Kenchin jiru is a traditional Japanese soup with an origin in Buddhist temples where monks sustain themselves with vegetarian meals. My mom used to make it vegetarian, too. However, I like to add a tiny bit of meat or chicken to add that satisfying savoriness to the soup. Kenchin jiru is easy to make with almost any root vegetables you happen to have. It doesn’t require a long list of esoteric sauces or spices, either: You just need soy sauce and salt. That’s it! You’ll be amazed how much complexity the vegetables and a teensy bit of meat or chicken can give to this comforting soup. In this regard, it’s very similar to the pork miso soup with root vegetables and shiitake mushroom that I posted recently: It’s a super-simple recipe with BIG flavors.
Kenchin jiru with a bowl of rice (and maybe a side of quick-pickled cucumbers) could be a perfectly satisfying, if humble, DASH diet meal for someone who likes Japanese home cooking. (Me and Hubby!) Other times, we treat kenchin jiru like a simpler miso soup, accompanying a spread of main dish like a broiled fish, rice and a couple of veggie-leaning sides. You can even have this hearty soup with a hunk of baguette–which we did the other day. I have to admit, I was surprised by how well this odd combo worked!
Other common ingredients in kenchin jiru includes daikon, lotus root, shiitake or enoki mushrooms, spinach and fried tofu. I’d have used daikon if I had one on hand. Alas, I was out of daikon, so the trusty turnip stepped up and filled in the gap. If you want to make the soup vegetarian and more traditional, omit the beef. In that case, I’d stir-fry the ingredients in a bit of sesame oil before adding water. The sesame oil adds the extra kick that a vegetarian version probably needs.
Kenchin Jiru: Japanese Tofu, Root Vegetables & Maitake Mushroom Soup
DASH diet considerations: Kenchin jiru is a wonderful addition to your DASH diet soup repertoire. It’s full of vegetables, plant-derived protein from tofu and only a tiny bit of meat, maybe ¼ serving per person. It’s also oil-free. Some recipes call for stir-frying the ingredients before simmering them in the soup, but this step really isn’t necessary, thanks to the surprisingly robust broth from the little it of beef.
Place the water, along with carrot, turnip, taro, maitake and gobo, in a pot. Bring to a boil on high.
Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium so it keeps boiling gently. Cook for 15-20 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked through.
Add the beef strips to the soup.
Add the soy sauce to the soup. Stir, taste, and add salt as needed.
Divide the soup into serving bowls and garnish with the sliced scallion.
*Gobo is a (somewhat absurdly) long, thin, fibrous root that is chock full of toasty, earthy flavor with a slight bit of sweetness that develops when cooked. Also called burdock root, you can find gobo in Japanese, Chinese and Korean grocers.
**I buy thinly sliced meats from a Korean or Japanese grocer. They are sliced almost paper-thin and high quality (i.e., a small amount lends a huge amount of flavor). If you don't have access to this kind of meat, a small amount of ground beef or chicken might work instead.
Just before Gothamist was shut down (boo!), I saw a post about a lunch spot in Downtown Brooklyn that serves something that had me drooling instantly: Grain bowls made with (very green) scallion rice. The author practically gushed over the scallion rice. I wanted to try it. Being me, I decided to try making it myself, without ever tasting the original. 😛
The original scallion rice was actually a scallion fried rice. However, I decided to make a non-fried version to cut down on the fat content. I was fairly certain that the fragrances of the scallion, ginger and a small dash of sesame oil would be enough to elevate a plain bowl of jasmine rice to a next level–and I was right!
I wanted a quick but well-balanced, DASH-compatible dinner with a couple of different flavors going on, so I went with a grain bowl format. Aside from the teriyaki chicken and roasted pumpkin, this easy bowl gets a bright vinegar boost from a quick and crunchy cucumber pickle, and toasty goodness from a (also quick) carrot salad with sesame seeds. Don’t be scared by the long-looking ingredient list. As long as you have roasted pumpkin ready to go, this teriyaki chicken bowl with scallion rice comes together in about 20 minutes. I say it’s a pretty good DASH diet dinner for weeknights!
