Bored with putting the same meals on the table every week? Looking for more variety but still want to focus on healthy options?
Healthy cooking does not have to be boring or difficult. One easy way to add variety and change up the flavor of simple dishes is by adding some new herbs or spices to your repertoire.
Now, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already know about foods like turmeric, but have you heard of asafetida or sorrel?
Asafetida is the dried and powdered resin from the roots of several species of Ferula, a plant native to central Asia. It’s often used as a replacement for garlic and onions and is commonly found in vegan and vegetarian dishes with beans, lentils, and leafy greens.
How to use it? Perhaps the simplest way is just to fry up a small pinch of asafetida in a teaspoon of oil and add to whatever cooked veggies you like. Be warned, though: The initial smell of asafetida can be off-putting – there’s good reason the spice is also known as devil’s dung and stinking gum – but it does fade through cooking.
And the flavor it adds is amazing!
Feeling a little more ambitious in the kitchen? Try asafetida in this basic recipe for kitchari adapted from Cate Stillman over at yogahealer. Kitchari is an ancient Indian dish that’s been described as “basic to the Ayurvedic life.”
1 c. split yellow mung beans or 2 c. mung bean sprouts
1 c. white basmati rice
1 tbsp. fresh ginger root
1 tbsp. ghee (or coconut oil)
1 tsp. black mustard seed
1 tsp. cumin seed
1 tsp. fenugreek seed
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. fennel powder
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 pinch asafetida
1 pinch cloves
3 bay leaves
6 – 8 c. water
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste
Chopped cilantro, lemon slice or fresh yogurt, for garnish
- Soak rice and beans overnight if possible – especially if you have weak digestion or a tendency to bloat.
- Wash the beans and rice together until water runs clear.
- Melt the ghee (or coconut oil) in a large pot on medium heat.
- Add all spices (not the bay leaves) and roast for a few minutes.
- Add the beans and rice. Stir again, then add water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil.
- Boil for 15 minutes on medium heat, then cover and turn heat to low. Cook until the beans and rice become soft (30 to 40 minutes).
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish as you prefer.
- If you reheat leftovers, add more water.
You can easily take this up another notch by adding two to three cups of veggies to the mix. Add diced root vegetables to the pot when there’s about 20 minutes of cooking time left. Stir in greens or other less dense vegetables after cooking and allow the whole to rest for a few minutes before eating.
Sorrel is another awesome herb that packs a lemony flavor along with tons of vitamins A and C (great for your immune system). Like asafetida, it’s known to support digestive health and have anti-inflammatory properties, too. Sorrel can be used in purees, sauces, soups – even just as garnish.
According to a post over on Epicurious, sorrel is
an incredibly easy plant to grow—other than occasional weeding and harvesting, sorrel doesn’t need much babysitting in the soil. It’s a perennial, fast-growing, and winter-resistant green, meaning if you’re looking at a spring garden, you should stock up on sorrel.
Here’s one quick and easy sorrel recipe we love. It’s adapted from Seasonal & Savory, and it’s paleo, vegan, and gluten-free to boot! And because it’s a chilled soup, it’s a perfect light and tangy dish as we head into summer.
1 c. raw cashew pieces
3 1/2 c. water
1 bunch sorrel, chopped (about 1 1/2 c. chopped)
1 avocado, pitted and peeled
Juice and zest of half a lemon
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Place cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.
- Blend cashews and water in a food processor or blender until very smooth. For a totally smooth soup, strain after blending. (You can leave the larger bits of nuts in if you like.)
- Add the sorrel, avocado, lemon juice and zest, pepper, and salt to the cashews.
- Blend until smooth.
- Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, if needed.
- Chill the soup for an hour or two before serving.
Discovering new herbs and spices can lead to a lot of fun, new recipes, as well as boosting your overall health. Consider browsing the produce and spice aisles for even more inspiration. Or explore the options available at your favorite farmer’s market – where, no doubt, the sellers can give you even more ideas for using their produce in inventive and delicious ways!
Sorrel image by Fluffymuppet, via Flickr