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Times flies and it seems like it was only weeks ago that I highlighted foods for late summer, but time marches on and it is definitely time to focus on autumn foods that are considered most appropriate for nourishing and balancing the body for optimum health. As in the other seasons, take your cue from what is newly harvested and in the market: Apples, pears, squashes, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, and other forms of cruciferous vegetables are plentiful. Since the weather has definitely become colder, we are craving warm soups and stews. Chinese herbalists also recommend pungent and spicy foods that are “warming” to the body as well as whole grains like brown rice, couscous, and quinoa.

This Curried Coconut Stew is just right for this time of year. For this recipe, I use tofu, carrots, green beans, and butternut squash, but don’t hesitate to add or substitute sweet potato and other types of squash such as acorn and delicata. Serve it with a whole grain on the side and you have a filling, sumptuous meal that will satisfy even the carnivores.


Curry Coconut Stew with Fresh Herbs   6 servings   

1 square extra-firm tofu, about ¾ pound) cut horizontally into 1-inch slabs

2 medium red onions, peeled, ends trimmed and cut into small dice, about 3 cups

1 ¼ pounds butternut squash, peeled and seeded, (or one12-ounce package)

½ pound (or 12-ounce bag) trimmed green beans, cut on the diagonal in half

Curry Seasonings:

2 ½-inch slices fresh ginger, peeled, about the size of a quarter

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Sauce (combine all in a small bowl):

1 ½ cans l(13.5 ounces each) light  unsweetened coconut milk

3 tablespoons fish or soy sauce

1 ½ tablespoons sugar


1 ½ tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 pound baby carrots

½ cup shredded fresh basil leaves (optional)


1. Wrap the slabs of tofu in paper towels and set a heavy weight, such as a heavy skillet, on top and let stand 15 minutes to remove excess water. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. Cut the butternut squash into 1 ½-inch squares.

2. Drop the Curry Seasonings into the feed tube of a food processor fitted with a metal blade while the machine is running. Turn the machine on and off to chop the seasonings evenly and mince to a coarse powder.

3. Heat the oil in a heavy casserole or a Dutch oven over medium low heat until very hot, about 20 seconds. Add the Curry Seasonings and diced onions and cook, partially covered, over medium-low heat and stirring with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes until the onion is tender and the seasonings are fragrant. Add the Sauce and bring to a boil. Add the tofu, c, squash, and carrots and stir to coat the vegetables with the sauce. Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the squash is al dente.

4. Add the green beans and stir. Continue to cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the green beans are tender. Sprinkle in the fresh basil (if using) and toss lightly for a few seconds to coat. Scoop into a serving dish or serve from the casserole with rice or another whole grain.

Foods for “Late Summer” and Autumn

Hoisin Roasted Pork with Slaw2

The Chinese believe that there are foods that correspond to each season, nourishing the body for optimum health. But unlike the western calendar, they also believe that there is another season besides summer, autumn, winter, and spring. And that is precisely the time of year we are enjoying right now which is “late summer”.

Late summer is the transitional time between summer and fall. It is the beginning of harvest time. Ripe fruits are falling to the ground and vegetables like squash and pumpkin are growing big and plump. Since Asian cooks believe that the best foods that can be eaten are freshly picked or killed it makes sense that this is the time of year to feast on apples, tomatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, and zucchini. We can still eat lightly, but as the weather turns colder, it’s time to strengthen the body with slightly heavier and more “yang’ or heating, robust foods that will “warm” the body. In addition to seasonal vegetables, whole grains such as millet, barley and chickpeas are recommended. Pungent herbs such as basil, mint, and cilantro, plus curry, hoisin and black bean sauce not only provide flavor, but they protect the body against the seasonal dampness.

