My kitchen journey took a right turn this past weekend when I reconnected with an old high school acquaintance. Susan is a certified Ayurvedic consultant with a fascinating story. After many years of living and working in the Middle East, she resettled in Baltimore several years ago and opened breathe books, Baltimore’s premiere New Age bookstore. The store, and Susan herself, offer a wealth of resources in ancient Eastern practices in health and healing.
So when Susan sent out an all-points-bulletin of sorts (thank you Facebook) for a volunteer to assist with her 3-hour “Beans, Grains and Greens” Ayurvedic Cooking Class, I answered the call. The course literature maintains that “Indian Ayurvedic cooking is easy to learn and delicious to eat!” Well, I am here to testify that Susan delivered on her promise.
Ten stocking-footed students gathered in Susan’s warm, earthy kitchen as she waxed poetic about the nutritional benefits of healing spices and the surprisingly simple ways in which Ayurvedic cooking and lifestyle practices can bring balance to our lives. With her guidance, we expanded our knowledge of Sanskrit and waded into uncharted territory, creating exotic Indian dishes with paneer cheese, ghee (a musky, warm clarified butter that provides the foundation for most Ayurvedic cooking), Kichadi (a healing stew of mung beans, basmati rice, vegetables and spices), and delicious vegetable curries.
Always the eager student, I quickly purchased a copy of Amadea Morningstar’s The Ayurvedic Cookbook and took a little road trip the following day to our local Indian grocer (yes, we have one of those in Baltimore!). Armed with all manner of spices (cardamom pods, black mustard seed, coriander, cumin, turmeric and so much more), daal (dried lentils, peas or beans), rice and vegetables, I returned home eager to road test what I had learned.
The results were impressive, particularly since my 16-year-old son pronounced it delicious. With a few of my own twists, I created a Vegetable Curry perfect for a cold winter night. The warmth, both aromatically and in our bellies, lingered long after the dishes were cleared. Ayurveda is considered the oldest science of life. We are born of and live by food, according to the ancient scriptures of India. I figure it’s no coincidence that my journey took this lovely detour and opened my eyes to a whole new way of nourishing myself and those whom I love.
The following recipe is adapted from The Ayurvedic Cookbook. If you want to explore Ayurveda further and fully understand which foods are best suited to your constitution and unique nutritional/spiritual needs, I suggest picking up a copy of this book. I am learning a great deal from it. If, on the other hand, you just want to give a basic vegetable curry a try — one that is sure to please everyone — give this one a go. Enjoy!
Warming Winter Vegetable Curry
1 c. asparagus, diced into approximately 1-inch pieces
1-1/2 c. sweet potatoes, cubed in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 c. carrots, sliced
1/2 bunch Kale, well washed and roughly chopped (can substitute spinach or other greens)
1-3 T. sunflower oil
1 t. cumin seeds
1 t. black mustard seeds (can be found at an Indian market or grocer)
1 t. turmeric
1 t. mild curry powder
3 c. water
1 T. coriander powder
1 t. sea salt (or Kosher)
Wash, dry and chop vegetables. In a large, deep pan, heat oil over medium heat; add cumin and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add turmeric and curry powder. Stir to blend, about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, including water. Mix well and cook for 20-25 minutes until vegetables are soft. Garnish with fresh cilantro (optional).