Valentine’s Day a good reminder to have a (healthy) heart


Of course February is National Heart Month. A symbol of love on Valentine’s Day, the heart is also a symbol of life all month — all year, if you take care of it. According to the American Heart Association, “sensible eating and exercise” are still the basics for heart health. Food that is low in fat and cholesterol and high in appeal — smells good, looks good, tastes good — will do your heart good. Here are a few lean and luscious options that take advantage of what’s in season now: citrus, fennel and more. And it goes without saying that local and organic will earn extra love.

Simple skillet chicken with lemon and dried fruits

Light and easy to prepare, this dish can be made in one pan. Serve with a high fiber side such as brown rice and broccoli, if desired. Recipe from Eating Well magazine; makes 6 servings, with 5 grams fat and 82 milligrams cholesterol per serving.

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces, skinned and trimmed of fat

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruits (pears, pitted prunes, apricots, apples, peaches)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 lemons, thinly sliced and seeded

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken; cook about 6 minutes per side or until chicken is browned. Remove chicken, season lightly with salt and pepper, and set aside. Add 1/3 cup water to skillet; stir to loosen and dissolve brown bits stuck to pan. Stir in dried fruit, lemon juice and thyme. Place chicken over fruit in pan, baste with sauce. Arrange lemon slices over chicken. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside and fruit is tender. Remove lemon slices; place them around edge of serving platter. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and fruit to platter. Add 1/3 cup water to skillet; boil for 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour over chicken and serve immediately.

Shaved fennel salad with blood orange vinaigrette and cheese crouton

A colorful, hearty salad with a lively combination of flavors from chef Lance Dean Velasquez in “Cooking For Heart &Soul” cookbook to benefit the San Francisco Food Bank. Makes 6 servings with 8 grams fat (2 grams saturated) and 7 milligrams cholesterol per serving.

2 small bulbs young fennel

3 blood oranges

Trim and discard the bruised outer leaves and stems from fennel. Soak trimmed fennel bulbs in a large bowl of cold water for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove; shake off excess water in a salad spinner or pat dry with a clean dish towel. Refrigerate fennel in a bowl covered with a damp towel. Halve the blood oranges; remove segments with a grapefruit knife, working over a bowl to catch fruit and juice. Squeeze shells for remaining juice; add to the cup of orange juice.

Make vinaigrette:

1 cup fresh blood orange juice

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and crushed

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and crushed

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar or white vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Pour orange juice into a nonreactive saucepan; add crushed coriander and fennel seeds. Cook over medium heat until reduced by half. Strain through a fine strainer into a large bowl; set aside to cool. When cool, add vinegar and oil to orange juice; whisk well. Season with salt and pepper; set aside. Shave the reserved fennel very thin with a mandolin-style slicer or sharp knife and toss shavings with the vinaigrette.

Make crouton:

6 slices sourdough French baguette

4 ounces reduced fat creamy cheese (such as Havarti or Jarlsberg)

Leaves from two heads of red leaf lettuce or 2 to 3 cups mixed greens

Preheat broiler. Top each slice of bread with a slice of cheese. Place bread slices on a baking sheet; toast under broiler until cheese turns golden.

Assembly:

Toss greens with the fennel, divide among 6 chilled plates and garnish with the orange sections. Top each salad with a warm cheese crouton and serve.

Seared salmon with orange glaze

We all know the heart-healthy benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon. This flavorful preparation is enhanced with a thick, fragrant orange ginger glaze. Recipe from “The Healthy Kitchen” by Andrew Weil and Rosie Daley; makes 6 servings with 8.2 grams fat (1.3 grams saturated fat) and 88 milligrams cholesterol per serving.

Six 6-ounce salmon fillets

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup white wine

1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

3 tablespoons sherry

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 slices orange

Preheat oven to 400 F. Sear fish fillets in the sesame oil in a large, very hot skillet for 1 minute on each side. Remove from heat; transfer fish to a glass baking dish. Drizzle soy sauce and wine over fish; bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Meanwhile, heat the orange juice, zest, sherry and ginger in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced by half. Add orange slices; stir once or twice, until sauce becomes thick. Remove from heat, drizzle sauce over fish and serve.

Grand Marnier souffle

Citrus is featured in this cream-free, extra-light souffle that has only 92 calories per serving. Recipe from “Spa Food” by Edward J. Safdie; makes 4 servings.

3 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon fresh grated orange rind

1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur

1 tablespoon arrowroot mixed with 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

3 eggs, separated

Combine honey, orange juice, rind and Grand Marnier in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; whisk in arrowroot mixture and return to a boil. As soon as liquid thickens, remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly butter four 3-inch souffle molds or a 1-quart souffle dish. Whisk egg yolks into cooled mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff; fold into custard. Spoon into prepared molds. Bake the 3-inch souffles for 12 minutes, the larger one for about 15 minutes. Souffles should be puffed and golden but still soft in the center. Serve at once.