It’s gonna be alright — we have figs!
In effort to feel (and be) a bit healthier, I have embarked on a cleanse. It’s a three week cleanse and it’s based on the anti-inflammatory diet (an elimination diet that requires you leave inflammatory foods like dairy, wheat, sugar, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, red meat, processed foods and rice by the wayside.) In addition, I drink a nutritional supplement powder recommended by my Naturopath, called ClearVite. (It works to help your liver detox while feeding your body vitamins, minerals, fiber and good gut bacteria.)
You should know — I’m NOT a diet girl. Never have been, never will be. I don’t believe in diets because they set you up for failure and because I love food. Not in an overeater kind of way but in an appreciation for life, sharing meals with friends and family and discovering new flavors kind of way. Food, of course, is a passion of mine. I write about it, I review it, I cook it, explore it, share it and obviously eat it. I can remember meals that shifted my world: the first bowl of Pho; the first bite of Kitfo; noshing on baquette, cheese and grapes in the shade of the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the orgasmically satisfying chevre marinated in herbs d’ provence I had for dessert in a Bistro in Avignon that was so startlingly flavorful it flushed my cheeks and left me unable to finish more than two bites and gnocchi in Sienna that melted like butter in my mouth found in a tiny mom and pop joint. These were unforgettable meals and unforgettable times.
So, while I am excited about having more energy and improved digestion (and a revved up metabolism to boot) as a result of this cleanse, I must tell you that hell on earth for any foodie worth their Fleur de Sel, is a cleanse. Just the idea that ANY food is off limits to your discerning palate can instantly throw one headlong into panicked cravings. I am proud to say, I am no exception.
But I am resolved to see this cleanse through to the end and in a show of support, my hubby has joined me in the deprivation. But of course, if you have to be deprived, you know you have to do it in style. I’m looking at this cleanse as a challenge of my culinary skills. Working to consistently design meal combinations that provide the nutritional heft (read veggie and fiber rich), exquisitely delicious and filling, sans the carbs is a bit more difficult than you might think. Especially when chocolate is your ultimate weakness. But onward and upward.
The first three days were extremely difficult. As with most cleanses, we battled mood swings, cravings, constant hung pangs and various aches and pains. Today, I am on the first day of Week 2, getting the hang of my new food routine and how to manage all the other issues that are a result of toxins being released and working their way out of my system.
Here in photos, is a sampling of the what we’ve been eating at Groo-V household:
Salmon in broth with fennel tops and french green beans, topped with spring pea, watercress and mint puree
Sauteing mirepoix for 17 bean stew
Homemade mayo (red wine vinegar instead of lemon) for tuna salad, salad
The end of our short-lived summer here in Portland came with a whiplash-tastic weather change, that brought with it the bug from hell. Headaches, sinus congestion, body aches and a lingering cough were the maladies that struck our humble abode, a little over a week ago now.
Because I view food as medicine, as well as comfort in my home, I cleared out all sugary treats, alcohol and congesting dairy from our food stuffs. In our weakened state, we embarked on a journey filled with the immune-shoring properties of garlic, ginger, orange juice, watercress and other mind-blowingly powerful and delicious veggies and herbs.
Drinking tons of water (close to 200 ounces a day) and herbal teas (Echinacea/elderberry, dandelion and peppermint), we kept the diet light. Eating whole wheat toast, fresh fruit like apples, oranges and red grapes (great for strengthening your lung tissue) plenty of hot homemade soups and meals of brown rice, veg and grilled fish, tofu or chicken. I also used jalapeno peppers liberally to open sinus passages.
Here are a couple tried and true soup recipes for when you’re illin’.
Easy Curried Carrot Ginger Soup
Easy Curried Carrot Ginger Soup
1 bag of carrots (full size not minis) peeled and chopped into chunks
1 whole apple (cored, peeled and chopped)
1 cup orange juice
1 32 oz aseptic container of free range organic chicken broth
3 inch knob of ginger (peeled and smashed)
2 to 3 tbsp of Trader Joe’s Yellow Curry sauce
Put all ingredients (except curry sauce) in a deep sauce pan or in a Dutch oven letting it boil until carrots are soft enough to mush with a fork. Once carrots are soft, pour soup into a food processor or blender (about half at a time) and puree until smooth. If broth has evaporated and puree is too thick, add additional broth, water or orange juice (depending on your tastes) until you achieve desired thickness and consistency. Pour back into pan and add curry sauce to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with yogurt or soy sour cream (if you’re avoiding dairy during a cold, like I was.) Delish! Makes four HUGE bowls of soup.
