Sweet and sour pork with rhubarb

In the United States and Europe, rhubarb is known as the pie plant and in fact we tend to use it in sweet dishes; however, in Asia, it is more used in savory dishes. Today,I’m presenting a savory dish that was inspired by a blog. The rhubarb gives the sour taste that is balanced out nicely with the sweet and hot Chinese sauce and the bitter bamboo shoots. I chose broccoli as the main vegetable for the dish. If you prefer a vegetarian alternative, please check out my previous recipe that is a similaly made with tofu.

Rhubarb is everywhere here in the Midwest right now. It is almost ready in my garden but it has been available for a few weeks at the farmers’ market for sure. It is actually a healthy plant. Rhubarb has favorable health effects in the spring and the summer as it is cooling and detoxifying to the liver. The stems are good source of antioxidants, vitamin K and fiber. The Chinese also use the roots for its medicinal properties. In fact, it is so important for the Chinese that they consider it to be one of the ten most important herbs for healing.

So what’s up with the ketchup? Is it Chinese? … I think of American cooking when I hear the word ketchup but in fact it originated from China. It is basically a sweet and tangy sauce made with tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and spices. It actually means fish sauce as they traditionally addded fermented fish sauce. For this recipe we just need the basic ketchup, so go ahead and just use store-bought ketchup – unless of course you want to make it yourself.

This is a very tasty dish! I really wanted to make a dinner with rhubarb and I found this recipe. I made a few changes to suit my taste. I cut the pork into long strips instead of squares. I replaced the green peppers with broccoli. Also, I wanted to bring in more of the bitter flavor so I added bamboo shoots to offset the sourness of the rhubarb. And for garnishing, I also added peanuts to get a bit of crunchyness. I think this is a fabulous recipe with an interesting twist to the usual sweet and sour pork dish that is served in restaurants with pineapples.

RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 300g pork fillet, cut into thin long stipes or 1 inch cubes
  • About 3 medium stems of rhubarb (200g) cut into 1 inch batons – please use a scale
  • 1 Tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 large onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin slivers from top to tail
  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 1 thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped (1 Tbsp)
  • sesame oils, for frying
  • 1 small can of bamboo shoots
  • 2 cups of raw rice (or rice noodles)
  • Marinade
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 Tbsp of corn starch

Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 4 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup of water
  • 5 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Garnish

  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 mild red chilli pepper (optional), finely chopped
  • cilantro
  • handfull of chopped peanuts
  • soy sauce

Instructions

Prepare rice according to its instructions. I used rice noodle last time.

Cut the pork pieces into longer (2 inches) thin (half inch) stripes. You can do squares too but the Chinese do long stripes traditionally.

Whisk together the marinade ingredients, add the pork, cover well and set aside for at least half an hour or up to a couple of hours.

In another bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Cover and put aside.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and add the rhubarb batons in a single layer. Cook for about a minute and a half and keeping them moving. Add a heaped tablespoon of soft light brown sugar, toss and cook for about minute more. You want them to have tenderised but still to have some bite. If they start breaking up, you’ve gone too far. Whip them off the heat immediately. Scoop into a bowl and set aside.

Take the pork out of the refrigerator, pour off the marinade and dry with a towel.

Put a tablespoon of vegetable oil, I used sesame oil in a wok and stir-fry the pork on a medium-high heat for three or four minutes, until golden brown. Remove and keep to one side.

Make sure you’ve prepped all the vegetables before you start cooking the main event, because it they will cook fast.

Saute the sliced onion until translucent. Add the ginger and the broccoli and continue sauteing for about 5 minutes or until it is crunchy on medium high heat. Give the sauce (from above) a quick whisk, then pour it into the pan. Add the rhubarb and the bamboo shoots and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for three or four minutes until thick. Add the pork and toss and coat well until the pork is warm.

Add soy sauce and chilli pepper if needed.

Serve over rice, garnished with the sliced spring onion , cilantro, nuts.

enjoy!

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketchup

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/35104325/posts/55143

Photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Hot and sour tofu with rhubarb

In the United States and Europe, rhubarb is known as the pie plant and in fact we tend to use it in sweet dishes. However, in Asia, it is more used in savory main dishes. Today, I’m presenting a savory dish that was inspired by the following blogs: ( blog 1 and blog 2). The rhubarb gives the sour taste that is balanced out nicely with the sweet and hot Chinese sauce and the bitter bamboo shoots. I chose broccoli as the main vegetable for the dish. Traditionally, pork is used but is replaced here with the tofu. In the original recipe, the raw rhubarb is blended in the sauce but I made it more traditionally sautéed like the rest of the vegetables.

