Monday, May 21, 2018

More Farmacy because you asked

Stomach and Intestines: aka the gut
One of the oldest most effective food medications known to humankind is genuine yogurt. Not the adulterated sugary junk all over supermarket shelves. Plain active cultures yogurt. (The carton must say "contains active cultures" and show them in the ingredients.) The lactobacillus probiotics formed in the fermentation of milk are miracle workers in the good. They get right to work destroying the evil bacteria that cause "tourista" and diarrhea in all its forms. For this reason, it's wise upon arrival in a new territory to eat a little locally made yogurt: that gets the good bacteria colonizing your stomach crowding out room for any foreign bugs that may be in the food or water. And finally most importantly perhaps, whenever you must take antibiotics, you must eat active cultures yogurt to renew the good bacteria those antibiotics killed and restore your gut balance. It will make a significant improvement to your well being.
P.S. It doesn't always work 100% but sometimes smearing live cultures yogurt on your face and leaving it there 30 minutes lets it eat away the bacteria causing redness and other blemishes. Wash it off with warm water and apply aloe.

LABNI: YOGURT CHEESE WITH OLIVES (an appetizer or party snack)
You can strain yogurt to drier and drier forms from sour cream to farmers’ cheese to cream cheese. This is a Persian/Lebanese favorite “mezze.” You can also use it to stuff cherry tomatoes or small bell peppers.
16 oz plain yogurt
1/8 tsp salt
1/3c pitted black olives, chopped
1/3 c scallions, chopped
¼ tsp Aleppo or Cayenne ground pepper (this is the call for hot stuff)
1 tsp dried crushed mint

Mix yogurt and salt. Line a colander with cheesecloth, muslin or a handiwipe and fill with yogurt. Put colander over a larger bowl to get the drips.  Refrigerate uncovered 10 hours draining and stirring at least once. Put your new labni into a serving bowl with all the other ingredients. Blend everything. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. It will keep 3-4 days.

Estrogen Replacement
When several post menopausal friends complained about the side effects of their heavily prescribed estrogen replacement meds, I took them to see my friend the Chinese doctor who was trained in Western medicine gynecology as well as Chinese medicine. She clucked angrily at every one of their stories and told them to taper off the meds and get down to none of them. She explained that Chinese women do not need estrogen replacement therapy because they get plenty of natural estrogen in their daily diet. That's what was wrong in America. She told everyone of my friends--and me too-- to eat an estrogen loaded food three times a week and all would be well.  She was absolutely right. What are estrogen loaded? Tofu, edamame and all organic soybean products; broccoli in all forms including the leafy greens we call rabe and Chinese broccoli; flax and sesame seeds (tahini); chickpeas (so go for that hummus) and probably others I can't vouch for.
  Here's my double whammy recipe from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, pictured above:
Cornmeal Crusted Tofu with Broccoli and Red Pepper Sauce
Serves 8

For the broccoli rabe
2 bunches fresh broccoli rabe, coarsely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp best fruity olive oil
4 lg garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
½  ground black pepper
¼ tsp salt

Blanch the chopped broccoli rabe in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water for one minute. Remove from heat and drain very well. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add ginger and pepper and stir-fry 45-60 seconds.  Toss in drained broccoli and garlic. Sauté for three-five minutes, stirring once at the start, then occasionally so nothing sticks to the pan.  Add salt and 1 tbsp best fruity olive oil, blending them in. Sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat.

For the tofu
12 oz extra firm tofu, drained
1 extra large egg
2/3 cup polenta or corn meal
¼ cup chickpea flour or white flour or even almond meal
pinch ground chipotle pepper
pinch salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
12 oz corn or peanut oil for frying

Heat the oil to sizzling in a small heavy gauge saucepan or wok.
Cut the tofu into ¼” thin slices and cut each slice in two, to make squares. You should have 16, two per person.
Combine the polenta, flour, chipotle, salt and black pepper in a bowl.
Break the egg into a small bowl.
Dip each square of tofu into the egg, turning to coat it well. Then coat with the flour mixture on both sides.  When the oil is sizzling put as many coated squares as will fit without touching and fry over medium high heat for two minutes, until the crust is nicely browned. Remove from oil with slotted spatula and drain on paper towels.

