Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #136

Potato Salad with Sweet and Tart Vinaigrette Recipe, Spotlight on Scallions, How to Boil Small Potatoes, Imperfect Calorie Counting and Exercising to Burn Fat

Summer may be winding down, but there’s still plenty of time to enjoy outdoor get-togethers with family and friends. Whether you’re hosting or want a great dish to bring for a BBQ, this potato salad, garnished with scallions, will delight. If you’re trying to lose weight—and who isn’t?—no food needs to be off limits, including potato salad! But there are certain tweaks you can make to your plan to improve results. Two new research studies provide details on calorie tracking and fat-burning exercises.

Potato Salad with Sweet and Tart Vinaigrette

  • Potato Salad with Scallions Potato Salad with Sweet and Tart Vinaigrette

    This German-style (no mayo) potato salad gets a flavor boost from one of my favorite vinaigrettes, a melding of two vinegars—one more tart, one more sweet. I also love the mix of sautéed shallots and raw scallions or chives, all mild members of the genus allium. This side dish tastes best served warm or at room temperature. Double or triple the ingredients for a large crowd.


    For the vinaigrette:

    • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar of Modena
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
    • 1/2 small garlic clove, peeled and minced 
    • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

    For the salad:

    • 2 pounds small red potatoes, unpeeled
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 ounces best-quality bacon, cut into 1-inch sections
    • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup fresh scallions or chives, sliced on the diagonal  
    • Coarse sea salt, to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


    Step 1

    Make the vinaigrette: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the two vinegars, mustard, honey, salt, and garlic. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Season to taste with black pepper and more salt, if desired. Set aside while you cook the potatoes.

    Step 2

    Boil the potatoes until the tip of a knife easily pierces one or two, about 10-15 minutes (see “Quick Kitchen Nugget” below). Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a colander to drain and cool slightly while you proceed.

    Step 3

    Heat a heavy skillet or frying pan. When hot, add the olive oil and sauté the bacon. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a dish lined with paper towels. Add the shallots to the hot pan and sauté until they are softened and lightly browned. 

    Step 4

    Cut the potatoes in half and place them in a large serving bowl. Dress with the vinaigrette. Top with the sautéed shallots and the fresh scallions or chives. Toss gently and season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle on the bacon bits.

    Yields 6 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Burrata

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight


Also called green onions in some parts of the country, scallions offer sweet onion flavor and two textures—the stronger white ends and the mild green tops or leaves. Use the entire scallion after trimming off the roots and snipping the tips (if needed). The ends should feel firm, not mushy, and the tops should be crisp and bright green, not wilted or dark.

A staple in many Asian cuisines, chopped scallions are also delicious when sprinkled on scrambled eggs and folded into cream cheese for a bagel topping. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Rinsing Lettuce

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Boiling Small Potatoes

Small or baby potatoes, whether red, white, or purple, don’t need to be halved or quartered before boiling. In fact, keeping them whole can prevent them from falling apart during the cooking process. Start by placing the whole, unpeeled potatoes in a pot large enough to hold them in a single layer and add enough cold water to cover them by about an inch. Bring the water to a boil, add a teaspoon of sea salt, and let them cook for between 12 and 15 minutes, until the tip of a sharp knife pierces two or three of them. Use a large slotted spoon to transfer them to a colander, then proceed with your recipe. For a quick side dish, smash them with the back of a spoon, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and top with grains of Maldon salt.

For Your Best Health: Imperfect calorie counting may be good enough

For Your Best Health

Imperfect Calorie Counting May Be Good Enough

Successful dieters often credit keeping a food journal or tracking calories as an important habit to have. But how well do these behaviors correlate to weight loss? That’s one of the questions answered in the study “How much food tracking during a digital weight‐management program is enough to produce clinically significant weight loss?” recently published in the journal Obesity.

