A little while ago, Flow Athletics put up our most popular post to date – 10 Best Brain Foods for Combat Athletes.
The superfoods in that list improve memory, boost brain performance and provide essential nutrition that should be part of any combat athlete?s diet.
So the question is, how do I add these foods to my diet?
Mark hooked me up with some awesome recipes that showcased the best of the brain food. That Sunday my girlfriend and I cooked ‘em up and had ourselves an amazingly delicious and nutritious lunch.
I’ll let Mark tell the rest and notes from me will look like this: [Gene’s notes].
Gene asked me to create a few recipes using some of the top brain foods for combat athletes. I was excited to pair the ingredients in a healthy but flavorful manner, taking the boring out of eating healthy while at the same time showcasing simple cooking techniques. I set out to make a salad, main course and side dish that could be showcased at any fine eating establishment.
The salad took avocados and used them in it’s simplest form to create a base for lots of fresh spinach. The blueberries were used as a sweetener and for color in the dressing, bringing the fruity notes of white balsamic vinegar to life.
Salmon is always great to work with. The fish is full of great oil that is nothing but healthy omega 3’s. Baking it and then adding the almonds for crunch let’s the fish flavor speak for itself. Be careful not to dry it out, it’s better on the rarer side.
Quinoa is steadily regarded as a superfood. While it can be boring/bland alone, adding the natural juices of well seasoned garlic and vegetables gives quinoa the extra flavor it needs to be good in this salad. Also, the acid from the bit of vinegar acts as the dressing to bring this side dish alive. The quinoa salad is so good it can be eaten on its own.
Spinach & Red Onion Salad
Avocado bed / fresh blueberry – while balsamic vinaigrette
Kale Baked Salmon
Vegetable Quinoa Salad
Asparagus / radish / fresh parsley
[We took on the first two recipes. They were wonderfully easy to follow and execute. Throughout the recipes below, I’ll add pictures, commentary and clarifications from our attempts to make these dishes.]
Spinach, Avocado, & Red Onion Salad
w/ Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
5 oz. bag baby spinach
1 red onion
1 cup blueberries
2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 avocado, removed from rind & sliced
1 cup feta cheese (optional)
Wash and dry the baby spinach. Place it in your serving bowl.
Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the stemmed ends off of the onion. Now cut the onion in half. Peel off the outer, unusable skin. Now turn the onion and cut it lengthwise into thin shavings.
[Used pre-chopped onion here. The presentation isn’t quite as good, but saves quite a bit of time and tears if you’re not that handy with a chef’s knife.]
Add that to the bowl with spinach. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and add feta cheese, if you are using. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Let’s make our dressing. If you have a blender, add the blueberries and pulse to crush them. If no blender is available, use the back of a sturdy spoon and a small bowl. Crush the blueberries well, being sure not to lose any of the juice. Next add the white balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Next, while still mixing, add the olive oil in a steady stream so that it combines with our vinaigrette. Taste; the vinaigrette should be sweet and acidic, a great compliment to the spinach and onion.
[My god, this dressing was delicious. If I could have this salad for lunch everyday, I think I would. I mashed the blueberries in a bowl, which is doable, a little annoying, but totally worth it for how good the dressing was. Make sure to grab high on the spoon (towards the scooping part) while mashing for better leverage.]
Grab your salad out of the refrigerator and add enough dressing to coat the spinach, careful not to over dress.
Toss to combine. On a plate, line the edges with the avocado in a circle, leaving a space in the middle for the spinach. Season avocado with salt/pepper. Pile the spinach salad in the middle. Take a picture and enjoy a great simple salad.
Kale Baked Salmon
w/ Honey-almond crust
3 portions of salmon filet (5 oz. each)
1 cup almonds, sliced fine
4 large kale leaves, washed
1 tbsp. honey
extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In s small non-stick sauté pan, add the almonds and set over medium heat. Toast the almonds until fragrant, about 4 minutes, stirring constantly so they won’t burn. Season with salt, remove from heat and set aside.
[Use a larger pan than the one in the picture for a more even toast and to prevent burning]
Prepare your salmon by seasoning the top with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a touch of honey, enough to coat the top and set aside.
Grab a baking dish or pan large enough to hold the salmon. Coat the surface with cooking spray, or drizzle a touch of olive oil on and spread it around. Place the kale in the pan and season lightly with salt & pepper. Place a piece of salmon in each piece of kale. Drizzle the salmon with olive oil and wrap loosely with the kale.
[This is a bit confusing, because kale doesn’t lend itself to wrapping things easily. Look for bigger pieces of kale at the market to make it easier and remember that the wrap doesn’t have to be tight or perfect. Just kinda fold the “bushy” edges of the kale up and over a little bit. It’s fine if some of the salmon shows through.]
Place in the oven to bake for about 17 minutes. Check for doneness by unwrapping the kale and observing the color of the fish. It should be a light pink and the kale should be crisp, at points.
[As Mark said, be sure not to overcook!.]
Remove pan from oven and unwrap the kale. Sprinkle the salmon with the toasted almonds. They should stick to the honey. Serve the salmon with the part of the kale that the salmon’s juices cooked into as an easy and healthy accompaniment.
[I got confused here and served the salmon on top of the kale, but you’re better off taking the kale, bunching it up and serving as a side dish.]
[3 dishes was a bit much for us to take on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but I do love quinoa (NASA superfood) so look forward to making this salad in the future. If any readers decide to whip this one up, please share your experience in the comments]
Vegetable Quinoa Salad
¼ lb. asparagus
6 oz. package quinoa
5 radishes, cut into quarter moons
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. White vinegar
1 clove garlic, smashed, minced
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Cook quinoa to package directions. When it is finished, fluff quinoa with a fork and add to a large mixing bowl. Put in the refrigerator to cool for at least 15 minutes.
While quinoa is cooling, cut the ends off the asparagus. Chop asparagus into ¼ inch pieces, leaving the top parts a little larger. Add to a bowl with the radishes.
Set a sauté pan over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the pan, and add the garlic. Sauté until fragrant, careful not to burn. When you can smell the garlic, add the asparagus and radishes. Season with salt/pepper and sauté until asparagus is tender and radishes are turning pink all over. Remove from heat and place back in bowl, with the juices/garlic from the pan, and put in refrigerator to cool.
Grab your quinoa out of the refrigerator. It is okay if it isn’t completely cooled. Add your vinegars, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine and taste. Adjust seasoning for what you like; it will probably need a pinch more salt. Add your asparagus and radishes and all of the juices from the bowl to the quinoa. Taste again. Add enough oil to keep the salad moist, and finish with the roughly chopped parsley. Taste your quinoa salad again, and adjust seasoning if needed.
Serve warm or at room temperature as a great side dish and enjoy.
- Thanks again to Mark at Remarkable Cuisine, you are the man!
- The blueberry dressing is AMAZING … Mark should make it a trade secret.
- If you have any fun, delicious recipes using the superfoods in our Brain Foods post, please share!