For the red pepper coulis
2 tbsp olive oil
3 lg red bell peppers, sliced in thin strips
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp wine vinegar
4 lg garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
pinch of salt
1 mildly hot red pepper like jalapeno or Portuguese hotshot or ½ Serrano, peeled and seeded, diced
2 tbsp cilantro leaves, finely chopped

In medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium flame. Add peppers and oregano and sauté 15 minutes. Stir in vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, hot pepper and salt. Sauté another 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro leaves, lower heat and cook 5 minutes.

Iodine and the thyroid
Years ago, I began to experience fatigue, sweating and other symptoms of a thyroid problem. I knew iodine was key to keeping the thyroid functional: that's why our salt is "iodized." What I didn't realize was that I had gone on a trendy trip, rejecting that large blue canister of iodized salt for snazzy sea salts in grey, pink and coarse white.  My thyroid needed iodine! Of course I immediately dug out that frumpy old blue canister of iodized salt and used it liberally but better yet, I cooked up an instant iodine cure by boiling the sheets of seaweed I'd been saving to roll sushi. The ocean and all its elements--seaweed, fish, crustaceans--are the main source of iodine. The seaweed quickly dissolved into an ugly brown mush but I strained the pot to get just the broth. I threw a few Japanese themed veggies into that broth and drank the result. Within a day I felt fine again.  So...pass a year and I am diagnosed with a severe thyroid problem. I am sent to see an endocrinologist who tells me he wants me to do that series of radiation tests that harm the body. So I go home and brew up a batch of my iodine soup, drink it down and show up the next day suddenly ineligible for those radiation tests because I have so much iodine in my body!
"Now I'll have to diagnose you manually," the disappointed Doc said.
Sandy's Seaweed Soup
for 1 or 2 cups

1 package nori seaweed
pure water
1 sm carrot, peeled and thinly diced
1/4 c diced daikon radish
2 scallions, cleaned and thinly sliced into disks
1" fresh ginger grated or minced
1/2 c shiitake mushrooms, diced
2" burdock root, peeled and chopped if you can find some* otherwise no problem
1/2 Tamari/soy sauce
1 tbsp cilantro leaves chopped

Put the nori seaweed in a pot large enough to stuff it down in and cover it with water at least 1" above the top. Bring to a boil on medium high heat, reduce heat to med/low and cook 10-12 minutes until all the seaweed has dissolved into the water. Pour the contents of the pot through a sieve into another pot. Use the cooked seaweed in the sieve for fertilizer. Add the carrot, daikon, scallions, ginger and mushrooms to the broth. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, lower to simmer and cook until carrots are tender, maybe 10 minutes. Stir in tamari sauce and cilantro.

*In Asia, burdock root is used to clean the blood.

Garlic: a steel wool pad for the lungs
In Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, I wrote a piece about the long history of garlic as very effective medicine. In earliest times it was known as the slayer of demons, internal demons. As anyone who has ever eaten garlic knows, it rides the breath: you can smell it being digested. This is because uniquely among the common foods the world enjoys, garlic does not go down into the stomach. It is not digested by stomach enzymes. It goes straight into the lungs. That's why it's on the breath. The offensive odor of garlic comes from its sulfur content, that's sulfur as in the antibiotics used in sulfa drugs. So in other words, garlic is an antibiotic for the lungs.
I'm sure you have recipes that require lots of garlic, especially braised greens like broccoli rabe, pea shoots and kale. There's always the famous chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, which you can Google to find your preferred version. Or you can do the full monte by making raita/tsatsiki which are traditional and very popular garlic yogurt dips/sauces.
Tsatsiki, Greek/Turkish raita

1 pint very thick plain yogurt

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Persian or pickling cucumber, halve, seeded and sliced paper thin or grated and drained—they need to be as dry as possible

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Mix everything in a non-metal bowl and chill so flavors mingle.
I use this instead of mayo on chicken salad; I put it on fritters and cooked salmon.

Honey, all purpose antibiotic
Slather it on cuts and bruises. Better yet, if you have a sore throat or hacking cough, spoon it down swirling it around in your mouth as you do. Drink hot tea filled with honey. Or stir a tablespoon into your yogurt!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Farm Pharmacy, or as some say: Farmacy.

