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Who's Cooking: Sara Siskind, Port Washington

Sara Siskind of Port Washington makes her comfort

Sara Siskind of Port Washington makes her comfort stew, which combines different seasonings, and is warm and filling. Photo Credit: Barbara Alper


Siskind is a certified Holistic Health Counselor and founder of Hands On Healthy, a cooking school for adults, families, and teens. She lives in Port Washington with her husband and four children.


What was your early interest in cooking?

I really got interested in cooking when I had children. I started out making baby food and soups for my son. I cooked for myself, too, since I needed energy and stamina to take care of my kids and family. It was really an interest in eating healthy rather than an interest in culinary technique.

What are some important ideas about food that you want your own children to understand?

I just try to lead by example, cooking and eating nutrient-rich foods. I tell them it's not about the calories or the fat content. It's about the nutrients. Let's focus on eating real food. What are we eating, where is it coming from, what does it do for our body, how does it make us feel better? We don't have to be perfect. We try to follow the 80/20 rule. If we're eating healthy 80 percent of the time, I'm happy.

How do you entice kids to eat healthy food?

Start slow. If your kids don't like vegetables, don't give them kale right away. A great trick is to make a strawberry-banana smoothie and put just a couple of baby spinach leaves in. Pour it into a colored cup. Once kids accept a slightly green smoothie, increase the quantity of greens. They'll start to realize, "Oh yeah, I do like spinach." It's empowering and builds their confidence.

Where does this recipe come from?

This is something that I found a long time ago and tweaked to make it my own. It combines so many amazing seasonings but is not that difficult to make. It's warm and filling and flavorful. I make it for Super Bowl Sunday. Most people like spinach. It's an easy green. Chickpeas add fiber and protein. Garlic builds immunity. Spices have healing properties of their own.


2½ cups dried chickpeas (or two 15-ounce cans BPA-free chickpeas, drained and 1½ cups liquid reserved)

1 cup water plus more for soaking beans and/or making spice paste

10 ounces baby spinach

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

½ teaspoon sea salt

Pinch saffron threads

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch ground pepper

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

¼ cup golden raisins

1. If using dried beans, soak chickpeas in water overnight. Drain, reserving 1½ cups soaking liquid.

2. In a large, deep skillet bring the water to a boil. Add the spinach and toss over high heat until wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain the spinach, pressing on the leaves to extract the liquid. Coarsely chop.

3. Using the flat side of a large knife, mash the garlic to a paste with ½ teaspoon of salt and the saffron. Transfer the paste to a small bowl. Stir in the paprika, cumin, pepper and ¼ cup of the chickpea soaking liquid or ¼ cup of the liquid from the canned beans.

4. Wipe out the skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and tomato and cook over moderately high heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the spiced garlic sauce and cook for 1 minute. Add the chickpeas and the remaining soaking liquid or liquid reserved from cans to the skillet along with the raisins and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and simmer over moderate heat for 10 minutes. Transfer the stew to 4 deep bowls, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

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