For the meat version of this dish, please, see this recipe.

Recipe


Serves: 4 people  

Ingredients

  • 500g tofu
  • 2 tsp + 3 Tbsp honey (or replace with agaste sauce for a vegan option)
  • 1/4 tsp five spice
  • chili flakes to taste
  • Sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp sake
  • 3 Tbsp rice wine
  • 3 Tbsp graded ginger
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 large cloves garlic
  • 200g of rhubarb stalks (about 3 smaller or 2 bigger stalks)
  • 2 large heads of broccoli
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (8oz/225g) of bamboo shoots, drained
  • handful of penuts, chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • lime
  • cilantro
  • rice or rice noodles

Ingredients listed as used in groups

Rice or rice noodles

Marinade/tofu: 2 tsp honey, 1/4 tsp five spice powder, 1/4 tsp red chilli pepper flakes (optional), 1 Tbsp seasame oil, 3 Tbsp rice vinegar, 3 Tbsp sake, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 500 g tofu.

The sauce: 5 cloves garlic, 3 Tbsp honey, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp ginger, 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes (or to taste).

Vegetables: 200g (3 medium sized) rhubarb stalks, 1 large onion, 2 heads of broccoli, 1 can of bamboo shoots.

Toppings: handful of chopped peanuts, 4 scallions, small handfull coriander, soy sauce and limes.


Directions

  • The rice.  Make the rice of your choice. I used sushi rice.
  • Cut up the tofu so it is about 1 cm / 1/2 inch thick. I made triangular shapes but rectangular or square shapes are fine too.
  • Mix the ingredients of the marinade in a small bowl and pour it all over the tofu. Cover and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  • Make the sauce. Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix to get a nice sauce. Set aside.
  • Take tofu/marinade out of the fridge and strain off marinade. Pat dry tofu with a towel. Sautee tofu slices in small amount of oil for about 5 minutes on each side. Cover and set aside.
  • Cut up the vegetables. Thinly slice the onions, cut up the broccoli flowers. Cut rhubarb diagonally in 2-3 inches length. If stalks are bigger, cut them in half first.
  • In a larger pan or wok, heat seasame oil, add rhubarb batons in a single layer and cook for abot 1-2 minutes while stiring to make sure all sides cook well. Make sure you don’t over cook rhubarb, they should be firm and not mushy. Add 1 Tbsp sugar and cook for 1 minute. Take off heat and set aside.
  • On medium high heat, sauté the sliced onion for about 10 minutes until translucent. Add the brocololi and continue sautéing on medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until it is soft but still crunchy. Add the sauce made earlier. (Quickly whisk, then pour it into the pan). Add the rhubarb (that was set aside from earlier step) and the bamboo shoots and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for three or four minutes. Add the tofu and toss and coat well and cook until the fofu is warm.
  • Serve on rice with chopped cashew nuts, chopped scallions, cilantro, lime wedges and soy sauce.

enjoy!

Sources

http://www.mostlyeating.com/ tofu with hot and sour sauce

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/35104325/posts/55143

Photo, recipe and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Cupcakes with candied violets

The beautiful violets are springing up everywhere in the Midwest, in the meadows, on the forest floor and if you are lucky in your back yard. They are not just beautiful but are edible too. Violets are a great source of food for butterflies and people as well. There are so many things you can make with these flowers. Today, we will make chrystalized violets that can be used to decorate our cupcakes.

You will need violet flowers for this recipe. Violets can be found in many places. If you can’t find them outside, you can get potted ones at stores, just make sure they were not sprayed. You can make about 80 flowers with the one egg white. I pick about 15-20 violets at a time because it is better to work with the freshly picked plant material. The flowers do not need to be washed, just make sure you pick them from a clean place free of dirt that have not been sprayed. When I pick the flowers, I like to leave a 1″ green stem so I can handle the flowers easier while working with them. You can remove the stems at the end.

If you plan on eating the candid violets, you have to use fresh eggs. You can do the fresh egg test to see if your egg is fresh. Immerse the egg in a pot of cold water and see if it stays flat on the bottom of the pot. It any of the sides move up or the egg moves to the surface of the water, the egg will not be suitable for eating. You can still use that egg just don’t eat it. Only use fresh eggs that will stay flat on the bottom of a pot when immersed in water if you plan on eating the violets.