The latest professional health rage is "culinary medicine." It's hilarious how serious science suddenly is about its exciting discovery since culinary medicine has been the oldest continuous knowledge on this planet. In ancient China, India, Arabia, South America and Greece food was medicine. It was that simple: herbs, roots, bark, leaves and seeds were prescribed for whatever ailed. And they worked so well for so long  Crusaders who discovered the dietary regime as one of the treasurers of the Holy Land they were sacking brought the idea back to a very ignorant Europe. They set up special places people could go to feel better by eating special foods, which is how our word hospital evolved from the word hospitality. In fact even today our symbol/icon for pharmacy is the basic kitchen mortar and pestle and the lettering is Rx. That X, like the X in Xmas, signals letters missing. In this case the letters e-c-i-p-e: Rx stands for recipe. Your grandmother was correct: eat chicken soup when you have a cold.

This morning's hot news fit to print is California experimenting by serving supernutritious food to see if it improves the health of the chronically ill, reducing the need for medical interventions and expensive medicines. You can trace this thinking straight back to the ancient Greeks who got it from the Asians: "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food"  is actually part of the Hippocratic oath,  and damning to the hypocritical pharmaceutical industry that put us for a century in a dark age.

Truth told, because too much early exposure made me highly allergic to industrialized medical care, for  years I have been experimenting and employing food as a remedy for whatever ails me and those who ask me for help. I think I am alone among my senior citizen peers in not carrying around a loaded pill case. I take nothing and am proud of the emptiness. Creating meals for the challenged, which I had been doing for myself, became a prized part of my catering business.

So, here's a bit of what I've learned:
SINUSES: Try to be bitter
A year ago I read successful experimenting led a scientist to posit a connection between our bitterness taste receptors and sinuses: bitter foods seemed to help the body unblock sinuses. Since I live with the constant threat of totally blocked sinuses around my left eye and preferred not to have major septum smashing surgery to open them, I went on a bitter food orgy. Well, just a lot of arugula in my salads and plenty of broccoli rabe and broccolini--which I love anyway.  Also a handful of almonds a day either in my morning yogurt or in hand at the end of the day. I couldn't find bitter melon. But no matter: this regime appears to have been miraculous. Since I started in earnest, I have not had to dose myself with antibiotics to clear the bacteria blocked in the sinuses, not felt the intense pressure on my left eye, not had to use an inhaler or do much irrigating.
   So if you suffer from blocked sinuses, do give bitter foods a try. There isn't any downside unless you are personally allergic to one or some of them. In addition to my personal favorites, you can use grapefruits, lemons, cider vinegar, cranberries, dandelion greens, chicory, Brussels sprouts and more. Here are a few ways to go:

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas with Arugula and Goat Cheese
Make as many as you need

For each one:
1 lg Portobello mushroom, stem removed
2 tsp good quality olive oil
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp black olive paste or pitted black olives lightly mashed
1 oz herbed soft goat or feta cheese
5-6 capers
1 handful fresh arugula, chopped
freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 425º.

Coat the top and bottom of the mushroom each with 1 tsp olive oil and place on a baking tray, with the stem side up. Sprinkle pepper and lemon juice on the mushroom. Fill the stem hole and surround with olive paste.
 Spread goat cheese evenly on the stem side. Top with capers and arugula. Season with freshly ground pepper and optionally, a light splash of olive oil.
 Bake 10 minutes at 425.  Serve warm. 

American Fattoush, a Levant Salad

Serves 4

2 sm pita breads, split, with each piece cut into 6 triangles
 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and shredded
1 handful fresh arugula, washed and stemmed
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only chopped
3-4 sprigs fresh mint, leaves only minced
6 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves only coarsely chopped
8-10 cherry tomatoes, washed and thinly sliced
6 pitted Kalamata or similar olives, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into thin rings, then cut rings in half to make strings
3 oz fresh Feta, crumbled or cut into small pieces
2-3 Persian cucumbers or 1 sm English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste (remember olives and feta can be salty)

Put pita on a baking sheet and bake at 350º until crisp and dry. Cool and break into smaller pieces.
 Toss all ingredients together in a large salad bowl.
1 clove garlic mashed
¼ tsp ground cumin
juice of ½ lg lemon
½ cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Arugula, Date and Plum Salad with Mint
For 4 
Combine 4 large handfuls of arugula, 4 fresh pitted dates chopped, a large and firm black plum pitted and sliced thin, 4 scallions diced, 1 tbsp chopped walnuts, 2 salad turnips quartered and sliced thin for crunch, 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan and 1 tsp minced fresh mint leaves--all tossed together. Dress with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 3 tbsp good fruity olive oil, a small garlic clove smashed, salt and pepper. (Use only as much dressing as you like.)

