I see a lot of digestion issues in my acupuncture practice. Bloating, reflux, distention, rumbling, gas--all of these conditions indicate that one’s digestive function is not what it should be. I look at the problem from a cook’s perspective. In order to cook food properly, one must first preheat the oven. The same is true of digestion. The food we eat needs be received by and processed in a nicely prepared stomach. In general, most people do not preheat their digestive cauldron. Actually, when we snack on salted nuts or cheese and crackers before a meal, we do the exact opposite. This custom is akin to laying a fire with soggy material--one that, when lit, will smolder and smoke rather than burn through wood and warm a room with a luminous mighty glow. The simple appetizer here is designed to act like kindling--igniting gastric juices and working with the energetics of taste and temperature to support digestion. Digestion is essential to our well-being. Without it, we can consume all the healthy food we like--even the local, organic, nutrient-rich, chi-building stuff--to no avail. Or worse, we suffer from what in TCM lingo is referred to as Sudden Turmoil disorder--something no one wants.
This dish is somewhat similar to hummus in texture but without the heaviness of tahini and chickpeas to slow things down.
2 yellow flesh yams, scrubbed
1/2 small clove garlic
Juice of one lemon
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pinch flaked sea salt
1 small pinch cayenne pepper
Celery stalks, for serving
Pickled vegetables of choice, for serving
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Roast yams until soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand until just cool enough to handle. Scoop out flesh and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and lemon and process until smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve warm with celery and pickles.
Purée can be further thinned out with the addition of homemade chicken stock and served as a soup. If doing so, serve soup with celery stalks on the side. Chewing--the knocking of our teeth together--stimulates the kidney (TCM theory) which aids in good digestion.
Frances Boswell is a licensed acupuncturist at her practice, Qi Sera Sera Acupuncture, in New York City. She focuses on a lesser-known branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which identifies poor diet as a common cause of disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine understands that the importance of food goes beyond ingredients' vitamins, mineral, nutrient and caloric content—food has its own energetic and spiritual role in our health. Frances' aim is to teach this ancient wisdom, apply it to everyday cooking, and work with patients to modify their diets, in addition to acupuncture, to help them live, eat, and be well. Contact Frances here.