Here’s to a Long and Healthy Life
I am enjoying the new Netflix documentary series, “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones”, which is the perfect complement to Dan Buettner’s “Blue Zones Kitchen” cookbook that I have had on my shelf for several years. Nothing you hear or read is necessarily a surprise, but it’s all worth hearing again and making part of your home meal plan.
Buettner has spent the last 25 years traveling the globe to ascertain why certain places have a higher concentration of centenarians than others. During that time, he’s discovered commonalities in the habits, diets, and lifestyles of various populations, which he believes contribute to their longevity.
I do not want to spoil the series for you but suffice it to say that, in addition to movement, community, family, purpose, and faith, diet is the biggest factor in each zone.
Regardless of which zone Buettner explores, centenarians have a wonderful relationship with their food. There is thought and care put into the preparation of meals, vegetables are grown in backyards, and ingredients are whole.
In Sardinia, people eat plenty of bread and pasta, but both are made from scratch and the bread is often sourdough, which boasts fermentation qualities essential for a healthy gut.
It is no secret that a Mediterranean diet — healthy fats, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains — is linked to good health. In Ikaria, Greece, one of the blue zones he visits, their plant-based diet gets a lot of attention, but we also know its citizens eat a lot of fresh fish, a quality source of protein.
The Greek-style shrimp dish featured in this column is chock full of healthy fat from the quality olive oil and feta cheese. Fresh tomatoes, along with basil and garlic, keep the dish, which is low in sugar and protein-packed, light.
It might not be the perfect centenarian dish, but it is a perfect hybrid. You can also serve the shrimp over brown rice and, just like that, it is truly Greek.
I think Dan Buettner is on to something; and even if his conclusions are completely wrong, who could possibly regret spending time with family, doing things that give us purpose, bonding with friends and family, and adopting the many other fundamentally positive habits identified in this interesting series?
Greek Shrimp with Pasta
5 T. olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled and cubed, or
1 8-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juices
½ cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 t. dried oregano
2 pounds medium shrimp, cleaned and tails off
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1-pound box of your favorite pasta,
½-pound crumbled feta cheese
Preheat oven to 400°.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the garlic. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add wine, salt and pepper, basil, and oregano. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet and add the shrimp. Keep stirring until shrimp turn pink. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
Spoon the shrimp and any pan juices into a small baking dish. Sprinkle with the feta cheese and spoon the tomato sauce over top. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake 10 minutes, until bubbling.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook. Drain. Spoon the shrimp mixture over the pasta and serve.