Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eats Shoots and Leaves Springtime Soup

While those of you on the East Coast are still digging out from the last snow storm, here in sunny California signs of spring have already arrived. The first flowers have opened and fresh new growth can be spotted on many of the plants. But enough gloating...

According to traditional Chinese medicine, we are intimately connected to our natural environment and the body's dietary needs change according to the season. In the spring, this tradition advices us to support the natural tendencies of our bodies for growth and renewal. Expressed in the language of traditional Chinese medicine, we need to strengthen the Liver and its regulation of qi. Aligning ourselves with our environment helps us to maintain health and avoid illness.

Good spring foods are often harvested in this season and tend to be pungent, sprouting, and sweet. These include onions, leeks, Chinese yam, wheat, cilantro, mushrooms, sprouts, and spinach and other leafy green vegetables.

Here is a soup to embrace the springtime—whenever it arrives in your part of the world.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. (Thanks to grammar maven Lynne Truss for inspiring this soup’s name.)

1 cup bamboo shoots, fresh if possible, cut into ½ inch cubes if necessary
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
12 – 14 ounces (1 medium package) soft tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups (6 to 9 ounces) fresh mushrooms (such as shiitake, oyster, button, enoki, or a mixture), chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup (2 ounces) mung bean sprouts (commonly sold as “bean sprouts”)
2 cups spinach or other leafy green vegetable, well-washed and chopped
Salt and/or soy sauce to taste
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 medium green onions, roots and tough tips discarded, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1.    In a small saucepan, boil enough water to cover the bamboo shoots, then put the bamboo shoots in, cover, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, and drain.
2.    In a medium to large saucepan, bring the vegetable broth to a boil.
3.    Add the fresh ginger, cover, and simmer for about 3 minutes.
4.    Add the tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and mung bean sprouts. Cover the pot, bring the broth back to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
5.    Add the spinach and stir for about 30 seconds.
6.    Add salt and/or soy sauce to taste, then sprinkle the dark sesame oil and green onions on top.

Note: Students and practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine may be interested in our upcoming article, "Meals for All Seasons," to be published in the next issue of Oriental Medicine Newspaper, a publication of Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.

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