Recipe for the candied violets

Ingredients

  • about 80 organic violet flowers with 1″ stem if possible
  • 1 egg white
  • 1-2 tsp water
  • about 1 cup of fine white sugar (you can use regular white sugar and grind it quickly in a blender. Just a few pulses before it becomes powder).

Directions

  • Seperate the egg white and put it into a small bowl. Add the water to make it more workable. Lightly beat.
  • Measure out the sugar. 1/4 cup is enough for the first round. Use more for the additional violets.
  • Go and pick the violet flowers, about 15-20 at a time. I like to leave a 1″ stems on so the flowers can be handled easily later.
  • Using a paint brush, ‘paint’ the egg whites on the flowers. I like to put the egg white on the back first and sprinkle with sugar and do the same on the front side. Just make sure you cover the flower material well with the egg white and the sugar on both sides.
  • Place the prepared flowers on a sheet of wax paper and let it dry for about 6 hours. I like to occasionally move the flowers to prevent them from sticking.
  • You can cut off or just pinch the stems off the flowers any time.
  • After they are dry, put them in the fridge in an air-tight container. Refrigerated flowers are edible for 1 week and can be stored for 1 month.

Recipe for the cupcakes

Source for cup cakes: Natasha’s Kitchen, Source for frosting: Natasha’s Kitchen

Ingredients for the cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cup of cake flour or check out source on how to make cake flour (how to make cake flour)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk or plain kefir at room temperature

Ingredients for the icing

  • 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1-1 1/2 cup of cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1-1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Directions for making the cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Butter a cupcake/muffin pan or line with cupcake liners.
  • In a medium sized bowl, wisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, beat the eggs for 15-20 minutes. You can use an electrical mixer on medium high speed.
  • Add the sugar slowly and continue to beat for another 30 minutes on medium high speed.
  • Add the vanilla and the oil and beat for 1 minute on medium speed.
  • Add half the flour mixture from the earlier step and beat on slow medium speed until incorporated. Add half of the buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Repeat with the remaning flour nd buttermilk. Beat shortly until just combined and smooth, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed. The batter should be thin.
  • Pour batter into muffin pan. Divide evenly.
  • Bake for 12-14 minutes in the pre-heated oven.
  • When cooled and are at room temperature, you can pipe on the frosting. See the frosting recipe below, please.

Directions for making the frosting

  • Whip the cream on high speed until thick, fluffy and speadable (1-2 minutes).
  • In a different bowl, beat the cream cheese and the powdered sugar together starting ata low speed. When mix together, add the vanilla extract.
  • Fold the whipped cream gently into this mixture. Store in the refrigerator if not ready to use.

Text, photo and recipe for candied violets by twincitiesherbs.com

Source for the cupcake recipe

http://www.natashaskitchen.com/perfect-vanilla-cupcake recipe/

Italian spinach/mushroom lasagna (vegetarian)

I have been making lasagna recently quite a bit. It is not too hot outside yet so I can turn the oven on but we want something on the lighter side too … so this dish seems to fit the bill. Of course, you can make this dish any time of the year. Lasagna is an Italian specialty. Traditionally, it is made with layers of tomato sauce based ragu, cheese and béchamel sauce. In this dish, I replaced the meat with spinach, mushrooms and cheese. I served it with red wine that seemed to compliment it very nicely.

Spinach is a great vegetable for the spring, it is hardy and nourishing for the liver.

Of course, an important part of the lasagna is the pasta. The best is if it is home made but good, high quality packaged pasta will do too.

Also, the cheese is also important. Try to get the best quality you can afford. Honestly, when I was in Italy, the first thing that I noticed was how tasty the cheese was in their dishes. I like to use a mixture of cheeses, here I used fresh mozzarella cheese balls, feta cheese and Parmesan cheese.

I make my own Italian seasoning but of course any store bought mix would work too. I think this is a nicely balanced mixture of spices grown in Italy. They are carefully selected herbs so one herb will not overpower the other. Also, they all are carminative therefore will help with digestion. Historically, we can thank the ancient Greek doctors who added these herbs to dishes so people can get their benefits all year along.

The warming, aromatic oregano is the key ingredient in pasta dishes. I like to use it because it gives a nice, distinctive flavor to Italian dishes. The sweet fennel seeds are acrid and compliment the strong aromatic oregano in the dish. The delicate basil is probably the most loved and popular spice used in Italian cooking. If you can, try to use the fresh plant instead of the dried. Its aromatic flavor is a nice addition to any Italian dish. The pungent chili pepper is not a big part of the Italian cuisine but Italians enjoy adding a little to their pasta dishes. The oregano and the fennel seeds both can offset the heat of some stronger spices.

