Monday, May 24, 2010

Ayurvedic Cooking Article By Eve Tai

Here's an article from a dear friend/student...and delicious recipe at the end from Sutra recipe in Seattle!

Ayurveda leads us to food that's right for each of us
Cooking according to the ancient principles of Ayurveda helps us keep healthy by emphasizing the foods we need at the time we need them.
By Eve M. Tai

SEATTLE WINTERS are never easy on anyone, but for me, fall is the hardest season of all. My whole body seems to dry up; air bloats my belly. I feel wired. Spacey.

Years ago I mentioned these symptoms to my yoga teacher, Melina Meza, at 8 Limbs Yoga Centers in Seattle. "It's vata season," she said, nodding with understanding.

Vata, it turns out, is the Sanskrit word for wind or air. From the yogic perspective, vata is the most active — often overly so — in the fall. It makes sense. Fall is the season when the winds kick up and leaves wither.

To remedy my dry, airy symptoms, Meza suggested balancing them by eating foods with opposite qualities. Drawing upon Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, Meza advised cooking soups (wet) and root vegetables (grounded). Yams, carrots and potatoes soon entered my diet. My body rebounded within days.

Considered the sister practice to yoga, Ayurveda means "science of life." Its holistic approach seeks to optimize health before maladies arise. Food is considered medicine. Ayurveda calls for fresh, in-season produce, grains and meats because these foods harbor the most vitality.

This may not be news to locavore/slow food/Michael Pollan devotees. But Ayurveda elaborates on this practical wisdom — calling for specific foods and preparations that target your dosha, or general constitution. Chef Colin Patterson of Sutra, a vegetarian restaurant in Wallingford, finds Ayurveda attractive for this reason. "Food is very personal," he says. "Everyone has different needs."

According to Ayurveda, each of us tends to be governed mainly by one of three doshas and its corresponding natural element: kapha (earth), pitta (fire) or vata (air). Depending on your dosha, you would eat more of certain foods and flavorings, dial down others. General principles, however, apply to most of us each season. As we shift from spring to summer, Ayurveda advises cutting back on heavy and oily foods in favor of spicy, bitter and astringent foods. The latter helps move out the stagnation gathered over winter. For late spring, Meza suggests strawberries, raspberries, pears, lemons and grapefruit, along with asparagus, arugula, radicchio, celery, collard and mustard greens, radishes and sprouts.

"Nature provides us with the food we need when we need it," she says.

Although Sutra does not wear the Ayurveda mantle, the restaurant follows many of the same ideas. "We don't just pay attention to taste, but to the energetic effects food has on the body," says Amber Tande, Patterson's wife and business partner. She cites serving something fatty, perhaps a nut cheese, and following it with something fermented — say, pickled fiddlehead fern — to help break down that cheese.

Patterson echoes Meza's — and yoga's — assertion that ultimately the student becomes his or her own teacher. "Ayurveda gets you started with a road map," he observes. "After that, you find your own way."

Eve Tai is a freelance writer and student of yoga. John Lok is a Seattle Times staff photographer.

Lentil, Carrot & Wild Mushroom Cake

Serves 4 to 6

For the cake

¼ cup loose smoked black tea

1 cup black Beluga lentils

Salt to taste

4 to 6 medium tricolor carrots

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 cups wild foraged mushrooms*

For the sauce

4 to 6 sunchokes

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

¼ medium onion, diced

¼ pound fresh stinging nettles (available at farmers markets)**

2 cups vegetable stock

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

1. To make the cake. Steep tea for 5 minutes in 4 cups filtered boiling water. Strain and bring tea back to a boil. Add lentils, cover and lower heat to simmer. Cook 30 minutes, then add salt. Cook another 10 minutes until lentils are soft. Strain and set aside.

2. Coat carrots in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Arrange on a sheet pan and roast in the oven at 350 degrees 30 minutes until soft. Cool, then cut into cubes.

3. Sauté mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of olive oil on high heat for 2 to 5 minutes until tender. Set aside.

4. Combine lentils, carrots and mushrooms in a large bowl; add salt to taste. Spoon and gently press mixture into 4 to 6 ring molds on an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees until heated through.

1. To make the sauce. Coat sunchokes in 2 tablespoons oil and roast on sheet pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Turn every 10 minutes until tender and lightly caramelized. Remove from oven and set aside.

Sauté onion in 1 tablespoon oil in large pan for 5 minutes until lightly caramelized. Add nettles and stock. Cover and cook for 5 minutes until nettles are dark green. Add sunchokes, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add more stock as needed.

Remove mixture from pan and purée in blender. Strain through cheesecloth. Return purée to pan. Add thyme and season to taste. To serve, spoon the sauce on a plate and top with cake.

Sutra restaurant

* Use cultivated mushrooms when wild are unavailable.

** Handle fresh nettles with tongs. Cooking eliminates their sting.


Eve said...

I only wish I could have fit in more of your quotes, Melina! You had a lot of good things to say.

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Anonymous said...

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Is this possible?