Over the course of a six-month period, researchers from the University of Connecticut (UConn), the University of Florida, and the University of Pennsylvania tracked 153 weight-loss program participants who used a commercial digital weight-loss program to record their food intake (it was the new Personal Points program developed by WeightWatchers, intended to simplify record-keeping by designating a number of foods as zero-point items, meaning they did not have to be entered). 

UConn assistant professor in the Department of Allied Health Sciences Ran Xu, PhD, and PhD student Richard Bannor analyzed the data to see whether there were patterns associated with weight-loss success from a data science perspective. Using a method called receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve analysis, they uncovered how many days people need to track their food to reach clinically significant weight loss. 

“It turns out, you don’t need to track 100% each day to be successful,” says Dr. Xu. “Specifically in this trial, we find that people only need to track around 30% of the days to lose more than 3% weight and 40% of the days to lose more than 5% weight, or almost 70% of days to lose more than 10% weight.” 

“A lot of times people feel like they need to lose 50 pounds to get healthier, but actually we start to see changes in things like blood pressure, lipids, cardiovascular disease risk, and diabetes risk when people lose about 5% to 10% of their weight,” says study co-author and UConn Department of Allied Health Sciences Professor Sherry Pagoto, PhD. “That can be accomplished if participants lose about one to two pounds a week, which is considered a healthy pace of weight loss.

“One thing that is interesting about this data is, oftentimes in the literature, researchers just look at whether there is a correlation between tracking and overall weight loss outcomes. Ran took a data science approach to the data and found there is more to the story,” Dr. Pagoto says. “Now we’re seeing different patterns of tracking. This will help us identify when to provide extra assistance and who will need it the most.”

Future studies will dig deeper into these patterns to understand why they arise and hopefully uncover interventions to improve outcomes. For now, if you use these apps, know that you can still get significant results, even if you miss some entries.

Fitness Flash: Exercise: Exercising to Burn Fat

Fitness Flash

Exercising to Burn Fat

The study “Discrepancy between predicted and measured exercise intensity for eliciting the maximal rate of lipid oxidation,” done by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease found that fat burning during exercise varies widely between people. We don’t all burn fat at the same target heart rate, and reaching a preset exercise machine setting won’t bring the same results for everyone.  

“People with a goal of weight or fat loss may be interested in exercising at the intensity which allows for the maximal rate of fat burning. Most commercial exercise machines offer a ‘fat-burning zone’ option, depending upon age, sex, and heart rate,” says lead author Hannah Kittrell, MS, RD, CDN, director of the Mount Sinai Physiolab, a clinical body composition and exercise physiology laboratory at Mount Sinai Morningside, and a PhD candidate in the Augmented Intelligence in Medicine and Science laboratory. “However, the typically recommended fat-burning zone has not been validated, thus individuals may be exercising at intensities that are not aligned with their personalized weight loss goals.”

Reaching a target heart rate is still great for overall health, but if fat-burning is one of your key fitness goals, the researchers suggest having clinical exercise testing, a diagnostic procedure to measure your physiological response to exercise to get a more personalized exercise prescription. (Talk to your doctor or personal trainer about where to get this evaluation.)

“We hope that this work will inspire more individuals and trainers to utilize clinical exercise testing to prescribe personalized exercise routines tailored to fat loss. It also emphasizes the role that data-driven approaches can have toward precision exercise,” says senior author Girish Nadkarni, MD, MPH, Irene and Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine at Icahn Mount Sinai, director of The Charles Bronfman Institute for Personalized Medicine, and system chief, Division of Data-Driven and Digital Medicine, Department of Medicine.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #134

Taste of Summer Salad Recipe, Spotlight on Burrata, How to Rinse Lettuce and Break the Chronic Stress-Comfort Food Link, Get Moving for Better Quality of Life

When the temp nears 90, the last thing I want to do is to cook, yet at the same time I want to savor a delicious meal. This salad checks off all the boxes. If you haven’t yet tried burrata, this is a wonderful introduction. I’m also sharing findings from two new studies, one on the link between stress and weight gain and the other on yet more benefits of exercise, a known stress-buster. 