Italian seasoning

2 TBSP (6 tsp) dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil or handful of fresh basil

2 tsp ground fennel seeds

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/4-1/2 tsp hot red pepper or to taste (optional)

RECIPE

Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients

  • lasagna pasta (I used 10 strips)
  • 10-16oz spinach (frozen is fine too)
  • 4-8 oz chopped up mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • 2 slices of bacon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce + (more for the top and the bottom if needed)
  • 1 cup of Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup for the filling, 1/2 cup for the Béchamel sauce)
  • 8oz (100g) fresh mozzarella balls
  • 8 oz (200g) of feta cheese
  • 1 Tbsp of Italian seasoning plus more for the top
  • handfull of fresh basil leaves (if you have them)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • About 4 oz grated Mozzarella cheese for the top

Bachamel sauce ingredients

  • 5 Tbsp of butter
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 2 cups of milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 egg yolks (optional)

  • Rosso Piceno wine. Bottled by Saladini Pilastri 2018 (optional) It is the best and not expensive!
  • parsley leaves (chopped)

Directions

Start boiling the water for the pasta (omit if your pasta does not need to be boiled).

Preheat the oven to 400F and have the rack in the middle of the oven.

Making the filling: In a pan, sauté bacon (optional) and mushrooms in a little oil for 5-10 minutes. Transfer into a bowl. Meanwhile wash and take stems off the spinach. If using frozen spinach of course no need to do it. Sauté in a little oil and water. Remove and try to drain off water. Chop spinach well and transfer into the bowl. Add mashed feta cheese, tomato sauce, 1 egg, garlic, 1 Tbsp of the Italian seasoning (see recipe above). Mix.

Preparing the béchamel sauce. It is not too hard, just follow the steps. I used a whisk. Warm up 5 Tbsp of butter on low heat, when melted increase the heat to medium high and add the flour slowly, stirring continuously. Then start adding the milk very slowly, stirring after each addition and wait for a minute to let the flour mixture soak up the milk. When you start seeing bubbles, it is done. Take off heat. Grate some nutmeg. Add 1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese (optional) and 2 egg yolks. Last time I forgot the eggs and the sauce was still fine. So I will add here that it is optional especially if you are already adding cheese. Mix well. I use a double boiler but is not necessary.

Prepare the lasagna pasta according to its directions. If you need to boil the pasta, put it in the boiling water that was started in the first step. Proceed according to its instructions. When done take out of the water and try to make sure they don’t stick to each other. I like to cook the pasta more at the end to prevent sticking. So try to make sure you have everything ready before the pasta is ready so you can start assembling the lasagna.

Assembling the lasagna: Put a thin layer of the béchamel sauce or tomato sauce on the bottom of a 3 Qt size baking dish. (2Qt size will work ok too). Place 1 layer of the pasta strips on the bottom of the pan. Put the filling on top of the pasta, followed by the fresh mozzarella balls (cut up if using the larger balls), pour the béchamel sauce and top it all with another layer of the pasta. Spread some pasta sauce and the shredded mozzarella cheese on the top. Sprinkle some Italian spice on the top.

Turn the oven heat down to 375F and put the lasagna in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is nice and golden brown.

Serve hot with a little grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley on the top. I really enjoyed a glass of red wine with the dish. I felt like I was in Italy! I would recommend this bottle of red wine if you are looking for one to try (please see details above in Ingredients).

enjoy!

Source

  • Matthew Wood: Earthwise
  • Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods

Photo, recipe, text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Turnip salad

In the Mid-West, early April is the time when it gets really hard to eat local vegetables. There is nothing out there growing yet. But wait there are some crops from last fall like turnips … in fact raw turnips make a great spring salad. Past few weeks, I have been adding grated raw turnips to all my dishes. I have to admit it felt great to eat something raw. Try this simple salad, you can add a little olive oil, black pepper and carrots but honestly I often eat it just as it is, nothing added.

