‘Cooking in the Cave’ chefs whip up heart-healthy dishes

Cooking in the Cave

Eating healthy doesn’t mean sacrificing all the flavor and excitement of food. Mercer Dining shows us how it’s done in this Go Red Week-edition of “Cooking in the Cave.”

It’s American Heart Month, and Mercer University is helping raise awareness of heart disease this week during its Go Red Week campaign. Today’s theme is “eating for your heart,” and Mercer Dining created a special heart-healthy menu just for the occasion. 

In our latest “Cooking in the Cave” video, Food Services Director Jarvis Napier and Executive Chef Jimmy Brown demonstrate how to make pan-seared salmon with a sweet potato edamame barley bowl and wilted Swiss chard. Don’t let the fancy name deter you — this entrée is something anyone can tackle and is sure to impress your dinner guests.

You’ll find the full recipe below, as well as bonus recipes for a heart-healthy salad and dessert. The grilled ratatouille salad is an explosion of color and taste with zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, eggplant, arugula, tomato basil vinaigrette and a balsamic glaze. For dessert, indulge in the mini key lime pie, which is naturally sweetened.

Check out Mercer’s #GoRedWeek events and resources.

Pan-Seared Salmon



Prep time


Cooking time






  • Two 5-ounce skinless salmon fillets

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  • Season the salmon fillets evenly with the salt, and place them in the hot skillet flesh side down. (The flesh side is an orange or coral color; the silvery markings indicate where the skin was attached.
  • Cook until deep golden brown about 2-3 minutes. Flip salmon and cook an additional 2-3 minutes
  • Put salmon in pre-heated oven for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove the salmon to a plate to rest.


  • Approximate nutrient content per 5-ounce serving: 340 calories, 29 grams protein, 23 grams fat

Sweet Potato Edamame Barley Bowl

Serving Size: 5 ounces
Yield: 8 servings


  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup barley uncooked
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups edamame
  • 3 cups Swiss chard


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Toss sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes until pierced easily with a fork.
  3. Combine barley and water in pot, bring to boil, and lower the heat to a low simmer. Cover and continue to cook until the barley is done, about 25 minutes.
  4. Take stems off the Swiss chard and chop. 
  5. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to sauté pan and heat on medium high heat. Add Swiss chard and cook for 3-5 minutes or until wilted.
  6. Combine sweet potatoes, barley, edamame and Swiss chard. Serve.

Approximate nutrient content per 5-ounce serving: 241 calories, 7 grams fiber, 9 grams fat, 8 grams protein

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

Serving Size: 8 ounces
Yield: 5 to 6 servings


  • 2 zucchini, cut into quarters lengthwise
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into quarters lengthwise
  • 1 eggplant, halved lengthwise
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered
  • 2 red onions, quartered
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/4 cup balsamic glaze
  • tomato basil vinaigrette (see recipe that follows)


  1. Place all cut vegetables and the tomatoes in a large shallow baking dish, add the 1/2 cup olive oil, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. 
  2. Place the vegetables on the grill and cook for 7 to 9 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time. 
  3. Transfer vegetables to a cutting board and coarsely chop. 
  4. Place the chopped vegetables in a large bowl, add the arugula and tomato vinaigrette.
  5. Plate and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

Approximate nutrient content per 8-ounce serving (including the tomato vinaigrette): 400 calories, 5 grams protein, 7 grams fiber, 29 grans fat

Tomato Basil Vinaigrette

Serving Size: 1 ounce
Yield: 4 servings


  • 2 ounces fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ounces shallot
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound grape tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Combine basil, balsamic vinegar, shallot, Dijon mustard, tomatoes and garlic in a blender. 
  2. Process until smooth.
  3. With blender on, gradually add olive oil and process until combined.

Mini Key Lime Pies

Serving Size: 5 ounces
Yield: 6 servings



  • 2 avocados
  • 2 small limes, juice and zest
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup


  • 1/2 cup pitted dates (not soaked)
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1 pinch of salt


  1. Grease the cavities of a muffin tin with spray.
  2. For the filling: Mix all the ingredients together with a blender. Set aside.
  3. For the crust: In a food processor, mix the dates, almonds and cashews together until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and stir well.
  4. Press the crust into the greased muffin tin, up to 1/4 to 1/3 height.
  5. Spoon in the filling.
  6. Cover with plastic film, creating contact between the filling and the film, and place in the freezer for 1-2 hours.

Approximate nutrient content per 5-ounce serving: 375 calories, 3 grams fat, 3 grams protein, 6 grams fiber


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