Taste of Summer Salad

  • Burrata and Fresh Peach Salad Taste of Summer Salad

    The perfect summer salad has seasonal ingredients that can be enjoyed whole, or as is, no cooking required. I love a blend of sweet and savory ingredients, like juicy peaches and slightly bitter greens. This dish takes just a few minutes to put together but offers exquisite flavors and textures in every bite. Get creative if the exact ingredients aren’t available at your famers’ market—nectarines, cantaloupe, or honeydew chunks are excellent swaps for the peaches, and walnuts or pine nuts can sit in for the pistachios. 


    • 4 cups mixed lettuces
    • 8 ounces whole burrata or four 2-ounce minis
    • 4 ripe peaches
    • 4 ounces shelled pistachios
    • Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
    • Balsamic vinegar of Modena, to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


    Arrange equal amounts of the lettuce on four dishes. If using a whole burrata, cut it into four equal slices or wedges and arrange on top of the greens; if using minis, center a whole one on the greens. Slice the peaches (leave the skins on) and fan out the sections. Top with the pistachios and liberally drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on a few drops of the balsamic and some black pepper.

    Yields 4 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Burrata

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Bravo, Burrata

When burrata first hit our shores—its Italian origins can be traced back to Puglia—it was a taste sensation most easily found at restaurants. Now that its popularity has grown, it’s readily available in grocery stores, often from the same fine cheese companies that produce mozzarella.

Burrata looks very much like mozzarella, but the ball-shaped pouch is filled with a luscious, runny mix of cream and cheese. It can weigh anywhere from 8 ounces to 2 pounds. Mini burratas are typically 2 ounces apiece, and are handy for creating individual plates and for snacking—add a drizzle of fresh-pressed olive oil and a few drops of balsamic vinegar from Modena.

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Rinsing Lettuce

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Rinsing Lettuce

Rather than spraying lettuce leaves with water from the faucet, try giving them a bath in a large bowl of cool water. Swirl the leaves in the water and then wait 10 minutes for gravity to draw all the dirt to the bottom of the bowl. Then lift out the leaves without agitating the water and pat them dry. If you want to finish with a lettuce spinner, don’t overfill the basket, or it won’t work well. 

For Your Best Health: Break the Chronic Stress-Comfort Food Link

For Your Best Health

Break the Chronic Stress-Comfort Food Link

When you’re stressed, a high-calorie treat may seem like the soothing go-to. But according to scientists from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, stress combined with comfort food creates changes in the brain that drive more eating, boost cravings for sweets in particular, and lead to excess weight gain. That’s a lot of downside!

“Our findings reveal stress can override a natural brain response that diminishes the pleasure gained from eating—meaning the brain is continuously rewarded to eat,” says Herbert Herzog, PhD, a professor and visiting scientist at the Garvan Institute and senior author of the study “Critical role of lateral habenula circuits in the control of stress-induced palatable food consumption” published in the journal Neuron. 

To understand what drives eating habits, the team used a mouse model to investigate how different areas in the brain respond to chronic stress under various diets. “We discovered that an area known as the lateral habenula, which is normally involved in switching off the brain’s reward response, was active in mice on a short-term, high-fat diet to protect the animal from overeating. However, when mice were chronically stressed, this part of the brain remained silent, allowing the reward signals to stay active and encourage feeding for pleasure, no longer responding to satiety regulatory signals,” explains first author Kenny Chi Kin Ip, PhD. “We found that stressed mice on a high-fat diet gained twice as much weight as mice on the same diet that were not stressed.”

The researchers discovered that at the center of the weight gain was the molecule NPY, which the brain produces naturally in response to stress. When the researchers blocked NPY from activating brain cells in the lateral habenula in the stressed mice on a high-fat diet, the mice consumed less comfort food, resulting in less weight gain.