Garlic, Chicken and Watercress Soup
1 whole organic chicken (2 to 3 pounds)
1 4 inch knob of ginger (peeled and smashed)
1 medium yellow onion (peeled and chopped)
2 shallots (peeled and chopped)
4 garlic cloves (peeled and finely minced)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 32 oz aseptic of free range organic chicken broth
2 heads of watercress (washed and leaves de-stemmed)
(Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste)
Fill a dutch oven or deep stew pot with water (enough to cover the chicken.) Place the chicken, breast side down, in the pan along with the smashed ginger and let boil until meat falls off the bone and water turns into a flavorful broth. While the chicken cooks prep onions, garlic, shallots and watercress. Once chicken is ready remove chicken from the broth, taking care to remove all fat, bones and debris from the broth (strain, if necessary.) Replace broth in pan and skim any liquefied fat from the top of the broth and return to a boil.
While the chicken is cooling a bit, heat a skillet with a tbsp of olive oil and cook shallots and onions until transparent, throw garlic in last, letting it release its flavor and fragrance (about one minute.) Once the onion/garlic mixture is soft and translucent ladle out about a cup of the boiling broth to the skillet to deglaze the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen any caramelized onions and flavor that may be on the bottom of the skillet. Pour all into the boiling broth, turning the heat down to the -of medium. If your overall broth level has reduced through evaporation, add free range organic chicken broth to desired amount.
Turn your attention to the chicken, removing the skin and discarding and picking all the chicken meat from the bone. Tear or chop the chicken into bite size pieces and add to the broth. Then add the watercress, letting the soup cook until the leaves turn vibrant green. Remove from heat and allow soup to cool for a few minutes before serving. Season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic powder. For extra zip, add sliced jalapeno peppers before serving. (Makes 8 to 10 servings)
Known as Thai street food, Khao Man Gai is plentiful in Thailand and is based on a Hainanese (Hainan is an island off the coast of China) dish made similarly of boiled chicken, rice and broth. But what sets the Thai version apart is the spicy fermented soybean sauce, which is not too hot but full of vibrant flavor. Served with cooling, sliced cucumber, topped with cilantro and accompanied by a fortifying cup of deeply-stewed chicken stock with floating greens, this comforting dish will have you hooked. The Thai version, by adding the sauce, allows the many layers of flavors reveal themselves in such a way that once you’ve tried it, you will find yourself craving it intermittently for days afterward. As an added bonus, this dish, laden with broth, ginger, garlic and watercress is extremely good for the immune system and a welcome comfort to an aching body.
- From “Nong’s Khao Man Gai”
Here in Portland, I was first introduced to this cleansing dish by the downtown food cart “Nong’s Khao Man Gai” (featured in my Top Ten Food Carts series.) Nong’s makes only one dish, no variations (unless extra chicken counts) – just one divinely delish dish called Khao Man Gai. It takes a lot of guts or confidence to open a cart that makes just one dish but Nong’s pulls it off brilliantly.
The only problem – that one dish is SO good that people line up at 10am to get their hands on this comforting fare and often, Nong’s is sold-out by 11:30am (just as the lunch bug is starting to bite.) As a fan (and nearly an addict of this dish), and after missing my chance several times in a row, I finally became desperate enough to explore the origins and variations of this dish.
While the city I live in offers me a wide array of purveyors (from local Asian grocers like Thanh Thao Market to larger chains like Uwajimaya) where I can pick up authentic Thai ingredients, I like this dish enough to want to play around with a quicker and easier version. A version that anyone could make with ingredients found at any commercial grocer.
This is not to say that I don’t notice the difference when the dish is made from freshly stewed chicken stock, or Thai red chilis or yellow bean paste but as a busy full-time, working mom, I don’t always have the time to run to specialty markets or to cook broth for hours. Thus, “Quick n’ Dirty Khao Man Gai” was born. Faithful followers of this dish, may too, be able to pick out the subtle differences but it’s a close enough approximation that it’s satiates my longing and has my hubby happily asking for more, even after eating it three times in the last two weeks. The sauce itself is so freshly flavored and taste bud stimulating, that I plan to top salmon and bok choy with it tonight.
Enjoy! And send me your variations.
Down n’ Dirty Khao Man Gai
Makes 4 hearty servings
Pairs well with Hitachino Nest White Ale: Citrus notes compliment the ginger in this dish.
All ingredients readily available in meat, produce and Chinese/ethnic aisle at most grocers.
- 1 package of two bone-in chicken breasts (remove skin and reserve)
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 qt water
- 4 chunks (about 3 inches total) sliced, peeled fresh ginger, smashed
Remove fat and set aside for rice. (See Rice section below.)
