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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cherry Soup Again!

It's cherry soup time again, and I had to share once more my favorite recipe for the start of summer, a guaranteed peak eating experience for you and your loved ones. 

One of my beloved annual food rituals is cherry soup.   Every year, in the brief and glorious season of cherries, around the summer solstice, I make a batch and it never fails to elicit moans of delight from anyone who is lucky enough to try it (once I managed to make enough to feed a wedding party, and most recently had the supreme thrill of eating it in a cave).  I would have never thought of such a thing on my own (it's a French idea, of course) but I found it in one of my most influential early cookbooks, Anna Thomas' The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two.  This Sunday the Chronicle ran a recipe in the food section, calling for a whole bottle of white wine and lemongrass, but I prefer the simpler version below. 

In Chinese medicine, cherries are described as warming and sweet, are said to strengthen the spleen qi and heart blood, "prevent involuntary seminal emission," and are a remedy for arthritis and gout.  They just might help you sleep a little better around the solstice when the long days make us want to stay up late. Their deep red color indicates the presence of iron and lots of antioxidants, needed right now when the sun is so high, and the color is certainly a big part of the appeal of this soup, especially when you drizzle it with creme fraiche and garnish it with a few yellow and pink Rainier cherries for contrast.

Cold Cherry Soup
Adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure, Book 2 by Anna Thomas (1980).

2 1/2 lbs.  sweet dark cherries
5 cups water
2-4 tablespoons evaporated cane juice
1/3 cup white wine
juice of 2 lemons
dash sea salt
creme fraiche, for serving (make your own for extra brownie points), or vanilla ice cream

Pit the cherries and put them in a large soup pot along with the sugar and the water.   Bring to a boil and simmer about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender, or allow to cool and puree in a regular blender.   Add the wine, lemon juice and salt.  Chill the soup.   Serve dolloped with creme fraiche, as a first course or dessert.

This just in: check out Kimber Simpkins' interview with me in the latest issue of Edible East Bay,  here.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Turkey Carcass Bone Broth

Nearly twenty years ago when I was just beginning acupuncture school, before we went on Thanksgiving break, my herb teacher warned our class about the dangers of turkey.  Turkey is considered very drying and heating to the lungs in Chinese energetic nutrition, and in Cantonese, the bird is called "fire chicken."  Dr. Jiao warned us that eating turkey (plus the usual alcohol and general overindulgence of the holiday) tends to create lung heat, and noted that the traditional side of cranberry sauce might help, as it is cooling.  Sure enough, the following Monday, a  handful of students were hit with hacking coughs and lots of yellow phlegm.
Nowadays I enjoy on bone broth as a tonic drink and cooking staple in the fall and winter, augmented by occasional bracing shots of Fire Cider if I get a scratchy throat.  And this year I cooked my first ever Thanksgiving turkey, giving me the exciting chance to make a whole bunch of Turkey Bone Broth, spiked with the veggie trimmings from preparing the feast and a few handfuls of Asian immune-boosting herbs that balance the heating qualities of turkey and make it delicious.  Usually I make my bone broths pretty plain and simmer for 24-72 hours, but this one is loaded with aromatics that may make for a muddy flavor if simmered that long, so it'll be ready to enjoy (and freeze extra) in 6 hours or so.  Don't hesitate if you can't scare up the Chinese herbs (see NOTE about sourcing), it will be lovely and health-boosting with or without them.

Turkey Carcass Bone Broth

2 onions
1 head garlic
1 tsp. olive oil or high oleic sunflower oil
1 turkey carcass
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
turkey neck and giblets
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
leaves and small stems from 1 bunch of celery
dark green leaves from 1 bunch leeks
handful of green beans
2 tart green apples, coarsely chopped
other vegetable trimmings such as fennel stalks, potato peels, squash innards and seeds,
apple cores, parsley stems,etc. (anything except cabbage family vegetables will work)
1 cup leftover white wine
5-6 dried shiitake or other mushrooms
2-3 strips/ 15 g kombu seaweed/ kun bu
1-2 slices of fresh ginger/sheng jiang
6-8 dried jujube dates/hong zao*
10 sticks Astralagus / huang qi*
20 grams Tu. Ophiopogonis Japonici /mai men dong*
20 grams dried longan fruit/ long yan rou*