The researchers next performed a sucralose preference test, allowing mice to choose to drink either water or water that had been artificially sweetened. “Stressed mice on a high-fat diet consumed three times more sucralose than mice that were on a high-fat diet alone, suggesting that stress not only activates more reward when eating, but specifically drives a craving for sweet, palatable food,” says Dr. Herzog. “Crucially, we did not see this preference for sweetened water in stressed mice that were on a regular diet.”

“In stressful situations it’s easy to use a lot of energy, and the feeling of reward can calm you down—this is when a boost of energy through food is useful. But when experienced over long periods of time, stress appears to change the equation, driving eating that is bad for the body long term,” says Dr. Herzog. “This research emphasizes just how much stress can compromise a healthy energy metabolism. It’s a reminder to avoid a stressful lifestyle, and crucially if you are dealing with long-term stress, try to eat a healthy diet and lock away the junk food.”

Fitness Flash: Exercise: Get Moving for Better Quality of Life

Fitness Flash

Get Moving for Better Quality of Life

We know that moderate intensity physical activity that raises your heart rate is known to reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. But it has the potential to do even more.

As part of a University of Cambridge (UK) study on exercise habits among 1,433 participants aged 60 and above, the team of scientists looked at the link between exercise and health-related quality of life—a measure of health and well-being that includes pain level, the ability to care for oneself, and anxiety/mood level. Lower quality of life scores are linked with an increased risk of hospitalization, worse outcomes following hospitalization, and early death.

Study participants were given a score between 0 (worst quality of life) and 1 (best) based on their responses to a questionnaire and then followed by the researchers so that they could look for changes in behaviors and quality of life. On average, six years after their first assessment, both men and women were doing about 24 minutes less moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day. At the same time, the total sedentary time increased by an average of around 33 minutes a day for men and around 38 minutes a day for women. 

For every minute a day less of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity measured, quality of life scores dropped by 0.03. This means that an individual who spent 15 minutes less a day engaged in such activity would have seen their score drop by 0.45. Increases in sedentary behaviors were also associated with poorer quality of life—a drop in the score of 0.012 for every one minute a day increase in total sedentary time six years after the first measurement. This means that an individual who spent 15 minutes a day more sitting down would have seen their score drop by 0.18 over the six years.

People who did more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and spent less time sedentary at their first assessment had a higher quality of life later on. An hour a day spent more active was associated with a 0.02 higher quality of life score. To put the results into context, just a 0.1 point improvement in quality of life scores was linked to a 6.9% reduction in early death and a 4.2% reduction in risk of hospitalization.

“Keeping yourself active and limiting—and where you can, breaking up—the amount of time you spend sitting down is really important whatever stage of life you’re at,” says Dr. Dharani Yerrakalva of the University’s Department of Public Health and Primary Care. “This seems to be particularly important in later life, when it can lead to potentially significant improvements to your quality of life and your physical and mental well-being.”

Because the team measured physical activity and sedentary behavior at different points of time, they say they can be reasonably confident that they have shown a causal link—that is, that quality of life improves because people remain more physically active, for example. As Dr. Yerrakalva explains, “There are several ways in which improvements in our physical behaviors might help maintain a better quality of life. For example, more physical activity reduces pain in common conditions such as osteoarthritis, and we know that being more physically active improves muscle strength, which allows older adults to continue to care for themselves. Similarly, depression and anxiety are linked to quality of life, and can be improved by being more active and less sedentary.” 

Remember that staying active can be a lot more than just going to the gym—dancing, gardening, hiking, and bike riding all fit the bill and are fun. Also, universal guidelines are to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week. Older adults are also encouraged to break up prolonged periods of being sedentary with light activity, or at least with standing, when physically possible.

