Celebrate spring and asparagus season with a bowl of gluten-free ramen and carrot noodles tossed in a creamy and delicious Miso Cilantro Pesto. This quick and easy dish combines deeply roasted asparagus with lightly cooked and fork-twirlable carrot noodles. The fresh and flavorsome pesto brings the dish together with its abundance of fresh young greens, cilantro and umami-rich miso. It’s definitely spring in the kitchen.
Have you yet discovered Lotus Foods Millet & Brown Rice Ramen noodles? These Japanese-style noodles are made from nutritious and easily digestible, gluten-free millet and brown rice instead of the more typical wheat. Being ramen, they quickly cook in about 5 minutes.
Versatile, Nourishing Miso
Miso is so much more than a bowl of soup. It is a culinary staple, a condiment, a spice, a seasoning and a flavor enhancer with many health benefits. Umami-rich miso is used in recipes as diverse as salad dressings, marinades, pastas, stews, spreads, dips, soups and even desserts.
Few people outside of Minnesota ever taste or even see traditional wild rice. Their long, thin “grains,” with their nutty flavor, chewy texture, and nutrient density are quite a delicacy. My husband grew up on a farm in Minnesota. Although he left many years ago, his two sisters still live there. So, each year, we receive a Christmas gift of truly wild, hand-harvested, Minnesota -wild rice. Although it resembles rice and is treated, prepared and enjoyed like rice, wild rice is actually unrelated to rice. It is an aquatic marsh grass.
Truly Wild, Wild Rice
Traditional wild rice is gathered by hand by “ricers” in a canoe. In this 19th century image, one woman holds a forked push pole. The other two women each have a wooden flail to knock the rice into the canoe. Finishing the harvested rice involves fermentation, followed by smoke curing, by parching the wild rice over fire, gas or steam heat. This is done to dry the wild rice in order to loosen the chaff, so it can be winnowed away and removed from the kernel. Watch this process on YouTube by searching for: Dancing and Winnowing Manoomin.
Dear Dr. Ma, I was told I need more minerals, but the tablets recommended constipate me. What are my options? — Susan
Great question! I was just reading the other day a statement that struck me funny: “If we could get all our minerals from the earth’s crust, we would have eaten it away to nothing.” Yet, as you are experiencing, our bodies don’t digest and process minerals straight. All plants, whether growing in the sea or on land, are made to do this job for us. Simply put, the roots pull the minerals out of the soil, we eat the plants, and receive the benefits of easily digested, assimilated, utilized, and eliminated minerals. Whole-food minerals, or balanced mineral salts, as they are called in the body, are needed in every interaction and process in our body’s systems.
Equally delicious served warm over rice, as the main element of a Buddha bowl, or served cold as a lettuce wrap or salad. The braising liquid—rich with mirin (Japanese fermented rice cooking wine), fresh ginger, garlic, soy and tomato—builds savory and fragrant flavor notes deep into the tofu. Enjoy Tomato Braised Tofu Shiitakes and Greens as a most deliciously satisfying, nutritious, protein-rich, plant-based entrée, side or snack.
It has been so many years since I ate tofu. A few months ago, I began feeling the need to add a bit more protein in my diet. I stopped, rather than pass by the recipe in my huge recipe binder that inspired Tomato Braised Tofu Shiitakes and Greens. After reading the recipe and looking into the health benefits of tofu, I decided to give tofu another try.
Consider a luscious, roasted pear dessert for your holiday table. Easily-prepared Roasted Pear Maple Pecan Crisp comes together in 15 minutes. It then bakes unattended for about 40 minutes. With most holiday dishes requiring organization and concentration, what a treat to have a light and lovely dessert with so little effort.
Presentation’s Everything The transformation of the traditional fruit crisp into more sophisticated holiday fare retains all that we love about fruit crisps, from the crispy topping to the tender fruit.
Imagine a roasted pear half atop a swirl of maple yogurt. The pear is filled with golden brown, crisp, chunky and gently spiced Maple Pecan Topping. And, it’s all embellished with a sprinkling of ruby red pomegranate seeds (arils) for both striking color and complexity of flavor.
I saw a portion of a travelogue the other evening on the Provençal region of southeastern France. The host was walking through a farmers’ market in Nice. I was astonished and delighted to see rows of grab-and-go baskets filled with Ratatouille (rat-ə-TOO-ee) vegetables. Truly fast-food shopping at its healthiest. Each basket looked rather similar to this handsome Ratatouille Family portrait featuring the vegetables in my Ratatouille. For me, just the sight of farmers’ markets and home gardens bursting with late summer produce turns my thoughts to Ratatouille. And, propels me into action.