3 tablespoons gelatin** (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coarsely chop the onions, leaving the skins on, and slice the garlic head in half along its equator.  Toss the onions and garlic and olive oil in a small bowl, coating with the oil.  Spread on a cookie sheet and bake until lightly browned and fragrant, about 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, place the carcass in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Add the vinegar and allow to soak for 30-60 minutes.  When you are ready to simmer the broth, add the roasted onions and garlic and all the other ingredients except the gelatin to the pot, cover, bring to a boil, and lower the heat to a simmer, cooking for 6 hours or so.  Remove from heat and strain.  Stir in the gelatin, if using, allowing it to dissolve.  Enjoy a cup of broth right now, seasoned with a bit of tamari and a spoonful of kimchi, or some salt, balsamic vinegar and sauerkraut.  For longer storage, you may refrigerate overnight and remove the fat from the top, then transfer to smaller containers to freeze.  It keeps well in the fridge for a week.  Enjoy a cup or more a day as a tonic drink, drink nothing but broth for a day for a simple seasonal cleanse or if you do get sick, or use it as a basis for soups, stews and cooked grains.

*NOTE: All of these herbs are safe and gentle plants used often in Chinese tonic cooking.  You can find them in herb shops such as Five Flavors Herbs in Oakland and at well-stocked natural foods stores and Asian markets.   The broth will still be wonderful without them, too!

**Adding gelatin is a good way to get more gut and sinew healing properties into a broth that is cooked more quickly.  Bernard Jensen's is one good brand.  Another way to get these benefits is to add a pound of chicken feet during the cooking.

2016:  I'll be teaching fermentation at 18 Reasons in San Francisco, and rolling out a new series of nutrition classes for acupuncturists!  Stay tuned for 2016 dates.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cauliflower Couscous (Gluten Free!)

Yes, I eat gluten.  Yes, I make efforts to eat less gluten, flour and wheat than I might.  I have seen many people improve their health by eliminating gluten, sometimes because of a true allergy or intolerance, more often because getting off gluten means eliminating a lot of refined and packaged foods and carbs.  But avoiding gluten isn't the only reason to make this super yummy, super simple recipe.  It's an excuse to eat more cauliflower, an extra nutritious member of the crucifer family, linked to cancer and stroke prevention and a myriad of health benefits.  This dish is a nice "starchy" foil for a saucy stew (lamb shanks with green olives in the picture).  Your guests might not even miss the gluten.

Cauliflower Couscous

1 head cauliflower (try purple or orange varieties!)
1 tablespoons butter
1/2 tsp Ras el Hanout (this wonderful spice blend can be found at Oaktown Spice or other spice shops, or substitute curry powder, garam marsala or another savory blend)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup water or stock

Chop the cauliflower coarsely, and place in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade.  Process until it crumbles into couscous size grains.  Heat a large skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium heat, and add the butter, allowing it to melt and begin to brown slightly.  Add the couscous and spices plus a sprinkle of salt and pepper and saute for a few minutes.  Add the water or stock to moisten, cover and turn the heat to low, simmering for 5-10 minutes.  Remove the lid and simmer off any remaining liquid and season to taste.  Enjoy!

LAST 2 CLASSES for 2015:  Sat, Nov. 7th  Integrative Nutrition for Winter, a continuing education class for acupuncturists and health professionals, click here for details.
Sun, Nov. 15th "Fermentation 201: Fermented Condiments" hands-on workshop in Berkeley, hosted by the Biofuel Oasis

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Concord Grape Catsup

August brings a glut, in my garden, of Concord grapes, so perfumed and seeded and copious that they must be preserved.  Jam is not popular in my house, so each August I am impelled to try to come up with a use for the globes which ripen all at once and don't keep well like my apples. A couple quarts of shrub (see previous posts) used up some of them this year, but what about the rest of the purple wonders? The Joy of Cooking, my essential kitchen reference,  yielded a recipe for Concord grape pie and for catsup. I made the catsup yesterday, tweaking it into a fermented product, adding probiotics as well as saving the trouble of canning.
       The origin stories of catsup are various, but Sally Fallon says it well in Nourishing Traditions: "Ketchup provides us with an excellent example of a condiment that was formerly fermented and therefore health-promoting but whose benefits were lost with large scale canning methods and a reliance on sugar rather than lactic acid as a preservative" (p. 104).  While the language of origin is debated, accounts of the condiment agree that in original form it was fermented fish sauce, the universal condiment of the ancient world and all cultures near the sea, and that fruit and veggies were later additions.  Catsup is very rich in umami, derived in our familiar tomato version from that fruit and "natural flavor," and its deliciousness derives from that flavor along with a balance of sweet, sour and salty.  No wonder toddlers refer to it as simply "sauce."  My version tweaks the recipe from Joy and is an example of hybrid fermentation, employing both some vinegar to ensure the proper pH and a source of bacteria, plus aging at room temperature, to allow friendly bacteria to replicate and enhance flavor and keeping qualities.  The concept can be applied to many recipes for condiments that rely on vinegar for tartness.  I'll be teaching a class in the art of fermented condiment making in Berkeley in the fall, see the sidebar for details.

