Healthy Choices: Nutritional Tips from Gotan’s Arnon Magal
Take a quick look at the menu at Gotan and you’ll notice the word “HEALTH” right off the bat, and then you’ll see fruit and veggies sprinkled throughout. During the fall and winter season, it can be hard to avoid a deep-fried comfort meal. With that in mind, Gotan’s menu is thoughtfully informed by Chef Arnon Magal’s Israeli and Mediterranean roots, and is perfect for those who are being a bit more health conscious for the new year. Because of Mr. Magal’s love of veggies and fruits, we decided to reach out and get a few tips on how he stays healthy during the fall/winter season. Read on below.
Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your decision on emphasizing light and fresh vegetables on your Gotan kitchen menu?
I moved here from israel 19 years ago. I did real estate for about 10 years and then shifted to hospitality, which is my true passion and desire. It took me 5 more years and different concepts to reconnect with my roots, Israeli and Mediterranean cuisine. It’s delicious and it’s good for you.
What foods do you recommend that people incorporate into their diets for the fall/winter season?
Most people who are health conscious comfort themselves with heavier foods during winter and try to shed the calories towards spring. My suggestion is to put yourself through the challenge of a healthy diet February through April.
If creative juices and salads are for summer, soups would be the answer for winter. And every soup starts with a rich broth. Learn how to make vegetable broth, chicken broth, and beef broth. It’s so easy.
One of the biggest struggles of eating healthy is flavor. What are some of your go-to flavor enhancers while cooking?
A really good non-stick pan and homemade beef and chicken broth. You can sear almost anything with a few drops of olive oil and add a spoonful of broth. A mortar and pestle is a great tool too. Smash your own spices: fresh turmeric, fresh garlic, all green herbs such as parsley, cilantro, dill, basil are heavily used in my kitchen
When dining out, what can people do to make healthier choices?
Dine out less and cook home more. It’s truly hard to make healthier choices dining out. We all tend to order more than we should. Restaurants don’t make healthy food, they make food that tastes great.
What would you say is your favorite item on the menu this season?
I truly love root vegetables, they are delicious and very affordable. Beets too, most overcook them, we like to serve it fresh. Parsnips are very sweet and can be roasted or served fresh in a salad. Shaved carrots, shaved parsnips and thinly sliced fennel make a great salad, and simple mustard vinaigrette will do. Seeds, lots of different seeds and nuts are also a great addition.
We also love making dishes that are hard to define. Rustic bread chargrilled with almond pesto, poached egg on top, lots of watercress and shallots and cauliflower mascarpone spread. Is it breakfast? Is it a sandwich or a salad? This is really our style.
What advice would you give to those who struggle to eat healthy?
Vegetable vegetable vegetables … switch your fried eggs, bacon and potato with a big zucchini and garden peas frittata, with some fatush salad on the side. Trust me you won’t need that bread.
Any other tips you can offer us for healthy eating in the new year
It’s better to eat as much as you want from the right stuff rather than try to moderate the bad stuff. Cooking is not difficult, and it’s a skill all should have. Simple cooking is the best. No reason to be cheffy about it. Buy fresh produce and prep it yourself. Real men cook for their women!!!
I find it hard to cleanse on juice during winter time, cleanse on soup, and don’t buy those awful store bought broths. Make it yourself. Have some chicken backs or beef bones, add carrots onion celery lots of parsley and dill, bay leaf, salt, pepper, turmeric, and simmer for two hours.
You can also try to make cauliflower soup with real homemade broth.
To try out the healthy menu at Gotan, visit the restaurant in Tribeca at 130 Franklin Street.
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