Yoga Journal Blog: Peace and Carrots

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Spice up your practice with these yogi-chefs.

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Samin Nosrat Samin Nosrat
A professional cook, freelance writer, and teacher, Samin looks to tradition, culture and history for inspiration for her creations. She lives in Berkeley, California.
Aaron Hyman Aaron Hyman
Ivy League chef and yogi has the recipe for practice.

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Lessons from the Kitchen, and the Mat

June 24, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

corn.jpgIt's been an honor for me and Aaron to author this Peace and Carrots blog for the past year, and to have been given the gift of a weekly opportunity to muse on the connection between our two favorite practices.  More than anything, being forced to look at cooking through the lens of a yogic practice, and vice versa has been a constant reminder to us two type-A pittas that you can always go deeper into any practice, that you never know everything about anything, and that there is always at least a little bit of beauty inherent in every nook and cranny.  

Just when we thought there was nothing left to say about how cooking and yoga align philosophically, we'd learn another lesson ripe for the sharing.

And so, it's on that note that I'd like to share a favorite, and most recurring lesson, one that I'm taught and teach daily: God is in the details.  

Whether it's the way in which you set the table, wash the dishes at the end of the night, or take care to toast the croutons just right, every task, no matter how small, is equally important.  

The same, of course, applies in a yoga practice: is the moment in between poses not a pose itself; attention paid to the breath as meaningful as to muscle; or the thoughts going through our minds while balancing in that precarious asana as important as the pose itself?

When I bring young cooks into the kitchen, I do everything I can to instill in them a sense of love for the mundane; no chef will care if you have the fanciest knife and swashbuckling knife skills if you don't know how to clean up after yourself. But even with the act of cleaning comes a chance to really love something seemingly unlovable. What if you swept the floor with the same gusto you applied to more glamorous tasks like sauteing that piece of fish? What if every customer mattered just the same, be it the famous Hollywood actress or the grandma from down the street? What if peeling 20 pounds of carrots thrilled you just as much as building the perfect fruit galette?

A year ago, for a project I run called Pop-Up General Store, I made 30 gallons of sweet corn soup with only two inexperienced helpers and inadequate equipment in a borrowed kitchen.  It took us hours to strip the corn, to cook and puree the soup, and then to strain it to just the right consistency.  It then took us just as long to clean the kitchen, which was by that point covered floor to ceiling with corn bits.  By one a.m., we'd mopped the floor to my satisfaction, washed every dish, and chilled the soup enough so it wouldn't ferment overnight.  We were exhausted. But more than that, we were scarred.  

Each time in the past year I've thought of a pureed soup, my mood has soured.  All it took was one mention of corn soup from either of the girls who helped me and a look of horror would overtake our faces. Corn soup. Ugh! It didn't matter that our customers loved that soup more than any other, a samskara was born and nothing anyone could say could make me want to do that again.  

But as they tend to do, the calendar pages turned and we found ourselves with perfect corn at our fingertips this week, just in time for another Pop-Up General Store. I took a deep breath, hired not two but three helpers this time, and borrowed the biggest industrial blender I could find. The three of us who'd been there last year were quaking in our boots, but we did it--we made the soup again and we survived.  It was so much less painful, and we rewrote the horror story that had haunted us for a year. The path of the samskara was retraced, and we found ourselves stripping and shucking that corn with delight, pureeing with alacrity, and cleaning up after ourselves with a spring in our step.  

And all throughout the afternoon, I continued to remind those young ladies to take pride in cleaning up, in working quickly, and in being efficient--that is what makes a great chef, not a fancy uniform or expensive ingredients.  

If there's one thing I've learned on the mat, it's that we have the option to take pleasure in the unpleasant. If there's one thing I've learned in the kitchen, it's that to be great we must do exactly that.

Sweet Corn Soup

3 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cups corn, freshly stripped from cob (about 10-12 ears), cobs reserved
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (you can use extra virgin olive oil if you'd like a vegan soup)
Salt

Place the cobs in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes.  Discard the cobs, strain and reserve the liquid.

In a large pot, melt the butter and add the onions.  Add a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until tender, but still blonde. If the onions begin to color, add a splash of water.

When the onions are cooked through, add the corn and saute for a minute. Add 8 cups of the cob broth, increase the flame to high heat, and bring to a boil. Simmer until the corn is tender, about 5-10 minutes. Season with salt.

Puree carefully in a blender, or with a stick blender, then strain through a sieve.  

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt.  

Serve hot or chilled. Garnish with basil oil or cilantro, jalapeño and lime.

In Season

June 17, 2011

by Aaron Hyman

cherries.jpg

In three consecutive days, I was in three different countries. And in each country, I ate delicious fruit: dense, creamy mango in Mexico City, crisp, juicy cherries in Los Angeles and fragrant, acidic strawberries in Leiden (Netherlands). There is almost nothing I love more than a perfect piece of fruit; I sought these specimens out, searching for them in markets and (to be honest) my mother's kitchen from amongst many other fruits. You see, finding good fruit is one of my favorite pastimes, and something I have become quite adept at.


This little tale of three cities speaks to more, however, than my own fun in the market, or even the skill we can hone in choosing the best and most serving things (a skill that I think lays at the heart of any practice, yoga or other). Rather, it really hit me this week that I was eating three fruits, which we don't normally think of as being perfect in the same month, just days apart. Obviously, I could enjoy them this way because I was in different places on each of those days, and obviously I am getting at the seasonality of ingredients that is particular to each individual place and climate. But I also want to call attention to the fact that it is sometimes really difficult to stay connected to the world around you, to the seasons, to the crops coming from the earth.


If anything, the rhetoric of seasonality has made this even more difficult.  Magazines arrive in late February or early March bearing the heading "The Bounty of Spring" and tempting you with lavish spreads of asparagus, fava beans, and green garlic. But in most parts of the country, such crops are literally months away from arriving; the ground might even still have a covering of chilly frost! I had never really thought about this until I moved from California, the land that sets the trends for these types of things (ironic, as so many of the magazines touting spring peas in February are based on the east coast!). But after living across the country, I now realize that there is often a disconnect between what people tell you should be in season and what really is.  This can be frustrating; like when you see a glossy spring bounty and only have cellared root vegetables. But I am trying to suggest, by tempting you with mangoes, strawberries, and cherries at their absolute peaks, it can also be incredibly rewarding to really pay attention and wait until the moment when your favorite foods will be at their most delicious.

What's on Your BBQ?

May 27, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

barbeque.jpgMeat and yoga.  

Not so different than oil and water.

Any time Aaron and I even so much as mention animal-derived products on this blog (including dairy products), we get attacked.  

But you know what?  A lot of yogins eat meat.  