The research paper “Associations between change in physical activity and sedentary time and health-related quality of life in older English adults: the EPIC-Norfolk cohort study” was published in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #133

Herb-Crusted Grilled Salmon Recipe, Spotlight on Salmon, Food Processors, Embracing Down Time, and Going the Distance with Exercise

With herb gardens in maximum bloom, now is the perfect time for one of my favorite grilled fish recipes—tons of flavor with a quick prep. How to use the time not spent in the kitchen? You might consider testing out the findings of two fascinating studies. One showed that making a point of spending idle time—doing nothing—is a great way to get creative juices flowing, while the other suggests devoting some time to daily physical exercise to keep your brain sharp. 

Herb-Crusted Grilled Salmon

  • Herb-crusted grilled salmon Herb-Crusted Grilled Salmon

    In a hurry for dinner? This fresh herb crust takes just a few minutes to make and there’s no marinating time required. I like to use salmon filet rather than steaks because they’re almost bone free, but select the freshest cut available at the store.


    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the grill rack 
    • 1-1/2- to 2-pound salmon filet
    • 2 cups loosely packed fresh mixed herbs including parsley, dill, and basil 
    • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
    • 1/2 teaspoon each coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


    Step 1

    Check the salmon for any hidden bones and pull them out with a pair of kitchen tweezers. Place the filet skin side down on an oiled grill rack. Set up your grill for direct heat.

    Step 2

    Place the herbs and garlic in a food processor and run until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and pulse briefly. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil and process until you get a paste.

    Step 3

    Use a spatula or your fingers to spread the herb mixture over the salmon. Grill until the flesh is firm and opaque, between 5 and 10 minutes depending on thickness; it should reach 145°F on an instant read thermometer.

    Yields 4-6 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: The Benefits of Salmon

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

The Benefits of Salmon

When it comes to the healthiest fish varieties, salmon is at the top of every list, thanks to its healthy omega-3 fatty acids; vitamins B3, B5, B6, B12, D, and E; and the minerals selenium and potassium—all contribute in different ways to boosting heart and brain health and combatting inflammation and cognitive decline. According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, when possible, it’s better to eat wild salmon for a number of reasons—environmental concerns, lower risk of contamination, and higher omega-3 fatty acid content, to name three. Both wild and farmed salmon have low levels of mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants. 

Because of depletion, only farm-raised Atlantic salmon is sold in US seafood markets—commercial fishing is prohibited. Farm-raised salmon from Norway is often an excellent choice because it’s raised in its natural habitat. If you buy farm-raised salmon, look for responsibly sourced fish certified by a third-party organization like the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Numerous species of Pacific salmon are available wild, such as chinook, sockeye, and coho. You might be surprised to know that Costco sells wild-caught salmon at reasonable prices. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Let Your Food Processor Do Its Job

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Let Your Food Processor Do Its Job

If you have a food processor, there’s no need to pre-chop small ingredients like herbs, garlic cloves, and ginger chunks by hand when they’re part of a recipe that’s made in the processor. Just give herbs a quick rinse and a pat dry with a paper towel and peel garlic and ginger before tossing them into the work bowl, then let the machine chop them before adding in your other ingredients. Larger and/or harder foods, like onions, can be quartered first to get more even mincing in the machine.   

For Your Best Health: Embrace Down Time

For Your Best Health

Embrace Down Time

Ever wonder what jump-starts creativity? For some people, it’s doing nothing at all. According to a University of Arizona study, creative people are more likely to make the most of their down time during a typical day by exploring their mind—this so-called idle time is especially fruitful because, often, one idea leads to another. 

History is filled with anecdotes of famous scientists, artists, and philosophers who enjoyed being alone with their thoughts, and those people often generated some of their best ideas during idle time, says Jessica Andrews-Hanna, PhD, an associate professor in the school’s Department of Psychology and senior author of the paper. “In today’s busy and digitally connected society, time to be alone with one’s thoughts without distraction may be becoming a rare commodity,” she adds.

Dr. Andrews-Hanna and her colleagues set out to research how thoughts naturally arise and unfold over time in unprompted contexts. They divided their study into two parts. First, they asked each of 81 participants to sit alone in a room for 10 minutes without any access to digital devices and, without any prompts, asked them to voice their thoughts aloud in real time. The recorded files were then transcribed and analyzed.

