(recycled from 12/17/2010)
If you live anywhere near where I do and are beginning to feel the effects of the wind, cold, dryness, and lack of sun, then you are likely in need of something warm, nourishing, and colorful on your plate! Immediately. There is never a more significant time than now in the midst of this chilling season to begin paying attention to getting all those colors on your plate. You simply aren't going to get enough vitamins and minerals if you work in an office, come home when it's dark already at 4 p.m., and to top it off when you are outside the only bits of you the world can see is your eyes and nose (therefore the sun isn't going to bless you with it's nutrients)!
In Chinese Medicine, eating with the seasons as well as eating the colors and tastes of the five elements is essential to balanced health. Given that it is winter, you want to eat warm to counteract the effects of the cold. Winter is also a time when your kidneys and lungs are more susceptible to damage and illness and can manifest in symptoms such as : cold hands and feet, arthritis, painful joints, lower back pain, dry cough, colds, flu's, skin dryness, and general malaise. If you go by the five element chart (which I discussed here) the lungs pertain to the color white and the spicy flavor, and the kidneys pertain to the color black and the salty taste. While these particular organs are more susceptible in the winter, you shouldn't neglect the other major organ systems in Chinese Medicine : the liver (green & sour), the digestive function (yellow & sweet), and the heart (red & bitter). If you are wondering what it means for an organ to pertain to a taste and a color (and if you haven't gone here already), this is part of the Traditional Chinese Medicine nutritional theory whereby you treat certain organs and systems with specifically colored foods and tastes. A daikon radish is a perfect example of a white and spicy food which can benefit the lungs. Sometimes you won't find one food that satisfies both the color and taste of an organ system, in which case you might combine a color with a taste (perhaps a white radish with a sprinkle of chile flakes to open up the lungs).
A very simple way to make sure you're getting all the healthful benefits of vitamins, minerals, colors, and tastes is to make sure you eat a variety of (naturally occurring) colors every day. This winter hash is a perfect example of this. You can eat it as a side dish, you can use it to stuff something (a chicken or turkey perhaps? or a mushroom as I did recently), you can have it with eggs, and you can also just eat it alone. You can absolutely stray from this version of the recipe if you don't like carrots and prefer parsnips, or something along those lines.
In this particular Winter Hash, I used onions, leeks, carrots, yellow potatoes, sea salt, black pepper, cumin, and chile flakes. I cooked it all low and slow until it comes together into this beautiful melded hash that is both sweet and salty with a lovely spice along the edeges.
Ingredients Needed (winter vegetables preferable) : 1 onion, 1-2 leeks, 3 small yellow potatoes, 4 carrots, cumin, chile (fresh or flaked), sea salt, black pepper.
1. Slice up onions and leeks (leeks may need extra rinsing as they carry a lot of dirt). Begin to saute them slowly in olive oil until they just begin to cook.
2. Peel and cut up carrots and potatoes (parsnips or turnips would be great here too). Add to pan and turn up heat ever so slightly so it all begins to sear a bit, then turn it low again.
3. Add 1 tsp of cumin, a sprinkle of chile flakes (or more if you want more kick), salt and black pepper to taste.
4. Cook on low heat for about 30 mins to 1 hour (depends on how much you are cooking). At the very end turn up the heat once again for a few minutes to give it more caramelizing and color without burning.
(If you mince up the ingredients very finely you can use them to stuff mushrooms with, put a slice of pecorino on top and bake at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes.)