Foreword by Bryant Terry
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"I like to think of a spicebox as the cook's equivalent of a doctor's bag–containing the essential tools to use in the art of cooking. Learning to use spices is the best way to add interest and vibrancy to simple home cooking."
I FIRST MET LINDA SHIUE IN 2018 when she attended a dinner I organized in my role as Chef-in-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD). Linda’s colleagues with whom she was sitting introduced her as a “chef-doctor” or something like that, and I was immediately intrigued. I had no idea that one of the leaders in the field of culinary medicine came to my event that evening! During our brief conversation, I learned that Linda founded the groundbreaking Thrive Kitchen, a hands-on healthy cooking program aimed at empowering physicians and their patients with knowledge and fundamental culinary skills geared toward improving health and wellness, and inspiring people to get cooking at home.
When Linda and I met for tea several weeks later, we immediately hit it off. She and I discovered that we were both working to shift people’s perception of “healthful” food being bland, boring, and brown to a vision of vegetable-centered dishes bursting with flavor, creativity, and vibrancy. I also learned that we both wanted to move eaters beyond simply using staple ingredients and spices from world cuisines and excite them to celebrate the varied dishes and patterns of eating from culinary traditions around the globe. We knew that dishes from these traditional diets could be another tool for improving public health, especially for those most impacted by diet-related chronic illnesses.
Since then, I’ve had the privilege of serving as guest chef a couple of times at Thrive Kitchen. It was such a joy connecting with patients and other community members in attendance. Linda’s classes attract a crowd that’s not unlike those who come to my programs—including not just patients, but culinary and medical students and people who grow or cook food for a living. The excitement and eagerness of the diverse crowds who attend Linda’s classes are a testament to the effectiveness of her focus on flavor as a way to encourage people to make healthful eating a lifestyle and not a fad.
You’ll be glad to know that this book brings the same joy, warmth, and delicious flavor profiles of Linda’s classes right to your home kitchen. The recipes are simple enough for the novice or busy cook, and the dishes burst with complex flavors inspired by Linda’s home base in California, the varied cuisines of Asian countries she’s spent time in, the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors she learned to cook during her restaurant externship while in culinary school, and the Caribbean flavors from her husband’s home in Trinidad. Her recipes offer creative twists on traditional favorites, in some cases gently nudging them in a more vegetable-forward direction, which often actually means getting closer to their roots.
Linda also helps you stock your pantry with nourishing staples and spices, and she offers menu suggestions to point you in the right direction. I’m excited for you to begin cooking the wide-ranging recipes in this book, and I imagine you will learn a lot from the comprehensive and user-friendly overview of spices and healthy staple ingredients that form the basis of the dishes. We’re all lucky we can experience Linda’s words, recipes, and generosity of spirit in the pages that follow. Gather your family and friends around the table, and welcome to Spicebox Kitchen!
—Bryant Terry, Chef-in-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), James Beard Award Winner, author of Vegetable Kingdom
My Journey from the Clinic to the Kitchen
EATING WELL IS ABOUT FOOD AND HEALTH but equally also about celebration and community. There is a world of flavor, and the passport is spices. I connected my lifelong love of food and cooking to my work as a physician eight years ago, when I attended a medical conference that transformed the way I practice medicine, after a decade as a primary care physician. At that time, I was feeling burned out. I knew that I was helping my patients, but I didn’t feel that I was making an impact in the way I really wanted. Despite my support and advice, my patients struggled to lose weight, to control their cholesterol and blood pressure and blood sugar, and they were tired, anxious, and depressed. I wrote many prescriptions, for cholesterol medications, for blood pressure medications, for diabetes medications, and for antidepressants and sleep aids. My patients didn’t feel better, and I felt ineffectual.
Then, I went to that fateful medical conference, called Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, cosponsored by Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America. We reviewed the latest updates in nutrition science, and how this knowledge could help patients. We were also taught to cook incredibly delicious food that was also health supportive, by the culinary school’s chef-instructors.