The researchers assessed the participants’ creativity through a divergent thinking test, a lab-based verbal test that measures a person’s ability to think outside the box. Participants who performed well had thoughts that flowed freely and were associated with one another, often indicated by phrases such as this reminds me of or speaking of which. “While many participants had a tendency to jump between seemingly unrelated thoughts, creative individuals showed signs of thinking more associatively,” says Quentin Raffaeli, lead study author.

They also found that creative people were more engaged in their thoughts when they were left alone without distractions like a cell phone. “Creative people rated themselves as being less bored, even over those 10 minutes. They also spoke more words overall, which indicated that their thoughts were more likely to move freely,” Dr. Andrews-Hanna says.

The second part of the study was in the context of a much larger span of time, the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people were alone with their thoughts more often. Over 2,600 adults answered questions through a smartphone app called Mind Window, developed by Dr. Andrews-Hanna and her graduate student Eric Andrews. Participants who self-identified as being creative reported being less bored during the pandemic. “As we become more overworked, overscheduled, and addicted to our digital devices, I think we need to do a better job in our homes, our workplaces, and our schools to cultivate time to simply relax with our thoughts,” Dr. Andrews-Hanna says.

The researchers are continuing their work using the Mind Window app. They encourage people to download and use it to help scientists understand how people across the world think in their everyday lives. “Understanding why different people think the way they do may lead to promising interventions to improve health and well-being,” Dr. Andrews-Hanna says.

Fitness Flash: Exercise: Going the Distance 

Fitness Flash

Exercise: Going the Distance 

A study done at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and CINVESTAV in Mexico City, Mexico, provides novel insight into the benefits of exercise, which should motivate us to keep moving throughout our lifetime, especially during middle age. Building on the knowledge that long-term exercise profoundly benefits the aging brain, the researchers wanted to better understand how it helps prevent the decline in memory function related to aging.

Among the first structures of the brain affected by aging are the hippocampus and adjacent cortices, areas essential for learning and memory. Deficits in cognitive ability are associated with reduced hippocampal volume and degradation of synaptic connectivity between the hippocampus and the perirhinal-entorhinal cortex. Increasing evidence indicates that exercise benefits brain function: physical activity can delay or prevent these structural and functional reductions in older adults. 

For the study, researchers analyzed the effects of long-term running on a network of new hippocampal neurons generated in young adult mice, at middle age. Using special tracing technology, they were able to show that running throughout mouse middle age kept those adult-born neurons wired.

“Long-term exercise profoundly benefits the aging brain and may prevent aging-related memory function decline by increasing the survival and modifying the network of the adult-born neurons born during early adulthood, and thereby facilitating their participation in cognitive processes,” said Henriette van Praag, PhD, corresponding author, an associate professor of biomedical science in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine and a member of the FAU Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute.

“Long-term running may enhance pattern separation ability, our ability to distinguish between highly similar events and stimuli, a behavior closely linked to adult neurogenesis, which is among the first to display deficits indicative of age-related memory decline,” said Carmen Vivar, PhD, corresponding author, Department of Physiology, Biophysics and Neuroscience, Centro de Investigacion y de Estudios Avanzados del IPN in Mexico. “Our study provides insight as to how chronic exercise, beginning in young adulthood and continuing throughout middle age, helps maintain memory function during aging, emphasizing the relevance of including exercise in our daily lives.” 

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #122

Chicken Piccata Recipe, Spotlight on Capers and Cutlets, Ward Off Prostate Cancer with Fruits and Veggies, Plus the Health Benefits of Physical Fitness

As the weather gets warmer, farmers markets—and maybe even your own garden—will soon be brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s especially welcome news after the release of research on the protective benefit of these foods when it comes to avoiding prostate cancer. After reading the second study in this newsletter, you’ll want to take a brisk walk right on over to the nearest market to fill up your larder. Fresh vegetables are a wonderful accompaniment to this delicious chicken dish.

