89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A Prescription For Delicious Health Solutions

Chef Mayahuel Garza chops shallots at the Cooking For Health class in the South Valley.

So many people in America suffer long-term and dangerous illnesses that come from poor nutrition. A doctor and chef in the South Valley near Albuquerque are part of a team working on tasty solutions.

Chef Mayahuel Garza chopped shallots and dropped them into a hot pan, the basis for an aromatic brown rice dish. A student in her Cooking For Health class had a question that the class translator translated. 

"What are shallots?" he asked.

"They're like these little cebollitas," Garza explained. "They're little onions.

These were grown locally in the South Valley, not too far from the clinic classroom at First Choice Community Healthcare. The smell of sizzling shallots filled the room, dozens of people packed in for the monthly free demonstration that’s open to the public.

Dr. Will Kaufman offered a brief bilingual lecture. "So first I want to talk about what is a whole grain," he said. "When I started learning about nutrition a couple of years back, I had absolutely no idea."

He said doctors get next to no training about nutrition in medical school. "This was a life-changing class for me. People with their questions revealed to me that my knowledge about nutrition was minimal," he said. "And I had what seemed to me like a simple question: What is the best way to eat for health, right? What I realized is that’s an extremely complex question."

Doctors have maybe 15 minutes tops with patients, he said, and squeezing complex nutritional info in, too, is nearly impossible.

Mary Lou Reyes came out at the suggestion of her doctor. She loves the foods we all love—tacos, enchiladas—but high blood pressure and diabetes means she has to make some changes. She said she enjoyed the rice.

"I think this will work for me. I do. I like the lemon taste in it, and the little small onions. What are they called? Shallots. I’ve never cooked with those, and they look really interesting," she said.

Garza, the chef who taught that dish, is also the program coordinator for the series. "We really try to present recipes the community here is familiar with and are going to want to eat," she said, "and at the same time that they’re healthy, using local, organic ingredients."

For instance, Garza once offered a version of red chile without pork that was also thickened with spinach and leafy greens instead of flour. "And they loved it, and so many people were like, 'Oh, we’re going to make it like this.' Even the doctor was like, 'I’m going to make my red chile like that.' So yeah, everybody loved it."

Garza said it often comes down to just getting people to try things a little outside their norm.


Cooking For Health

First Choice Community Healthcare (2001 N. El Centro Familiar Blvd. SW)

Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon

  • March 30
  • April 27
  • May 18
  • June 29
  • July 27
  • Aug. 24
  • Sept. 28
  • Oct. 26
  • Nov. 23

Lemon Brown Rice With Garlic & Thyme

  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 & 1/2 cups of short-grain brown rice
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red chile flakes
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon

1) In a large sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about five minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for three minutes. Add the stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. 
2) In a skillet, heat the oil, garlic, thyme and chile flakes over moderately low heat. Cook until garlic is just beginning to brown, about three minutes. 

3) Remove from heat and add lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with cooked rice and serve. 

Red Chile Infused With Leafy Greens 

  • 20 New Mexico red chile pods
  • 1/4 cup of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of salt (to taste)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 bunches of leafy greens (spinach, beet greens, kale)

1) Remove all stems, seed and pits thoroughly.
2) Soak red chile pods in a pot of hot water. (Some people like to soak in a large saucepan on a high heat because it's faster). 

3) Add 3 cups of fresh water, red chile pods, garlic, greens and salt to a blender.

4) Puree red chile in the blender until it has reached a smooth texture.

5) Strain out any seeds or large pieces that did not blend. 

6) Transfer all contents to a large saucepan and simmer on medium-low heat for one hour.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
Related Content