And meat-eating and all of the problems and quandaries associated with it aren't just going to disappear if we close our eyes and pretend they don't exist. There is what seems like an endless number of problems with the food system in this country, and most of those problems have to do with meat: from CAFOs to agricultural subsidies, from GMOs to union issues, meat is the rust that corrodes some of the weakest links in our food chain.   

It's a touchy subject, I get it. Ahimsa. I understand. I also think that there are lots of ways to interpret ahimsa, and for me, a lot of that has to do with taking the initiative to educate myself and others about how meat and dairy animals in this country are raised, kept, and slaughtered. 

As a conscientious eater, cook, writer and teacher, I make it a point to know the provenance of every piece of meat I eat or cook.  I have taken the time to research how the meat animals at every single farm I patronize are raised. In many cases, I have visited these farms in person and am on a first-name basis with the person (or people) responsible for raising the meat.  At times, I have petted, fed, slaughtered, plucked, dressed, or chased (!) the animal whose meat I'm eating--that's a pretty short food chain.

I believe in educating and empowering people to return to age-old methods of feeding themselves and their families, with the ultimate goals of: preserving our environmental resources; helping people create healthier eating patterns; and, by encouraging a shift toward the consumption of sustainably-raised, -slaughtered, -butchered, and -cooked meat, reducing the demand for and consumption of factory-farmed meat.  I also believe that such practices will help reduce the consumption of meat in general, regardless of how it is raised. Once a person sees how much work, time, and care goes into thoughtfully raising one animal for its meat, how could she ever look at a plastic-wrapped packaged of chicken breasts at the grocery store in the same way again?  

One thing I've learned as a cook is how personal food decisions are; the most offensive and insensitive thing I can do is make split-second judgments about anyone's eating habits. I catch myself doing this all of the time, and any time I'm tempted to preach about what's "right" and "wrong" I bite my tongue. Preaching and scolding usually don't work very well in changing people's minds, and they definitely don't work as tactics when convincing folks that their food choices could use some improvement.  

As yogins, isn't it more skillful to face the questions head-on with full integrity, non-judgment, and a big-picture view?  

Let's get a conversation going. Meat's in the news every single day, and it's not going anywhere (Did you hear about Mark Zuckerberg?  Or test tube beef?  Both of those bits have endless moral implications to consider.) 

Think of this an open call for your (respectful) opinion, yogins--the comments are your forum. We're all ears...

Clearing Out The Freezer

May 20, 2011

by Aaron Hyman

fruit_smoothie_blender.jpg

As an academic, May is a semester of transitions.  The school year becomes something of a memory, a blur that creeps into your dreams but no longer your days.  Returning hundreds of library books brings a breath of fresh air, the alarm clock no longer rings mere hours after you have fallen asleep, and the flooding river of emails into your inbox slows to a trickle.  May can be a glorious month.


But along with the end of the academic year also comes a difficult time of transition into the summer.  Most scholars, and nearly all art historians, travel during the summer to dig through archives, visit museums, and acquire precious language skills.  In just a few days, I'll be off on a plane and won't touch US soil for another three months.  So this week has been a mix of packing boxes, suitcases,  and a storage unit.


These very strange times of transition are also very difficult times to follow through on commitments and practices. I really wanted to move my body today, but I was busy with another type of moving.  I would have eaten more vegetables, and less sugar, but I was trying to clear out the cupboard, plus I was tired.  I wish I could recycle everything or donate items I don't want anymore, but there is just so much stuff to get through.  Like that.

Of course, staying committed and following through on these things that I normally do can only help get me through the tough transition.  It is still, somehow, hard to remember this.  Am I the only one?


Recipe to clean out the freezer and cupboards (and make you feel good)


1 c. frozen fruit of choice (I have peaches right now, so peaches it is)

1 c. soy milk (why do I have so much of this?!)

¼ c. plain yogurt

Drizzle of honey

A few ice cubes


Put all the ingredients in your blender, and whir until delicious and frothy.

Feel free to throw in anything else that might taste good.  This morning I discovered some bee pollen in the freezer, so that went in.  Some wilting greens would add some vitamins.  Juice if you'd like it fruitier and sweeter.  Etc., etc.  You get the point! 

On the Importance of Rest

May 12, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

womanonbeach.jpgOne of the first lessons you learn as a professional cook is never to complain or acknowledge that you need a break.

Cooks don't take breaks--we push through the fatigue, through burnt forearms and cut fingers, through all sorts of emotional and physical distress, in order to get our work done. Great cooks, much like practiced yogins, are able to get past the distractions, to sink in despite them, and to reach the spot where they can be fully present, focused on nothing more than making each dish perfect.  

In my own eagerness to be the best student, I quickly internalized only the first (and most obvious) part of this equation as a young cook--the part that says you must work hard, give everything you have, at all times, if you want to be any good at your job.

This philosophy worked pretty well for me for 10 years, so I started applying it in other parts of my life, in hope I could progress as quickly.  

It was with this intensity, and adhikara, or sense of authority and ownership, that I initially approached my yoga practice, attending class four or five times a week, signing up for every possible workshop, and forcing various body parts into increasingly advanced forms of asana, whether it hurt or not. After all, I thought, I'm a cook, conditioned to ignore pain in pursuit of perfection.  

I'm sure you can see where this is headed. Injury.

Or more accurately, injury after injury after injury.  Which I continued to ignore, billing them more as rites of passage than signs that I needed to take a break and make a shift. It didn't matter that everyone around me was telling me to slow down--after all, they didn't know my capacity.  They didn't understand just how much I could take.  

Simultaneously, off the mat I was pushing myself to equally insane limits, juggling a new business, teaching public and private classes, contributing regularly to multiple publications, and organizing a host of widespread community events.  

Everyone from my parents, friends and students to my customers and even near-strangers I'd encounter told me I was doing too much. I took it as a compliment--here I was, practically superhuman in my capability to get so much more done than anyone else.  What did they know? I had special powers, so slowing down didn't apply to me.

It's funny, because when I'm cooking, I make it a priority to be totally in tune with the ingredients I'm using. Through much trial and error, I've realized that the time letting dough or cooked meats rest is as important as the time spent kneading or grilling. It's the time pickles spend fermenting that makes them so wonderful, not everything that comes before. Though I believe so strongly that that rest is what allows the dish to be more delicious rather than  signaling some sort of shortcoming because the food can't be ready immediately, it never occurred to me to apply that same point of view to my own life: Rest can be a sign of strength rather than a liability. No, I was all about push-push-push.

Until too much really did become too much.

I knew I'd reached my limit when my body, mind, and spirit all broke down simultaneously last month. I gave in, thankful that nothing too serious transpired, but recognizing that I was at a crossroads: I could decide to make a change in my patterns and make space for rest by creating clear boundaries around what I am and am not willing to take on, or I could continue at the same pace only to end up in a spectacularly devastating crash-landing. The choice was finally clear.  

So I committed to changing, instituting a plan to take a complete day off each week, practicing saying no to folks asking me to help or work for them, and planning my first real vacation in five years.  