How to cook Broccoli Rabe
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
Chop the bunch of rabe into large pieces. Put it in the boiling water 1-2 minutes. This leaches out the excess bitterness.  Drain well and let it air dry. 
   Cover the bottom of a medium skillet with 1/8" good quality olive oil. Turn on medium heat. Throw in a large pinch of red pepper flakes and some freshly ground black pepper. Mince 4 garlic cloves. When the oil is hot, add the rabe and garlic and stir to blend.  Sauté 5-7 minutes until broccoli is hot and soft but still very green. Season with sea salt to your taste and serve.  You'll be surprised how delicious and lovable this is.  (I put the leftovers over orrechiette and penne pasta.)

I have a weak reflex that can keep me coughing into pain so I'll do anything to stop it once it starts. In Nepal I was counseled by the Newari people of the Kathmandu valley to drink tea brewed from a specific combination of spices, roots and herbs. It not only helped but turned out to be tasty to boot.Here are the ingredients and their raison d'etre:

Ajwain Seeds: thins excretions to smooth digestion, break coughs
Jimbu (a sage like parsley plant)
Garlic: sulfur cleans lungs
Ginger: raises body temp, heat get things flowing
Turmeric root: known antibiotic and reliever of inflammation
Fenugreek: mucilage coats stomach/throat lining, soothes inflammation
Cumin seed: stimulates digestive enzymes, detoxes liver
Salt (Himalayan red salt if you have it)
Black peppercorns: antibiotic, increases hydrochloric acid that kills bacteria

Boil these ingredients in a large saucepan of water until water is reduced by half. Strain and drink.

In 2012 I suffered a thyroid collapse from extreme exhaustion and all Western doctors could do was monitor it and hope. But a Chinese American friend well versed in Chinese medicine and healing techniques told me that walnuts can help to restore the body's lost chi, or energy. In Chinese medicine, kidneys are chi storehouses, so to restore energy, you have to boost the kidneys and evidently walnuts can do that. I started eating a few raw walnuts every few days and all I can say is that the doctors are still trying to figure out why my hyperthyroidism was not followed by a bout of hypothyroidism as it was supposed to be.  Since then I've counseled several people on the curative power of walnuts and keep eating a handful every few days myself, most often in my morning yogurt and sometimes toasted in a greens or red beet salad.

Georgian Spinach Walnut Paté
I posted this recipe twice recently so scroll down to find it.

Fresh Fruit Crisp
You can make a delicious gluten free dessert with almost any fruit and a crunchy "crisp" topping made from unsalted butter, walnuts, oats, brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Rhubarb, apples and peaches are especially good fruits to use individually. You need enough to fill a 9" pie dish, cut into bite sized pieces. Season with a pinch of nutmeg, cloves, ginger and a tsp of vanilla. Toss with perhaps 1/4 c light brown or raw sugar, although for rhubarb you will want to double that and perhaps add raisins which are natural sweeteners. For the topping, in a small bowl, combine a softened stick of unsalted butter with 1/2 c light brown or raw/turbinado sugar, 1 c chopped walnuts and 1/2-1 c oats plus a pinch of cinnamon. You mix this up with your hands into chunks and spread it over the fruit. Bake at 350º until the crust is crisp and fruit juices are oozing up around the edges, usually 40 minutes.
Serve with yogurt or ice cream or whipped cream or just plain.

For millennia ginger has been used to fight nausea and doesn't have the side effects of Dramamine and the like. You can chew on it or grate it up into a tea or bake it into cookies, muffins or gingerbread. Ginger also warms the body, which is why it's traditionally served in winter dishes. You can sometimes quickly defeat an onrushing cold by getting the body to sweat profusely: take a very hot shower, wrap up in thick clothes, drink ginger tea and get under the covers.

