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Broccolini and red pepper sauce will help you say yes to better eating

By Ellie Krieger Special To The Washington Post

If you’re trying to get on a healthier track as we start the new year, you might be tempted to heed the unrelenting call to cut certain foods out of your life. Sure, most of us could pull back on added sugars, refined grains and processed meats, for example, but instead of focusing on saying “no” to those, why not take a more affirmative path and turn your attention to the foods to say “yes” to?

Doing so sweeps you away from the deprivation mentality into a wide world of culinary possibilities. By amplifying the most healthful foods, the emphasis shifts toward the positive of eating well, and the ingredients best used sparingly are inherently displaced.

That approach is at the heart of this Nourish column and of a new cookbook, “The Power of Five: Essential Foods for Optimal Health,” by Michael Crupain, which highlights the five food groups that he writes “will help you live longer and better.” They are fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish, and nuts and seeds. No matter how complicated nutritional science can seem, so much of it leads back to the profound benefits of simply focusing on these foods. The recipes in the book, like the one adapted here, illustrate the multitude of ways to do that deliciously.

In this dish, spears of roasted broccolini are served atop a puree of roasted red bell peppers made boldly flavorful with roasted garlic, olives and capers, and just enough hot pepper to give it a tingly warmth. A finishing sprinkle of toasted walnuts adds an appealing crunch.

Enjoy this dish as the highlight of a meal with, say, rotisserie chicken and whole-grain bread, or as part of a spread of small plates. It’s a nourishing dish that pops with flavor and color, and compels you to say “Yes!”

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to launch into 2024.

Broccolini With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Adapted by Ellie Krieger from “The Power Five: Essential Foods For Optimum Health” by Michael Crupain MD, MPH (National Geographic, 2023)

1 small head garlic

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 medium red bell peppers (12 ounces total)

2 long red hot chiles, such as serrano or Ladyfinger

2 bunches broccolini (1 pound total), trimmed

⅛ teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste

¼ cup walnut halves and/or pieces

¼ cup pitted kalamata olives

1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Line a large sheet pan with foil.

Cut off the top of the head of garlic to expose the cloves. Place the head of garlic on a small piece of foil, drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the oil and wrap to seal. Place the wrapped garlic on the pan, and add the bell peppers and red chiles. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15 minutes.

Transfer the chiles to a large bowl and cover with a wide plate. Turn the bell peppers over, return to the oven and roast – along with the garlic – for another 15 minutes, or until the peppers are tender, with blistered skins, and the garlic is soft.

Transfer the bell peppers and garlic to the bowl with the chiles and re-cover to let the peppers steam so their skins loosen as they cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the broccolini with 1 tablespoon of the oil and the salt. Transfer the broccolini to the same foil-lined sheet pan and roast for about 15 minutes, or until it is firm-tender with lightly crisped tops, turning once midway through.

While the broccolini roasts, arrange the walnuts on a small sheet pan and place in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant and toasted. Let the walnuts cool, then coarsely chop.

Once the bell peppers and garlic are cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes, peel off and discard the pepper skins, then discard the stems. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and discard the seeds. Squeeze 6 cloves of garlic from the skins.

To a food processor, add the bell peppers, one of the chiles, the six garlic cloves, the olives and capers and pulse until combined. (Refrigerate the remaining garlic cloves for another use.) Taste, and add the remaining 1 chile, if desired. Add the remaining olive oil and pulse to combine. Taste, and season with additional salt, if desired.

To serve, spread a heaping ¼ cup of the sauce onto each plate, top with the broccolini and sprinkle with the walnuts.

Yield: 4 servings

Storage notes: Refrigerate leftover sauce for up to four days. Refrigerate roasted garlic for up to one week, or freeze for up to 1 month.