I'm on my way to the beach now, committed to leaving the computer off, reading books only for pleasure, and being as vigilant about rest as I've been about work.  In my heart of hearts, I believe it's this time and space that will allow me to emerge with both freshness and richness, ready to go deeper into my work and practice than I could have reached with any amount of pushing.  

Reveling in the Now

May 6, 2011

by Aaron Hyman

ramps.jpgLast Spring, which came a whole month before it did this year, I was walking through the woods on one of my regular hikes. The landscape was just beginning to awaken; green shoots sprouted from outstretched branches of trees, ferns unfurled from the ground, grass greened with chlorophyll after looking brown and dead for months. Strolling along, I was struck by a type of plant that dominated the landscape, carpeted the forest floor along a trickling stream. These double-leaved beauties looked like the greens of the tulip plants that were popping up all over New Haven. But when I reached down to inspect these voracious plants, I was struck not by the delicate curves of their leaves, but the pungent aroma of onion! When I snapped a leaf the scent perfumed the air to the extent that I had to recognize them as the much vaunted wild cousin of the leek: the ramp.  

I returned to the patch as quickly as I could, shovel in hand. The ramp is a tenacious beauty, for all of its grace and tenderness; its roots wrap deeply into the earth, grasping pebbles and rocks and burrowing into crevices. Week after week I would return to the woods and forage for bags of ramps, subsequently scavenging for recipes to use my haul and share the glory of my booty with friends. A few weeks into the season, the weather turned warm; narcissus blossoms withered, petals fell from tulips and peach trees. Walking out into the forest, I was stopped in my tracks; the ramps were gone. Every last one of them was gone. I panicked. Where had the ramps gone? Had someone found my patch and taken every single one, ripped the carpet of ramps out from under me?  

This wasn't just wasn't possible; I couldn't see any shovel marks, let alone the signs of a bulldozer that had drudged the forest floor. I looked and stared, closer and closer, and finally realized that the ramps had simply withered. What had been the most majestic forms of plant life on the early Spring forest floor were now nothing more than brown strings no thicker than a blade of grass. I went home empty-handed, but thankful that I had relished in the glory of what the Earth had offered me before it, quite literally, disappeared.

Braised Ramps with Ramp Pesto
1 large bunch of ramps
½ cup pine nuts
1/3 cup olive oil
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Separate ramps tops from white bulbs and red stems. Put tops to the side.

Heat a lidded saute pan and coat the bottom with olive oil. Saute ramp bulbs/stems until they begin to brown and blister in spots. Add ½ cup water or stock to the pan, a large pinch of kosher salt and cover. Turn heat to low and allow ramps to cook until tender and liquid has evaporated.

In the meantime, pulse ramp tops, pine nuts and salt in a food processor. Stream in the olive oil until the mixture comes together, but remains chunky. You want a paste, not a sauce. Add the cheese, mix, and taste for seasoning.

There are many ways to serve this, but my favorite is to take a piece of grilled bread, place a bed of braised ramps, top with a dollop and ramp pesto and sprinkled with a few wispy leaves of arugula tossed in balsamic vinaigrette.

Saying No to Say Yes

April 29, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

Assorted_organic_produce.jpgOne of the most valuable lessons I've learned from my own yoga practice is that sometimes you have to say no in order to say yes to something more affirming. Setting boundaries has never been my strong suit, and this year my willingness to say yes to, well, everything, has caught up with me in many forms: exhaustion; injury; a waning bank account balance; and most profoundly, an ever-so-subtle loss of joy in many of my favorite activities, including yoga.

I've finally recognized my insanity, and commit to changing these ultimately unhealthy patterns. As my good friend said the other day, my task now is to become skillful at discernment, knowing when to say yes and when to say no. It no longer makes sense to agree to help with ever fundraiser, take every freelance gig, or go to every single yoga workshop that looks good. It's just too much.  

The funny thing is, in the kitchen, I've always believed that less is more; I just haven't been able to apply that same philosophy elsewhere very well. An experience I had this week exemplifies how saying no can actually lead to a more affirming, bigger YES.  

Once a month, I cook a special dinner at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. I cook whatever strikes my fancy, and folks fill the space to share a simple meal, made with love. This month, I decided to make a Moroccan chicken tagine with all sorts of salads and condiments, including harissa and charmoula, two of my favorite sauces.  

The thing is, spring has sprung here in the Bay Area, and when I went to the farmer's market, I was assaulted by the beautiful bounty of produce available. I considered throwing the chicken tagine idea out the window so that I could really take advantage of all of that produce. For a minute, I worried that my guests wouldn't appreciate a vegetable dinner, unable to get past the fact that there was no meat in their meal. But I love cooking vegetables so much that I decided to give it a try. I bought everything that looked good--from artichokes, turnips, squash and strawberries to carrots, green garlic, spring onions, rapini, cauliflower, beets and chard.
 
And the dinner was lovely. The best part was when a carnivorous friend came up to me afterward to say that it was so delicious that he didn't even notice there wasn't any meat. I'd made space for all of those vegetables by saying no to meat, and in the process, I'd done one of my favorite things, which is to show a roomful of people that you don't need meat to call a meal complete.  

Charmoula

Charmoula is the perfect condiment: refreshing and spicy, it's great with fish, vegetables, meat, and bread.  Marinate fillets of fish in it before grilling, or serve drizzled over a bowl of chickpeas or lentils. It's also great on lamb kebabs and grilled meats.  

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 garlic clove, minced
1 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/4 cups finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt

Stir cumin in small skillet over medium heat until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to mortar. Add garlic, ginger, and a pinch of salt; pound with pestle until paste forms. Transfer to bowl. Mix in cilantro and next 4 ingredients. Stir in olive oil. Season with salt. 


Little to Do

April 21, 2011

by Aaron Hyman

sm_avo_img.jpgAt the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm injured. Injuries travel in packs, and it seems I still have to fight off the stragglers, arguably the most dangerous of the group. When I am not feeling my best, or more specifically when I am feeling lousy, I don't want to practice at all. Practice for me involves facing the demons, digging inside and really taking stock of how bad things are, of how off my body feels. That is obviously not fun. So I have a tendency to: Just. Not. Go. There.

But the thing is that when I don't practice yoga, or when I shun physical practice more generally, I feel terrible. There is nothing remarkable about this; anyone who has a physical practice knows what it feels like to go without. I become depressed, I am irritable, my body feels in shambles, I feel disconnected from myself, I am less generous o those around me, etc. Even knowing this, I still have a hard time facing limitations in my practice and I run by just not practicing at all.