Timing with this dish is crucial. I recommend actually starting the cooking of the chicken, simultaneously with the cooking (not prep) portion of the rice. Bring water, salt and ginger to a boil. Add chicken, breast down, bone up in water and return to a boil, covered. Reduce heat and simmer chicken, covered, 10 minutes turn of heat and let chicken stand in hot broth, covered cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Time this to be ready as your rice is complete. Remove chicken from pot and let cool to warm for ease of handling. (See Assembling below)
Skim 1 cup of top layer of broth broth and add to soup pot. (See Soup section below)
- 2 (3 to 4 inch-long) fresh jalapeno or serrano chiles
- 1 large shallot
- 2 inches of peeled fresh ginger
- 3 medium garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp Sun Luck black bean garlic sauce
Depending on the heat you want in your dish, remove all or some of the seeds from your peppers (and stems, of course.) I remove all seeds and cut into four pieces each and add to the food processor. Smash garlic with mallet or butcher knife to remove skin and release flavor — add to processor. Remove skin from shallot, add to processor. squeeze 1/3 cup lime juice and add to processor, along with salt. Pulse until all ingredients are minced. Add fish sauce, vinegar, black bean and garlic sauce to processor and pulse until mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning (spicier, more stringent or salty) to your taste. Remember the sauce’s flavor, like salsa will develop even more as it sits. Since the sauce’s ingredients, should be your first prep (though you can wait to pulse them til closer to completion) you’ll need to watch timing if you prefer a milder flavor (or reduce ginger, garlic and chile ingredients). If you would like to keep the sauce from getting too spicy, refrigerate until serving.
- 1 cup of freshly made broth from boiling chicken
- 3 cups chicken broth (I prefer low sodium, organic versions)
- 2 cups veggie broth (I prefer low sodium, organic versions)
- 1 bunch of watercress (remove stems)
Once chicken is done, remove from water and set aside. Since we are trying to cut overall cooking time, I cheat on the soup a bit by skimming the top of the broth from the freshly cooked chicken (it has the most fat and therefore the most flavor) and adding store bought stock, a mix of veggie and chicken broths to add depth of flavor. pour them all into a sauce pan and bring to a boil adding the watercress and allowing to boil just until leaves get bright green. Then shut off the heat and let sit while plating the rest of the dish. Serve in small bowls that you can easily drink from with pieces of watercress floating inside.
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 4 medium shallots, finely chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2tbsp rendered chicken fat
Prep: Take fat, removed and reserved from boiling chicken breast, and add to small saucepan with 1/4 cup water and let boil and render until water has evaporated and fat has boiled out of the skin. Remove from heat and lift leftover skin from pan, disposing of it. You should have close to 2 tbsp of chicken fat, if not, augment with canola or vegetable oil. Prepare shallots and garlic (peeling and chopping.) Rinse the rice in cold water until it runs clear (this helps remove some starches and keeps rice from getting too sticky. All of this prep can be happening beforehand, along with ingredients for sauce. Again, timing with this dish is crucial. I recommend actually starting the cooking portion of the rice, simultaneously with the chicken for perfect timing. Cooking: Add shallots to chicken fat and saute until golden brown, add garlic and stir for another minute, then add rice stirring until coated with fat and flavor. Add broth and let boil until bubbling throughout rice (about 3 minutes), reduce heat to simmer and cover, cooking until water is evaporated (15 minutes.) Remove from heat, let stand covered (5 minutes.) Fluff with fork and begin plating process.
- 1 cucumber (English or seedless are preferred but all other types work as well)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- Finely chopped, fresh cilantro leaves
While rice and chicken are cooking, combine the soy sauce and sesame oil, set aside. Remove stems from cilantro and finely chop (as much as you like to top your dish — I do about 2 tbsp chopped.) With your vegetable peeler, peel the cucumber and then proceed to make long cucumber ribbons, soaking them in ice water until the dish is ready.
When all components are ready, assemble as follows:
Tear or cut the chicken into chunks in a bowl and toss with soy/sesame dressing. Plate rice and top with the dressed chicken. Arrange the chilled and drained cucumber ribbons around the rice and chicken on the plate. Do not place them on top of the hot dishes — they are meant to remain, cool and crisp to cool down your mouth from the heat of the dish. Top chicken and rice with cilantro garnish and dish up helpings of the sauce in separate ramekins, so that each individual can dole out the amount of spicy flavor they would like topping their dish. Serve with warm watercress broth concoction — this is both savory and soothing to the heated mouth from spices, adding another complex dimension to the dish.
Though this dish has many components, which make timing a concern, it actually quite an easy dish to make for a weeknight dinner and once it has been mastered, can be put together in about 35- 4o minutes. Try it the first time, on a weekend to get a feel for the timing and prep — you will not be disappointed.
Substitute tofu, veggie broth and vegetable oil for chicken ingredients. I recommend freezing firm tofu and then defrosting it the day of ,to give it a more “meaty” consistency, then drain, slice into strips or cubes and let dry on a towel while prepping rice (shallots, garlic and veggie oil with a dash of sesame oil and veggie broth.) Once sauce (sans fish sauce- add soy sauce), rice and soup are ready. Saute prepped tofu in 1 tbsp canola oil, until golden on both sides. Plate rice, toss tofu with soy/sesame dressing and place atop rice, garnish with cilantro and cucumber and serve with sauce and soup.