I don’t know about you, but all I’ve been wanting to eat lately is bread, pasta, and sweets. I could probably blame it in part on the cooler temperatures pushing me towards heavier, richer foods. But really, it’s not that cold yet and it’s a bit too early still for the heavy foods of winter. More realistically, it’s my own fault for indulging in these yummy treats just a little too often and not noticing how far down the slippery slope I’d come towards subsisting solely on refined carbs. This, combined with a bout of fall allergies and a couple of weeks spent teetering on the edge of catching the nasty cold that’s been going around, has left me feeling sluggish and just generally unwell. Based on these realizations, it seems that it might be good time for a dietary cleanse. A reboot for my system, if you will.
If you subscribe at all to Ayurveda you already know that fall and spring, being the seasons of change, are the traditional times of year for a cleanse. It can be a nice way to ease your body from summer to winter, and vice versa. Personally, I’m not one for juice fasts or monodiets, but I find that a few days spent eating a vegan, whole foods diet can really help to put a little pep back in your step and bring some balance back to your body. Also, eating this way forces you to be more mindful of what and when you’re eating, which can help you to pick out some of your subtle eating patterns that maybe aren’t serving you so well (for instance, I’ve discovered that I have a near instant craving for sugar when I’m frustrated or angry).
As with most things in life, I like to ease my way into any dietary changes. So for my transitional meal, I still wanted to allow myself some of the white stuff (pasta, that is) that I was craving, but in a slightly lighter presentation. I’ve been making this shitake mushroom green curry for some time now and it seemed to be exactly what I needed. A fragrant, slightly spicy broth clears my stuffy head. Meaty shitakes are substantial and filling. Soba noodles offer one last bowl of the carbs I’ve been craving, but with a little more fiber and nutrition than traditional pasta. And a splash of coconut milk leaves the meal feeling decadent, rather than deprived. I hope this dish finds its way onto your fall menu as well, whether as a break from heavier foods or just as a warming meal on a cool, autumn night.
Shitake Green Curry with Soba Noodles
The final seasoning with salt and lime juice will really depend on your personal taste, as well as the saltiness of your broth and curry paste. Add enough lime juice that the soup has a bit of a tart kick, and enough salt to bring out all of the other flavors. Trust your taste buds and keep adjusting until it tastes right to you. Helpful hint: If it doesn’t taste quite right but you’re not sure what’s missing, it probably needs more salt. Add a little at a time and keep tasting.
6 oz soba noodles
2 T coconut oil (or olive oil)
1/2 lb shitake mushrooms; washed, stemmed, and cut in half
1 small onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass (soft interior only), minced
1 serrano pepper or 1/2 jalapeno pepper, sliced (seeded, if desired)
1 T Thai green curry paste
1/4 tsp turmeric
5 c vegetable broth
1/2 c coconut milk
1 T fresh lime juice (plus more to taste)
fresh basil, cilantro, chives, and/or mint; roughly chopped
Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the soba noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
Heat the oil in a dutch oven, soup pot, or large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onions, garlic, and serrano with a big pinch of salt until softened. Add the shitakes, stir to coat with oil, and cover. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are softened.
Uncover the pot and stir in the lemongrass, curry paste, and turmeric. Cook for a minute or so until the spices are fragrant. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, stir in the coconut milk, and simmer for 15 minutes or so.
Remove from heat. Add the lime juice and taste. The curry should taste just slightly tart, without overpowering the other flavors. Add more lime juice and additional salt to taste, if necessary.
Mound the soba noodles into bowls and ladle the curry over top. Garnish with chopped herbs.