If December’s food scene is a Carnaval of excess, January’s is more like an ascetic retreat. At least that’s how it is around these parts. Laura and I have been on a cleanse since the beginning of the year. Between the two of us, we’ve lost 25 pounds, so the mood is celebratory, if not Carnaval-celebratory.
I wrote in Licking the Spoon about going raw in January of 2011, and the results were excellent, even after I re-incorporated cooked food. It’s just been in the last year that I’ve been a carefree glutton with the predictable results—and I was due for a course correction. (If you’re interested in learning more about eating raw foods and juicing, I recommend the website juiceladycherie.com).
When we do eat a cooked meal, we go with this delicious thing: stuffed acorn squash. It is SO YUMMY. I got inspired when we met a friend for dinner at Annapurna, an ayurvedic vegan restaurant in Santa Fe. They serve it like this: cut in half, loaded with kitchari, and accompanied by vegan mushroom gravy on the side.
What is kitchari? It means “mixture,” but it’s generally meant to be a delicious Indian soup made out of basmati rice, mung beans or yellow lentils, ginger, other herbs, and vegetables. It is Indian comfort food at its best, and designed to be a dish that soothes the digestive system (definitely welcome after holiday abuses). Here is a wonderful recipe for it at Ayurveda.com.
To enjoy this at home, for 2 servings, halve an acorn squash and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves, facing cut-side upwards, in a saucepan with about ¾ inch of water. Cover the saucepan, turn the heat to medium, and let the squash steam for about 15 minutes. The squash is done when your fork pushes right through the squash as if through stiff mashed potatoes.
Now take note: you could just eat this squash, with, say, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, or a dab of coconut oil and some chopped almonds — or all sorts of things. Polenta and hot sauce. Sesame oil and chopped peanuts. It’s a satisfying, mellow vessel.
But, to recreate the Annapurna experience, make the kitchari, which is great on its own, and also make the mushroom gravy. It’s a perfect midwinter meal, in the absence of more stick-to-the-ribs options like, say, cassoulet.
Here’s a fantastic recipe for the mushroom gravy at PostPunkKitchen.