Macrobiotic Cooking

This past week we continued our exploration of macrobiotic cooking. We made pressed salad, a nishime* (nuh SHE may) of cooked vegetables, grains, and several other items.

Nishime is Japanese cooking style that involves an easy simmer in a heavy pot with the lid on. The vegetables soften and their sweetness develops. We add some shoyu (like soy sauce) and it is fantastic. Warm, sweet, slightly salt-ish – it feels nourishing without being too heavy.

Below: Sliced cucumber for pressed salad.

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A nishime is made with vegetables that grow underground or near the ground, and the cooking method is very grounding because the energy is focused within a heavy pot without being allowed to escape. Therefore, it’s said to make the eater feel more grounded. I would have to agree – I feel more settled after eating nishime vegetables. In warmer weather, you’d typically cook nishime with lighter vegetables that cook more quickly for a less grounding effect.

Below: A pot for nishime.Here we have a spring onion, burdock root, some butternut squash, and umm…carrots and perhaps parsnips.

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Below: Burdock root is great for nishime, plus it’s said to be good for your vascular system. It’s also said to be cleansing for the liver and promotes good digestion. The moist heat of nishime softens it up and makes it yummy – trust me, even though it looks like a cut-up stick right off a tree in my backyard, it’s pretty good.

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Much of macrobiotic cooking is about easing the digestion of food so that the body can focus on drawing out the maximum nutrition from the food and focus on healing itself. Raw food, by contrast, requires a lot more of the body’s effort to break down and process, so the body can’t focus on healing as much. Of course, this is the macrobiotic view and a raw food proponent would take issue with that! I think there are useful pieces of information from both schools of thought.

Below: A row of pressed salads. These are made by thinly slicing vegetables, rubbing them gently with salt, then letting them rest under a gentle pressure until some moisture is drawn out. It’s easily digestible because it softens up during the process.

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Below: An outstanding plate: nishime vegetables, romaine salad, and pressed salad.

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Below: We cooked some grains during the week, as well. Grains are a staple in the macrobiotic diet. They are considered to be mildly acidifying to the system, but not extremely so. You can balance out their acidifying nature by eating them with some more alkalizing vegetable condiments like the ones in the photo below…

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Below: Some grain condiments including dulse, which is a sea vegetable that is harvested in cold waters. It’s popular in Ireland, I understand.

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Below: We tried natto in our grains class as a complement to them. Natto is not a grain, it’s a fermented form of soybeans. I did not find it very appetizing, honestly, but health benefits have been attributed to this traditional Japanese product.

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Below: I just liked this photo. It doesn’t really represent anything. 🙂

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Lastly, on a personal note, I have noticed the waistline getting a little tighter – just because one is in a health supportive culinary school doesn’t make one a food monk. Too much squash?

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