Healing Through Food with NGI Alum Megan Huylo

Posted July 11, 2017

Megan Huylo is a graduate of the Chef’s Training Program at Natural Gourmet Institute. Through personal experience and her training at NGI, she has fully come to understand food as medicine. As a part-time farmer, Megan enjoys cooking with herbs and produce that she planted herself. Read on to learn more about her story and how you can grow and cook with your own fresh herbs.

Food and Healing

My health and wellness journey started at an early age. A cancer diagnosis while I was in the second grade, as well as my mother’s holistic leanings, provided an education early on around the concept of food as medicine. We chose to work with a holistic nutritionist alongside my chemotherapy treatment, and boosted the drugs with seaweed supplements, iron-rich foods, and lots of ginger. The experience impacted my life in a very positive way, I’m grateful to say. The focus on a whole-foods, plant-centric diet came much later, beginning as an ethical decision, and eventually led me to NGI.

I can’t help but get a little sappy every time I talk about the Chef’s Training Program. For the first time in my life, I felt like a part of a community. It was so incredible to be surrounded by like-minded people who got as excited about herb identification as I did! We learned so much and every day was fascinating. My time there was a real turning point in my life.

Preparing Healthful and Delicious Meals

After graduating from NGI, I knew I wanted to go the entrepreneurial route, so I worked for a handful of food service establishments in the beginning to get experience before going off on my own. Now, I have a really delightful mix of different roles: personal chef, caterer, consultant, cooking instructor, and, for the last three summers, an organic farmer in the Hamptons doing farm dinners and field work. It’s an incredibly connecting thing to cook the food that you planted and nurtured.

Utilizing Fresh Herbs in Recipes

One of my favorite ways to use fresh herbs is, very simply, raw in a salad. They provide such bold flavor and elevate any bunch of mixed greens to the next level. Plus, they are loaded with nutrients and health benefits that you can more readily reap when consumed fresh and raw. It’s also very easy to grow fresh herbs at home – you don’t even need a backyard garden! Hearty herbs like parsley, chives, mint, and rosemary, for example, do very well on window sills or fire escapes in small pots. Just make sure you water them regularly!

HERB SALAD WITH SHAVED CUCUMBER AND TOASTED SEEDS
(Yield: 4)

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces assorted baby greens (I like to include red and green lettuces, kale, spinach, and mustard greens)
  • 1 ½ cups assorted roughly chopped fresh herbs (My go to blend is equal parts parsley, mint, dill, chives, and sorrel)
  • 1 medium cucumber, shaved lengthwise into ribbons
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper (To taste)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pepitas

Procedure

  1. Combine mixed greens, chopped herbs and shaved cucumber in a large bowl. Toss gently to evenly distribute.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, zest, maple syrup and sea salt. While whisking, slowly pour in olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Toss with herb mixture and sprinkle with toasted seeds.