Cold Carrot Ginger Soup
serves 4

2 lg leeks, thinly sliced and cleaned by soaking, dried
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 sm onion, chopped
3 med carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated or minced
1 med all purpose potato, peeled and thinly sliced
½ tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ c vegetable or chicken broth
3 c half-and-half
1 tbsp minced chives

Melt butter in a medium saucepan and add the leeks and onion. Sauté on medium heat until soft and translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add carrots, ginger and potatoes. Continue to sauté, stirring, another 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot. Cook until vegetables are tender enough to be mashed with a fork,10-15 minutes.
Pureé. Chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.  Add the half-and-half, stirring to blend. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the chives.

Americans have a new superfood wonder that's been medicine in Asia for millennia.  I've watched Nepali women nonchalantly rub it all over raw chicken before cooking it because it's antibiotic and can remove some of the toxic bacteria.  It also reduces inflammation. I've had success by just stirring a tbsp of ground turmeric into boiled water and drinking the tea. Turmeric can warm the body and thus get its interior liquids flowing. For this reason in South Asia a pinch is always put into gas producing beans and lentils: it's thought to prevent bloat.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Saucy and Green: simple steps for sumptuous summer eating

I've been wanting to write a column of green or more exactly specific herb sauces that jazz up just about anything. Even better, they are remarkably nutritious. They are surprisingly strong in vitamins and hard to find minerals. That rich green in parsley, mint, cilantro and basil is chlorophyll, aka edible sunshine, tonic that recharges us.  So herbs literally bring sunshine to the table on or beside any dish: baked or roasted potatoes, omelets, sliced tomatoes, grilled fish or meat, roast chicken, fritters, rice, chicken and shrimp salad instead of mayonnaise, chili, tacos, dal, on polenta, a dollop in a bowl of soup, in pita with falafel, as sauce for spaghetti.... They're even dips for chips.  Best of all, they whip up in seconds, live long in the refrigerator and freeze well, although garlic flavor will diminish. Little wonder the whole world enjoys these sauces.  So get out the blender/processor and the fresh herbs available right now. Be prepared for tasty summer eating.
    The amounts in these recipes will provide healthy portions for 4-6 people and more if used less.

Chimichurri (Argentine steak sauce): Viva Parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley (leaves of 1/2 bunch)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, minced (2 1/2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper or 1 med red chili seeded and minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine the parsley, vinegar, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper. Process until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and pour the olive oil over the mixture. Let stand for at least 20 minutes.
Make Ahead. The chimichurri can be refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Mint/Cilantro Sauce from Nepal
1 med green chili, seeded and chopped
1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, no stems please
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only
1 lime, juice only (use a lemon if you don't have limes)
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt to your taste
possibly a bit of water if needed

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or mortar and blend into a smooth sauce. If it's too thick, add water 1 tbsp at a time to reach desired consistency.

Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa from Mexico
Truth told, I discovered this addictive green salsa at a Mexican burrito joint in the Mission district of San Francisco and spent a few weeks trying to recreate it because I didn't find it anywhere else. This seems to be that special sauce. I love it on everything.  

3 lg tomatillos, husked and coarsely chopped
1/2 serrano pepper, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1/4 med avocado
1 tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped
1 lime, juice only

combine everything in a blender/processor and whir to a sauce. If it is too thick, add a bit of water or if you prefer olive oil.

Yemeni Zhoug, a fiery ode to cilantro with a touch of cardamom
This is now popular enough to be sold at Trader Joe's! It's spelled many ways including schug.
 5 serrano peppers, stemmed and seeded
1 cup cilantro leaves
4 garlic cloves
1/4 c flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp sea or kosher salt
2 tsp ground cardamom 
2 tsp ground coriander
juice of a large lemon
3/4-1 c olive oil 

Combine everything but the oil in a food processor and whir until a coarse paste forms.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the oil, starting with 3/4 c. Add more if needed. The sauce is not supposed to be perfectly pureed and smooth but chunkier.  

Pesto: How Italians eat Basil
and btw: Italians never add grated cheese to anything smothered in pesto...because the cheese is already in it.

2 c fresh basil leaves chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
3 lg garlic cloves peeled
 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 to 1 1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all in processor and whir until smooth.
Moroccan Cilantro Sauce
2 bunches cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 lg garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 serrano chili, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin 
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp paprika
1 lg lime, juice only
1/2 c olive oil 

Put everything into a food processor and blend to a smooth sauce. 

