Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Something Sweet: Toasted Maple Glazed Almonds with Pink Himalayan Salt




Sometimes, a body just needs something sweet. Toasted maple glazed almonds are nutritious,  satisfying, and can be made in minutes. The toasty almond flavor is deliciously enhanced by a rich maple syrup- olive oil glaze and a sprinkling of salt. I use a heavy cast iron skillet to toast the almonds on top of the stove- much faster and energy efficient than doing it in the oven.


Ingredients:

1+1/2 cups raw almonds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 pinch pink Himalayan salt (or plain sea salt) 


Method:

Place almonds in a cast iron skillet (or other heavy pan) over medium heat. Shake pan frequently while almonds toast; once the pan heats up the almonds can burn quickly. Have a stainless steel or ceramic bowl within easy reach. 





When almonds are fragrant and take on a nice toasted color, pour immediately into the bowl. Add olive oil and maple syrup; toss well until almonds are coated.  Return almonds to the pan and heat gently over a low flame for a minute or two, stirring constantly. The glaze will quickly become sticky and adhere to the almonds. As soon as this happens, remove pan from heat and spoon the almonds in one layer onto a platter or a sheet of waxed paper to cool. Sprinkle lightly with salt.




Pink Himalayan Salt
For a very decadent treat, serve with small pieces of your favorite dark chocolate.

Monday, July 10, 2017

On Perfection, Evolution & Summer Pleasures





Though human perfection does not exist, Homo sapiens is imbued with the evolutionary drive to seek perfection in all things.  Perhaps this  impulse is linked to the survival instinct which pushed our species to hunt for the best food, partners, comrades and environments. 

There is tension inherent in this search, for ultimately, one must make a choice.  Certain choices are crucial, and will resound in our lives for decades. Other choices are simpler; which sunflower, which artichoke, which peach shall we select?  

Such are the small, weightless pleasures of summer, when there is an abundance of nearly  perfect produce to enjoy.
  











***
inanimate perfection?


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Meditation on a Black Radish

Black Radish

The black radish, with its rough thick outer shell and pure white pungent bitter interior, is the dark horse of the radish universe. Cultivated by farmers since the days of ancient Egypt, Raphanis sativus var. sativus tolerates extremes of climate, grows to a generous size and contains considerable quantities of vitamin C.

 I am told that the black radish, which stores very well, was a staple food for my Eastern European ancestors during long cold winters when few fresh vegetables were available. It was peeled and sliced and eaten with raw onion, salt and heavy dark sourdough rye bread. In France it is known as "Gros noir d'hiver",  or "large black of winter".



                                             black radish
                                             your rhino hide shell
                                             protects a bitter snowy core
                                             from which the lovely
                                             green shoots spring




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Black Lentils with Black Rice & Black Shiitake Mushrooms




Four exceptionally nutritious ingredients form the core of this simple but delicious meal, perfect for warming up the last chilly days of winter. According to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, these four foods have the ability to strengthen the "yang" energy of the body, which is created and nurtured in the area called the "Life Gate Fire", or  Ming Men Huo. 

Assembly is easy; simply measure the ingredients into a pot and cook for about one hour.  It's best to use a heavy pot with a thick bottom and tightly fitting cover. A simple kitchen tool called a flame tamer or heat diffuser is useful for cooking legumes and grains; it helps heat to penetrate evenly without scorching the bottom of the pot.  Slow, gentle cooking allows the grains and lentils to steam thoroughly and encourages the aromatic flavors to mingle.

 Yield: Roughly five servings.

Ingredients:

1 cup black beluga lentils
1 cup black "forbidden" rice
1/2 cup kasha (buckwheat groats)
2 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
5 cups fresh water
1/4 + teaspoon  sea salt
6 whole dried black shiitake mushrooms






Method:

Measure lentils, rice, kasha, water and sea salt into the pot; add garlic and bay leaf.
Carefully place mushrooms, stem down, in one layer on top of the other ingredients.
Cover pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Place a flame diffuser under the pot to prevent scorching.
Continue cooking on a low to medium flame for about one hour.  
Remove pot from heat and allow to rest without opening for fifteen or twenty minutes.
Open pot and remove mushrooms, garlic cloves and bay leaf.
Place mushrooms on a cutting board and slice into small pieces.
Peel garlic- it will be very soft- and return it and the mushrooms to the pot.
Toss all ingredients with a fork; add more sea salt to your taste if desired.
Serve with any lightly steamed dark leafy green.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Korean Comfort Food: Sweet Azuki Porridge


Azuki bean porridge, Pat Juk, is a traditional staple of Korean cuisine, eaten year round at all times of day. The sweet variety, Dan Pat Juk, is prepared and shared with neighbors and friends on "Little Lunar New Year" which takes place on the winter solstice. The reddish color of the porridge is meant to ward off evil spirits, and as in many cultures, eating sweet foods expresses the hope of a sweet year to come.

Savory or sweet, Azuki porridge is a sublime comfort food which is highly nutritious and simple to make. This interpretation of Dan Pat Juk requires few ingredients and the only active labor involved is the time it takes to blend the cooked beans into a smooth porridge. Traditional Korean recipes call for rock sugar as the sweetener; I've substituted medjul dates. For a sweeter dish, maple syrup may be added to taste.