Chicken Piccata

  • The Olive Oil Hunter News #122 Chicken Piccata

    The origin of chicken piccata is somewhat in dispute—some say that it was an Italian-American take on a classic veal recipe from the Boot. Certainly, it’s long been a mainstay on many Italian restaurant menus here in the US. No matter who claims credit for it, one thing is certain: it’s delicious and easy to make all in one pan. A side of your favorite pasta and a plate of spring asparagus complete the menu!


    • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
    • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour, more if needed 
    • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
    • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
    • 1 cup white wine
    • 1 cup chicken broth, homemade or low sodium store-bought
    • 1 lemon, halved
    • 1/4 cup capers, plus 1 tablespoon of their brine
    • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 pieces
    • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley


    Step 1

    Slice each chicken breast horizontally into 2 or 3 thin cutlets. In a deep pie plate, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Heat a very large skillet and, when hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Dredge the cutlets in the flour mixture one at a time, shake off any excess, and place them in the pan. Continue until your skillet is full. Don’t crowd the cutlets: work in batches if needed, adding 2 more tablespoons of oil to the skillet before adding the next batch. When the cutlets have browned on the bottom (after about 5 minutes), flip and continue cooking for another 3 minutes (the thinner the cutlet, the less time each will take). Transfer the cutlets to a large clean plate near your stovetop.

    Step 2

    Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the garlic until fragrant and lightly browned. Add the wine and broth, and whisk the liquids to get up the fond on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and add back the cutlets (submerge them as much as possible) along with the capers and brine. Continue cooking until the liquid reduces by half and the chicken is cooked through. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon half and stir in the butter. Cook for 2 more minutes and sprinkle with the parsley. Cut the remaining lemon half into thin slices and serve along with 2 or 4 cutlets per person.

    Yields 4–6 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Greek Yogurt

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Capers: An unsung Mediterranean flavor booster

Chances are the only time you might have seen capers—apart from chicken piccata—is alongside chopped red onion on a smoked fish platter. But their salty, briny taste can enhance many dishes.

Capers are the green flower buds of the capparis spinosa, a prickly bush native to the Mediterranean region. They’re picked, dried, and then either pickled in brine—the way you’re most likely to find them on supermarket shelves—or packed in salt. Capers come in various sizes, from tiny nonpareils to large capotes.

Experiment by adding them to eggs, tuna salads, potato salads, and tomato sauces, especially those that also include green olives, like puttanesca. If you’re using the large capers, chop them coarsely before adding; otherwise, fold them in whole. Adding a teaspoon or so of their brine will intensify their taste. And always taste any caper-enhanced dish before you add any extra salt—you might not need it.

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Baking Pan Preps

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Cutting Cutlets Made Easy

Thinly sliced cutlets cook quickly and stay moist and tender. If you can’t find breasts already cut scallopini style or just want to save the extra cost that brings, you can easily prep chicken breasts yourself at home. First, give the cutlets a deep chill in the freezer for about 20 minutes—this makes them easier to slice. While you’re waiting, set out a platter for placing the slices and grab your raw-only cutting board and a sharp chef’s knife (remember: it’s a dull knife that’s dangerous). 

Working one breast at a time, place it on your cutting board and place the palm of one hand over the top of the breast. Very carefully, slice the breast horizontally in half if not very thick, or into thirds or fourths if thick (the first slice may be smaller in length than the rest, but should be the same thickness). Now you’re ready to proceed with your recipe.

For Your Best Health: Cutting Caffeine without Withdrawal Symptoms

For Your Best Health

Fruits and Vegetables May Ward Off Prostate Cancer

Two studies done at the University of South Australia and published in the journal Cancers found that men who eat micronutrient-rich colorful fruits and vegetables on a regular basis are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer; consuming these foods also speeds up recovery for men who undergo radiation treatment for the disease. The research was the first to evaluate blood concentrations of micronutrients and trace elements with respect to prostate cancer in men in South Australia.