Teriyaki Chicken Bowl with Scallion Rice & Roasted Pumpkin
DASH diet considerations: The teriyaki chicken bowl with scallion rice and roasted pumpkin is a quick one-bowl meal that's well balanced on both flavor and nutrition departments. Just a small drizzle of sesame oil in the scallion rice gives it a nice nutty fragrance without weighing it down. Teriyaki chicken is sweet and savory; the two salads bring brightness and crunch, and roasted pumpkin adds a starchy texture and natural sweetness.
Mix the soy sauce, honey, sake and garlic in a small bowl. Add the chicken thighs and let sit to marinate.
Cook the jasmine rice in a small pot.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the chicken pieces and cook, flipping occasionally to get a nice browning going. When the chicken is cooked through, pour the marinade into the skillet. Cook it down until it thickens and coats the chicken nicely. Transfer to a plate and keep in a warm place.
While the chicken cooks, sprinkle the cucumber and carrot with a small pinch of salt in separate bowls. Toss to combine and let sit for a few minutes. This will draw out the moisture from the veggies, preventing them from getting soggy later.
Squeeze out as much moisture as you can from the cucumber and carrot.
Add the sushi vinegar to the cucumber and toss to combine.
Add the sesame oil and sesame seeds to the carrot. Toss to combine.
When the rice is cooked, fluff, and mix in the ginger, scallion, sesame oil and a small pinch of salt.
Divide the scallion rice between two serving bowls. Arrange the teriyaki chicken, roasted pumpkin and two salads on top.
We sprinkled some shichimi, a Japanese spice mix, over top. The citrusy, fragrant spice mix adds another dimension to the teriyaki chicken bowl, but it’s not a necessity. Sambal oelek, sriracha or other spicy sauce might be a fun addition on the side, too.
I picked up a bag of frozen salmon burgers form Costco a while ago. They are a decent alternative to a freshly made salmon burgers, though a little weirdly spongy-chewy. The nice thing about them for DASH diet followers is that the sodium content is relatively under control at about 10% of the daily limit. I used those frozen salmon burgers to put together this quick DASH dinner.
In this recipe, frozen salmon burgers are topped with crunchy, vibrant Asian coleslaw and served on a whole wheat roll. The slaw is scented with just a bit of sesame oil and works like a sauce on the burger. This means you don’t need mayo and other fat- and sodium-heavy sauces to make the salmon burger interesting. On the side, I added “green French fries,” a.k.a. green beans. Freshly grated ginger to the green beans goes well with the vaguely Asian theme, and spices things up without a lot of salt–another DASH diet win.
Salmon Burger with Asian Coleslaw & Ginger Butter Green Beans
DASH considerations: This salmon burger meal is the straight A student of DASH diet. The salmon burger on a whole wheat bun provides lean protein and whole grains, while the abundant Asian slaw, lightly dressed with sesame oil and sushi vinegar, adds a crunchy, vibrant supply of vegetables. Ginger-spiked green beans with just a little bit of butter seals the deal with one solid serving of vegetables without adding a ton of sodium or butter. Skip buttering the rolls to reduce the amount of fat in the meal. (It doesn’t really need the butter or mayo.)
4 vegetables & fruits
2-3 meats & fish (depending on the size of the patties)
2 fat & oil
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and cook the salmon burger patties, according to the package instructions. Mine took 3-4 minutes per side, cooking from frozen.
Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add a small pinch of salt once boiling.
While the salmon burgers cook, sprinkle the shredded cabbage with a pinch of salt and toss to mix in a bowl. Knead the cabbage with your hand to help the salt penetrate the cells. Let sit for a few minutes.
Add the green beans to the boiling water and blanch briefly. Drain thoroughly once the green beans turn bright green.
In the same saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat and add the green beans back in. Add the grated ginger. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Turn the heat off so the green beans don’t overcook.
Squeeze as much water as you can from the shredded cabbage. Drizzle the sesame oil and sushi vinegar. Add the scallions and toss to combine.
Cut the kaiser rolls in half horizontally and toast the pieces lightly.
On the bottom pieces of the rolls, arrange the sliced cucumber.
Once the salmon patties are cooked through, top the rolls with the salmon patties.
Pile as much of the cabbage slaw on top of the salmon patties. You’ll be surprised how much you can put on!
Place the top pieces of the rolls on top of the slaw. Serve with the green beans on the side.