Salsa Verde: salty Italian sass
½ garlic clove
2-3 anchovy fillets
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp (heaping) chopped basil
1 tbsp (heaping) chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp (heaping) chopped mint
4-5 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the garlic in the food processor along with the anchovies, capers, Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar and whir to a paste. Add the herbs and use the “pulse” setting to incorporate. Add the olive oil and pulse briefly. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Somali Bizbaz: chili fired cilantro

1 large garlic clove, crushed
Juice of a  lime
1 whole fresh Serrano chile
1/2 to 2/3 tight-packed cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp sugar
1/2 c  plain Greek yogurt (low fat is fine)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
More lime juice if needed

Place the garlic clove in a cup and squeeze the lime juice over it. Let stand 20 minutes.
Place the garlic, lime juice, chile, cilantro, sugar, yogurt, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor and purée. Taste and add lime juice and/or salt if necessary. Refrigerate at least an hour before using.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Mountain High: a few Spring Himalayan recipes

If you've got Spring fever and are itchy for new taste sensations, here are a few recipes from my Himalayan collection perfect for the produce available right now.

Darjeeling Green Bean and Sesame Salad

1 lb fresh green beans
1 tbsp + 1 tsp sesame seeds
1-2 green chili (Serrano)depending on how hot you like
1 tbsp mustard or corn or canola oil
salt to your taste
juice of 1 lemon

Cut the green beans on a slant into 1 ½ pieces. Put them in a pot, cover with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook 5-8 minutes until the beans are just tender. Add water if necessary. Drain. Put into a serving bowl.

Dry roast the sesame seeds in a small frying pan. Grind to a fine powdery paste.
Half and seed the chilis. Then carefully cut them into very thin long strips.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the chilis. Fry 3 minutes until they start to get crisp. Pour the contents of the pan over the green beans.

Put 1 tbsp sesame paste, salt to your taste and the lemon juice on the beans and blend everything. Let it sit at least 10 minutes before serving so the flavors merge.

Bhutanese Pork with Bok Choy and Cauliflower

Serves 4

1 medium sized cauliflower, cut into florets
1 c water
2 tbsp corn, mustard or canola oil
1 med/lg onion, peeled and quartered
2” fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 large jalapeno or small Serrano chili pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
3 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced into thin strips
1 lb pork filet cut into thin strips (use shoulder, country rib or boneless chops)
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
¼ tsp ground star anise or ½ star crushed
2 teaspoons salt
3 large bokchoy, cut into strips
2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
for garnish: 1 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

In a medium saucepan, combine the cauliflower florets and 1 cup water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 3-4 minutes until florets just start to soften. Remove from heat.

Break the onion layers apart. Heat the oil in a large wok or sauté pan over medium/high flame. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilies and stir-fry 2-3 minutes until they soften slightly. Add the pork, crushed chilies, star anise and stir-fry another 3 minutes to brown the pork. Add salt and continue to stir-fry until pork is cooked through and not pink anywhere. Add bokchoy. Drain the cauliflower keeping the water, and add along with up to 1 cup of that water. Blend everything and continue to cook 5 minutes until everything is soft and cooked through. Squeeze in the orange juice. Taste to adjust salt and crushed chili flakes to your liking. Add the cilantro leaves, stir to blend.

 Nepali Mustard Greens
This is a nice, easy preparation for Asian mustard greens, which are different from the crinkly large leafed American mustard greens.  It’s perfect as a stand alone side dish but I have also used this on a pizza, when a Portobello mushroom was the “dough.” I fill the mushroom cavity with the cooked mustard greens, top them crumbled cooked cauliflower and top that with thin slices of yak, Gruyere or Fontina cheese. Slip in slivers of sausage or crumbled cooked bacon if you can’t bear to be vegetarian.

Serves 4

1 bunch Chinese or Indian mustard greens
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. garlic ginger paste (3 minced garlic cubes and 1" grated/minced ginger)
2 dried red (arbol) chilies
2 tbsp. cooking oil (not olive) mustard would be most authentic
freshly ground black pepper

Wash the leaves, cut off any tough stems.  Chop the leaves.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or wok.  Add the dried chilies and stir fry until they turn darker—1-2 minutes.
Add the chopped greens, tumeric and salt, stirring to blend.  Continue to fry over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic/ginger paste at the bottom of the pan. Stir fry, then blend into the greens. 
Continue to stir fry until the greens are very tender, another 5-8 minutes.
Remove the dried chilies and season with freshly ground pepper to serve.