This happens to me in the kitchen as well. Samin and I pride ourselves on making meals special, on gathering just the right ingredients, preparing them lovingly, setting the right mood, gathering the right people. And sometimes when I can't do this, I would rather order crappy takeout, rush to eat it, and forget it happened, as if somehow by not putting in the effort it won't count. Obviously it does though, and more than likely I'll be unhappy about it later. In these situations, I try to remember that just making an effort is good enough. A salad cobbled together out of the crisper drawer, broth heated with a poached egg, a piece of toast with delicious jam or avocado or a nice cheese, a bowl of pasta with olive oil, butter and parmesan. These are incredibly simple gestures; they can feel so minimal that they sometimes feel like defeat. I just couldn't do anything more tonight. And that is OK. I know I will feel better than if I had just done nothing at all. I'll try to remember this when, on the mat, there is simply very little I can do.
   

Recipe Adaptations

April 15, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

Four timdozeneggs.jpges in the past seven days, I've made soufflé, at tricky dish that I typically cook half a dozen times a year.

My soufflés always turn out fine--while I wouldn't call myself an egg white savant, I do understand most of the science and artistry behind what makes a light, airy soufflé.  But in my cooking, fine isn't what I aim for; I want everything I serve to be the most delicious version of itself. And when I prepare a dish only a handful of times a year, I don't really have much of an opportunity to master its ins and outs, let alone figure out how to achieve the most flavor or best texture.  

What's been particularly illuminating about my soufflé experiences over the past week is this: I have to add WAY more egg whites than any recipe begins to hint at in order to get the kind of lightness I'm after. There's a joke in the Chez Panisse kitchen about the recipe book filled with all of the standards, tucked away behind the knife rolls and emergency aprons in the utensil drawer: none of the recipes work if you just follow them to the letter. You have to do an exhaustive investigation each time you're assigned to cook one of those old favorites, asking everyone who's been there longer than you for their secret techniques and ingredients, and even then you're often answered with vague responses that leave you more confused than when you began.

It's an idiosyncratic system, yes, but it does something really remarkable: it forces you to try things, to fail, to practice, and to learn by experience and repetition, which in my opinion is the best way to master any skill. With yoga, though our deepest experiences on the mat might come in class when we are led by our favorite teachers, often our biggest breakthroughs and moments of understanding come to us during our home practice, where we've collected the information, advice, and technical tools and have put them to the test with no guides but ourselves.  

So though the recipe in the booklet in that drawer at Chez Panisse says to use an equal amount of egg yolks and whites, everyone there knows to add extra whites for lightness. What I'd never understood until this week--the first time in my career I've made soufflés four times in a row--is just how many extra egg whites it actually takes to get that ethereal texture.  Each time I cooked this week, I pushed the boundary back a bit, adding substantially more whites in search of that perfect texture. By Monday, I was adding so many I feared that I'd ruin the dish and dilute its flavor, but surprisingly--magically, even--that batch was my best ever. They were perfect little pillows of springtime garlic, and I couldn't have been prouder to have finally cracked the code.  

Now the question remains, how come no one ever records this in a recipe?  


Green Garlic Pudding Souffle
Adapted from the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook
Serves 6.

5 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk, slightly warmed
Salt
2 branches thyme
1 medium onion
1/2 pound green garlic, sliced
A pinch cayenne
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
Pepper
3 eggs, separated and at room temperature
3 egg whites only, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat in a very heavy-bottomed pan. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring to keep the flour from browning. Slowly pour in the milk, a little at a time, whishing each addition until smooth before adding more. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the thyme branches. Cook over very low heat for 20 minutes or so, until this béchamel sauce is medium-thick and lump-free. Stir frequently to be sure it's not sticking. Cool to room temperature. Remove the thyme sprigs.  

Dice the onion and cook over medium heat in one tablespoon of butter. When the onion becomes translucent, after about 5 minutes, add the sliced green garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and a splash of water and lower the heat. Cook until the garlic is soft and the water nearly evaporated. Add more water to prevent browning if necessary.

Cook the mixture and then puree in a food processor or food mill. Stir the puree into the béchamel. Add the cayenne, Gruyère, and some freshly ground pepper, and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning--the sauce should be fairly highly seasoned. Add the three egg yolks, lightly beaten, and mix well again.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Generously butter six 8-ounce ramekins, then coat with the grated Parmesan cheese. Beat the six egg whites until they form soft peaks and fold them into the soufflé base in two batches. Fill the ramekins and place them in a deep baking dish. Pour hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the soufflés are puffed and golden brown from the top. Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath. When the soufflés have cooled a bit, unmold them by running a paring knife along the edge of each ramekin, inverting the soufflé into the palm of your hand, and placing it in a shallow baking dish, top side up. The pudding-souffles can now be held at room temperature for a few hours.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 425°F. Pour the cream over and around the soufflés. Bake until the cream is hot and bubbling and the soufflés are puffed up again, about 6-8 minutesServe with the hot cream.

Variation: If green garlic is unavailable, you can make a similar puree using leeks, scallions, and a few cloves of garlic.

Behind the Times

April 7, 2011

by Aaron Hyman

beets.jpgLast night, as I was walking home from school, I caught my first sight of Spring: cherry blossoms caught by moonlight. And though just one tree on the park-square had blossoms, the smell of pregnant buds perfumed the sidewalk. 

Undeniably beautiful. 

But you know what my first thought was? "Well it's about time already!" This happened at the farmer's market this past weekend also. The sight of spinach, the first fresh green I've seen there in months, was met with a fleeting moment of happiness that ended in ambivalence verging on annoyance. Part of this has to do with the fact that for some time now I have seen pictures from friends and family online proudly displaying their Spring bounty at the market, documenting the shower of blooms in their front yards, and even boasting of their triumphs in the garden. Meanwhile, here on the East Coast, we've just had our first week of temperatures above freezing. It is hard not to feel like our little steps toward Spring are too late, or unimportant somehow, because someone else got there first. 

I've had this experience on the yoga mat plenty of times as well. For months, or years, I would watch members of my kula bend and fly into dynamic and glorious postures. I even sometimes used others as models, or set their pose as my goal, thinking, "Some day I'll be able to do that!" Then one day, I would. And when this happened, I would often think: OK, good, done, what's next?

The problem is, when you constantly look outside yourself at where other people are, or what they're doing, you lose sight of exactly where you are. So of course you would discount the journey! You were never really fully on it to begin with. I am not negating the need for mentors and models: I have profound respect for teachers, and I think colleagues and peers can often be the best ones. But if you are always noticing that they are getting somewhere first and just hoping you can be there, too, by the time you arrive, you'll feel like it's already too late. 

A recipe for those of us who have some time yet to go before Spring produce, but who can cherish exactly where we are.