Soups and chowders often taste better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two, but sometimes I don’t want to eat the same thing twice within a span of a few days. Adding curry powder to creamy chowders is a trick I use often to liven up a leftover in those cases. Here, I added a generous amount of Jamaican curry powder to the milk-based cod and cauliflower chowder from a few days ago, and served it as a soupy curry with basmati rice. It was warm, aromatic, savory and filling; just what I needed on a cold winter night after a day of work!
I also made a quick vinegar-based coleslaw and sliced up some tomatoes (not in the recipe below) to up the vegetable intake. The cool, crunchy vegetables were definitely a nice contrast to the warm, tender veggies in the curry soup.
DASH Menu: Jamaican Curry Soup with Cod and Cauliflower
DASH benefit: The same benefits as those for the original cauliflower cod chowder applies here: The curry gives you loads of vegetables and lean protein in an aromatic Jamaican curry sauce without the fat of heavy cream. Many recipes for basmati rice call for salt, but it really isn't necessary here, either, as it soaks up the tasty curry sauce in the bowl.
Rinse the basmati rice in a few changes of water. Add the rice and water in a small saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil on high. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and let it bubble and simmer until all the liquid is gone, about 10-12 minutes.
While the rice cooks, toss the shredded cabbage with a pinch of salt. Let it marinate for a few minutes.
Squeeze out the moisture from the cabbage. Add the scallion, cilantro, olive oil, vinegar and freshly ground black pepper to the cabbage. Toss to combine.
Reheat the cauliflower cod chowder on medium low. Once heated through, add the Jamaican curry powder. Stir to combine thoroughly. Taste, and add more curry powder if needed.
Fluff the rice. Divide between two bowls and top with the curry.
*My favorite brand of Jamaican curry powder is Blue Mountain, which seems to be available at some chain grocery stores and Caribbean markets around here. I use the mild version in a yellow jar, not the hot one in a red jar. Other types of curry powder might also work (Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian, etc.), but I think the garlic-thyme combo in the original cod chowder works best with the Jamaican flavors.
Oh my god, I had no idea homemade hummus was SO GOOD. I should have known this. Evidence abounds:
The hummus we get at restaurants are probably homemade, and they are leaps and bounds better than the store-bought ones.
My sister in law has been making her own hummus. She’s a cash-strapped grad student, so that must play a big role here, but she keeps making it. It’s got to be good.
Everyone who blogs about cooking seems to be singing the glory of homemade hummus and endless varieties thereof.
I’ve been curious about making hummus for a long time. The final straw was the amazing specimen we had at Bar Virage in Lower East Side a few months ago: It was the best hummus I’ve ever had, and I wanted it to appear way more often in my life than it conceivably would, given that the “Israeli gastropub” is outside of our normal stomping ground. Anyway, the stars were aligned one day (read: I had all the ingredients on hand), and I made hummus. And holy cow, it was amazing.
Homemade Hummus with Cumin
DASH benefits: Relatively low in fat, hummus is a good alternative to sugary snacks and a great source of non-meat protein. However, hummus can be high in sodium, especially if made with canned chickpeas (which is what I did). So, a few tricks on that front: 1) Use a low sodium version of canned chickpeas. 2) Eat the hummus with fresh veggies rather than pita chips that also contain salt.
In a small, dry skillet, toast the cumin and red chili flakes over medium heat, until fragrant. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes. Be careful not to burn the spices.
Grind the cumin and red chili flakes. You can use a mortar and pestle like I did, or use n electric spice grinder.
Put all the ingredients in a deep container and use an immersion blender to combine. Pulse until smooth.
Using Up Homemade Hummus
The first day, we just scooped it up with fresh veggies and made it a refreshing yet satisfying dinner. We had tomato, celery, cucumber and red pepper, and decided that celery and red pepper were the winners. The other two didn’t have enough of a crunch and a little too high in water content.
Hummus stays fresh in the fridge for 5 days or so. And it’s really not hard to use it all up because it’s so versatile, but it freezes and thaws well if necessary. I had a little bit added to my lunch salads a couple of times throughout the week, and used up the rest as a spread in a skirt steak wrap with grilled green pepper and cilantro. It’s amazing how much it adds to an otherwise nondescript wrap or a sandwich!