That conference was my lightbulb moment. My practice changed immediately: Before, at the end of routine physical examinations, I would review my findings with the patient, discuss their weight, blood pressure, and lab results, and make some vague suggestions for modifying their diet and exercise routine. Typically, it might have ended there. But after my epiphany, with my next patient, I pulled out my prescription pad—and wrote a recipe for kale chips. A week after the conference ended, I taught my first cooking class to patients, and I was hooked. I began teaching cooking classes on a regular basis and felt as exhilarated as my students were. I shifted my practice to include culinary medicine, a new evidence-based field that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine. I did this to address some dismal statistics: About 75 percent of visits are due to lifestyle-related conditions. Half of premature deaths are attributable to our overfed, yet malnourished, society. Only 10 percent of Americans meet dietary guidelines. Practicing culinary medicine is a low-cost, accessible, and culturally adaptable intervention.
A few years after I began to teach cooking, I attended culinary school and earned a certificate in plant-based nutrition, after which I founded a formal cooking program for patients. I also teach medical students and residents—doctors in training—because only a quarter of medical schools offer a course in nutrition, despite the fact that diet is the top cause of death and disability. While this path is nontraditional, it reinvigorated my joy in my career and, equally important, allowed me to help patients in a way I had previously been unable to do. Whether patients take a hands-on cooking class with me or simply accept my offer of a recipe, they are surprised, grateful, and inspired. They tell me that I have changed their life. It might mean reversing diabetes, going off blood pressure medications, or avoiding weight-loss surgery. At the least, eating better makes people feel better. Helping people find their way on this path is my mission, and a joy.
The best way I have found to make transitioning to eating more healthfully a joy is to bring in flavors from around the world. My food influences have always been global and wide-ranging, and I love the adventures you can have in your own kitchen just by exploring different spices. I believe that the best way to get to know a culture is to sit down and break bread (or roti, or a bowl of rice or noodles) with the locals. What I cook and what I teach in my cooking classes are recipes inspired by the people I have met from around the world. I grew up with parents from Taiwan, lived in Singapore for a year in college, and married a man from Trinidad. No matter where I am cooking, I rely on spices to capture the flavors of a particular cuisine. And I am never without my own spicebox. Known as a masala dabba, the spicebox found in the kitchen of Indian homes is a large, flat-bottomed, round steel container in which nest several smaller steel bowls for the cook to fill with a personal VIP list of spices. I like to think of a spicebox as the cook’s equivalent of a doctor’s bag—containing the essential tools to use in the art of cooking. Learning to use spices is the best way to add interest and vibrancy to simple home cooking. As our first medicine, spices also play a role in our health and wellness.
This cookbook shares my love for flavors from around the world from my unique perspective and nutrition knowledge as a physician and professionally trained chef. Whereas most “healthy cookbooks” focus on nutrition over flavor, these recipes celebrate eating for pleasure. At my table, food is meant to be savored. I won’t prescribe you a diet, advise you to count calories, or tell you what to eat. I believe that our food choices should be personal; the best diet for one person may not be the best for another. I do recommend that everyone eat “mostly plants,” for many reasons, including taste, variety, the environment, ethical concerns, and, yes, health. My goal as a physician is to improve patients’ health by inspiring them to cook more and eat more vegetables. My goal as a cooking instructor and recipe developer is to get people to love and crave vegetables by showing them the many ways to prepare them, deliciously. While this book celebrates vegetables and the recipes that follow are mostly plant based, I have also included recipes with seafood, eggs, or dairy when those ingredients are essential to the recipe. This approach reflects the “mostly plants” omnivorous diet I follow and that I recommend to my patients and students. Cooking these recipes, I think you’ll realize that the measure of a cook is not how they cook a piece of meat, but how they are able to coax a variety of flavors and textures from vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. I am confident that eaters of all types will find much to enjoy in these recipes. In fact, I can’t tell you the number of times a self-declared carnivorous student finishes their meal with gusto and surprise and says, “I don’t miss the meat at all!”