Turnip (Brassica rapa var) is a member of the mustard family that grows in temperate climate around the world. It has a neutral thermal energy and is slightly sweet, bitter and pungent … just what we need right now in the spring. It helps the liver, kidneys and spleen to function better and protects the lungs and blood vessels. It is especially high in fiber, nourishes digestive tracts and helps detoxify the body. It is considered to be high in many essential nutrients and minerals. Sounds like a super food to me …

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of turnips, medium or larger size
  • carrots strips (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp of lemon juice (optional)

Directions

  • Clean, peel and grade the turnips. For grating, I use the largest hole of my cheese grater.
  • Cut up carrots into thin trips.
  • Add into a bowl. Serve with olive oil and black pepper if you wish.

enjoy!

Text, photo and recipe by twincitiesherbs.com.

Source

Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods

Chana masala (Indian chickpea dish)

Chana masala is a delicious Indian dish that would be great for the spring. I still vividly remember the first time I had chana masala at a friend’s house. He had us over for dinner when his parents came to visit like 25 years ago. I did not even recognize the chickpeas … I actually thought they were chestnuts. I never got the recipe but his mother gave me some tips. (Thanks to the internet I found this recipe on line and I think it is very close to what we had that night).

Chana means garbanzo beans and is the main ingredient in the dish. IMO it is crucial to prepare these beans properly. I remember our friend’s mother told me to cook the beans for a long time. They should be cooked for 3 hours or you can use a pressure cooker according to its instructions, of course. Cooking for this long will soften the beans and let the flavors come out. So if time is not an issue, I would recommend home cooked chickpeas instead of using the canned ones. The canned beans will not have the same results for sure.

Garam masala is the main spice in the dish. It is not just one spice but is actually a cleverly chosen mixture of a few spices: fennel seeds, star anise, mace, black cardamom. It is nicely balanced so one flavor will not overwhelm the dish. You can blend it yourself or you can just buy it. (I ended up buying it at the store).

This is a common dish that people in India make on a regular basis for lunch or dinner. It has an interesting flavor, taste and texture. It can be made less spicy, if you don’t like spicy dishes, just leave out the green chili. So chana masala is basically a chickpea curry cooked in an onion tomato sauce with the spices. I always wonder how poor people in India get by on very little money and still eat well. This dish might be one of their secrets …

RECIPE

-I doubled the recipe

serves 3-4 people

  • 1 cup of dried chickpeas or 1 (15oz) can
  • 3 cups of water

Ingredients for the tomato sauce

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil/ghee
  • 2 large onions, finally chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 inch ginger piece, finally chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2-3/4 TBSP of red chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste

Ingredients for the chana masala gravy

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick (If you double up the recipe, you will not need to add another cinnamon stick)
  • 2-3 clove pieces
  • 3 green cardamom pods without the shells.
  • 1 green chili pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 pinch mango powder (amchur) (optional)
  • fenugreek leaves (optional)
  • coriander leaves

Directions

Clean and soak the chickpeas for at least 8 hours. Pour off soaking liquid. Add fresh cold water and cook for 3 hours. Less for pressure cooker. Save cooking liquid.

Directions for the tomato sauce

  • Sauté the onions in oil or ghee until golden. Add the chopped ginger for 1 minute, stir.
  • Add red chili powder and turmeric. Stir for 1 minute. Add garlic quickly, stir.
  • Quickly add chopped tomatoes and little salt, stir. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until there is a nice sauce. The onions should not taste raw.
  • Let this mixture cool. Add 1 tbsp liquid from the beans. Make a thick gravy with a blender.

Directions for the Chana masala gravy

  • Dry heat the spices (cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cardamom, clove) in a pot for 1 minute until you can smell the aroma of the spices. Stir. I grind the cardamom as some people don’t like them in their foods whole.
  • Pour the blended tomato sauce mixture from the previous step back into the pot, the chopped green chili pepper, coriander and garam masala powders and the spices from the previous step.
  • Mix and cook for a few minutes until ingredients are mixed nicely.
  • Add the cooked chickpeas and the cooking water. You might have to add more water.
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
  • Taste the mixture and see if you need more garam masala. Boil and simmer for 2 more minutes if spices were added.
  • Take out the larger spices like bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves.
  • I also added salt here.
  • Keep it covered until served.
  • Serve hot with cilantro, yoghurt, lemon, rice, vegetables and roti.

enjoy!

Source

https://www.indianhealthyrecipes.com/chana-masala/

Eating with the spring season (no recipe)

SPRING

People in general welcome the spring season. I know it is not everybody’s favorite season but I personally get very excited about spring. I enjoy watching the plants grow and seeing how nature is slowly waking up. We can finally sit outside, eat fresh plants and wear lighter clothing. I feel that spring gives my creative energy a nice boost …

Spring is an important transition time of the year when we are moving out of the cold of the winter time into heat of the summer time. It is true as they say spring comes in as a lion and leaves as a lamb. If we prepare our body, our immune system will be able to handle the changes easier. In addition, it is important to work with this transitional season so we can cope with its harshness easier and can enjoy the heat of the summer later.

