Lebanese Summer Salad

When the world seems like it’s coming apart, friendship and food can be inspiring comfort ~ and our Summer Ayurveda Class on Sunday was just that.

We sipped Watermelon Smoothies while talking about Ayurveda, Nutrition, Doshas, Summer needs and Summer foods, moved to Cucumber Soup as an Interlude, then whipped up a round-the-world fiesta, with salads and dishes from Asia, Lebanon, Mexico and India, for our Sunday lunch.

What united these foods from so many regions?

It was all made by such beautiful, loving women…

And you could taste the ancient wisdom embedded in all of these dishes with flavors as old as nature herself.

There is a thread of oneness that runs through it all…

Lemons, limes, cilantro and seeds, vibrant color and texture, and the tastes of sweet, bitter, astringent are shared in summer dishes from around the world ~ just as liberté, égalité, fraternité are human ideals recurrent in all sustainable world cultures. It is reassuring to remember and something to celebrate when we gather.

One of the beauties helping us celebrate was the Lebanese Salad which, on most summer days when you are not circumnavigating the globe in the comfort of your own kitchen, would be a meal, a world, unto itself.

We used the softest, creamiest goat’s cheese, and a raw, sprouted chickpea hummus that made it feel as if you were tasting sunlight streaking through Lebanon’s ancient Cedar Forests.

LEBANESE SALAD
Serves: 2, generously

1 carton organic mesclun greens
1 cube of Feta Cheese
1 ear raw corn, kernels removed
1/2 cup hummus
1 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Fresh Mint
Sumac, thyme, oregano, pine nuts

Combine mesclun leaves, corn, snap peas, cherry tomatoes and feta into a large salad bowl. Toss well. Add the herbs, juice from one large lemon and the olive oil. Toss again. Divide the salad between two bowls and scoop 1/4 cup of hummus on top of each salad.

The next day I tossed the salad over warm Thai noodles. Lebanon & Thailand? What do they have in common? Warm, wise, beautiful people!

Besides, the flavors of the salad had grown into each other and, because the weather had turned cold, it was perfect with the sweet comfort of warm noodles.

Thank you all who attended Sunday’s class. You are all so wise, intelligent, healthy, knowledgable and lovely to be with. Even you “troublemakers” ~

Urban Food & Gourmet, at the corner of Fern and 30th, opens this week. They will be carrying my Ayurvedic line of specialty foods: Maha Shakti Detox (Vegan) Protein Powder, Rejuvenating Jam (my twist on Chyavanprash), Organic Split Mung Beans, Seasonal Masalas,  Brahmi Bark (a Brain Tonic Chocolate Bar) and eventually Moksha Pies – Moksha means free and these pies are gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, bake-free, and utterly liberating in every way.

I will have these products online soon! Will let you know.

With love ~

Namaste!

Summer Beans & Greens

Mint

I find it peaceful to write and so was relieved to finally have the time to write on Ayurveda & the Summer Season and get it published to my Blog. It is full of tips for maintaining balance in what is turning it out to be an especially hot season. You can find it here on the Seasons page.

Meanwhile, I had a great lunch yesterday that I also want to share, by way of a little explanation:

In both Spring and Summer I focus on beans and greens. The difference is that in the Spring meals are hot and spicy, whereas in Summer we enjoy cooling vegetables and fresh seasonings that aid digestion without heating the body ~ things like mint, cilantro, dill and fennel.

Cilantro

So, with a few tweaks, this recipe for Tofu with Snap Peas from Whole Living magazine (more and more a great resource for vegetarian meals) is ideal for summer. I simply replaced the red pepper with fresh, chopped mint from the garden, sprinkled the whole dish with the juice of one lime and garnished with a copious dose of chopped cilantro. I also replaced the sugar with maple syrup.

~

Cilantro is so incredibly cleansing, balancing and cooling that we add it to almost everything in our home. We are fortunate because we were just given a generous handful of cilantro seeds, aka Coriander, for our garden. We use a lot of coriander in our cooking, grinding the seeds from whole, so we are familiar with these beautiful balloon-shaped gems. Still, holding this gift in my hands, I couldn’t help but marvel at the intelligence, the deliciousness, the potency and the medicine within.

Coriander Seeds

We have a perfect spot for them – a place where we were growing sunflowers, until someone thought they were weeds and yanked the newborns right out. It was the next day before I noticed they were gone. I cried on the spot. It was as if something had been ripped out of me and tossed away. Considered useless, ugly, a waste.

Preparing to Plant

Silly, I know, but I had nurtured the sunflower plants from seeds, soaking them first, transferring them to the ground, watching over and cultivating them carefully, protecting them from our neighborhood’s stalking ravens, researching their power to purify soil, and then writing a whole blog about it…

The Sunflower Seeds, before their demise

But Coriander seeds blossoming into Cilantro will fill the gaping emptiness and restore our garden to whole. And then one day, before summer is over, we’ll be able to make Tofu and Snap Peas with our own home-grown Cilantro.