While I teach people to eat more healthfully and deliciously, really, it’s a party, and a means of building community. After all, a great way to spread happiness and build bridges is to cook for others. Even if you can’t join me in person for one of my cooking classes, you can re-create the experience in your own kitchen with this cookbook.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
I’ve organized the recipes into four geographical regions to which I have a personal connection: California, Asia, Mediterranean/Middle East, and Trinidad. I chose these broad areas not only because I enjoy eating and cooking their cuisines, but also because they represent the diversity of our country and are all cultures with rich traditions of spice-filled, health-supportive cuisine. Each culture has its own way of cooking for health, with distinct uses of spices, herbs, and other flavoring agents. There are also commonalities shared among these diverse cuisines, all of which feature health-promoting ingredients, such as whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and such techniques as fermentation.
Most of these recipes are designed for weeknight cooking. Organizing geographically makes it easy to assemble a menu by a cultural theme. For many of these recipes, side dishes can be mixed and matched to make a meal, meze style, whereas others are more traditional main dishes that can be served with one or more side dishes. This opens up the possibility of other ways of creating a menu. For example, you can assemble a menu by theme—choose several dishes from one section of this book. You can also combine recipes from different sections of this book with similar spices, as several of these cross over into different regions. Seasonality is another way to set a menu. Or you can go the more traditional route, with an appetizer, soup and/or salad, and main dish, and finish with fruit or a dessert. But no matter how you choose to assemble a meal, it is good to have a balance and contrast of flavors and textures, just as you would have in an individual dish. Although mixing it up is encouraged, I’ve also included sample dinner menus for each section.
I designed this book for the home cook of all levels of experience—so, no matter whether you’ve never boiled water or you’re a wiz at sous vide, there’s something here for you. Part One functions as a how-to and reference guide. If you’re a novice cook, you may want to spend more time here, to get stocked on cooking equipment and build your healthy pantry, as well as to learn fundamental knife skills and cooking techniques, with special attention on how to make vegetables the star of the show. If you already know your way around the kitchen stove but are seeking to make healthier food, you’ll learn about healthy ingredients and how to select and store them. And everyone can benefit from some tips that chefs use to transform food from good to fabulous, including a primer to acquaint you with spices typical for each region. If you want to cook more often, but find it challenging to work it into your schedule, check out the meal planning and meal prep section. And I hope everyone will read the section on reducing food waste, which I consider as important as all these other topics.
Part Two takes you on a culinary tour; you’ll discover recipes spanning breakfast, appetizers, soups and salads, side dishes, entrées, desserts and other sweet treats, and pantry items, including spice blends, sauces, snacks, and fermented foods. Please have fun exploring and consider these recipes to be templates. Once you get familiar with the ingredients, you can swap in similar ingredients depending on what is in season, what you have in your kitchen, or simply what flavors you prefer. For recipes that include non-plant-based ingredients, I’ve included substitutions whenever appropriate. Each recipe highlights key spices marked with → and key healthy ingredients marked with → that you can learn more about in Part One.
HEALTHY COOKING 101
A RECIPE FOR HEALTH
What should you eat? I don’t prescribe a one-size-fits-all diet. I encourage you to eat the foods that connect you to your culture, using whole, minimally processed ingredients, and, for both flavor and health, to incorporate a wide variety of spices. That said, I have some basic recommendations on how to eat a balanced and varied diet. The two eating patterns for which we have the most scientific evidence are the Mediterranean diet and the whole food, plant-based diet (WFPBD). Both of these emphasize a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, seeds and nuts, and healthy fats, while the Mediterranean diet also can include small amounts of fish, poultry, meat, and dairy products. These diets are both associated with lower rates of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, as well as lower risk of early death. My approach to healthy eating takes into account both of these diets, with spices and a few other ingredients thrown in for flavor and variety:
Eat whole, real food, not processed, and emphasize vegetables and fruits as much as possible. This is better for your health and the environment, and also more delicious. If you do purchase processed food, always read the label, and avoid foods that have sugar in the top three ingredients, or more than five ingredients. (Keep it simple!) Think more about quality, not only the quantity, of your food.
