My first internship when I got out of culinary school was in the kitchen at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, where they had an entire wall filled with dozens and dozens of spices. I swear that wall looked like a piece of art—in the form of a jigsaw puzzle that I had to figure out. The way you knew you had earned your stripes in the kitchen was when the executive chef finally let you make their famous dahl. Wouldn’t you know, the very first time I made it, an honest-to-goodness Indian saint had come to visit. There are rules regarding saints, and at mealtime, the first and foremost is that no one can try the dahl before she does. I must have done something right, because she tasted, smiled, and kissed me gently on the forehead. I treasure that memory, and also appreciate the experience of making that dahl because it taught me that spices—which have phenomenal healing properties—can be the heart of a dish, rather than an add-on to enhance flavor. Here, the blending of spices is what really gives this dish its power, both nutritionally and on the palate.
I thought I’d experienced olives every which way possible until a dinner party years ago, when I watched as Carolyn Brady, an incredible artist, popped a bunch of olives in the oven and roasted them. It seemed so exotic, and the results were incredible. The brininess was replaced by a sweet flavor heightened by the oven’s heat. In my version, I’ve surrounded the olives with garlic, fennel seeds, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and Meyer lemon. You’re not going to find anything like this at a supermarket olive bar.
The warm, creamy white beans and deliciously sautéed greens will definitely recharge your batteries. One of the longevity players here is kombu, a sea vegetable that has tremendous amounts of iodine, along with phenomenal anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant characteristics. As a bonus, it also makes beans more digestible. Because the beans are high in fiber, they help regulate blood sugar, so you’ll be able to chug through the rest of your day with contentment in your belly and no crankiness on your countenance.
Butternut squash is the utility infielder of vegetables; wherever you place it on the culinary diamond, it does a great job. Stuffed in ravioli, as part of a risotto, roasted with herbs--it’s far more versatile than its tubby exterior suggests. In this soup, it’s blended with coconut milk to create a sensual, buttery texture that carries a phenomenal spice blend that delights the tastes and delivers superior nutrition. The cinnamon and turmeric help regulate blood sugar, have anti-inflammatory properties, and help fight cancer, while cumin boosts immunity and energy.
This drizzle is rather self-explanatory. It’s freshness to the third power (or perhaps freshness cubed is more appropriate for those of us who appreciate knife skills) and works wonders for kebabs or anytime you’d like to put a Mediterranean spin on a dish. Parsley and mint freshen the breath, aid digestion, and can even inhibit tumor growth.