Thursday, March 22, 2012

the mung beans + rice cleanse

Blooming season has gone berserk here in the Southeast. It is likened to living in a flower, replete with gorgeously hued and perfumed environs, but sometimes the pollen onslaught can be a doozy. Even if we're not in a big metropolis battling with pollution, noise, or are constantly bombarded with technology, advertisements and traffic, believe me, here in the country we also need to take a break from environmental stressors. So if you're country or city folk, a good system re-boot gives the body a much deserved detoxifying break. This time of new growth and regeneration is perfect for slothing off some excess and carrying a lighter load into the summer months.

I would love to take the time off to do a proper "cleanse" to give the body a break for at least a week. I did the Goldenbridge Yogi Cleanse two years ago and felt like a million bucks for a good few months, until it was back into the old routine. But unless you have a light schedule and the funds to boot, it's not very accessible to most and not so realistic in our busy lives either. So in light of my upcoming spring cleaning yoga series workshop starting this Sunday, I would like to share this wholesome meal of mung beans and rice that I have come to love making over the past few years, which is not only extremely cleansing, but actually sustaining, comforting and so yummy. If you are a yogi or like Indian food, I don't have to convince you. But if you are new to these flavors, trust me, you will become easily addicted to the warmth that this meal provides. I find this a much gentler approach to cleansing, as you do not feel starved throughout the day as you would on a juice fast or green cleanse.

I have adapted the recipe ever so slightly from one of my dear yoga teachers Jai Gopal. He has a printable version which is easy to follow and keep in your archives. The key to smooth preparation is all in the mise-en-place, in other words, the prep-work. If you take your time gathering everything you need, measuring it all out, chopping and placing in prep bowls, the actual cooking time is a breeze.

The way I personalize the dish is by using ghee instead of oil. Ghee is clarified butter and is not carcinogenic at high temperatures like oil is, which translates into an even healthier preparation. You can find it at any health food store or make it yourself. You can create your own selection of favorite vegetables, but my staple is carrots, zucchini and celery. And my secret ingredient that I add to the masala mixture spices is whole cloves - about ten. Since I like mild spice, instead of a 1/2 teaspoon of red chili flakes, I use 1/4 tsp. But if you really like a kick, rock on and add more! One more really important thing I find that most people do not know about is deveining the garlic. I was taught that the vein is poisonous and the cause of most digestive problems people develop with eating garlic. It takes one more step in the long list, but well worth it.

If you buy everything you need and have your pantry stocked with appropriate spices, it should take about 3 hours start to finish. I know, it takes a good part of the day, but it is so worth it and lasts for several days. This concoction is considered predigested so you will benefit from increased energy and the myriad healing properties of the spices and trinity roots of onion, garlic and ginger are too numerous to list. Adding European style yoghurt adds a cooling effect and I like to garnish with fresh cilantro. The visual tour takes you through my prep process so I hope it inspires you to take an afternoon and make a big pot-o-mung beans 'n rice.  If you decide to do a cleanse, eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner with fresh fruit in between meals and drink yogi tea for a complete system overhaul.

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

the freshest salad: shaved fennel, red onion & blood orange

My sis was just in town and this was the inspiration of the day as I prepared a light Sunday lunch: shaved fennel, red onion & blood orange. I have been obsessing over blood oranges lately and fennel has been my new love over the last year. With the urge to cleanse and eat light, fennel is the perfect ingredient for a slaw or salad and the blood oranges are the most special of citrus fruit in my book. Grapefruit can easily be substituted, but then where would all the color go?

The secret to this treat is the mandoline. If you have never used one, it is pure magic. It truly is the difference between mediocrity and excellence when it comes to presentation and texture vs. simple slicing with a knife.

Once you pass the fennel bulb through the mandoline with the thinnest setting, do the same with red onion. You get these ribbon-like shavings that are not only gorgeous to the naked eye but create a unique experience in flavor as texture plays a huge role in the way you taste food. Before segmenting the orange, zest it with a grater or if you want to be extra fancy, my favorite is the microplane. Tear some of the fennel fronds off to add to the salad. Season with lavender, green cardamom and drizzle with dressing composed of blood orange juice, sherry vinegar, olive oil, fresh cracked himalayan sea salt and pepper. Once tossed, it turns absolutely divine translucent pink.

this new blog

There have always been two great loves: food & design. As far back as I can remember, if I wasn't watching Julia Child, you could find me re-arranging my bedroom furniture and creating vignettes in my bookcase while setting up to play "shop" with my sister. You can plop me anywhere in the world, even in the most dire of places and if there is local flavor involved or curious architecture, I am a happy camper.

Somehow these fancies collided when I embarked on my studies of Hotel & Restaurant Management at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne and ended up training with Daniel Boulud, rubbing elbows with Thomas Keller, working at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Raffles L'Ermitage and with the five star experience under my belt, my wings took me to Healdsburg to be on the opening team with my dear friends at Barndiva. I have since deepened my understanding that food is just as much the art of living as it is about the intricacies of flavor and terroir. So orange zest productions? I LOVE orange, the color. But in this context, it's all about the zest. I hope to capture it all here and share some things that hopefully bring zest to your life. And when I'm not creating and photographing in the kitchen, I am musing here about design.

But the greatest love of all is my husband who is by my side to experience this dreamworld of food & design with me every day.

My name is Patricia and I live in Athens, GA.

Bon Appétit y'all!