Beets and Beans

4 large beets (cellared is fine) 
2 cups large dry beans of any variety, soaked, and then cooked with an onion in the pot 
2 tsp grainy mustard 
2 tsp Dijon mustard 
2 tbls sherry vinegar 
6 tbls extra-virgin olive oil
3 oz. feta cheese
1 cup toasted walnuts
Large-grained sea salt

Roast beets in a covered dish at 400°F for one hour, or until tender. In the meantime, mix mustard and vinegar with a pinch of salt before dripping olive oil in slowly to create an emulsified vinaigrette. When the beets are tender, allow them to cool slightly before peeling and then slicing into ½ inch pieces. Toss the slices with half of the vinaigrette and allow them to marinate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. When ready to serve, toss the cooked beans with the remaining vinaigrette. Arrange the beets on a plate and spread the beans among them. Top with crumbled feta cheese and toasted walnuts, and sprinkle with sea salt.


Foods Perfect for Right Now

March 31, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

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I've been working so hard organizing the Bakesale for Japan that I forgot to write about the most meaningful holiday of the year for me: Nowruz.  

I don't even know how this is possible?!

Growing up in Southern California I was pretty disconnected from the concept of seasonality, but my parents went to great lengths to instill in me and my brothers an understanding of the rituals and symbolism surrounding Nowruz, or Persian New Year, which happens, aptly, on the first day of Spring.  

Though Nowruz originated as a Zoroastrian celebration thousands of years ago, its rituals persisted even after Muslims arrived in the Persian Empire, and today we still celebrate the holiday with many of the same symbolic foods and items that were important in those ancient times. 

As a young girl, Nowruz was always my favorite time of year. From the gorgeous aromas that filled our home, including the perfumes of hyacinths, saffron, cardamom, and rosewater, to the deep spring cleaning that restored a shimmer to even the dullest surfaces, I savored each element of preparation. But, of course, my favorite part of the holiday revolved around its foods--rice with fava beans that have just come into season; rich baklava doused in rosewater syrup; and the rice, soup, and cucu, or frittata, laden with spring greens and herbs that appear on the Persian menu at this time of year.  

According to tradition, over the course of our holiday preparations and celebrations, we prepare and eat these foods to bestow ourselves with plentiful good fortune and welcome a sweet, fertile, healthy, wealthy year. Each dish may carry with it a different cultural significance, but what strikes me now, as I type these words just a few blocks away from Berkeley's Chez Panisse, the home of the seasonal/local/organic food movement in this country, is that all of those foods are also right for this moment in time.  

Besides signifying wealth, fertility, happiness, and health, all of the foods of Nowruz are, quite simply, the exact right things to be eating in this moment because they are harbingers of Spring.  

Tantric philosophy states that the most integrated path is always the one that's aligned with nature. As a cook, what I revel in most is the place where tradition and nature intersect, proving and re-proving that the way things are is the way they are meant to be.  

Herb Cucu: Persian green and herb frittata

Cucu Sabzi is one of my favorite traditional Nowruz dishes; whereas most Western frittatas are predominantly eggs flavored with some greens, cucu is mostly greens, barely held together with eggs. The fresh, bright flavors of the greens and herbs in this dish invoke on our plates and palates the symbolic rebirth that Spring offers.  

8 eggs
4 small leeks or 2 large leeks, sliced thinly (including the green tops)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped finely 
1 bunch parsley, chopped finely 
1 pound wild nettles, stemmed and washed
Olive oil
Butter

Slice leeks, wash, cook until tender over medium heat with some butter and salt.

Saute nettles with olive oil until tender. Let them cool a bit, then squeeze excess water out and chop finely.

Crack eggs in a large bowl. Mix in greens and herbs. Season mixture with salt.

Heat a cast iron or non-stick pan, add olive oil, pack in the mixture, cook over medium heat until set on that side. Carefully flip the cucu and continue to cook on the second side until the center is set.  

If the center is not setting properly, you can finish in a 400°F oven for a few minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature with flatbreads, feta cheese, and pickled vegetables.  

photo courtesy of Alice Tu

Little Acts

March 25, 2011

by Aaron Hyman

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Last week I was in Switzerland, and I saw something terrifically beautiful. Well, I saw a lot of beautiful things in gorgeous little cities and sprawling museums. But one very small thing made me stop and take specific notice. One morning I was on the train and the sound of newspapers flittered and scuffled around me; everyone was reading about the tragic news from Japan. In the midst of disbelief, shock, and sadness, there was one woman who stood out. She was sitting diagonally across from me; she was quiet, peaceful, her newspaper was folded in her lap. When she caught my eye, she had just taken a blood orange from her sack. The ruby blush of the golden peel sparkled like a jewel against the bland gray-white of newsprint and the industrial, generic interior of the train. 

The woman removed a Swiss army knife from her bag, gracefully flicked a blade out of the crimson frame, and gingerly scored the rind of the orange at intervals. Though she was a few yards away, I could literally feel the sensitivity with which she wielded her knife, the way the blade carved into the small space between peel and fruit without piercing a single segment.  She put the knife down on the newspaper, as the warm notes of citrus oil gently perfumed the train. As if by magic, the fruit began to slip out of its skin, her fingers swiftly gliding along the scored rind. But what happened next simply entranced me; the woman picked the knife back up and began to remove gossamer strands of pith. One wrist flicked the knife, while the other gently turned the fruit; she picked it clean. The woman paused, as if to take a deeper breath, reached for the napkin that had once protected the fruit inside her bag, wiped her blade clean, and put the knife away. All that was left was to enjoy each perfect segment.

OK, why am I telling you this? It seems to me that this woman's small ritual, one that she has undoubtedly (given her adeptness) performed hundreds of times, speaks to the power of practice, of repetition, and the solace we can find in it. In the face of such horror and misery, this woman chose to peel an orange; she chose, but for a moment, to immerse herself within the boundaries and order of ritual; and she chose to find, literally, the sweet gem within. The juxtaposition of her calm movements and the beautiful orange against the folded newspaper filled with stories that had stopped the world in its tracks couldn't have been more drastic. But in that moment, it made total sense.


The Power of Connection

March 18, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

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There's only one thing I can think of to write about this week: Japan. 

Wondering what the tragedy in Japan has to do with yoga and food? 

Well, everything. 

For me, food is about nothing if not connection--between us, the earth, those who grow our food, and those we share it with. And yoga, too, is about union--of light and dark; of mind, body and soul; of the individual and the universal--yoga is connection. 

In times of great suffering, what gets us through it is a sense of connection. I experienced this firsthand last year when I organized a Bakesale for Haiti in response to the horrible earthquake there that expanded beyond my wildest dreams, ultimately raising close to $23,000 for relief efforts. My initial goal with the project was to raise $5,000, but even more than the incredible fundraising success of the endeavor, I was struck by the community's reaction to the project. Everywhere I turned, people thanked me. I didn't really understand why, though, until a few weeks had passed and I'd had a chance to think about it. 

Knowing that others are suffering can throw anyone off course, and watching the scenes of destruction from thousands of miles away had left people feeling helpless, confused, and disconnected. Sending a text message or check to a faceless organization, though important, is anything but empowering. It can feel robotic, and doesn't do much to let people relate to one another on the most basic human levels. 

