Monday, April 1, 2013

The Benefits of Sesame Oil (Part 1): Kale, Brussels Sprout and Soba Noodle Salad!

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I've come a looooonnnnnnng way, y'all.

Before moving to New York, I had never even tasted Indian food! Not to mention mussels, oysters, Ethiopian cuisine - you name it, I hadn't tried it. Thankfully, I started dating Adam and even though he hails from a small town with a similar culinary climate as my own, he was an adventurer when it came to food and drink and I quickly followed suit. Now, Indian food is actually one of my favorites. 

Based on this information, I should have known I would fall in love with Ayurveda. 

As you know, I'm currently studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. One of our recent lectures was an introduction to Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine. Now, having gone from zero knowledge of Ayurveda to the equivalent of two books and a lecture's worth of knowledge, I can say quite confidently that I'm literally obsessed with all things Ayurveda. I even find myself daydreaming about going to India to visit a Vaidya (Ayurvedic doctor). It's quite fascinating stuff and I can't get enough.

To embrace my obsession wholeheartedly, I'd like to do a recurring series this month on sesame oil. While this may sound completely out of left field to you, I promise you that sesame oil is a natural medicine that you should know about! It has so many health benefits (especially as we enter spring) and you can use it for much more than just food!

But let's start slow this week with a simple recipe that uses sesame oil! This weekend I made Kale + Slivered Brussels Sprout Soba Noodles from one of my favorite blogs Sprouted Kitchen. I used her basic recipe, then threw in some sauteed shrimp to satisfy my inner carnivore. Here are the dirty deats...

Cut off the ends of 10 Brussels sprouts and slice them paper thin (if you have a mandolin, use it!).
Wash 1 bunch of kale (tuscan or dinosaur kale is recommended, but we used what we had!) and discard the stems.
Now working in batches, stack the kale leaves, roll them up tightly and slice them into long, narrow ribbons.
Grab your sesame oil (or toasted sesame oil) and sea salt.
In a large mixing bowl, add the kale, 1 tsp. of sesame oil and 1/4 tsp. of sea salt. Now, massage the kale with your hands for approximately 3 minutes, until the kale turns a dark shade of green.
Now add the sliced Brussels sprouts.
Toss in 1 bunch of sliced scallions.
Cook 4-8 oz. of soba noodles according to package directions. While they are cooking, pound 1 plump clove of garlic.
In the same bowl as the garlic, stir in 4 tsp. sesame oil, 1 Tbs. rice vinegar and 1 tsp. low sodium soy sauce. Now, pour this dressing over the mixture (I actually doubled this amount because I like things on the saucy side. Use as little or as much as you want).
Add 2 pinches of red pepper flakes and 2 Tbs. of toasted sesame seeds (white or black).

While the soba noodles are cooking, saute the shrimp (we used ghee and peppercorns for flavor).
After draining, add the soba noodles to the mixture.
Top with the cooked shrimp and sprinkle a few more sesame seeds on top for extra flair.

And now, the health benefits behind sesame oil...

SLOWS AGING - Sesame oil is packed with antioxidants that can help slow the signs of aging. Not only this, but consuming the oil keeps your skin hydrated from the inside out.

LOWERS CHOLESTEROL - The vitamin E in sesame oil has been shown to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Plus, the dynamic duo of antioxidants and poly-unsaturated fats in sesame oil work together to lower blood pressure.

AIDS IN MOOD REGULATION - Many people find that sesame oil helps to calm their anxiety and improve their mood. Also, because sesame oil promotes blood circulation, it has been found to aid in deep, restful sleep.

HELPS PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS: The calcium and zinc in sesame oil work together to promote bone health, thereby protecting you from the decay that leads to osteoporosis.

See? I told you it was a miracle food! I can't wait to show you sesame oil's other innovative uses next week, but in the meantime, enjoy this wonderful soba noodle salad and let it remind you that spring is upon us!

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