Written by
Sonya English
The Desert Sun

Chef Jimmy Schmidt shared a dish from his Morgan’s in the Desert recipe book that is easily tailored. Adjust portions of protein and carbohydrates with portions of fish and quinoa, and add more vegetables to augment fiber from corn and rapini.

Wild Alaskan Salmon with Sweet Corn and Quinoa Risotto

Makes 4 servings

For chile salsarina:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups baby chile peppers, stems and seeds removed and cut into rings
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Chipotle Tabasco or other hot sauce to your taste

For risotto:

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled, end removed and diced
  • 2 cups fresh sweet corn
  • 4 cups hot vegetable stock
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup snipped fresh chives

For salmon:

  • 4 fillets of wild Alaskan Salmon, about 6 ounces each
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

For garnish:

  • 2 cups rapini
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions: Preheat broiler to 450 degrees.

In a nonstick skillet over high heat, add the olive oil and chiles. Cook until the chiles start to brown on the edges, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add soy sauce, honey and hot sauce to taste. Reduce allowing the chiles to become coated. Remove from heat and reserve.

Place the quinoa in a fine strainer and rinse under cold running water to remove any residue of the bitter husks. Allow to drain thoroughly.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, cooking until translucent and tender. Add the quinoa, cooking it until it’s hot when touched lightly by the back of the hand. Add the corn, stirring to combine. Remove from the heat and carefully pour the boiling vegetable stock over the quinoa. Return to medium heat and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until just tender and almost all of the liquid is absorbed but the quinoa is still a little wet, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and half of the chives.

While making the risotto, season the surfaces of the salmon with salt and pepper and rub with a few drops of olive oil, just to coat. Place the salmon filets skin-side down on a foil-lined broiler pan. Place the broiler pan centered under the heating element, cooking until desired degree of doneness, about 8 minutes depending on the thickness of your filets. Carefully remove the broiler pan; remember it is very hot.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat a few drops of olive oil over high heat. Add the rapini, cooking until slightly wilted but not browned, about 4 minutes. Season to taste.

Divide and mound the rapini in the center of each warmed serving plate. Divide the risotto and mound around the rapini. Position the salmon atop. Spoon the chile salsarina over the salmon and drizzle the chile juices around the plate. Sprinkle with the remaining chives. Serve immediately.


It’s more complicated than just eating your Wheaties

Most of the super athletes gearing up to compete in the Summer Olympics, which start Friday, complement their workouts with equally regimented diets.

“What they eat can make a big difference in how well they perform on that level,” said Libby Quigley, a registered dietician with a private practice out of Palm Desert.

And Olympian meals aren’t one-size-fits-all. Each type of sport calls for its own balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat.

Do fans have anything to gain from gold-medal rule books? Quigley says yes.

Foremost she stressed that healthy diet and exercise should be important to everyone. For those serious about their particular sport, starting a diet with an optimal balance of macronutrients — protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber — will make a noticeable difference in your game.

“It’s not that you’re gonna be the best tennis player ever, but it’s more likely that you’re gonna be at the top of your game,” she said.

That balance also trains the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates, said Chef Jimmy Schmidt of Morgan’s in the Desert in La Quinta. He’s worked in sports nutrition for 20 years and is launching his own health drink, called Jimmy Juice. Burning fat, an athlete is able to sustain performance longer without “hitting the wall,” he said, or experiencing sudden and extreme fatigue.

Researchers are studying how all the nutrients interact with the body, he said. The blood system operates within a narrow range of electrostatic charges and what you eat interacts with your blood chemistry in ways that aren’t completely understood.

The broader variety of foods one eats, the better.

“It’s not simply a math equation,” Schmidt said. “It’s a whole interaction of all these ingredients, these nutrients, together.”

In case the Olympic Games have you feeling as motivated as we do, we asked local experts for a guide to eating for your sport. Bodies don’t reset every 24 hours, so it’s less important that each day’s meals level out to the recommended ratios than that their weekly average comes close.

If weight loss is a goal, reduce caloric intake, but don’t just drop the fat portion, Bill Grotenrath warns. He’s a strength and conditioning coach at College of the Desert and advises athletes on how they should eat.

“If you don’t have any fats you’re gonna be miserable,” Grotenrath said. “You won’t be able to perform; fats are one of the basic ingredients to keep alive.”

The number of calories people need each day depends on height, weight and the type of activity, Grotenrath said. Determine yours with the help of a dietician, doctor or personal trainer. With input from our panel of experts we’ve created an activity- specific nutritional guide fit for this summer’s Olympians.

Or, it’s at least a good start for well-intentioned amateurs.

Endurance (running, biking, swimming)

Protein: 30 percent

Carbohydrates: 40 percent (more for long distances)

Fiber: 30 percent

Winning tip: Don’t exercise on an empty stomach.

Mallory Benavides, a dietician at Eisenhower Medical Center, recommends sticking to easy-to-digest, low-fat, low-fiber calories to avoid upsetting the stomach. Try animal crackers, pretzels, yogurt or juice.

Strength (weight lifting, pilates)

Protein: 40 percent

Carbohydrates: 30 percent

Fiber: 30 percent

Winning tip: You probably have enough protein in your diet. The typical American diet often includes more protein than even a bodybuilder needs. Consuming too much, Benavides said, can suppress muscle protein synthesis and the excess calories turn into fat.

Speed (baseball, tennis, sprinting)

Protein: 30 percent

Carbohydrates: 50 percent

Fiber: 20 percent

Winning tip: A common misconception is that all carbs are bad carbs. Refined carbs, such as white sugar, white flour and white rice spike blood sugar and result in a crash. Stick to complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, whole grain breads and pastas, and brown rice.

Sonya English is a reporter for The Desert Sun. Reach her at (760) 778-6430 or sonya.english@thedesertsun.com.