Some folks love to spend a leisurely Sunday morning strolling the stalls of a gourmet farmers market, scoping out seasonal offerings from local growers and purveyors, and feeling like part of the community. A couple of Sundays ago, I joined a group of intrepid foodies in a farmers market trip on steroids — an adventure that began in the state-of-the-art Studio Kitchen, San Diego headquarters of Specialty Produce, the glitterati of fruit and vegetable sellers.
There, the first in a series of “Food as Medicine Cooking Classes” was launched by Chef Christina Ng, chair of the Berry Good Food Academy, a non-profit that embarks on benevolent food programs. This inaugural culinary instruction (with illuminating tutorials and healthful bites) featured Chef Lando, owner of Enclave Adventurous Superfood, and Ivo Fedak of Mindful Mushrooms, who cultivates exotic species of medicinal ’shrooms in Spring Valley.
Chef Christina Ng, chair of Berry Good Food Academy
(Photo by Catharine Kaufman)
While unfolding a gargantuan dried lotus leaf, symbolic of purity and peacefulness (as well as the national flower of Vietnam, her homeland), Chef Lando continued her patter as she prepared sprouted sticky rice wraps. The passionate chef pays homage to the thousands of years of gustatory wisdom of her ancestors following in their footsteps “by creating the first food as medicine concept restaurant combining healthcare and culinary that appreciates everyone’s unique composition.” Fueled by chefs, farmers, and certified nutritionists Enclave’s functional menus cater to everyone from post-partum moms, vegans and gluten-sensitive diners to those on paleo, keto and low-sugar diets.
As Chef Lando tossed wild mushrooms, tamari, duck and bison charcuterie with the sprouted rice in mammoth stainless steel bowls like she was preparing a meal for the Brobdingnags of “Gulliver’s Travels,” she reminisced about the food philosophies of her family. She said warm, soft foods have marvelous healing properties — especially since they don’t require your body to labor in the digestive process. She advised listening to what your body is telling you about what you should eat, and reminded all of the vital importance of food providence and sourcing, along with incorporating probiotics into your daily diet, whether kefir yogurt, kombucha, aged cheese or sauerkraut.
Since the gut has long been considered “the second brain,” a happy gut translates to a sharp brain — good focus, quick thinking and keen memory. Chef Lando also remarked about the different nutritional ethos of Western and Eastern cultures. We’re taught to eat the colors of the rainbow in America, she pointed out, while she had always been taught to eat all five flavors — bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami (savory).
Back at the workstations, culinary students were given a lotus leaf with a generous scoop of sticky rice, and we rolled our own wraps, which were then cooked using the “primitive method of steaming” until the flavors harmoniously married together. Chef Lando served the wraps with her own concoction of chili sauce with soybeans, ginger, star anise and Herculean cracked chilies — nature’s Dristan with a one-two punch to knock notorious viruses off their feet.
From steaming hot to gently chilled, the students then prepared hand-rolled sushi, which Chef Lando called, “a daily vitamin musubi roll.” Like a multi-vitamin, these savory treats incorporate essential nutrients in one dish, including poached wild salmon (contributing lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids), nori seaweed wrappers (adding iodine and Vitamin C), turmeric ginger sprouted brown rice (giving an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant oomph), kimchi (the probiotic component), avocado for a healthy fat, and phytonutrient-rich microgreens, topped with medicinal mushrooms from Ivo Fedak’s arsenal.
“Kitchen Shrink” Catharine Kaufman with a lotus leaf
According to this modern-day medicine man who found his mission in the German forests while foraging wild mushrooms, these fungi are a true life force “good for the heart, gut, respiratory system, cognitive functions, energy levels, and immunity.” In fact, medicinal mushrooms are immune modulators — boosting an immune system that’s limping along, while tempering an overactive one.
They’re also one of the few foods that provide Vitamin D, as well as Bs, and amino acids, whether meaty king trumpets best sliced and sautéed like scallops, woodsy chestnuts amping up stews and sauces, or earthy lion’s mane, the most potent medicinal mushrooms with flaky crab-like texture that can be pulverized and sprinkled in teas and smoothies for a nutritional zing. Ivo sells his many mushrooms every weekend at the farmers markets in Little Italy and Hillcrest.
— The second installment of “Food as Medicine Cooking Classes,” features Dr. Angie Neison, a family physician who practices culinary medicine with her patients. She’ll be sharing her healing recipes at the Studio Kitchen on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Check out berrygoodfood.org/events
Recipe: Turmeric-Ginger Brown Rice
• Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups spring water; 1 cup brown rice (sprouted preferred); 1 teaspoon ground turmeric; 1 tablespoon sliced, fresh ginger; 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil; Himalayan pink sea salt, to taste.
• Method: Mix ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer covered until tender. Use in wraps and sushi rolls.
— Adapted from a recipe by Chef Lando of Enclave Adventurous Superfood