Ayurveda’s Color Pallet of Spices To Create Recipes For Your Ayurvedic Type and Food As Medicine
Recipes that taste good are also good for you and food as medicine is an art and science of life that anyone can learn. Ayurvedic practitioners are adept at crafting tasty medicines (recipes) for the benefit of their clients. An essential part of living well is adaptation, and it's no different when you're in the kitchen. Empowered with the knowledge of Ayurvedic principles, you can make almost any recipe suitable for anyone.
Designing recipes for taste and medicinal effect is an art you can learn, and a skill you can practice, that is also fun and healthy to eat. You'll find that in Ayurveda, the better the food tastes, the healthier it is for you.
Artistic vision is one essential part of this creative process. Begin by envisioning what you want to eat and then consider your constitution, state of digestion, time of day, season in order to compose the recipe. The thoughtful composition of recipes is essential to your skill in developing the art of food as medicine.
Experienced artists don't just sit down to create; they form a plan, organize the basic elements, and arrange the pieces and parts they have envisioned. Architects, composers, painters and photographers all study composition. They are aware of certain key elements in their vision - the structure of their design. A photographer knows where to position their subjects. A painter knows which colors will evoke which feelings. An architect is master of building materials, and knows their strengths and properties.
Similarly, a chef must also study the basic building blocks of recipes. Here is a list of things to consider in building your masterpiece. Once you begin to see the composition behind recipes, complex recipes seem simpler and easier to remember. With this method, you too can design incredibly complex meals for your type, without it being overdone, because the flavor and digestibility are lost in the overwhelm. Good art and medicine is simple, yet subtle and profound.
As you continue to work with these concepts it becomes more intuitive, just as a dancer holds onto the ballet bar and learns the various positions and techniques, then steps to the center floor and freely dances, once you understand the essence of the mechanics of a recipe, you can improvise with grace and ease around the kitchen and master the art of food as medicine.
By understanding the composition of your recipe, how it operates as a whole, you can not only easily improvise recipes, you can also easily modify recipes by swapping out ingredients, achieving a very similar result uniquely suited to your body type. Knowing the composition enables you to balance the qualities of foods that might normally be problematic for you by strategically combining them with other foods and spices that mitigate their potentially undesirable effects.
Composition helps you to see the recipe as an expression of an idea, rather than a specific formula, just like the dancer who learns the technique, then can flow with grace.
Click on the link below for a recipe creation worksheet.
Instructions for Creating or Adapting A Recipe According To Your Dosha
Step 1: The Base
Begin your creative process by selecting the base ingredient(s). The base usually consists of one carbohydrate and/or one protein. These base ingredients are the ones that fill your belly and give you satisfaction. They are the foundation upon which flavors are added. The base ingredients constitute the heavy, grounding, substantive macronutrients of the meal. Often, base ingredients will be very versatile and suitable for many recipes. Some of the most common base options include rice, potatoes, legumes, chicken, flaky fish such as flounder, most grains, pasta, and bread. The blandness of these ingredients makes them compatible with many different recipes. Foods that still fall into this category but are less bland include beef, lamb, and eggs. As you construct your recipe from the bottom up, build from these bland base ingredients then work your way up to more flavorful choices. If you start with flavorful ingredients first, your choices will be more restricted later on.
For example, Spaghetti Squash in place of traditional, heavy to digest pasta which is typically aggravating for Kapha types, spaghetti squash is lighter, making the base ingredient of the dish suitable for all doshas. Its similar texture and consistency to pasta and the fact that it's a generally bland ingredient on its own, make it an easy fit.
Step 2: Accompaniment
The accompaniment, like vegetables, are usually 1-2 ingredients and have more flavor than the base and offer micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. In the Spaghetti Squash Primavera example, tomato is the accompaniment. While the accompaniment is often a vegetable, it doesn't have to be. For example, hard boiled egg could accompany your potato salad. Sunflower seeds could add crunch to your rice.
Ayurvedically, the accompaniment can also balance the medicinal qualities of the base. If the base were a heavy ingredient like potatoes, the accompaniment could be a light green such as kale. In this way, practitioners create balanced recipes that also serve as medicinal "herb formulas".
Step 3: The Sauce
Sauce is about taste, not flavor. Flavor is perceived in the nose, while taste is sensed on the tongue. The sauce is what tickles your taste buds, defining the experience of your masterpiece on your tongue. Your sauce creation also determines the liquid, salt, fat and ratio of the 6 tastes present in your meal. Typically most of the meal's fats are concentrated here. We divide the sauce into two components, texture and taste.
Step 3a: Select the Texture
It's the sauce part of the recipe creation that determines the ultimate texture. The texture of your dish will be on a spectrum from soup to roasted. Vata types do best with plenty of fluids, and will often choose a soupy texture. Kapha types need less moisture and may opt for no sauce at all resulting in a dish that's roasted, dry, or baked. Even a simple saute of your ingredients in oil creates a small amount of sauce.