In Ancient Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with a natural element so spring is associated with wood. Also, each element has corresponding western organs. The western organs of the Wood element are the Liver and the Gall bladder along with the organs that they control: the Eyes and the Ligaments. (I capitalized the organs because in Chinese Medicine, it is more like an organ is considered to be the organ itself and its energetic functions).

However, Chinese Medicine is not just concerned about the physical body, it believes that our spiritual health is also important. The health of our Wood element can greatly effect this higher self and vice versa. It enables us to make plans, have a clear vision and allows our energy to move freely in the body. In other words, eating well during the spring can have an effect on the spiritual aspect of a person.

Our body should be flexible like a tree in the spring wind both mentally and physically. A healthy tree can easily yield to any wind and not fall over. We try to create this in our body by nourishing the liver and giving our body a break from all heavier, fatty, denatured foods, chemicals and intoxicants.

The energy of spring is more ascending and expansive like the new shoots on the plants. In a similar fashion, the liver’s energy tends to move upwards and is more active. To create this outside climate inside our body, Chinese Medicine recommends that the diet be the lightest of the year and to eat more sweet and pungent flavored foods. More complex carbohydrates like grains, cereal grasses, legumes, seeds, young beets, carrots along with all new spring foods are great sweet foods. Pungent cooking herbs like basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaves are great to help the liver’s active energy.

As I mentioned earlier, we need to give our liver a break from heavier foods. As spring comes, we naturally tend to eat less. In fact, people have been traditionally doing their fasting early spring to make a smoother transition into spring and be able to cope with summer’s heat easier. Many cultures do their annual fasting in the spring that is around what is known today as Ash Wednesday in Christianity until Easter or around the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox. The detoxifying process can be a very spiritual experience.

The bitter, sour and detoxifying foods can help this fasting process. Bitter foods are burdock root, dandelion root/leaves, artichoke, lettuce, spinach, asparagus, amaranth, quinoa, alfalfa, radish, citrus peel. Foods that detoxify and cool the liver are mung beans, celery, seaweed, lettuce, cucumber, watercress, tofu, millet, chlorophyll- rich foods, mushrooms, rhubarb stem/root. Also fresh ginger, oats, sage, fennel, pine nuts, flax seed oil are also beneficial for the liver. In addition, small amount of vinegar or lemon have all three properties. For instance, people often drink a little lemonade in the morning with maple syrup or sugar (but not honey!) and cayenne pepper to get the liver ready for the day. (Caution: do not take too much vinegar or lemon, as you can achieve the opposite effect). The juice of one lemon is great.

Our eating and cooking habits should change as spring moves in. Food should be cooked quickly at higher temperatures in other words the quick sauté method is preferred. Also, it is best to eat dinner earlier than during the winter months. I would say dinner should be done by 6-8pm. According to Chinese Medicine, Liver time when our liver is the most active is between 11pm and 1am so our food should be digested by this time so the liver can do its jobs more efficiently … and it has 100+ jobs that it does regularly …

Spring is definitely the time when we eat less and eat lighter foods. In general, the liver likes to be cool and well nourished. We should be minimizing salt, fats, meats and eggs and eat more vegetables, legumes and grains. Of course, all over-processed foods should be avoided. Just like we do spring cleaning in our homes, we need to ‘clean’ out the inside of our body.

Source

  • Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
  • Art: Unkown

Gourmet kitchari (moong bean stew)

I don’t know if the ground hog’s prediction is right or wrong but it is still cold here. So let’s go to a more exotic place like India and get a popular dish. No worries, no exotic foods will be used. You should be able to find all the ingredients here in the US at any grocery store. If your grocery store does not have them, you can try any Indian or Asian store but really all these ingredients are common in the US. I serve the dish with whatever vegetables I can get in the store, spinach, kale, cauliflower etc.

This dish is more of a gourmet version of the simple kitchari with the addition of mustard seed, cinnamon, cardamom and chili pepper. You can also add your favorite vegetarian dishes to make it more complete and fun. I used spinach, paneer, fried mushrooms and rice. Kitchari is such a healthy dish even if you serve it with all these other foods. If you want to experience the healthiest dish on the planet, please check out my simple kitchari recipe from last year.

