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What I Miss Monday

Posted May 23 2011 3:16pm

This week I’ve been missing . . .

Japanese cuisine

I’ve been avidly eating Japanese food since before I was born—yes, when my Mum was pregnant with me, she frequented a Japanese restaurant in Omaha that would later become my favourite childhood restaurant. It’s weird to think about it, but literally, my fetus thrived on miso soup, seaweed, tempura, teriyaki, California roll, and sushi.

Now, where curry excites me and warms my insides, Japanese calms and cools me down. It’s been quite warm here as of late, and in turn, I haven’t really wanted to eat anything cooked, so I’ve been eating a lot of salads, including . . .

Super Simple Japanese Seaweed Salad

I splurged on a package of mixed sea vegetables because, well, they’re delicious and nutritious, and my body was really craving their cooling energy.

Back home, I usually reconstitute dried seaweed because it's much cheaper. Seaweed is expensive--hence, an occaisional treat. This WAY-TOO-TINY package contained dulse, nori, and sea lettuce.

Ingredients

Serves 1-2

1 cup pre-prepared or rehydrated seaweed

¾ cup cucumber, thinly coined then cut into strips

1 Tbs. soy sauce, tamari, or shoyu

1 Tbs. brown rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Essentially, combine all ingredients and garnish with roasted sesame seeds when ready to serve.

Eaten with chopsticks, of course!

Seaweed is a MAJOR superfood packed with phytochemicals. I make it whenever I feel:

1)   that I haven’t eaten enough vegetables lately. And yes, even as a vegan, I sometimes don’t get my daily recommendations for produce—like last Monday, dinnertime rolled around, and I was rather horrified when I realized I’d only consumed 3 servings of veggies that day, when I usually aim for 7-9!

2)   that my body needs a detox. For example, a couple of days ago, I ate a few too many dried dates, which I absolutely adore, but whose sugars my body sometimes cannot handle, especially when I eat 2 servings in one sitting. I literally crashed on my bed for an hour afterward and sort of napped until the sugar high wore off. Lesson learned, detox the next day.

3)   that I am “internally imbalanced” and require the salty Yang of sea vegetables to recenter myself. I’m a huge proponent of Macrobiotics, a diet philosophy based on Zen that explores the balance of Yin and Yang in food. It’s really quite intriguing, and I will inevitably discuss it more in-depth in future posts, but for now, if you’re interested, you can learn more about it here .

4)   whenever I make homemade vegan nori rolls! Oh, I miss my kitchen!

Despite not really wanting warm foods, I did make a delicious stir-fry last week, and while not necessarily Japanese, it can perhaps qualify as “Asian fusion,” blending elements of Chinese and Thai cuisine. Multiple sources inspired this particular—an old, old, old Jane Fonda recipe, this recipe , and this recipe . Essentially, you can add any vegetables you want; had I the resources, I would also have included snow peas, shiitake or straw mushrooms, and, most importantly, baby corn!

Asian Apricot-Almond Stir-Fry

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 16-oz block extra-firm tofu, pressed & drained*

2 medium eggplants, coarsely chopped

½ lb. fresh green beans, ends trimmed

½ cup chopped scallions, green & white segments

8 dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1-2 Tbs. freshly minced garlic

1 Tbs. olive oil

½ cup packed fresh basil leaves

2-3 Tbs. soy sauce, tamari, or shoyu

2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Cracked black pepper & red pepper flakes to taste

Roasted almonds & toasted sesame seeds, to serve

Directions

*First off, if you’ve never cooked with tofu, here’s a little crash course for you, Tofu 101. There are 3 main types of tofu textures—extra-firm, firm, and silken. Silken is best used for smoothies, desserts, and vegan omelets. Firm works very well for tofu scrambles. And extra-firm, well, is perfect for essentially everything else since it doesn’t crumble as easily. In order to ensure the firmest texture possible, you must first “drain” the tofu. How? Easy. Place the block of tofu between two plates and put something heavy (for example, some ridiculously large college textbooks, which, from personal experience, work very well!) on the top plate. Wait 30 minutes to 1 hour before removing the weight and dumping the pool of water that has congregated on the bottom plate into the sink.

Now, you’re all ready to wok and roll!

  1. Heat oil in a skillet over high heat. Add garlic and scallions, and sauté until slightly translucent. Add eggplant, green beans, and ¼ cup water or vegetable broth, steaming the vegetables until the green beans become tender.
  2. Add tofu, dried apricots, soy sauce, and vinegar, stirring frequently for another 1-2 minutes. Add basil leaves, and cook until just wilted. If you’d like a bit of spiciness, sprinkle ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes into the mix and stir well to combine.
  3. Serve garnished with roasted almonds and toasted sesame seeds and accompanied by brown rice.

Seriously, if I could get away with it, I'd eat with chopsticks ALL THE TIME.


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