Textures where moisture is added:
• Soup (thick or thin)
• Saucy (very thick)
Textures where moisture is removed:
• Saute (oil often added)
To begin creating the sauce component, choose one of the above textures. Then choose your oil. Ghee and coconut oil are best for cooking, while olive oil is best eaten raw. Then decide whether you will add any additional liquid such as water, milk, coconut milk, stock, etc.
Step 3b: Add Tastes to Your Sauce
Next, choose one item for each of the following six tastes. In Ayurvedic nutrition, it's important to get all six tastes in your meal much like in western medicine it's important get a variety of minerals and vitamins. If you miss a taste in this category, you can be sure to get it in the flavor and/or garnish, so this part is a bit flexible. Here are some examples of possibilities:
• Sweet: Turbinado sugar, dates, apples
• Sour: Lemon, vinegar, tomato
• Salty: Salt, seaweed
• Pungent: Chili peppers, black pepper
• Bitter: Usually from the accompaniment
• Astringent: Usually from the base / accompaniment
Root spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, and onion can also be added to your sauce. They generally add pungency while increasing both the heartiness and digestibility of the meal. In the sample recipe, tomato, olive oil, black pepper and salt create the sauce and most of the dish's fat. Ultimately, your recipe will be delicious if the sauce has the right amount of oil, salt, and sweetness. When your recipe seems unappetizing, try adjusting these three factors.
Step 4: Flavor (Aroma)
For this part, your nose comes in handy as this aspect of your recipe with aromatic spices. These give the dish a distinct flavor. Highly aromatic spices include peppermint, cinnamon, cardamom, rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, and many others. Note how these ingredients are very potent, and the quantity used is only a fraction of the amount used in the base. Choose one to three aromatic ingredients at most, especially when getting started, otherwise the recipe easily slips into sensory overload. Once you've got more experience under your belt, you can make this layer more complicated. Many cultures have traditional spice formulas that have been handed down for generations such as curry powder, Cajun spice blends and Herbs de Provence. In the prototype recipe, basil and lemon zest harmonize to provide the flavor without over-stimulating your senses.
Step 5: Garnish
Garnish is the icing on the cake. Often fresh herbs, crushed nuts or seeds are added after cooking, such as cilantro, parsley, coconut or pumpkin seeds. This adds texture variation, a bit of crunch. Fresh herbs can be an attractive garnish that adds freshness to your dish. They can add a nice splash of color, such as chopped cilantro or parsley. Your meals should always be pleasing to the eyes. In some instances the garnish might be added during the cooking process, such as melting cheese atop your enchiladas. The garnish could be as simple as fresh black pepper or a condiment like chutney. In the sample recipe the garnish is parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and basil.
Note that even in the prototype recipe ingredients may fit into one or more categories. In the real world recipes may also be built without all the elements above. Not every recipe has a garnish for example. In art, there are guidelines but the rules are often meant to be broken. Sometimes, ingredients appear in more than one category, as in tomato, lemon zest, basil and black pepper above. In a traditional meal, there is often one major recipe, and two sides. Composition may also include the amount of cooking, from raw to slowly simmering. Texture may be varied by mashing, processing, or pureeing. Composition of recipes is a rich and enjoyable practice.
We've already substituted butternut squash for pasta. If someone had an issue with nightshades or was experiencing Pitta aggravation (rash, acne, inflammation, etc) they could also substitute a cooling accompaniment like zucchini instead of tomato. Since removing tomato will remove a lot of moisture from the recipe, it may need more olive oil. Add some lemon juice if you want to replace tomato's sourness.
Using the recipe you created above, you can create a completely different recipe by finding a substitute for at least 3 different boxes in the worksheet. Notice how easy it is to create variation that still sound delicious! You can even make a game of it. Without showing your recipe to a friend, ask them to choose a different base.
Now that you've created two recipes, you can try creating a medicinal recipe. Look through all your choices so far, and identify ingredients that don't match your body type, unbalanced qualities or gunas, and tastes. The main gunas to balance are:
• Heavy / Light
• Gooey / Sharp
• Cold / Hot
• Oily / Dry
You can even take a pizza and make it Ayurvedic using this technique. To balance Pitta, prepare your pizza dough, but leave off the tomato sauce and substitute cilantro pesto made using peeled almonds instead of cheese. Top it with Pitta pacifying veggies such as summer squash and/or broccoli. Garnish with sunflower or pumpkin seeds for extra crunch and protein.
Or, create Kapha pacifying cookies by using pumpkin seed butter as the base instead of flour. Stir in Kapha pacifying spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and vanilla extract. Sweeten it up with a little honey instead of sugar and toss in some tart, unsweetened cranberries for added texture. Mix all of the ingredients well and then roll into small balls and press into cookie shape.
Use this step by step formula as a blueprint for creating healthy, delicious and balancing meals. Allow your kitchen to become your healing arts studio, your knowledge of Ayurveda to become your inspiration, your spice cabinet your pallet of color, your plate your canvas, and your meal your masterpiece. Soon, you'll be a five star chef and master of home remedies!