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup of mung beans
  • vegetable oil (I used home made ghee. )
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 10-15 mustard seeds
  • 1″ stick of cinnamon
  • seeds of 3 green cardamom pods (discard green shell)
  • 1 tomato, chopped (canned is fine)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of stock (more if you want a soup)
  • 1 green chili pepper (you can remove the seeds if you don’t like your dish too hot)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • yoghurt
  • cilantro
  • lime or lemon

Direction

  • Clean and soak mung beans overnight but at least for 2 hours. Pour off water and use fresh cold water to cook the beans for 1-1.5 hour.
  • Making the gravy. Saute the onion on medium high heat. You can add the cinnamon stick.
  • When you smell the nice aroma add the ginger, cardamom seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds stir and cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the powders (turmeric, cumin, coriander), stir. Add garlic, stir.
  • Add 1 chopped tomato and cook for about 5-10 minutes until it becomes saucy.
  • Add chopped chili pepper and cold stock, stir.
  • Bring to a boil, turn down and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Add in the cooked moong beans and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve warm with rice, yoghurt, cilantro and lemon.
  • I also used paneer, spinach stew and fried mushrooms.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Beet salad with caraway seeds

This is a simple tasty salad that is great for the winter. I just cook the beets and then use vinegar, oil, caraway seeds and salt to prepare the salad. I like to make a big jar full and keep it in refrigerator. You can serve it as a side dish.

For me, beets are the perfect plant to transition from the the winter into spring. Yes! Spring will come sooner or later, OK most likely later in the Midwest …

Beets are grounding, nourishing and detoxifying making it to be the perfect vegetable for this time of the year for the winter and the spring. They are sweet and rich in nutrients for healthy body with important vitamins and minerals. They nourish and detoxify the liver getting the body ready for the spring.

I used only one spice, caraway seeds. The bitter and aromatic caraway seeds have been around for a long time and used in many European countries to make food taste good. It is one of the herbs that the ancient Greek doctors first started using in cooking because of its health benefits especially for digestion. I often take caraway seeds for granted but it is such a neat little herb that needs a little more attention. Please check this website for more info on caraway seeds .

Ingredients

  • 4 smaller beets (about 1 lb)
  • 1 Tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1/8-1/4 cup vinegar + 7/8 -3/4 water
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • pinch of sugar
  • black pepper, to taste

Preparation

  • Cook beets for 1 hour until soft but not mushy. I like to put them on a steamer.
  • When done take the peel off with a sharper small knife. Slice or shread the beets thin. You can do this with a knife or a slicer.
  • Make the dressing. Put 1/8 cup of vinegar in 1 cup cup. Add enough water so the cup is full. So you are adding 7/8th of a cup of water. Pour it in a medium sized bowl.
  • Add sliced cooked beets, caraway seeds, salt, oil and a pinch of sugar. Mix.
  • Grind some black pepper on the salad if you wish. Mix.
  • Serve at room temperature on the side of any dish.

enjoy!

Source

Photos, recipe and text by twincitiesherbs.

Rhubarb cobbler

Enjoy this true American deliciousness! The juicy base is sweet and sour nicely complementing each other and is covered with the perfectly crumpling, soft topping … Oh and it is begging for a bit of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Cobbler is an American deep-dish fruit dessert. It became a favorite right after I took my first bite. Cobbler is simple yet it is bursting with rich flavor; there is something about it that surely grabs everyone’s attention.  You can make it with whatever fruit is available in the season. My mother-in-law made it with rhubarb and berries and that is how I keep making it. Foreigners often complain that Americans don’t have a cuisine of their own. Well this one is an American specialty for sure. 

I looked up the history of cobbler so I will try to summarize what I read.  Well, one is certain that it is a North American dessert. It seems like it was invented by the settlers from the Old World when they tried to make one of their stupendous pies but they did not have all the tools and ingredients that was available back at home.  As an immigrant, I can relate to this experience.  The word cobbler might come from the word ‘cobeler’ that meant wooden bowl.  They might have attempted to make a more simple version of a traditional pie recipe in a small wooden bowl by the fire.  Also, another meaning could come from the word cobbler, the person who mends shoes; kind of like how the dough is mended together like a patchwork. However, none of these speculations of the word’s origin is official.  