Ratatouille and I Go Way Back
Our relationship goes back to my college days in Berkeley. My new friend across the hall ate Ratatouille mixed with cottage cheese for lunch almost daily. At the time, it seemed much too weird for me to even consider trying it. Eggplant and peppers and summer squash—no way!
Until last summer, roasting was my preferred way to cook beets. (Actually, the only way I cooked beets.) I’d not heard of nor considered steaming beets. Though, steam them I did. To my surprise, the wedges of steamed beet were tender and retained both their flavor and color. While hot, I tossed them in a balsamic vinegar, fresh herb and garlic dressing. By adding some favorite beet accompaniments—toasted walnuts, fresh mint and feta cheese—a new, healthy, delicious, and gorgeous Balsamic Beet Salad was born. Plus, I can now recommend two excellent cooking methods for beets: roasting and steaming.
Steaming Beets Is a Win-Win
Steaming beets retains both their vitamins and minerals as well as their gorgeous color and flavor. Plus, they cook in about a third to half the time of roasted beets. Depending on their size, in 30–45 minutes, steamed beets are tender and ready to eat. Great as an easy side dish with just a sprinkling of salt. And, especially delicious as a side or main dish Balsamic Beet Salad.
It’s rather incredible—the impact of tiny, little nutrient-packed seeds. Whether it’s a 2000-pound mammoth pumpkin, a giant 20-foot-tall sunflower, or a 3-foot-tall sesame plant, each of these plants got their start from a small, nutrient-rich seed. Seeds contain easily available protein, healthy fats, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. It’s these same nutrients that also make seeds so beneficial for our health and wellness.
Last year, with all the concerns about Covid, I noticed a number of articles recommending ways to strengthen our immune system and health. Many of these articles mentioned the benefits of zinc.
When looking at the lists of foods containing zinc, pumpkin and sesame seeds spoke to me. Inspired, I dry-toasted them in a pan on the stove, then tossed them in a bit of oil and a dusting of salt. Voila! In minutes, I had a condiment that added texture, taste, and zinc (plus many other nutrients) to sprinkle on most everything.
Nourishing, mild and earthy flavored lentils have been a part of our diets for thousands of years. Archaeological remains in modern-day Turkey, for example, suggest that farmers grew lentils as far back as 7000–8000 B.C. Highly nutritious and low in calories, lentils consist of over 25% protein, as well as being an excellent source of fiber, a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium.
Lentils come in a range of colors, including white, yellow, pink, red, brown, green and black. Brown lentils, the “everywhere lentil,” are the most common variety. Brown lentils are larger than most other varieties and have a flattened lens-like shape. They cook in about 30-40 minutes and hold their shape well. Older lentils take longer to soften.
What Makes a Dish Turkish?
Combining Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Central Asian influences, wonderfully spiced Turkish cuisine has been refined over many centuries. Here are a few of the main ingredients in the Turkish pantry. Almost all of them star in Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew.
♥ Olive oil (but of course!)
♥ Onions and garlic provide a flavorful base for many dishes
♥ Tomato paste adds color along with intense tomato flavor
♥ The most commonly used herbs and spices include Greek oregano, Turkish bay leaves, mint, parsley, dill, sumac, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and crushed red chili pepper flakes, such as Aleppo, Marash or Urfa
♥ Brown lentils, red lentils and chickpeas are included in many soups, stews and salads
♥ Pekmez: Grape, date, fig or pomegranate molasses
♥ Yogurt consumed plain or as a side dish is crucial to Turkish cuisine
Make a big batch of deeply flavored, vegetable soup throughout the year using this recipe template as your guide. Customize the ingredients to suit your taste, the season, and what’s in your pantry, refrigerator or garden. With this Versatile Vegetable Soup recipe in hand, you can easily prepare a healthy and delicious vegetable soup all year long. Your kitchen will smell wonderful; you’ll have a great pot of soup simmering on the stove and soon, a nurturing meal-in-a-bowl on the table.
Change Up the Grains, Lentils or Other Legumes
Cooking brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro, wild rice, lentils, etc. in some of the soup stock makes for a rich flavor and smooth-textured broth. When cooked, stir them into the soup about 5 minutes before adding the greens.
Customize Your Versatile Vegetable Soup
♥ Start with the basic vegetables, i.e., members of the onion family plus garlic, carrots and celery.
♥ Vary the rest of the vegetables, including longer-cooked (i.e., root vegetables and winter squashes), and faster-cooking vegetables (i.e., summer squash, green beans, broccoli, corn).