Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


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The Nishime Pose: The Practice of Waterless Cooking

nishime vegetablesLast May I wrote a post about cooking with a clay pot. I discussed the discovery of cooking for myself in my 30’s, inspired by a gift from my sister. It was a cookbook called The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics by Jessica Porter. As a result, my first foray into cooking was 100% macrobiotic. Now, I am an omnivore, although I eat more like a vegetarian than a carnivore. I spend the majority of my cooking time with vegetables.

One of my favorite dishes that has stayed with me from my macrobiotic days is Nishime Vegetables. Every time I have served this dish my guests have marveled at this smooth, buttery, sweet, salty, vegetable dish. They simply cannot believe it doesn’t have any butter in it. For those of you unfamiliar with macrobiotic cooking please do not be put off by the use of mildly exotic ingredients. They are the key to the perfect comfort food result.

Here is a quick cheat sheet on a few of the less familiar ingredients:

Kombu: a sea vegetable that comes in thick wide strips. It helps to soften the vegetables and adds to the buttery consistency of the dish. I buy mine at Whole Foods.kombu

Daikon: a long white root vegetable, also known as a Japanese radish. If you eat a lot of sashimi you will often find it shredded on your dish as a condiment. In macrobiotic cooking it is believed to help dissolve fat in the body.

diakon

Parsnip: Ok, ok. You know what a parsnip is, but I feel like giving this often over looked root vegetable a little love. They are easy to throw into recipes like mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables. Next time you are in the supermarket grab some of the carrot’s cousins.

parsnips

Shoyu: the Japanese word for soy sauce. Here is my favorite brand.

shoyu

I am sharing Jessica Porter’s recipe word for word because I have never found a reason to tweak it.

Nishime Vegetables

Also known as “waterless cooking,” nishime-style cooking involves hearty, sweet vegetables steamed slowly in their own juices. What results is a potful of chunky, delicious, fall-apart vegetables that go down like butter. This dish has a centering effect on the body and mind and is unbelievably simple given the level of satisfaction it produces. If you are feeling scattered and out of sorts, use nishime to come home to yourself. Make nishime vegetables at least a couple times a week, using different vegetables depending on the season.

  • 1-inch piece dried kombu
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thick wedges
  • 6 inches diakon, cut into thick rounds
  • 3 medium parsnips, cut into thick diagonal slices
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch “logs”
  • Spring water
  • 1/2 teaspoon shoyu

In a heavy pot with a heavy lid (preferably enameled cast iron) place the dried kombu. Add the onion. Layer the diakon, carrots, and parsnips, respectively. Pour roughly 1 inch of spring water into the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 10-15 minutes or until carrots are soft. Season with shoyu and simmer 5 more minutes. Remove the kombu and discard or slice into thin strips and return to pot. Serve.


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Apple Pie Pose: The Practice of Feeding Your Soul

Sometimes the best way to feed your soul is to eat.

I have a recipe for an apple pie that makes me happy. I have gone through periods of time when I have made this pie once a week. If I were to describe it with words alone, I would call it a rustic apple tart.

Apple pie

Yum!

The pie is so full of healthful goodness, that when I have it in the house, I eat it for breakfast.

This particular recipe is inspired by the Sourcream Apple Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust in Mollie Katzen‘s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Over the years, I have made some changes to the recipe creating what I think might be the perfect dish.

The ingredient that sets it apart is the lemon. The unpeeled apple slices are dowsed in the juice and rind of one lemon, making each bite snappy with flavor.

Sara’s Breakfast Apple Pie

Crust:

1 1/2 cups raw rolled oats

1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/s tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Melted together: 1/2 cup unsalted butter & 3 Tbs. honey

Combine all ingredients. Press evenly into a 9 or 10 inch pie pan.

Filling:

5 sliced cooking apples

Juice & rind of 1 lemon

1/3 cup of honey

2 Tbs. whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg

2 large eggs

1 cup unsweetened whole milk plain yogurt

1)  Combine apples with lemon juice and rind. Add honey and toss gently until coated.

2) Combine flour & spices. Add to the apples and toss to coat. Place neatly into unbaked pie shell. At the bottom of your apple bowl you will find excess lemon juice & spices. Pour it over the apples in the crust.

3) Beat together eggs and yogurt. Pour evenly over apples.

4) Bake 40-45 minutes at 375 degrees. Serve hot or cold.

For another recipe, check out my Clay Pot Chicken Recipe


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The Cooking Pose: Clay Pot Practice

Clay Pot Cooking and Yoga.

They are ancient. They are earthy. They are delightful.

Both require patience and hydration.

The pots themselves are a lot like yogis.  They come in all shapes and sizes and each is unique.

I stumbled onto cooking with a clay pot when I came into the possession of a Romertofp Pot along with a little recipe book.  Having never seen one before I was intimidated, so I let it sit in its box, tucked away, until I uncovered it during a move.

My clay pot

My clay pot

At the time I discovered the pot, I was experiencing my own little cooking renaissance.  Until then, I had never considered myself much of a cook. Anytime spent in the kitchen was for organizing salads or reheating someone else’s dish. Throughout college and the years following, I depended on other’s culinary skills and the miracle of take out.

On New Year’s Day in 2005 I checked my office voicemail from home to learn that the company I was working for had declared bankruptcy and the entire workforce was laid off.  Suddenly, I had a lot of time on my hands.

Sitting on my couch, avoiding my job search, I thumbed through a macrobiotic cookbook given to me by my sister.  It was my jumping off point.  Before I knew it, cooking became a daily obsession.  I loved hunting down hard to find ingredients, bringing them home and following the happy formula of the recipe.  Nothing gave me pause.  I cooked with seaweed, umi plum vinegar, kuzu root and miso paste.  I got bolder and started examining other cookbooks.  Soon I was steaming my own bagels, roasting beets and whipping up chicken tamale casseroles.  By Mother’s Day I had the culinary confidence to cook a full meal for 10 people.

It was around this time I found the clay pot, never unboxed, sitting in a lonely corner of my basement.  This time, I saw it with new eyes.  Finding the clay pot, earthen and humble, all but forgotten, reminded me of getting my first bike.  I had never ridden before, but I was dying to take it for a spin.

What does this have to do with taking our practice off our mat?

First, the word practice. I had weeks of cooking practice under my belt.  My practice gave me confidence to try something new, something that had previously been indecipherable and intimidating. Just like yoga.  As we build our practice on our mat, the impossible becomes possible.

Second, one of my favorite yoga instructors has a great way of articulating an instruction.  In class we will be holding a particularly long pose and she will invite us to take the pose to the next level by saying “because you can.” For example, we will be in a side angle bind, holding through a long count of 5 and she will say “Let your heart shine to the ceiling, because you can.”  Speaking those three little words, she is empowering us to take advantage of all our abilities. You’ve got muscles, strength, flexibility and will. Use it. Because you can.

Looking back, rediscovering my clay pot was a “because you can moment.  I didn’t worry about my lack of experience or the baffling simplicity of the pot itself.  I had the pot, I had an oven and I could cook.

Taking your practice off your mat isn’t always a conscious thing.  It is something you just do  – because you can.

Click here to check out an unbelievably delicious Clay Pot Indonesian Beggar’s Chicken recipe.