As I mentioned earlier, I like to make the cobbler with rhubarb, especially in the spring. It is the first fruit, oops I meant to say vegetable here. Yes people often think it is a fruit because of its fruity, sour taste but it is in fact a vegetable. I can’t believe I get excited about rhubarb but it is really the first new plant that shows up at the farmers market in the Midwest … and there is nothing else here for weeks. While it is not a fruit, it can be prepared with sugar to –kind of cheat- to pretend that like they are fruits.  I also like to add rhubarb because the sour flavor nicely offsets the sweetness of the berries.

Besides its fame in the culinary world, rhubarb has favorable health benefits too. Rhubarb is native to Siberia and has been around for thousands of years. It has been grown in Asia for its medicinal properties. With the big migration, it was adopted in Europe as well. The settlers brought it over to the United Staes in the 1700’s and was known as the pie plant. The whole plant except for the leaves are used. The stalks are used as food and the roots are used as medicine. The leaves contain oxalic acid and can be poisonous in larger quantities and are therefore not used. It is cooling and detoxifying to the liver which makes it an ideal spring vegetable. In addition, the plant contains high amounts of manganese, magnesium, calcium, potassium, polyphenolic flavonoids and Vitamines B complex, C, and K. It has a favorable effect on digestion, bone growth, skin health, metabolism, cardiovascular health and improves circulation.    

Berries are also healthy. Particularly, raspberries and blackberries have a sweet and sour flavor and neutral thermal nature. These qualities make the berries ideal for baking. They nourish the kidneys and the liver and also build and cleanse the blood of toxins.

This is a crowd pleaser! The only complaint I have ever heard was why I didn’t make more and I bring this dessert often to potlucks so I know a lot of people have eaten it. I really think cobbler is as good as pie is or even better. The trick is to get the best rhubarb and the sweetest berries you can find. You can grow them yourself or get them at the farmers’ market. This is really important as the main part of the cobbler is the fruits! Also, make sure you use the exact measurements! Remember it is still kind of a pie recipe. Can’t just say I take a little bit of this and and a little of that …

RECIPE

This recipe is straight out of the cookbook Joy of Cooking.

Serving size: 8 people

Ingredients

  • Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
  • 1 lb of rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces (in the store get the thinner stalks)
  • 1 lb of berries – I used blackberries and raspberries
  • ½ cup of sugar or more only if your fruits are not sweet enough. Only use more if your berries are not sweet. 1/2 cup is plenty otherwise, trust me!
  • salt
  • 2 Tbsp of  flour or 1 Tbsp of corn starch
  • 1 1/3  cup of all purpose white flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • salt
  • 2 Tbsp of sugar
  • 5 Tbsp of cold unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup of cream or 1/2 cup of milk (honestly milk is fine too)
  • 1 lightly beaten egg for the top
  • extra sugar for the top
  • vanilla ice cream for serving

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 F. 
  • Have ready an oven proof baking dish that is about 2 quarts large in volume and 2 inches deep (ex 11 x 4 x 2 inch).  
  • Take fruits and the rhubarb out of the freezer if they are frozen and let them defrost. Wash rhubarb stalks and cut them into 1/2-1 inch long. If they are wide, you will have to cut them in half as well. Place the rhubarb and the berries in the dish. They need to be at room temperature before you can put the cobbler into the oven. 
  • Add pinch of salt, cornstarch and sugar and mix. Set aside and wait for at least 15 minutes or at least until rhubarb exudes some juice.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, pinch of salt and sugar.
  • Add the butter and mix. This is such a satisfying experience for me to do by hand but if you prefer you can use your food processor for this step. 
  • Add the cream or milk stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Gently need the dough in the bowl 5-10 times if needed, turning and pressing any loose pieces into the dough. Dust the top and the bottom of the dough.  
  • Now we will make a patchwork. Divide the dough into 8 parts and flatten each piece between your two hands about 1/4 inch thick. Place this piece on top of the fruit mix. Keep doing this until you have used up all the dough and the fruits are completely covered.  The dough should be workable but not sticky. If the dough becomes too sticky and hard to work with, put it into the fridge for about 10 minutes to become the proper consistency. This can happen in the summer when it is warm outside.
  • Lightly brush the top of the dough with the eggs and sprinkle with a little sugar. 
  • Put the cobbler in the oven and bake for about 40-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the berries are bubbling. 
  • Let stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. 
  • You can serve the cobbler with vanilla ice cream if you wish.

enjoy!

Sources

  1. Irma S. Rombauer: Joy of Cooking
  2. Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
  3. http://www.etymonline.com/word/cobbler
  4. https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/rhubarb/