Dan Pat Juk is very filling; this recipe yields roughly six modest servings. The flavor of the juk mellows with rest, so don't hesitate to make extra for later use. To store cooked beans safely, place in clean glass jars with tightly fitting lids while still very hot. I like to use small single serving sized glass canning jars for this purpose. Handled this way, beans will keep well in the fridge for up to five days.

Ingredients:

2.5 cups azuki beans, soaked for about 6- 8 hours*
fresh water
4-5 large medjul dates, pitted and sliced in half
sea salt to taste
1 or 2 tablespoons maple syrup to taste (optional)
mint leaves for garnish
pine nuts for garnish

Method:

Drain and rinse beans thoroughly in running water.
Place beans in a heavy bottomed pot and add enough fresh water to cover by about two inches.
Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over a medium- low flame for one hour or more.
Stir beans occasionally, adding water if they are not covered by liquid.
Beans are done when one is easily mashed between thumb and forefinger.
Remove pot from heat, stir in dates, cover and allow to rest until cool enough to blend.
Blend beans in batches in blender, adding cooking liquid or small amounts of fresh water as needed, until porridge is velvety smooth.
Return porridge to pot, reheat thoroughly and add sea salt to taste.
One or more tablespoons of maple syrup may be added to taste.

Serve dan pat juk  in small preheated ceramic bowls.
Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and a sprinkling of pine nuts.
Store remaining porridge in glass jars in fridge for up to five days.
Reheat thoroughly for a quick, warming and energizing meal.


*A note about soaking legumes:  Soaking legumes is not a complicated affair but it involves some planning. Soak beans overnight or put them in to soak early in the morning. If you've soaked beans for several hours but must postpone cooking, drain them and keep in the fridge for up to another day. 

                                 








Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Winter Restorative: Root Broth





This season of excessive consumption, activity and stimulation creates a need for counter- balancing austerity. Root broth, a fortifying Winter restorative, is a satisfying response. Both the making and the drinking are effective antidotes to the restless chatter of our universe.

The broth is prepared by simmering a selection of roots in water until tender. Humans have cooked this way under very primitive conditions for millennia, ever since they tamed fire and created ceramic vessels. This simple non-recipe produces a warming and intensely flavorful clear broth, replete with valuable nutrients. Select any combination of the following ingredients- whatever is available will be suitable.

Ingredients:

carrots
turnips
white radish
purple radish
parsnip
ginger root
leek
garlic cloves
dried shiitake mushrooms
bay leaves
fresh water
sea salt to taste

Method:

Scrub and trim root vegetables and cut into medium sized pieces. Peel the garlic cloves but leave whole. Shiitake mushrooms are also left whole.

Place vegetables and bay leaves in a soup pot. Add fresh water, enough to cover the vegetables by one or two inches.




Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over a low flame, adding more water if level gets too low. Simmer until vegetables are tender but not mushy.  (Longer cooking is fine but will yield a thicker broth).  Turn off heat. Remove the mushrooms and when cool enough to handle, slice and return to broth. Taste and add sea salt as desired. Serve in a pre-heated bowl so that broth stays warm.




Living in Harmony With the Atmosphere of Winter:


"The three months of Winter are called the period of closing and storing. Water freezes and the Earth cracks open. One should not disturb one's Yang. People should retire early at night and rise late in the morning and they should wait for the rising of the sun. They should suppress and conceal their wishes, as though they had no internal purposes, as though they had been fulfilled. 
 People should try to escape the cold and they should seek warmth. They should not perspire upon the skin, and they should let themselves be deprived of the breath of the cold. All this is in harmony with the atmosphere of Winter and all this is the method for protection of one's storing."

-- From the Nei Jing, The Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic (circa 206 BCE-220 CE)







Monday, November 21, 2016

Nourishing the Roots: The Source of Vitality



A tree with a deep, well developed root system is more likely to survive periods of drought, heat, cold or other extreme weather conditions. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM), the same can be said for humans. Maintaining a healthy, robust constitution is essential to one's ability to withstand the inevitable mental, emotional and physical challenges which confront us all.

Our genetic make up is referred to in TCM as the "inherited constitution" or "ancestral energy". Each person is born with their own unique quantity and quality of constitutional energy, which determines the trajectory of birth, growth, maturation, aging and death. Ancestral energy is finite; when it is used up the organism ceases to live.

An essential teaching of TCM is the importance of nurturing the inherited constitution through proper life style, which is the foundation of "acquired energy". This means that the preponderance of the body's day to day energetic needs should be derived from appropriate food, exercise, and sleep. If acquired energy is not replenished on a daily basis, the body taps into the finite storehouse of ancestral energy, reducing vitality, resilience and shortening its lifespan.

Like the root system of a tree, the body's vital organs are hidden, but they are the source of our ability to sustain life. Nourishing the roots is a day by day mindfulness practice which can provide us with the emotional and physical strength to meet the vicissitudes of life.