Concord Grape Catsup
(adapted from The Joy of Cooking by Romabauer and Becker, 1975 edition)

4 quarts Concord grapes, removed from stems
1/2 cup water

Bring to a boil. Put the softened grapes through a food mill or colander, and add:

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt

Tie in a bag and add to the above:

1/4 cup mixed pickling spices (I used a combo of mustard seed, crumbled Bay leaves, black peppercorns, celery seed and caraway seed)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I think I'll use more next time as I love spicy ketchup)

Simmer and stir until thick, about 2 hours. Allow to cool and stir in:

1 T fermented fish sauce such as Red Boat brand
1/4 cup yogurt or kefir whey, sauerkraut juice or 1 T umeboshi plum vinegar

Pack into clean jars, cover, and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 days.  Refrigerate thereafter, and use within 2 months. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fire Cider Harbingers Spring and Fights Flu

Last February 2nd, herbalists celebrated World Fire Cider Making Day.  Fire Cider is an herbal preparation in the European herbal tradition, popularized by herb maven Rosemary Gladstar.  The day was declared because a certain company was attempting to trademark the name, an idea as absurd as trademarking an acupuncture point or yoga posture (which of course some people are trying to do).  These things are part of the collective traditional lore of humanity.  I drank a tablespoon of last year's Fire Cider every day from November through January and avoided getting cold or flu despite many exposures.  A few weeks after I ran out, I got the flu. After couple days in bed and on Green Soup and little else, I was well enough to mix up another batch of the cider.  Not only does it help prevent the invasion of seasonal pathogens, it tastes exciting, stimulates digestion, is super-nutritive and allows you to participate in a centuries-old herbal tradition.  The recipe is not at all exact, but garlic, ginger and chilies are the basis of it, steeped in apple cider vinegar for one month to six months or more.  Below is the version I just mixed up, pictured above:

Fire Cider
Red Peppers
Rose Hips
Meyer Lemon
Lemon Verbena
Apple Cider Vinegar

In a 2 quart Mason jar or similar, coarsely chop and layer the above ingredients, or concoct your own version.  Cover with apple cider, seal the jar, and let steep 1-6 months.  If you are storing for a long time, you may want to protect the inside of the jar lid from being eaten by the vinegar by lining it with wax paper.

Strain, add honey if desired, and enjoy by the tablespoon, mixed with mineral water as a drink, in salad dressing, in a cocktail, or in a soup.

Traditionalists bury it in soil for a summer before opening the jar.

Upcoming Classes: FREE Webinar on "Food and the Pleasure of Eating" with Hawthorn University, Tuesday, Feb. 17th 4-5pm PST.  Register here.

Nutrition Intensive: Seasonal Eating for Earth/Wood, Feb.21 &22, AIMC Berkeley, info here.

See my blog sidebar for my full 2015 calendar.

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year, New Leeks

A new year has rolled in and we are deep in winter, a time to turn inward, consolidate and nourish ourselves down to our roots.  The foods of winter support this process.

A favorite winter food of mine is leeks.  They are a gourmet member of the humble Allium (Onion) family.  This family is so critical to good cuisine, bringing both pungent aromatic flavor and luscious sweetness to our dishes, depending on how you cook them.  And the leek has such a nuanced flavor, once you learn the important trick of how to slice them in half from about 1/2 above the base and open the leaves to wash out the grit that hides where the white and green parts meet.  The white and green each bring nutritional potency to the vegetable, the tender white and pale green parts bringing the aromatic aspect, the green parts a little more fibrous and full of vitamin A, C and antioxidants (which leeks lose quickly when stored, cook them fast once you get home from the market).  I recently learned that it is the green parts of leeks which are particularly prebiotic, that is, rich in fiber that our microbiota thrive on.  I enjoyed a recent article in Eating Well magazine (a fave!) featuring scientist Jeff Leach, who studies the human microbiome and eats one whole leek a day, check it out here.  Yet most recipes call for using only the white and pale green parts of leeks, what a shame, and a waste!  I've found that instead of cooking them separately, I just chop the dark green parts more finely than the whites and cook them altogether.  In Tara Duggan's wonderful new book , Root to Stalk Cooking: the Art of Using the Whole Vegetable, she features recipes using such unsung parts of veggies, most of which I imagine also contain such nutritional bonuses. And I love the idea of using more parts of vegetables, it makes sense to me in the same way that using the whole animal in cooking does.