Though it might seem frivolous to some, organizing a bakesale seemed like the natural thing for me to do, since all of the work I do stems from a desire to create community around food. Bakesales are warm, unintimidating, and they give people something to do, by baking, by coming out and buying a cookie and a cup of coffee, and by spending time with others instead of at our computer screens. 

People were thanking me because I had unwittingly empowered them to create positive change. One of my favorite quotes is by Howard Zinn, who said "Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world." Can baking a pan of brownies stop a nuclear meltdown across the ocean? No. But after seeing what's possible with last year's bakesale, I have no doubt that if we all come together and create a bit of beauty, community, and positivity, even in the smallest way, we can definitely catalyze magnificent change and transform the world. 
 
In light of the success of last year's fundraiser, I have put together a Bakesale for Japan, which started with several locations across the Bay Area, but has spread across the country. I'd like to invite you to come take part and connect with your community in an effort to enact positive change.

Foundations

March 11, 2011

by Aaron Hyman

A yoga teacher of mine once said, "you can't build a castle on a big pile of cow poop!"  She actually used a stronger--ahem--word to end her little truism, but this is a P.G. blog, and I think you get the point. She was talking about foundations at the time, specifically, as I recall, how one sets their hands on the ground before kicking up into a handstand. Of course this is true; even if you could--and I can't!--balance in handstand with one arm turned in and the other peeling off the ground, you would not be creating the most optimal, most satisfying, and most beautiful pose.

If you are even a semi-regular reader of this blog, I think you know where I'm going with this one. You simply cannot create the most beautiful, most delicious and most satisfying meal without having a strong foundation to start, and that foundation is the quality of your ingredients.

We've all, no doubt, had the experience of a meal that completely lacked any foundation whatsoever. The airport salad, with watery lettuce and tomatoes that taste like they never saw the sun, berries in the dead of winter, or the desperation meal from one of many chains that shall go unnamed here. That's not what I'm talking about exactly; those meals never had a chance. I am referring to those meals when you invited friends, but then forgot, or got extra busy, and didn't have time to go to the farmer's market, couldn't muster the energy to get to the nice produce stand, thought you'd save the trip across town and settle for the bread that is fine but that you don't love.

And you know what? You could make a perfectly acceptable meal, even a pretty tasty one. With a few more shakes of the saltcellar, another teaspoon of curry powder, friends that provide great conversation, an extra bottle of wine, and a partner who does the dishes, you might not even notice! But then you also would have proved my point? You wouldn't have noticed; you wouldn't have raved about the delicious salad, paused to comment on the gorgeous fresh shell bean gratin, been stopped dead in your tracks by the caramelized juices of a plum crostata.

Is it easy to do all of this? To make the extra trip for a special ingredient, to shift your schedule to make it to the farmer's market, to find or get to a butcher who sources responsibly from farmers he knows, to go to the wine shop rather than the super market. No, it's not easy. It's no easier than remembering to set your hands perfectly on the ground--and not let them move!--before flinging yourself through space into a handstand. But with time it gets easier, it becomes habit and, you wouldn't have it any other way because you realize that anything less would be settling, and settling is never transcendent.

Learning From Mistakes

March 4, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

sauteed_veggies.jpgMy friend and fellow yogin Tamar Adler just finished writing her first book about cooking. We had dinner together the other night, and when I asked her what her favorite chapter was about, she announced with great certainty, "Mistakes."

"Mistakes," she said, "are where the real cooking gets done.  Anyone can follow a recipe and end up with a perfectly fine product, but that's not artful."  

She's right. Nothing much is required of you when you follow a recipe, but when you burn the bread or oversalt the broth, when you skip a step and forget to remove the seeds from the pepper or mix in the liquid before the dry flour--well, that's when you get to prove your mettle and demonstrate what you really know. That's when everything you've learned and practiced comes into play. 

It's when we veer off course that our true studentship is tested. 

Sometimes, the skills we've developed can save the lumpy gravy or the too-spicy salsa. And sometimes, we just have to rely on intuition to help feel our way out of the mess. Occasionally, that even means admitting defeat and chucking the whole thing and starting over. Is that so different than the moment you find your shoulder is incredibly uncomfortable in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose), and you have to decide between shifting your hand a bit or coming out of the pose? Not really. The real mastery here, I think, is in surrendering to truth of the situation, in not trying to force things, and in being sensitive to what is really required of you in that moment.  

Of course, when disaster strikes in the kitchen, Google can be a lifesaver.


Rescuing Overcooked Vegetables
Two minutes can mean the difference between delicious steamed, boiled, or roasted vegetables and just plain mush.  If this happens, try dumping it all into the blender or mashing it up with a potato masher.  Add salt, maybe some pounded garlic, good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, or freshly chopped herbs or a pinch of spices and you've got yourself a delicious puree. Thin it out with broth or water to get a hearty soup.  

Rescuing Burnt Food
If you got distracted and forgot to stir your soup or sautéed vegetables, resulting in burned food, there might still be hope! Though it's counterintuitive, don't stir now! Leave the black stuff stuck at the bottom of the pot or pan, being careful not to dislodge any, and gently transfer the unburned food into a new pot. Then taste. If the saved meal tastes good, no one will ever know the difference. If it tastes smoky or burnt, that's when you should probably start over.



Let's Get Strategic

February 25, 2011

by Aaron Hyman

Last week, Samin wrote about the modest cuisine of Tuscany. I want to comment on another type of modesty. I too have recently returned to the mat after an injury and have also struggled with an ego that would like to believe I can and should still do the advanced poses I was doing six months ago; I'd like to put my feet on my head, or balance on my hands in contorted pretzel-like shapes, or disappear into my own folded body. And maybe I could, but it certainly wouldn't be a nice experience. As one of my yoga teachers says, "It wouldn't be strategic."


The funny thing is that I'm very strategic in the kitchen. It's been a few years since I've worked in a professional kitchen; lately, I have spent more time slaving over my books than over a stove. I'm perfectly comfortable with the fact that cooking isn't as natural as it used to be. Can I still bust a move in the kitchen? You bet. Is cooking still an extension of my own body? Not so much. As such, I'm a little more careful in the kitchen; I don't try to do things as quickly, I don't try to whip egg whites with one hand and sauté mushrooms with the other, and I don't try to concoct countless courses à la minute for my dinner guests.