Accordingly, I like to make this Saucy Garlic-Roasted Pork with Broccoli Slaw. (See the recipe below.) In this particular version, I use roasted pork (tenderloin or center-cut pork loin), but if you aren’t very fond of pork, you can easily substitute, chicken breasts, scallops, or tofu and revise the cooking times accordingly. Like most of the other recipes in Simple Asian Meals, this dish is a meal by itself. There are angel hair noodles on the bottom (Once again feel free to substitute another type of noodle including whole wheat, spinach, rice, soba, etc.) with shredded vegetables on top. Using shredded broccoli slaw cuts the preparation time and unlike the cabbage in cole slaw mixes, broccoli remains crisp-tender even after stir-frying. I like to remove the raw flavor by briefly blanching the broccoli slaw for 30 seconds in boiling water, refresh it in cold water, it is delicious with the pungent, garlicy hoisin sauce. Enjoy!!!

Saucy Garlic-Roasted Pork with Broccoli Slaw  4 to 6 Servings

1 ½ pounds boneless pork tenderloin or center-cut pork loin, trimmed fo fat and gristle

Marinade/Sauce: (mix together in a bowl)

¾ cup hoisin sauce

5 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine or sake

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

½ cup water


1 bag (9 ounces) shredded broccoli slaw (3 ½ cups)

1 ½ cups grated carrots

½ pound angel hair pasta

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil.

2. Put the trimmed pork in a bowl. Spoon one-third of the Marinade over the pork and spread to cover the surface. Pour the remaining marinade into a small saucepan and set aside. Place the pork and its marinade in the prepared pan and roast, periodically spooning the marinade on top, for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. Remove and let cool slightly. Cut across the grain, into thin slices. Pour the remaining marinade/sauce into a small saucepan and set aside.

3. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the broccoli slaw and shredded carrots and blanch briefly for 40 seconds. Remove with a handled strainer and place in a colander. Refresh under cold, running water, and drain again. Bring the water back to a boil again and add the noodles. Cook a bit less than the package instructions indicate, until al dente. Drain the noodles into a colander and rinse under cold, running water. Drain again and using kitchen shears, cut into 4-6-inch lengths. Toss the noodles with the toasted sesame oil and arrange on a deep serving platter or in a bowl, leaving a slight well in the center.

4. Bring the remaining marinade/sauce mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Keep warm in the saucepan.

5. Arrange the broccoli slaw and carrots in separate piles over the noodles, reserving a few of the shredded carrots to garnish. Place the slices of roasted pork in the center and drizzle a bit of the warm sauce over the slices. Sprinkle the top with the reserved shredded carrots and pour the remaining sauce in a bowl to serve. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.



© Copyright Nina Simonds 2014

Summer’s Bounty


It’s once again that time of year when planning dinner or any meal is a pleasure as local farmer’s markets shelves are heaped with freshly-picked fruits and vegetables. I await this time with anticipation since I like to keep things simple and it’s the easiest time to do that- especially if your diet is leaning towards an emphasis on vegetables, which more and more people are doing these days.

We started learning about the different vitamins in fruits and vegetables many years ago, but in the early eighties researchers started positively identifying other health-giving properties such as phytonutrients and their link towards helping to maintain good health and prevent disease. For my cookbook, Spices of Life, I interviewed Dr. David Heber, who was then on the cutting edge of this research. Dr. Heber was one of the first nutritionists who focused on “eating the rainbow” an eating plan which incorporates the seven different color groups of fruits and vegetables that can protect our genes, vision, and heart, reduce inflammation in the body, and help prevent common forms of cancer.

Heber contended that the majority of the most common diseases are caused by the imbalance between our modern diet and our genes. By eating a variety of the specified fruits and vegetables, we can strengthen our immune systems, reduce the risk of common disease, increase our longevity, and lose weight. At the same time other researchers were also confirming this link and these days, most doctors and nutritionists agree.


Listed below is a simple chart that gives a detailed breakdown of each color group associated with the varieties of fruits and vegetables with their specific health- giving benefits. If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating topic as well as many different ways to select and prepare these foods so that you can maximize your intake of these health-giving phytonutrients, a must-read is Jo Robinson’s Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health and you can visit her website wwweatwild.com.