Tibetan Lamb with Daikon
Labu Dikrul is made in two stages, so it can be made ahead and is thus great party food. Tibetans normally serve it with rice or steamed bread, tingmo, to soak up the delicious gingery broth.
serves 4

1½ -3/4 lbs. stewing lamb pieces with bones
1 lg. daikon, peeled
2 med./lg. onions
3 inches fresh ginger, peeled
7 lg. garlic cloves, peeled
¼ tsp. Szechuan pepper or ¼ tsp. coarse ground black pepper & 1 dried chili
½ tsp. salt
4-6 cups water
1 lg. tomato, cored
¼ tsp. mild chili or 1/8 tsp. cayenne powder
1 tbsp. corn, safflower, canola, mustard oil
6-8 med. Asian mustard greens (1/2 a bunch)*
 *You can substitute Spinach but you won’t get the pungent flavor.

Cut the daikon into two inch long pieces (probably 5 to 6). Quarter one onion.  Smash the ginger and 6 garlic cloves with the back of a knife.

Put the lamb, daikon, quartered onion, ginger, garlic, pepper and ¼ tsp. salt in a medium casserole or lidded saucepan and barely cover with water. Depending on the width of the pot, this will require four to 6 cups.  Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer for an hour or a few minutes longer, until the lamb is just tender enough to fall easily from its bones.

Remove the lamb and daikon from the broth. Boil the broth hard for 15 minutes to reduce it.  (This is the point at which you can cool everything and put it in the refrigerator until you want to serve it.)

Take the lamb meat off the bones, discard the bones and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Cut the daikon lengths into thin (1/8”) discs, then cut them in half lengthwise so you have semicircles.
 Chop the remaining onion finely. Chop the tomato finely. Mince the remaining garlic clove. Degrease the broth and strain it. 

Over high heat, heat the tbsp of oil in a wok or large sauté pan that has a lid.  Add the onion and garlic. Stir fry to brown.  Add the chili or cayenne pepper and blend.  Add the lamb. Stir to blend. Keep cooking on high about 90 seconds to brown the lamb slightly.

Add the chopped tomato, another ¼ tsp. salt and ½ cup of the broth. (If you’d like this really “stewy” and not braised, add ¾-1 cup of broth.) Cook about five minutes until the tomato dissolves into the juice and the broth is boiling.

Coarsely chop or break the mustard greens in half or thirds (depending on their size), lay on top of the lamb and daikon, cover the pot and steam for two minutes.
Remove the lid, stir the greens into the “stew”, adjust for salt and pepper and serve.
You can use the remaining broth to make Scotch Broth or to pour over rice.

Back by popular demand: Syrian lentils and macaroni

I've had requests this week for Harak Osbao, "Burnt Fingers", a Syrian comfort food featured in the Cook for Syria event last year in London.  I like to serve it to groups to show solidarity with the long suffering Syrian people.  It has all their flavor groups: pomegranate molasses, lemon, Aleppo pepper, cilantro, fried garlic and sumac.  And it's vegan, if that helps. So here it is again:

Harak Osbao
for 8: 

¾ lb brown lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
2 c water
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  tsp Aleppo pepper
1 tbsp salt
1 c mini macaroni
2 med red onions, peeled and cut into thin rings
3 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ bunch cilantro leaves, finely chopped
½ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 sm pomegranate, seeds only
1 lemon, juice freshly squeezed
freshly ground black pepper
IF YOU HAVE IT: 1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh sumac

In a large saucepan or small soup pot, combine water and broth. Bring to a boil, add lentils and cook 20 minutes. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Blend in the pomegranate molasses, Aleppo pepper and salt. Blend in all but 1 tsp of the lemon juice.

While the lentils and macaroni cook, sauté the onion rings in 2 tbsp olive oil until soft and golden. Be careful not to burn. Remove with a slotted spoon and put in the minced garlic cloves. If needed, add the last tbsp. olive oil. When they start to brown—not burn, add the cilantro leaves, stir once and remove from heat. Add the sumac if you have it. Put the onions on top of the lentils and macaroni in the serving bowl, then the fried garlic. Top with chopped parsley and then the pomegranate seeds. Finish with the last tsp. of fresh lemon juice.