Make small changes. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. Every bite counts! This can mean having one plant-based meal per week (e.g., Meatless Monday), and going from there. It’s your overall diet that matters, what you eat most of the time. Think in terms of “treat days” as opposed to “cheat days.”
Try to achieve a balance of foods. This isn’t necessary at every meal, but overall in a given day. Following the “MyPlate” method and filling each plate with 50 percent vegetables and fruits, 25 percent carbohydrates, and 25 percent protein will get you on the right track, with ample room for customization. Eat as wide a variety of colors and types of fruits and vegetables as possible, which will cover different nutrients and antioxidants. Aim for five or more servings a day. In the Mediterranean diet studies, people who ate ½ cup of fruit and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables had health benefits. If I’m going to recommend any one category of vegetables to eat more of, it would be leafy greens (see guide beginning here). One very specific tip that I follow to make sure I get enough leafy greens is to buy baby greens—which are already prewashed—and eat them three times a day. This can be raw (green smoothies and salads) or cooked (they will wilt immediately when thrown into anything that you cook, whether that is a sauté, soup, or stew).
Get your carbohydrates mainly from vegetables and fruits. When you eat grains, aim for whole grains. There is such a variety of flavors and textures, and they offer much more in the way of nutrition than processed grains. (For more info on whole grains, see ingredient spotlight here.) Studies of the Mediterranean diet recommend eating 1½ cups of whole grains daily.
Expand your protein horizons. Minimize red meat, especially processed meat, for both health and environmental reasons. Think of meat as a condiment rather than as the main event. Leaner and more sustainable sources of protein are plant-based sources, of which there is a wide variety, including legumes, tofu, nuts, and vegetables. The amount of legumes that showed benefits in studies was a mere 2 to 3 ounces per day, or about ¼ cup per day.
Make simple swaps. Find a whole-grain bread you like to replace your current bread; if you love white rice, try replacing half with brown rice with a similarly sized grain (e.g., short-grain with short, long-grain with long).
Try something new. When you visit the farmers’ market, grab a vegetable or herb you haven’t tried before. Ask the farmer how to cook it—they’ll usually have some ideas. Experiment with new-to-you spices, and learn how to use them in your cooking (see here).
Don’t fear fat! When using fats for cooking or flavor, try to choose healthier, unsaturated fat sources, including olive and vegetable oils, such as grapeseed or canola oil, rather than saturated fats, such as butter, coconut oil, and lard. Nuts are a whole food source of fat that can add flavor and texture, and in the Mediterranean diet studies, the recommendation is ¼ cup per day. Walnuts might offer the most benefit—a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, they were shown to reduce death from cancer risk by 50 percent.
Explore fermented foods. We are learning more and more about the gut microbiome and its relationship to healthy digestion, inflammation, and chronic disease, and fermented foods promote a healthier gut. Beyond that, fermented foods are part of every traditional cuisine, a delicious way to add flavor and texture to food while also reducing food waste.
When eating sweets, make it worth it! In many cultures, fruit is served for dessert, whereas baked goods are more of an occasional treat. Frequently eating processed, packaged cookies, for example, will take a toll on your health, and also may not be as satisfying as the occasional well-made dessert or pastry. Amount and frequency make a difference here—why not share your dessert, or do what the Culinary Institute of America’s Menus of Change calls the “dessert flip”—instead of fruit as a garnish, serve lots of fruit with a small amount of indulgent favorites. If you want a daily treat besides fruit, dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) is a good choice, full of antioxidants and low in sugar.
Make it easy. Keeping your pantry stocked with healthy essentials will make it easy for you to eat well. (See here for suggestions.)
DELICIOUSLY HEALTHY INGREDIENTS GUIDE
The best way to make healthier food choices is to start with flavor. Learning to spice, salt, and season your food will make all the difference from something you eat because it’s good for you to something you eat because it’s irresistibly good.