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Summer is a high energy/ yang period when the fire element dominates (You can really feel it these days with the hot and humid weather, plus global warming). Some Chinese doctors recommend cutting back on coffee, red meats, and other heavy foods which tend to have a heating effect on the body and create sluggishness. That is why we crave seafood (especially from cold waters), salads with lots of raw vegetables, soy products and other cooling foods which tend to remove heat from the body.

Since all types of local seasonal vegetables are at their peak in the farmer’s markets and in stores, emphasize them in your cooking and prepare dishes with brightly colored summer fruits and vegetables, enjoying and creating a “rainbow on the plate” effect. Season the dishes with pungent seasonings like garlic, ginger, hot chillis, and lemongrass- even curry. And summer is no better time than preparing one of the many meal-in-one layered Asian salads.

Asian salads or cold platters can be deliciously unpredictable, but they often follow a pattern: Cold rice vermicelli, flour and egg pasta, soba or cellophane noodles serve as the textural base or staple. Vegetables such as carrots, bean sprouts, celery, and various lettuces, cabbages, and cucumbers or any seasonal vegetable are typically used with the occasional addition of tropical fruits. Each ingredient lends its unique flavor and texture. Meats, such as chicken, pork, beef, or seafood (shrimp, scallops, even lobster) and garnishes include tofu, chopped herbs and nuts. Asian rice vinegar (I prefer the unseasoned Japanese Marukan brand, which is sold in mainstream supermarkets), with fresh lime or lemon juice are key elements of the dressing with toasted sesame oil, a little sugar, and soy or fish sauce rounding out the taste. A host of pungent seasonings like garlic, ginger, scallions, chili peppers, cilantro, basil and mint add vibrancy and freshness. Once combined, these ingredients not only add flavor, but pull the different components together as a whole.

One of my favorite meal-in-one salads that is perfect for this time of year is my “Easy Basil Chicken Summer Salad with Soba” (See the recipe below)



3/4 pound snow or snap peas, ends snapped and veiny strings removed
12 ounces soba noodles

Spicy Pesto
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
4 scallions, white parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve the greens for the garnish)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 pound cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin julienne strips
Reserved scallion greens, cut into 1/4-inch sections

Dressing (combine in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves)
1/2 cup light soy sauce, or to taste
6 tablespoons Japanese clear rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin, or rice wine or sake mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the snow peas and cook for 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon and drain in a strainer or colander under cold running water. Bring the water to a boil again and add the soba noodles. Once the water boils again, cook for 3 1/2 minutes, or until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse the noodles under warm running water. Drain again.

2. To make the Spicy Pesto: Drop the garlic, scallion whites, and red pepper flakes down the feed tube of a food processor while the motor is running and chop finely. Open up the bowl and add the basil leaves. Pulse, turning the machine on and off, then slowly pour the sesame and olive oil down the feed tube and chop the mixture to a fine paste. Add the lemon juice and soy sauce and continue blending until the mixture is a fairly smooth paste.

3. In a large mixing bowl, toss the cooked soba noodles with the pesto mixture. Arrange in a large shallow bowl or platter. Sprinkle the snap peas evenly over the noodles, followed by the julienne chicken, and finishing with the scallion greens. Serve the Dressing on the side in a sauce bowl, or drizzle on top of the salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Substitute cooked shrimp, pork, or flavored tofu for the chicken. You can also replace the snow or snap peas with 2 1/2 cups shredded carrots, bean sprouts, or other sliced vegetables.


Photo by Romulo Yanes.

Photo by Romulo Yanes.