Researchers compared levels of micronutrients in the blood of prostate cancer patients with the levels in a healthy control group and found that the cancer patients had low levels of lutein, lycopene, alpha-carotene, and selenium, and high levels of iron, sulfur, and calcium. In particular, they found that men with plasma concentrations lower than 0.25 micrograms/milliliter for lycopene and/or lower than 120 micrograms/milliliter for selenium have an increased risk of prostate cancer and are likely to be more sensitive to the damaging effects of radiation treatment, should cancer occur.

Foods rich in lycopene include tomatoes, melons, papayas, grapes, peaches, watermelons, and cranberries. Selenium-rich foods include white meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and nuts. Study coauthor Permal Deo, PhD, says eating foods that are naturally rich in lycopene and selenium is preferable to taking supplements, where the benefits are limited, according to previous studies. “Our recommendation is to adopt a Mediterranean diet enlisting the help of a dietitian because people absorb nutrients in different ways, depending on the food, the digestive system, the person’s genotype, and possibly their microbiome,” he explains.

Other risk factors, such as ethnicity, family history, and age, have previously been linked to prostate cancer. “There is strong evidence that being overweight and tall increases the risk of prostate cancer,” adds Dr. Deo. “Diets high in dairy products and low in vitamin E may also increase the risk but the evidence is less clear.” Vitamin E is found in plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

Fitness Flash: Develop your Core Principles

Fitness Flash

When Half Is a Lot Better Than None

We already know that physical activity has numerous health benefits, and leading health organizations recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week to get them. But now, an international team led by researchers at the University of Cambridge and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that there are still benefits to doing at least half that amount: just 11 minutes a day—75 minutes a week—of moderate-intensity physical activity, like brisk walking.

To explore the amount of physical activity necessary to have a beneficial impact on several chronic diseases and premature death, researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis, pooling and analyzing data from all the published evidence. This let them bring together studies that on their own did not provide sufficient evidence, and sometimes disagreed with each other, to provide more robust conclusions.

In total, they looked at results reported in 196 peer-reviewed articles, covering more than 30 million participants from 94 large study cohorts, to produce the largest analysis to date of the association between physical activity levels and risk of heart disease, cancer, and early death.

The researchers found that, outside of work-related physical activity, two out of three people reported moderate-intensity activity levels below 150 minutes per week and fewer than one in 10 did more than 300 minutes per week. They also found that beyond 150 minutes per week, additional benefits in terms of reduced risk of disease or early death were marginal. 

On the other hand, doing just half this amount came with significant benefits. Accumulating 75 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity brought with it a 23 percent lower risk of early death and reduced the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17 percent and cancer by 7 percent. For some specific cancers, the reduction in risk was greater: head and neck, myeloid leukemia, myeloma, and gastric cardia cancers were between 14 percent and 26 percent lower risk. For other cancers, such as lung, liver, endometrial, colon, and breast, a 3 to 11 percent lower risk was observed. Looked at another way, if everyone managed at least 75 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, around one in 10 early deaths, one in 20 cases of cardiovascular disease, and nearly one in 30 cases of cancer would be prevented.

Soren Brage, PhD, of the MRC Epidemiology Unit, says, “If you are someone who finds the idea of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week a bit daunting, then our findings should be good news. Doing some physical activity is better than doing none. This is also a good starting position: If you find that 75 minutes a week is manageable, then you could try stepping it up gradually to the full recommended amount.” As a reminder, moderate-intensity physical activity raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster, but you should still be able to speak during the activity.

Leandro Garcia, PhD, of Queen’s University Belfast, adds, “Moderate activity doesn’t have to involve what we normally think of exercise, such as sports or running. Sometimes, replacing some habits is all that is needed. For example, try to walk or cycle to your work or study place instead of using a car, or engage in active play with your kids or grandkids. Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active.”

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