I HAVE A FRIEND who’s been struggling with medical issues and it is difficult for her to find things she can eat.
Most recently she’s eliminated nightshades from her diet with the hope that she’ll get some relief from the bloating, aches and pains she’s been dealing with.
Common nightshades include tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, white potatoes and eggplant, as well as spices derived from peppers such as cayenne and paprika.
Nightshades, or Solanaceae, are foods and spices that contain chemical compounds called alkaloids, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Some believe nightshades can cause inflammation, stomach discomfort and joint pain, and avoid them as part of an anti-inflammatory diet.
Perhaps one of the most famous proponents of avoiding nightshades is former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Avoiding nightshades can be daunting because it means saying goodbye to French fries, mashed potatoes, chips, ketchup, tomato sauces, peas and corn. But if your doctor has suggested an anti-inflammatory diet for you, there are delicious options.
My friend said she was making something called a “nomato” sauce for her pasta dishes.
A nomato sauce is a customizable sauce made from vegetables such as carrots and beets, which give the sauce a red color similar to tomato sauce. She said the sauce tasted so much like regular tomato sauce that with the right seasonings, you could barely notice the difference.
I made my version of the sauce with carrots, beets, celery and onion. I also added ground beef, garlic salt, red wine and seasonings.
I served it for dinner and the feedback from my family shocked me — they all preferred the nomato sauce version over my standard tomato-based marinara sauce.
One great way to add a little interest and flavor to your food if you are avoiding nightshades is to add a lemon tahini sauce.
If you don’t like a strong garlic flavor, try adding chopped garlic to lemon juice and letting it steep for a few minutes. Remove and discard the garlic, then beat the lemon juice into the tahini and you will have a mild garlic flavor. Try different fresh herbs in the tahini sauce, too. I’ve made it with parsley, dill and basil. It goes great with seared asparagus and roasted cauliflower.
Another delicious, nightshade-free dish is batata chips. A batata is a large sweet potato, and they are becoming more common in the Northeast and starting to show up in grocery stores. I picked one up at the store recently, sliced it thin and roasted it with Kosher salt, olive and coconut oil.
I loved that roasting them made them crispy, but still had a bit of chewiness. They were delicious, so I snapped a few pictures of the dish and sent them to my friend so she can pick up batata during her next grocery shopping adventure.
Roasted Batata Chips with Easy Aioli
1 large batata
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
First, make the aioli. Whisk lemon juice into the mayonnaise. Stir in the garlic, salt, salt pepper and dill and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Grease baking pan with coconut oil; set aside.
Use a mandoline or a sharp knife to slice the batata evenly into thin slices (about 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick).
Put slices in a large bowl; add olive oil. Toss to coat.
Transfer slices to the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and set in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F.
Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until the batata slices begin to brown slightly, then turn the slices over and return to oven. Roast for an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned (slightly longer if you want them crispier).
Serve with aioli.
No-Tomato Spaghetti Sauce with Ground Beef
1 large beet, peeled and chopped
5 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium shallots, chopped
1 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons dry red wine or sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Add the beets, carrots, celery, onion, broth and bay leaves to a stock pot and set over medium-high heat.
Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are softened and cooked throughout.
Remove from heat and discard the bay leaves. Use an immersion blender, food processor or blender to blend vegetables to a smooth sauce (you can add additional vegetable broth or water if needed to blend.) Once blended, set aside.
Add olive oil to a deep sauté pan and set over medium-high heat. When olive oil is heated, add garlic and shallots. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until the garlic is lightly browned and the shallots are softened.
Add ground beef and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes or until the beef is no longer pink and is cooked throughout. Break into smaller pieces while cooking.
Drain any excess fat from the pan. Return the pan to medium-heat and stir in the wine, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add the blended vegetable sauce, garlic salt, basil, red pepper flakes, rosemary, balsamic vinegar, sugar and ground pepper; stir well to combine.
Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Reduce to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the flavors to develop; adjust seasonings to suit your taste. Serve over pasta.
Seared Asparagus with Lemon Tahini Dressing
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound asparagus
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable stock or water
For Lemon Tahini Dressing:
2 minced garlic cloves, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon water
First, make the lemon tahini dressing. Add half of the minced garlic to the lemon juice and let set for five minutes, then remove and discard the garlic. (For a stronger garlic flavor, you can leave the garlic in the lemon juice longer or you can leave it in the sauce altogether). Add the tahini to a small bowl and whisk in the lemon juice, honey and remaining salt and pepper. Whisk until you form a pourable sauce; adding a few more drops of lemon juice or water if needed to reach desired consistency. Set aside.
To make asparagus, add olive oil and butter to a sauté pan and set over medium-high heat.
When butter is melted and the oil is warmed, add the other half of the minced garlic to the asparagus and season with half of the salt and pepper.
Saute, turning the asparagus frequently, until asparagus begins to brown slightly, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the vegetable broth (or water) to the asparagus and set a lid on top of the pan.
Cook for about two minutes or until the asparagus is slightly softened. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle lemon tahini dressing over the top.