Have you ever wondered why people who don't normally cook invite their friends over for a nine-course meal?  Me too! It's not pleasant for the cook (let alone their guests) when they reach so far beyond their comfort level and their abilities. The question is not whether people who don't cook every day deserve to serve delicious, homemade food.  They absolutely do. The question is how to be strategic, how to set yourself up for success. Perhaps a soup as a first course, which can be made hours or days (and be even more delicious) before your guests walk in the door, or an elaborate salad as an entrée. This is a tactic I often fall back on; all of the components for a lovely salad can be lovingly and carefully prepared well ahead of time, the cook can highlight the bounty of the farmer's market (let nature do the work!), and can be plated beautifully into a painterly palate. If, at the end of the night, you have wonderful food, are relaxed and have happy and full dinner guests, who's going to take you to task for not taking on the anxiety of trying to prepare a soufflé at the last minute?


Strategy for a Salad

Go to the farmer's market and pick whatever looks, or tastes, most delicious. (Since spring produce is just around the corner in many parts of the country (not my own), so I will give suggestions related to this season.)


Prepare all your vegetable well ahead of time and allow them to sit at room temperature. Take a large board or platter when you are ready to serve, and mound your prepared vegetables in lovely little piles: artichokes braised in lemon and wine; carrots roasted and tossed with Aleppo pepper; finely shredded fennel dressed with olive oil and lemon; fava beans cooked and tossed with chopped dill; roasted asparagus; crumbled goat cheese; dark salt-cured olives; gently boiled and halved eggs, etc.  Toss arugula, or your favorite lettuce, with a delicate vinaigrette and scatter amongst the piles of vegetables, creating a vine-like tangle that links the colors of your palate.  

Relax and enjoy.


Heeding My Inner Nonna

February 17, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

shellbeans.jpgI've started tapering back into a steady asana practice after a period of rest to give my injured hamstring a break, and I've already noticed that desire--stemming straight from my ego--to push my body harder, to do more, to get into more advanced poses.  And each time that desire flares up, I pose a question: "Why?"

What good would it do, what purpose would it serve for me to fold a few inches further, or get deep enough into that backbend so I can grab my foot? The answer's pretty much always the same: it'd stroke my ego, but that's about it. And so, I relent. I do my best to soften and let go of that, reminding myself that my body can sing in even the most modest of poses.  

In Italy, the Tuscans are often pejoratively referred to as mangiafagioli, or bean-eaters, because so many of their recipes are based on the humble shell bean. Whereas the Piemontese and Emiliano-Romagnoli boast arsenals of recipes featuring choice cuts of fresh and cured meats, exquisite cheeses like Parmesan, and enrich their pasta with extra egg yolks, over the centuries the environment and economy have led the Tuscans to favor dishes made with day-old bread, offal, and yes, the shell bean.  

But instead of treating these ingredients with disdain and resenting the conspicuous lack of extravagant ingredients that circumstances have brought about, for centuries, Tuscan grandmothers and cooks have ingeniously created a catalog of delicious recipes that demonstrate the full potential of these simple ingredients to both delight and nourish.  

Instead of coming to the kitchen wishing for more, these cooks have made a habit of taking what's available to them and pouring everything they've got into that. In the kitchen, these traditions are what I look to for guidance with my own cooking. It's pretty sweet to realize that I can call on the same nonnas as my guides on the mat as well.  

Who knew?  My inner nonna is a yogi.


Shell beans all'uccelletto
Serves 4-6 people as a side dish

I often refer to this dish as the Tuscan version of refried beans. It's delicious, simple to prepare, and quite filling; it's so elegant that people often have no idea how humble its origins really are.   

2 cups dried white beans, such as cannellini or toscanelli, or (when in season) 4 cups freshly shelled beans
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
salt
1 cup chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
10-12 sage leaves
extra virgin olive oil


If using dried beans, soak them in 6 cups of water overnight and drain the water the next day.   Place the beans in a medium saucepot.  Add the baking soda, a pinch of salt and cover generously with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce flame and simmer until beans are tender, about 30 minutes for fresh beans and one hour for dried beans.  

When the beans are cooked strain them (but don't discard the cooking liquid).  Heat a large frying pan and lightly coat the bottom with olive oil. Add the tomatoes and garlic and sizzle for a few moments.  Add the beans and about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Stir the beans continuously with a wooden spoon until they begin to break down. Cook, stirring continuously, over medium low heat until the beans are creamy and soft. Add more olive oil and salt as needed.  Tear the sage leaves into the beans toward the end of the cooking. Serve warm, garnished with olive oil.  

Finding Inspiration

February 10, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

images-4.jpgThough the recent Bay Area weather might be telling us otherwise, we're in the midst of winter, which can be a gray time for many of us in more ways than one. This time of year tends to bring me down, and presents its own unique challenges. I'm finding myself feeling sluggish, anxious, and just plain blah. Tasks like writing menus, planning events, or even deciding what to make for dinner become chores as my regular sources for inspiration seem to have gone into hibernation.

My yoga practice seems to be missing that same spark: I'm recovering from an injury, returning to my mat after several long weeks away from it, and learning how to practice without pushing myself quite so far.  

Whether in the kitchen or on the mat, the remedy for the winter blahs seems to be the same: turn back to the surefire bets, the strongholds, the fast friends that have been with you as long as you can remember. In my practice, that means doing lots of hip openers and thigh stretches, keeping things simple, and trying to stay grounded, knowing that eventually these standbys will lead to something more exciting.  

In the kitchen, that means turning back to all of those foods I know will both nourish and please me, the foods I know I love without question, the standbys that are always good: roast chicken, big bowls of soup and pasta, big green salads with avocado and citrus, and warm cereal each morning.  

When Aaron was here over the holidays, we made a pilgrimage to Boulette's Larder in the San Francisco Ferry Plaza for breakfast one morning, where my friend Amaryll makes porridge worth crossing the bridge for. Hers is made with nine grains and served with walnuts, flax seeds, currants, brown sugar and milk to top as you wish. Much more elegant than the oatmeal (and in some ways reminiscent of the haleem) I grew up eating for breakfast, this dense version of the cereal fills and warms you all at once.

Last week I was on the East Coast so I made my way to New Haven to spend a few days with Aaron. In the intervening month since we'd seen each other, I found he'd become obsessed with warm cereal as a way to face the snowy day ahead. Where I'd been content to eat oatmeal with a few flaxseeds sprinkled in, he'd become inspired by our breakfast at Boulette's and devised the perfect morning routine of yoga and porridge. Each night, he'd soak his amalgamation of beautiful local grains. In the morning, he'd bring the mixture to a boil, put a lid on it, and place it in the oven for 90 minutes while we did our morning yoga practice.

We'd get up from Savasana (or talkasana as the case may be) to a steaming pot of porridge, rich with all sorts of grains and topped with perfectly rich Connecticut maple syrup, walnuts and blueberries he'd dried over the summer. I experienced firsthand what I've always known in my heart, that inspiration comes from tradition, repetition, and experience. I'd seen it happen for Aaron, and now he was sharing it with me.  

Now back in Berkeley, as I eat my bowl of warm cereal each morning, I consider where in my daily routines a surprising source of inspiration might be hiding, and I know the only way to find out is to stick with the old standbys and believe in the beauty out there.  


