Healthy Recipes From Local Chefs

These dishes are easy to make, packed with flavor and good for you.

Matt Hill

Executive chef/partner, The Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall, Liberty Barbecue, Northside Social

Matt Hill. Photo by Michael Ventura.

Like most of us, Matt Hill says he views himself as a work in progress. “It’s actually a goal of mine to get more fit,” says the chef, who just turned 42. “I’ve got to recommit to my health through exercise and diet. People say it’s 80/20 [eating healthy is the larger factor in weight loss], but starting with exercise makes me feel better, and it makes me crave healthier foods when I start working out.”

Hill likes to cycle and has a treadmill in his house in Donaldson Run, but usually gets home around 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and later on weekends. He occasionally has a drink after work (because, hey—he’s only human), but he tries to limit alcohol intake during the week and carbs after about 7 p.m.

With two little ones at home, he and his wife, Jeanne Choi, keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand, such as apples with almond butter and Korean roasted seaweed sheets (gim-gui). They don’t eat chips or cookies, and generally avoid processed foods.

“When we cook, we try to stay low-carb with lots of hearty vegetables,” Hill says. “Big salads, and I love vegetable stews. You don’t miss the carbs as much when you’ve got something robust like that. I try to incorporate legumes—but my wife is Korean, so we always have rice.”

At home, he looks for ways to add punches of flavor without relying too heavily on fats. For salads, he loves arugula for its peppery taste, with dressings that incorporate mustard, olive oil and some kind of allium—like garlic, onions or scallions—plus an acid (vinegar or lemon) and often a smidge of Parmesan cheese. From there, it depends on the season and what’s in the fridge. “I always have some kind of heirloom tomatoes in August,” he says. “In winter we might include sweet potatoes, with maple [syrup] in the vinaigrette. Good but simple.”

Hill’s Recipe // Serves 4

Photo by Michael Ventura.

Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken with Ratatouille

For the chicken:

1 3½ -pound organic chicken
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil

Cut the chicken along both sides of the backbone, remove the backbone and flatten the chicken by pressing on the breast. This technique promotes even cooking while preventing the breast from drying out.

Grind the coriander, fennel seed and cumin in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle. (Alternately, pre-ground spices—½ teaspoon each—can be used in a pinch.) Add the remaining ingredients and rub the spice mixture onto the chicken, letting it marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours in the fridge.

Turn one grill burner on high. Place the chicken skin-side up, with the legs and thighs on the hotter part of the grill, allowing the ambient heat to slowly cook the breast. (If you don’t have a grill, cook the chicken skin-side up in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.)

Once the skin is slightly charred and crispy—which takes about 15 minutes on the grill—turn the bird over and cook for 10 more minutes. Then transfer to an ovenproof pan and roast in a 350-degree oven until it’s fully cooked (about 20 more minutes).

The internal temperature of the thighs should read 165 degrees, and the breast should be 155 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

For the ratatouille:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 red onion
1 fennel bulb
2 poblano peppers
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 zucchini
1 yellow summer squash
1 eggplant
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon salt
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned

Dice all the vegetables, keeping them separate since they will be added in stages. Grind the fennel and coriander seeds in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden and aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the red onion and fennel, cooking for 3 minutes. Add all the peppers and cook for 5 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, eggplant, spices, bay leaf and salt, cooking for 5 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have come together, about 20 minutes.

Fold in basil and serve warm with grilled chicken. Or make the ratatouille ahead of time; it gets even better overnight.


Categories: Food & Drink
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