My number one favorite leek dish is creamed leeks.  Having grown up during the fat-phobic 70's and 80's, I don't have much experience in using cream in veggie dishes.  I adapted this one from another much loved cookbook The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook by Shannon Hayes,  and I love serving it as a side dish in winter, knowing that my tweaks have increased the pro-and prebiotic impact of the dish and the fat that is used is not only delicious but helps the eater absorb the vitamins in the leeks.  Indulge!

Creamed Leeks

2 tablespoons butter
2 large leeks, white parts cut into 1/2" strips and green parts into 1/4" strips
1/3 cup creme fraiche (recipe here), or heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium low heat.  Add the leeks, and saute until tender, about 7 minutes.  Add the creme fraiche, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Did you know you can make creme fraiche into the most wonderful butter you've ever tasted, and make true buttermilk at the same time to boot?  These and other dairy fermenting secrets will be revealed in my upcoming Ferment Dairy class with the Biofuel Oasis on March 8th, see this link to register.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Demystifying Shrubs

     Raising a glass of something sweet, tart and bubbly seems to be a basic human urge.  But the modern form of this refreshing beverage, soda, is quite harmful to health.  For most of human history, people have been making and enjoying various fermented beverages, with or without alcohol, which have had health benefits derived from the live bacteria and lactic or other acids produced through natural fermentation.  The fermentation revival has brought kombucha, kefir, kvass, sauerkraut juice and the like back to the table, and one of my new favorites, shrub, or drinking vinegar, which all give a boost to digestive power as well as pleasing the palate.  
     Turns out most people who suffer from occasional indigestion, heartburn and the like actually suffer from too little, not too much stomach acid, and drinking live vinegar or sour tonic beverages before or with a meal helps a lot.  It will certainly help with sparking the digestion so you don't suffer too much from the rich food of the upcoming holidays.  I learned a lot about shrubs and got inspired recently checking out Michael Dietsch's new book Shrub: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, check out his blog hereSalud!

Fruit and Herb Shrub
Preserving the harvest in vinegar is a time honored technique, and shrubs, originating in Persia and popular in colonial America, enjoyed a  heyday during Prohibition as a non-alcoholic libation.  They are now making a comeback among foodies and cocktailians (with or without alcohol added).  Flavored vinegar can also be used in salad dressings to add more flavor complexity and herbal benefits.  Drinking vinegar before meals is a great way to stimulate appetite, improve digestion, augment stomach acid and it can relieve liver qi stagnation, lifting the spirits. Using raw local honey instead of sugar and a raw vinegar such as apple cider, plus avoiding cooking the fruit as in many recipes, will all maximize the enzyme content of your drink, making the most healthful version.
Makes about 1 ½ quarts.

4 cups coarsely chopped fruit, such as berries, grapes, stone fruit, etc.
2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, rose geranium, basil, etc.
4-6 cups raw apple cider, rice, white wine or other mild vinegar
1-3 cups raw honey or sugar, to taste
Combine the first three ingredients in a 2 qt. Mason jar or similar and allow to infuse for 2-6 weeks.  Strain and add sweetener to get a taste that suits you.  Enjoy.  If you are using the shrub as a drink, dilute with 4-5 parts water or mineral water per part shrub, garnishing with sliced fresh fruit or herbs.

Combos to try: strawberries, basil and rose geranium, fig, black pepper and lemon, concord grape, peach, rose hip and rosemary, etc.

UPCOMING CLASS: This Saturday, Nov. 8th  I'll be teaching a day-long nutrition class in Berkeley, focusing on cooking and eating for the winter season and strengthening the kidneys.  It is suitable for acupuncturists (6 CEUs), students and those with some background and a passion for nutrition.  Follow this link to register.