Hello everyone! I hope that you all have been having a good week and are enjoying this beautiful spring weather as much as I am.
I’ve talked about the importance of eating seasonally on this blog several times before (see the winter edition and the summer edition here for a discussion on eating for both of those seasons along with some recipes). Today, especially with this being a week that involves some special meals prepared either for Passover or Easter, I thought it might be the perfect time to share a spring edition.
Eating seasonally is an important part of maintaining health according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. It helps our bodies and our digestive systems function at peak performance, and it also prevents troublesome health conditions from developing.
Spring in Chinese Medicine is associated with the organ of the Liver (and remember when I talk about the Liver, it doesn’t mean there’s actually anything wrong with the physical organ itself). In Chinese Medicine, the Liver is responsible for keeping your qi moving as it should. Just like little plant sprouts reaching up to the sun, spring is a good time for people to participate in activities that keep things moving and grooving. This can include things like stretching (the Liver controls the sinews and tendons, so stretching is especially important at this time of year), tai chi, and yoga. And if you’d like to pretend you’re actually a little plant reaching for the sun while you stretch, you do you and be the best little plant you can be!
The Liver is associated with the color green as well…perfect for spring! So eating foods that are green helps to nourish the body and keeps your qi happy and free-flowing. This brings us to one of my very favorite spring recipes. This is frequently on the menu for holidays and regular meals alike in my house. It makes a good amount of food, so even if you want to make up a batch on Sunday, you’ll have lots of delicious leftovers for the week ahead.
The recipe is originally from Ina Garten, whose Hampton lifestyle, adoring husband, and subtle sassiness all combine to make up one of my most favorite celebrities. You can easily make this without the potatoes if you are cutting down on carbs or sensitive to nightshade veggies, but, honestly, these potatoes are so good I can’t imagine it without them. Her original recipe also adds fennel when you add the beans and asparagus, but I personally find fennel gross so I leave it out. If you like fennel, however, roasting it is a delicious way to enjoy it.
Roasted Potatoes, Haricots Verts, and Asparagus
- 1 pound fingerling or small potatoes
- ⅓ cup good olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound French string beans (haricots verts), trimmed (These can occasionally be a little tricky to find, but I always can find them at either Stop & Shop or Trader Joe’s…if you can’t find them at your local store, regular green beans will work just fine)
- 1 bunch thin asparagus, ends removed, cut diagonally into 3-inch pieces
- Optional: 2 large fennel bulbs, cut into quarters and then again into long pieces
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat your oven to 425˚.
- Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise, and spread them out on a baking sheet. Pour the olive oil over the potatoes, sprinkle them with the salt and pepper, and then toss until the potatoes are coated.
- Roast the potatoes for about 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once about halfway through cooking.
- Add the string beans and asparagus (and fennel) to the baking sheet, and toss with the potatoes. Roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the green vegetables are tender. I usually toss everything about halfway through this additional cooking time as well.
- Sprinkle Parmesan over all the vegetables and put back into the oven for a minute or two more, just to melt the cheese.
- Take the vegetables out of the oven, add a bit more salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
In TCM, asparagus are considered a sweet, bitter, and cooling food. They help clear heat and drain dampness, as well as moisten dryness (this seems counter-intuitive but often foods and herbs can have several important functions at once…dampness is a pathological state and draining it often requires the addition of something slightly moistening to prevent too much drying out). Green beans are a sweet and neutral food that help to nourish the Spleen and the Kidney. Fennel is a an ideal food for this time of year, helping to move Liver qi and strengthen the digestive system. Potatoes are also neutral and sweet, helping to tonify Qi. Putting all of these foods together creates a satisfying and nourishing meal that also helps clear a bit of heat that can develop when we move into warmer weather.
I hope everyone has a wonderful week, and until next time, be well!
Recipe originally from “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics” by Ina Garten
All individual food properties sourced from “The Tao of Healthy Eating,” by Bob Flaws