A Full Spicebox
Spices have been used for millennia for flavor, for trade, and as medicine. Spices refers to any part of a plant that can be dried to flavor food, except the leaf (which is called an herb). Spices might come from flower buds (cloves) and flowers (lavender and rose), bark (cinnamon), roots and rhizomes (ginger and turmeric), berries, seeds (cumin and coriander), arils (mace), fruit (chile pepper, vanilla beans, peppercorns), stigma (saffron), pods (cardamom), and gums or resins (asafetida/hing). All food, but perhaps vegetable dishes in particular, can be enhanced by thoughtful seasoning with spices. In addition, using spices can be a way of traveling to another culture through flavor.
Spices have also been used for their medicinal properties. Before we had pharmaceuticals, we had spices. Spices offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects from their bioactive constituents, including sulfur-containing compounds, flavonoids, and polyphenols. Researchers are looking at effects of various spices on cancer, cognition, blood sugar, cholesterol, arthritis, and many other conditions. Beyond these effects at the molecular level, learning to use spices to flavor food can improve the nutritional profile of food by adding flavor without needing to use as much salt, sugar, and saturated fat. Here are some of the spices in my masala dabba:
Allspice, the dried berries of a Jamaican pepper plant, combines the flavors of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper.
HOW TO USE: Allspice complements both sweet and savory dishes well, and is featured in the Spicebox Supperclub Flourless Chocolate Beet Cake (here) and the Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Kebabs (here).
NUTRITION AND HEALTH BENEFITS: Allspice has been shown to have antibacterial and pain-relieving properties, and can lower blood pressure.
Amchar masala is a Trinidadian Indian spice blend that combines black mustard seeds, coriander, cumin, fennel, and fenugreek.
HOW TO USE: Amchar masala is used to make the condiment Kuchela (here) and other pickles.
NUTRITION AND HEALTH BENEFITS: See individual spices.
Amchur is a tart powder made from dried green mango.
HOW TO USE: Amchur is used as a souring agent and can be used in chutneys (try Nalin’s Mint-Cilantro Chutney, here). Another use is to tenderize proteins.
NUTRITION AND HEALTH BENEFITS: Made from dried mangoes, amchur contains powerful antioxidants thought to prevent heart disease and cancer. It is also used to treat stomach upset.
Angostura bitters are a proprietary and secret blend of the herb gentian root and other herbs.
HOW TO USE: You’ll find Angostura added as the classic bitters in many cocktails. In Trinidad, it’s added liberally to lime juice (see Peter’s Lime Juice with Angostura Bitters, here) and other beverages, and also finds its way into desserts, such as Pone (here).
NUTRITION AND HEALTH BENEFITS: Angostura bitters are promoted as improving digestion, in addition to relieving heartburn, nausea, cramping, bloating, and gas.
Asafetida, also known as hing, is a pungent plant resin that adds umami and an oniony flavor.
HOW TO USE: Asafetida is added to many Indian dishes to add a savory note. Try it in the Magical Mango-Tamarind Rasam (here).
NUTRITION AND HEALTH BENEFITS: Asafetida is best known for helping digestion, especially with legume dishes. It also helps respiratory conditions.
Black pepper enhances most types of food.
HOW TO USE: Use a pepper mill and always freshly grind your black pepper.
NUTRITION AND HEALTH BENEFITS: Black pepper’s active compound, piperine, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Black pepper has been thought to help with pain, asthma, and digestion.
Caraway. These seeds have a fennel-like aroma and taste.
HOW TO USE: Caraway seeds are most familiar to many in rye bread. They are also a component of harissa (see here to make your own).
NUTRITION AND HEALTH BENEFITS: Caraway seeds contain magnesium, which supports a healthy heart and brain health. They also aid digestion and contain compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.