Whole Grain Porridge
Yields 4 to 6 servings

Use this recipe as a starting place, and then feel free to experiment by changing ratios, grains, and cooking liquid. If you have a slow-cooker, feel free to use it to cook the grains overnight. If not, try this easy, no-stir method.  

5 cups water
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup brown rice, cornmeal, or polenta
1/3 cup farro or wheat berries
1/4 cup quinoa or millet
Salt
Cinnamon, if desired

Toppings, as desired:
Brown sugar or maple syrup 
Milk or soymilk 
Dried fruits or nuts 
Fresh fruit
Honey

The night before, place the grains, salt, water, and cinnamon in a medium saucepot. Let sit out in a cool place, or refrigerate.

In the morning, bring the grain mixture to a boil while you preheat your oven to 350°F. Cover the pot with a lid and place in the oven for 90 minutes. Go practice yoga!

Return to a perfect pot of warm cereal. Top as desired and enjoy.





Transformation

February 4, 2011

by Aaron Hyman

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Pie is magic. Undeniably. No matter how many pies I make, I marvel each and every time at how so few ingredients can make up something so much greater than the sum of their parts. Flour, butter, sugar, salt, fruit, sugar. Magic. And even beyond this amalgamation of single ingredients, there is the impossibly improbable meeting of crust and fruit filling. Fruit gets folded in, tucked to bed, between two sheets of crust and together they spend some time in the oven.  


What happens in that oven?  I don't know! But I do know how good it tastes, and I'm hoping you do, too. In a great pie, the fruit becomes enriched with the melted butter and flour of the upper crust. The bottom crust softens ever so slightly under the gooey thickened juices of perfectly ripe fruit. A great pie is a study in textures: crisp, almost chewy, syrupy, soft, crunchy. The same ingredients, the same components, act differently in different parts of the pie; crust in the center is distinct from the crimped edge and fruit floating amongst its brethren is a different creature than the thickened juices that bubble out of the vents.


This weekend, a particularly delicious apple-rhubarb pie made me pause. I realized that yoga, like pie, has so few ingredients. When you go to the gym, there are the shoes, the treadmill, the weights, the machines (a different one for every muscle), the balls, the bands, etc. At Pilates, the reformer reigns supreme, but there are the balls and the mats and the springs, and hoops and loops, and, and, and.  All of the physical activities I've participated in have come with paraphernalia.  Except for yoga. A mat.  A body. Magic. And heck, you don't even really need a mat!  You're the crust, you're the fruit, you're everything you need for total transformation.


All-Butter Pie Crust

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1-2 tablespoons sugar

large pinch salt

2 sticks (8 oz.) butter, large dice

ice water


Place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Freeze bowl with dry ingredients for 20 mins. Freeze diced butter in a separate bowl.  


Turn stand mixer on at lowest speed, add butter (all at once is fine) and continue to mix until butter is incorporated but remains in pieces that resemble broken walnuts.  Add water, starting with 4-6 tablespoons and adding more until the dough JUST holds together. Dump contents onto counter. Work gingerly to bring crust together, cut in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least one hour (and up to 48 hours) before rolling out to make pie. Work with dough cold from the fridge and in a cold, or cool, kitchen.

Try It, You Might Like It

January 28, 2011

by Samin Nosrat

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I don't know about you, but once I form an opinion about something, it's basically impossible to get me to change my mind about it. What can I say? I'm a stubborn one.


Never in my life did I think I'd take up a meditation practice. I was so resistant to the idea, in fact, that even the mere thought of Savasana (which hardly counts as meditation) was enough to send me deep into denial. Things got so bad, in fact, that Aaron and I instituted talk-asana when we practiced together, so that we could avoid the dreaded Corpse Pose at all costs.  


But if there's one thing that can get me to try anything, it's being assigned to do it as homework. When I took a yoga immersion last year and found myself assigned to meditate for first 5, then 10, then 25 minutes a day, I actually developed a practice. And looking back, I doubt I could have made it through that crazed, hectic year without the gift of sitting in non-judgmental awareness for just a few minutes each day.  


It's obvious, of course, that the reason I was so resistant to it was because I feared I wouldn't "excel" at it because my mind is too all over the place, juggling 30 million things all at the same time. But that's why I needed to start meditating so badly.


Analogous to my resistance to meditation, I've always been averse to eating foods that we eat for health-related reasons only. I think everything we consume should impart us at least a tiny bit of pleasure. I also firmly believe that when purchased and cooked with care, all ingredients have the potential to be delicious.  


So when Aaron, upon observing how frantic and erratic my eating patterns had become last year, suggested that I start making green vegetable juices each morning to ensure that I get a healthy dose of nutrients at the start of the day, my immediate reaction was, "Yuck!" Green vegetable juices reminded me of the hippie food co-ops where my mom shopped for organic produce, and those taste memories didn't have anything to do with pleasure or deliciousness.  


It wasn't until Aaron came to my house and made me incredibly bright, flavorful juice one summer morning that I accepted that this healthy thing could also be incredibly tasty. During his visit in August, we frequented the farmer's market looking for candidates for our morning juices, and though we loaded up on carrots, greens, cucumbers, and herbs from all of our favorite farms (and foraged for lemons and oranges from neighbors' trees), I continued to insist that he add more melon, more peaches, or more grapes to the juice each morning, to make it sweeter and tastier.  


As winter approached and my life grew busier (and without Aaron to motivate me to juice each morning), my juicing practices fell to the wayside (actually, so did my meditation practice). Then my friend returned for a winter visit, and deprived of fresh produce on the East Coast, he was eager to re-institute the morning juice ritual. So we went back to the market, returning with greens, vegetables, and herbs. I was convinced there was no way I'd enjoy the juice without all of those sweet summer fruits to lighten it up. Aaron conceded, adding an apple to the juice to make it friendlier for me, and I found myself looking forward to that glass of green, living elixir each gray morning.


Since Aaron left in early January, I've managed to continue my morning juice ritual (and reinstate my meditation practice, too), and I pretty much stick to the same recipe with little variation. When one morning last week I found myself out of apples, I went ahead and made the juice anyway, just to see what it'd taste like. I could hardly believe it, but I preferred the less sweet juice!  


I'm noticing this trend in my life, and trying to soften to the things I'm so resistant to. If juice is the last thing you think you could ever like, you should try it. Who knows? Maybe you'll like it...



Green vegetable juice

Makes about 4 cups


1 large or 2 medium carrots

2 ribs celery

1/2 bunch parsley

1/2 bunch spinach

1/2 inch piece fresh ginger

1 lemon, zest removed

5 outer leaves of romaine or other crisp lettuce

1 apple

few drops extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil


Wash all of the fruits and vegetables to remove dirt. Juice in a juicer according to manufacturer's directions. Add a few drops of oil and drink immediately.

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