The wonderful thing about cooking is that we can borrow from everywhere. Take bartending: one of their favorite tools is the muddler, which, as the name implies, muddles (or crushes) ingredients to release flavors that go into the drink. And so it is here, with mint being the ingredient to be muddled. Now, you and I don’t have muddlers (unless you happen to be a mixologist), but you can use a mortar and pestle or the back of a wooden spoon to break down the mint and release the essential oils that go into this mojito. Mixed with antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice, lime juice, and pellegrino (Italian for “seltzer”), it tastes anything but muddled; it’s a straight shot of joy juice to the brain.
This one reminded me of how Edison must’ve felt inventing the lightbulb: it took a lot of tries, but once I hit on the right formula, shazam! I knew we had a winner when I walked into my husband’s office, brittle in hand. He was so deep in thought at his computer screen that he didn’t even see me. I just said, “Gregg . . . open mouth.” In went the brittle, his eyes still glued to the screen. “Gregg . . . close mouth. Chew.” I was halfway down the hall when I finally heard his voice echo off the walls: “This is REALLY good!” And so it is, for the tongue and for the brain. The sesame seeds are full of zinc, the pumpkin seeds are like little mini antidepressants, and the sunflower seeds are loaded with vitamin E, which helps memory, learning, and overall mood.
As a kid, I remember the Ladies Who Lunch coming over to the house regularly to play canasta or mah-jongg. On these occasions, my mom showed me how you could use a fruit as a bowl for salad: she’d serve the pearled grand dames tomatoes stuffed with chicken salad, and that was the inspiration for this dish. I’ve gone for a different mode of transport—an avocado boat—and jazzed up the salad as well. No mayo here, but lime juice, cumin, coriander, jalapeño (za-zing!), olive oil, and avocado provide the diving pond for the shrimp. I think the Ladies Who Lunch would’ve approved.
I like to make kale a world traveler; in other books I’ve managed to stamp its passport with Asian, Latin American, and Mediterranean flavorprints. This time I’ve booked kale’s passage to Thailand, in whose cuisine coconut, ginger, and lime can often be found. Coconut milk helps increase the bioavailability of kale’s fat-soluble vitamins, while coconut’s sweetness and the brightness of the lime help eliminate kale’s natural bitterness. I’ve taken kale so many places I’m amazed I don’t have Customs showing up at my front door. But if they do, I’ll just make them this dish and they’ll go away satisfied.
Scallops are an awesome brain food, full of the omega-3 fatty acid called DHA, which reduces plaque formations in the brain linked to cognitive decline. However, they’re a bit temperamental on the stove. They cook mighty fast, and can turn from tender to eraser-tough in a flash. Pay attention, and you’ll get a plateful of bliss. Here, they’re seasoned with curry and a little coconut and lime, which play beautifully off the scallops’ silky taste.