Our Food Garden

Nature’s exquisite cycle of renewal is the reminder I need today, that we, too, are nature and our powers of regeneration are every bit as great.

Hope you are enjoying your summer.

Namaste ~ 

Cucumber Cool

It was that perfect summer day: sunny, clear and hot enough to urge you to the beach, windy enough to get you offshore fast on a Hobie Cat soaring across breezy waters toward the promise of endless horizon.

The sailboat had been waiting on the beach along with a large, extended family who had come from everywhere it seemed to celebrate on this gorgeous summer Saturday. We were celebrating not just the birth of the nation collectively, but privately and more importantly, the birth of our tribe’s matriarch, known affectionately as Mom, or Nana ~ or, frankly, Wonder Woman.

After sailing, there’s a winding shoreline to wander, a rustic harbor to explore by kayak, sandcastles to build, swimming with a sister or brother, splashing with a niece, even visits with friends who stop by to say hello. With all this joy and play and beauty and delight and after all what is summer for if not this, it is mid-afternoon before you suddenly realize it would have been a good idea to wear a hat, or sunscreen, or, at least, to have paused a little longer in the shade.

The only solution for cooling off at this point is to jump back in the water, which is chilly, or go out again for a sail. But both options hold you under the broil of the sun, and you’re beginning to wonder if that rising smell of roasting flesh is coming from a nearby barbecue or your own burning shoulders!

So you head home early and prepare for the Great Family Homecoming by mixing up an icy pitcher of Cucumber Cooler. A tonic to refresh and relieve, this drink props you back up after too much play, or heat, or effort has you buckled at the knees, and reassuringly reminds you that Mother Nature, with her cool, sweet summer bounty, has already anticipated all your needs.

Cucumber Cooler
Serves 2 

1/2 medium Cucumber, seeded and peeled
1 Lime, juiced
5 Mint leaves
1 pinch Himalayan salt
1 cup water
1-2 ice cubes

Put all the ingredients into a blender and mix on high until it is completely puréed. Pour into glasses, garnish with a mint leaf and serve.

The Benefits ~

Electrolyte drinks containing sodium and potassium salts replenish the body’s water and electrolyte levels after dehydration. With an impressive amount of water (about 96%) that is naturally distilled, making it superior to ordinary water, and loaded with potassium, cucumbers are an important ingredient for summer rehydration.

Himalayan Crystal Salt delivers a healthy form of pure, unadulterated sodium with an amazing array of important trace minerals and elements including calcium, magnesium and potassium that regulate body fluids and replenish your supply of electrolytes whenever you sweat heavily.

Have you ever rested with slices of cucumber over your eyes?  It has been found that the  caffeic acid in this vegetable helps to prevent water retention, making cucumbers a great snack for weight loss, diabetes management, or to be applied topically to reduce puffy and swollen eyes.

In fact, cucumbers contain a number of important temperature-regulating minerals, including sulfur, silicone and silica which strengthen the body’s connective tissues, muscles, tendons, hair, ligaments, nails, cartilage, and bone – vital for healthy skin.

Speaking of skin, in Ayurveda there is a saying that if you want healthy skin, eat the skin of your fruits and vegetables. In addition to the youthful, glow-producing trace minerals inside the cucumber, its skin carries a high percentage of vitamin A and vitamin C.

With its high alkalinity, cucumbers are one of the ultimate Pitta-reducing foods ~ decreasing inflammation, high blood pressure, sore throat and acne; its peel can be used to relieve sunburn and mild skin irritations, similar to aloe vera; and studies have shown that when eaten regularly, cucumbers regulate uric acid, helping to prevent certain kidney or bladder stones and rheumatoid diseases like arthritis.

Perhaps best of all, since most cancers thrive in acidic environments, cucumber’s high alkalinity is being studied for its potential in avoiding cancer.

Cucumber Water

The other thing I like to do on warm summer days is to simply fill a pitcher with water, add 8-10 slices of cucumber, 5-6 slices of lime, 2-3 sprigs of mint, a dash of Himalayan Salt and a tiny pinch of Succanat (pure evaporated cane sugar). If you leave it overnight in the refrigerator the water becomes infused with the perfume of cucumber and mint, and tastes like everything the body has ever wanted.

Creamy, crunchy, juicy, wrapped in deep green and bursting with goodness, Cucumber is definitely summer cool.

They are also great fun to grow ~ and cukes from your own garden retain the taste of your terroir, while teaching great life lessons on mortality and immortality, attachment and non-attachment ~ as versed 5,000 years ago in the Maha Mrytunjaya Mantra.

Wishing you good health and a cool, refreshing, sweet summer.

Namaste!