- "Dr. Shiue's recipes offer creative twists on traditional favorites, in some cases gently nudging them in more a vegetable-forward direction, which often actually means getting closer to their roots. I'm excited for you to begin cooking the wide-ranging recipes in this book, and I imagine you will learn a lot from the comprehensive and user-friendly overview of spices and healthy staple ingredients that form the basis of the dishes."—from the foreword by Bryant Terry, James Beard Award winner, author of Vegetable Kingdom
- "Dr. Linda Shiue shows us what a holistic relationship between food and medicine looks, and, most importantly feels, like. Using our spiceboxes as veritable medicine cabinets, Dr. Shiue teaches us that healthy is ours to define and pleasure is vital to our wellbeing."—Julia Turshen, bestselling cookbook author and founder of Equity at the Table (EATT)
- '"I used to think Linda Shiue loved to cook because it took her away from her work as a doctor; how much more thrilling is it that she brings that love to her work? Through terrific, wide-ranging recipes and a no-stress approach, she shares a world of flavor to nourish your self and your body. And I could live on her spiced coconut rice alone...though I guess no doctor would recommend that."—Francis Lam, host, The Splendid Table
- "Linda's food is exciting, new and riotously flavorful--it's Ottolenghi meets Bayless with a dash of Ming Tsai. I want to eat the Shakshuka today for breakfast and the Chilaquiles Verde tomorrow. A cookbook of culinary medicine never tasted so good!"—John La Puma, MD, New York Times best-selling author of ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine
- "In a time when wellness has taken over food writing as a new guise for the same-old diet culture, Dr. Shiue's science-based take on eating well and healthfully is so refreshing. Even before you get to the wonderful recipes, it's worth reading the intro in which she patiently dismantles myths around nutrition and taste and truly teaches the fundamentals of cooking nearly every ingredient under the sun, with angles fit for both beginners and experts. The book is rich with ideas and, I think, achieves its goal of making good eating unintimidating and accessible to all kinds of eaters."—Soleil Ho, restaurant critic, San Francisco Chronicle
- "[N]ot only is Linda Shiue a well-regarded medical doctor, she is also a great chef and cooking teacher, who knows how to nurture and heal with good, nutritious food. This cookbook encourages you to explore new spices and cuisines you might not have tried before. As I read through the book, I was so inspired that I immediately made a b-line for my kitchen."—Joanne Weir, chef, PBS cooking show host, cookbook author
- "Looking to spice up your home cooking? In Spicebox Kitchen Dr. Linda Shiue brings a world of delicious flavors with accessible recipes full of discoveries from far and wide to your table. Linda's easy instruction, creative mind, and sound nutritional sensibilities gained over years as a physician and passionate diner transform your cooking and you into shining stars of deliciousness. Recipes from around the world make it easy for both novice and professional to cook with hunger and pride. Get ready to stain these pages as you create new favorites from your kitchen and delight your family and friends."—Suvir Saran, author of Indian Home Cooking, Masala Farm, Instamatic and owner of The House of Celeste in New Delhi, India
- "Spicebox Kitchen captures the essence of how great taste and nutrition nourish both body and soul. The ultimate recipe for optimal health and big flavor."—Rebecca Katz, author of The Cancer Fighting Kitchen
- "What if your personal physician could think like a chef and advise you about recipes you should eat- and cook-to optimize your health and the health of your family? What if your favorite chef was sufficiently trained as healthcare professional capable of sharing recipes- from multiple culinary traditions- that are unapologetically delicious while also being healthy, affordable and easy to make? Both would want to read and savor this extraordinary book by Linda Shiue, one of the most talented, dual trained, MD-Chefs in the world today!"—David Eisenberg, MD, director, culinary nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- "Wow! This book will change your health. My friend, physician and Chef Linda Shiue, MD has traveled the world researching these recipes and it shows. Incredible flavors you can't imagine are waiting for you inside, along with the sage advice of an experienced doctor on what to eat."—Drew Ramsey, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, Columbia University
- "From aleppo to za'atar, coriander and cumin, fennel and fenugreek, I know firsthand how powerful spices can be. Spicebox Kitchen is a great resource for adding these spices--and many more--to your own kitchen. Elevate your everyday meals while taking care of yourself."—Lior Lev Sercarz, chef and owner of La Boîte and author of Mastering Spice
- On Sale
- Mar 16, 2021
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Hachette Go