Many of us have issues with our digestive systems in one form or another, but would be startled to learn that there are steps you can take during the cooking process that can help. Of course starting with whole foods is a great beginning as the phytonutrient value of eating wholesome, unrefined foods is undeniable. What we likely don’t realize is that from an eastern medicine perspective there are simple ways to think about this that will allow us to cook delicious food that can actually help aid our digestive process.
Adding "warming ingredients" to keep your middle burner fire going is one example. This post describes this concept in more detail, but essentially it is the Chinese medicine theory of eating mostly foods with post digestive temperatures that help maintain your stomach's one hundred degree temperature.
In this recipe the quinoa, bell pepper, leek, vinegar and black pepper are all considered to be warming. Even though some of the ingredients in the recipe are known to be cooling such as the summer squash, mushroom and eggplant, we can offset this by grilling the vegetables which initiates the digestive process thus allowing our bodies to ultimately absorb more of their nutrients.
During this time of year, I love grilling all the seasonal produce that is available. A simple and delicious way to do this is to select a nice mix of different vegetables, toss with a little balsamic and olive oil and fire up the grill. Here we are using earthy mushrooms with sweet summer squash as well as adding a bitter note from the radicchio to bring balance to the dish while the subtle leek beautifully permeates throughout.
A few ingredients used in this recipe that you might not keep around your kitchen on a daily basis and may be slightly unfamiliar with are quinoa, leeks and radicchio.
Quinoa is quick and easy to prepare and is likely to become one of your favorite gluten free grains, although it is not a true cereal grain, we do refer to it as one. From a Chinese medicine perspective, quinoa is warming and from a western perspective it is a complete protein which has become increasingly popular in the last decade as a health food although it has been farmed for millennia in South America.
Leeks are a cousin to onions although are more mild and add wonderful flavor to just about anything. The darker green tops are best used when making chicken or vegetable stock so trim down to the lighter green color as this along with of course the white is the more desirable part. Chinese medicine theory says leeks are warming and can improve Qi circulation.
Radicchio is a type of chicory that has a bitter taste which mellows if it is grilled or roasted. The bitterness adds a welcome balance to this recipe.
Lightly Cooked Vegetables with Quinoa and Balsamic
¼ cup quinoa
1-2 Portobello mushroom depending on size
1 Small zucchini
1 Small yellow squash
1 Small eggplant
1 Medium red bell pepper
1 Small leek
1 Wedge radicchio
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh cracked pepper
Prep/cook time about 45 minutes
Give the quinoa a good rinse as some but not all is prewashed. Cook 1/2 cup quinoa in about 1 cup water or vegetable stock, bring to boil and simmer while covered for about 15 minutes, set aside.
Clean and prep your vegetables. Remove the large stem from the portobello if still attached. Remove the stem end from the zucchini and yellow squash then cut in half lengthwise. Cut the eggplant into roughly one inch slices, depending on the size of the eggplant you may only need a slice or two for this recipe, use about an equal amount to your other vegetables. Cut the bell pepper in half and discard the stem and seeds. Remove the majority of the dark green part of the leek and trim the root end, slice in half lengthwise and give it a rinse as dirt can get lodged in the leaves. Radicchio is typically the size of a baseball or softball and is quite bitter so you will only need about a quarter of the entire piece.
Drizzle all of the veg with balsamic, EVOO and salt and pepper and toss until lightly coated. Grill on medium high heat until just lightly cooked with a bit of char, the char is a good thing.
Roughly dice the veg and mix together, add as much quinoa as you like. Add another splash or two of balsamic and EVOO and adjust seasoning.
Utilize what ever fresh produce you have available and to add even more flavor, toss in some fresh herbs that you might have available such as basil, chive, oregano, parsley or marjoram. Adding just a touch of a nice tangy goat cheese would be wonderful as well if you are so inclined.
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