entirely. If that thought has suddenly depressed you (again), eat some chocolate. A lot of chocolate-- that's an antidepressant, too.

P.S. Apropos of nothing, there has been a meme flying about the food blogosphere called Five Things About Me. Call it fun. Call it annoying. Whatever you decide to label it, it's ended up a great way for me to find out about other food bloggers out there. Click or don't click, it's up to you.

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Blogger Catherine said...

Michael, What a great piece of writing! This is my favorite Valentine's Day post so far. Food is a great healer and this is funny and original. Bravo!

2/24/2007 6:12 PM

Blogger Catherine said...

Oh...and I love the Breakfast at Tiffany's title. I know the entire screenplay of that movie by heart.

2/24/2007 6:13 PM


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