Universally spring signifies rebirth and renewal and it is traditionally a time for cleansing. Some Chinese doctors recommend a 3-day fast, consuming only fruit and vegetable juices. According to the Five- Element theory in Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is associated with the Wood element which governs the liver and gall bladder and it is an important organ to cleanse after eating the heavy stews, soups and sumptuous foods of winter. Some extremists recommend a raw diet to completely cleanse out the system or a week-long dose of raw onions and garlic which rids the body of any parasites. (YIKES!) I prefer a more moderate approach and nutritionist Paul Pitchman agrees. “Most people do well eating a little raw food daily, with greater amounts in the spring and summer diets.” he says in his master work “Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition” (North Atlantic Press, 1993) . “Nevertheless, there are limitations. Uncooked foods taken in excess can weaken digestion and trigger excessive cleansing reactions. These dishes should not be consumed at all especially if there is bowel inflammation. “

Choose seasonal foods that are lighter like young plants such as greens, sprouts, and lighter grains, legumes, and seeds. Salty foods such as excessive soy sauce, miso, and sodium-rich meats all have a strong component of sinking energy which is not good for the liver and heavy meats can clog it. Pungent herbs such as peppermint, basil, fennel and dill, cilantro and parsleys are fresh and cleansing. Young beets, carrots, and other vegetables from the spring garden provide a refreshing “sweet” flavor that tones the liver and gall bladder. Beans such as lentils, kidney beans, and green peas are recommended with bean sprouts, celery, salad and leafy cooking greens, broccoli, green beans, and all types of citrus fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of water flavored with fresh lemon wedges to help cleanse the liver.

Wilted Spinach and Scallop Salad with Toasted Sesame Seeds (pictured above and see the recipe below) is a perfect light meal for this season.

The following recipes on this website that are also excellent for this time of year are:

Spicy Shrimp Cocktail
Spiced Almonds
Vegetable Sticks with Peanut Dip
Pan-Roasted salmon with Minty Snap Peas
Ginger Honey Glazed Salmon
Grilled Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa
Grilled Scallops with and Rainbow Peppers Over Wilted Salad Greens in a Fresh Cilantro Dressing
Stir-Fried Chicken with Basil
Spicy Stir-Fried Chicken with Vegetables
Tandoori Chicken Roll-Ups
Asian Hot and Sour Slaw
Roasted Beets with Ginger and Balsamic Vinegar
Herbal Salad with Roasted Chicken Pears, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese
Shrimp Veggie Fried Rice
Tofu Noodle Salad with a Spicy Tahini Dressing
Orange Slices with Cinnamon, Brown Sugar and Candied Ginger
Poached Pears in a in a Cinnamon-Ginger Syrup

Wilted Spinach and Scallop Salad with Toasted Sesame Seeds
4 servings

1 pound large sea scallops, muscles removed and rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons rice wine or sake
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 1/2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 pound baby spinach (see Note), rinsed and drained
2 roasted red peppers, blotted dry (or use roasted peppers from a jar), cut into 1/4-inch dice

Spinach Dressing (combine in a small bowl)

1/2 cup light soy sauce
5 tablespoons clear rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted in a nonstick pan until golden brown (optional)

1. Holding a knife horizontal to the cutting board, slice the scallops horizontally in half. Place in a bowl, add the rice wine and ginger, and toss lightly. Let sit briefly.

2. Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil and heat until very hot, but not smoking. Drain the scallops and add to the pan. (If too many, fry in two batches.) Pan-fry over high heat for about 3 minutes on each side, until the scallops are golden and cooked through. Remove with a large slotted spoon or strainer.

3. Place the spinach in a salad or deep serving bowl. Arrange the cooked scallops evenly over the spinach.

4. Wipe out the pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and heat until hot. Add the red peppers and stir-fry lightly over high heat, about 30 seconds. Add the Spinach Dressing and stir-fry until just under a boil. Pour the hot dressing over the spinach and scallops and sprinkle the top with the toasted sesame seeds, if using. Serve immediately, tossing lightly before eating.

© Copyright Nina Simonds 2014.

Disclaimer: Herbs, foods, and other natural remedies are not substitutes for professional medical care.
For a specific health problem, consult a qualified health-care giver for guidance.