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The Olive Oil Hunter News #76

Vegetables Primavera

Vegetables Primavera Recipe, Spotlight on Asparagus, Importance of Preheating the Pan and Indoor-Gardens, plus Exercise for Stroke Prevention

There’s nothing quite like the taste of spring’s first vegetables after a long winter of frozen or imported choices, and the recipe I’m sharing lets them shine without a fussy preparation or heavy sauce. If your thoughts turn to gardening this time of year, you’ll appreciate the benefits of bringing some of that greenery inside. Plus, you’ll see why getting out and walking in the nicer weather has an important health benefit.

Vegetables Primavera

  • Vegetables Primavera Vegetables Primavera

    This dish gets its name from “pasta primavera,” which, as legend has it, originated not in Italy (where primavera means spring) but in the US some 40 years ago when Sirio Maccioni, owner of the famed New York restaurant Le Cirque, had the idea to throw together seasonal vegetables with pasta because he didn’t have any tomatoes at hand.

    While many people have tried to improve on the original recipe, I like the freshness of my simple preparation—no butter or cream is added to the vegetables. And while you can serve it over any pasta or whole grain, it’s delicious on its own or as the side to your favorite protein. Feel free to switch up the veggies based on what’s available in your area, but always add the firmest ones to the pan first to give them the extra cooking time they need.


    • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
    • 8 ounces broccoli
    • 8 ounces asparagus spears, trimmed and cut in half
    • 8 ounces sugar snap peas or shelled peas
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
    • 4 ounces arugula or baby spinach


    Step 1

    Cut off the ends of the broccoli stems and slice the stems into coin shapes; cut the heads into small florets. Heat a 12″ skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the broccoli to the skillet. Cook for two minutes, rotating the pieces so that all sides get a slight char, and then add the asparagus. Toss every 30 seconds. 

    Step 2

    After two minutes, add the peas and turn down the heat to medium. Sprinkle the veggies with the salt and pepper and keep cooking them until tender. Add the arugula or spinach and cook until the greens wilt and their liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

    Yields 2 servings as a main dish or 4 servings as a side or over a starch

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Asparagus

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Asparagus 101

Nothing says spring like fresh, local asparagus. Some people swear by the thinnest stalks, while others like the mouthfeel of those with a larger-than-pencil width—it’s really a matter of personal preference. The key to asparagus is to trim the ends simply by snapping them off where you find no resistance—that will leave you with tender stalks. Three ounces of these low-calorie antioxidant powerhouses supply 2 grams each of fiber and protein, plus good amounts of folic acid and vitamin K, iron and potassium, and many other minerals.

Growing your own asparagus is a true test of patience because it takes three years from planting to harvesting. During the first two seasons you’ll see some shoots, but you can’t eat them—just let them turn to fern-like vegetation. Once the shoots yield true spears, you should have a nice crop for up to 15 years. 

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: Preheating your Pan

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Get your pan hot first

When sautéing or searing, always heat your pan for two or three minutes before adding your olive oil. This prevents “cooking” the oil as the pan climbs to its optimal temperature. Then let the oil come to a shimmer before adding the food for a tasty sear.

For Your Best Health: Indoor Gardens and Air Quality

For Your Best Health

Get into the indoor-garden groove

Besides looking pretty, plants can significantly cut indoor air pollution at home and at the office, according to new research led by the UK’s University of Birmingham in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society.

Researchers exposed three common houseplants—peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii), corn plant (Dracaena fragrans), and fern arum (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), all of which are readily available in the US—to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a common pollutant. Their experiments showed that the plants could lower NO2 by as much as 20 percent, whether they were in light or darkness or whether the soil was wet or dry.

“The plants we chose were all very different from each other, yet they all showed strikingly similar abilities to remove NO2 from the atmosphere. This is very different from the way indoor plants take up CO2 in our earlier work, which is strongly dependent on environmental factors such as night time or daytime, or soil water content,” says lead researcher Dr. Christian Pfrang.

Plants can be especially beneficial in offices with poor ventilation and near areas with high levels of air pollution, though the bigger the space, the more plants will be needed.  

Just how they take up NO2 is still a mystery. As Dr. Pfrang explains, “We don’t think the plants are using the same process as they do for CO2 uptake, in which the gas is absorbed through stomata—tiny holes—in the leaves. There was no indication, even during longer experiments, that our plants released the NO2 back into the atmosphere, so there is likely a biological process taking place also involving the soil the plant grows in, but we don’t yet know what that is.”

Fitness Flash: Stroke Prevention

Fitness Flash

Exercise offers protection from stroke

Experts say that preventing a stroke is far better than having to treat one, and one of the best steps you can take is getting physical activity. Among its other benefits, exercise helps lower blood pressure, and we know that high blood pressure is a significant stroke risk factor. The problem is, as we’re spending more and more leisure time on social media and in front of our devices, we’re exercising less and less. In fact, sleep is the only thing we spend more time doing than using electronics. Without an increase in exercise, doctors say we’re going to see an increase in stroke rates. 

New research, published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, analyzed specific data from nearly 20 years of records from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that different kinds of physical activity done with different frequencies can make a big difference. With choices to fit any lifestyle, you don’t have to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Here are the most impactful findings:

Moderate-intensity aerobic activities can reduce the likelihood of stroke by 20 percent, and this can go as high as 60% with 30 to 60 minutes of daily activity, such as walking or bicycling. Home chores and yard work count, too, especially when done for an hour or two at a time, five to 13 times a month. You’ll see some stroke prevention benefits with as few as 10 minutes of activity every day, but the level of prevention grows as you reach those hour marks. 

Muscle-strengthening (resistance training) for three to five days per week, or 14 to 20 days per month, can reduce risk by up to 50 percent. One caution: In this study, muscle-training for more than 20 hours per week had the opposite effect, possibly “due to the high cortisol levels that the body releases in a state of constant stress”—a serious warning for bodybuilders.

Having a job that involves moderate to vigorous activities on a regular basis, such as carrying heavy loads, can lower stroke risk between 36 percent and 43 percent, and even more when the activity is daily and vigorous (admittedly, this is hard to do later in life). 

The key word with any of these activities is regular. As the study concludes, “Daily or every other day activities are more important in reducing the stroke risk than reducing sedentary behavior duration.”

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