So, I made you guys this really fancy kitchari that I dubbed the “Veda Bowl”, hoping that it would impart its ancient clarity upon you (and me), as veda is a Sanskrit word for wisdom. We need it right now because, as you may well know, Mercury just went into retrograde and so things are bound to get a little confused. The funny thing about my elaborate wisdom bowl is that kitchari is the simplest, most nourishing thing ever. It couldn’t be less fancy. And so, I want to say right off the bat that even if you don’t have the time to create the full vision of the Veda Bowl, it’s totally okay. Just do yourself the favor of making kitchari – it’s a beautiful, healing, (uninvolved) entity unto itself.
For those of you wondering what on earth kitchari is, let me introduce you. Kitchari is an Ayurvedic preparation of grain and pulse, most traditionally mung beans (also called mung dal), basmati rice, ghee (or oil) and warming spices. This classic combination is a cornerstone of the Ayurvedic diet and has been long revered as the food of the gods. Ever wondered what the yogis ate after descending from the heights of Samadhi? Here it is folks.
So, why did the yogis revere this simple dish so deeply? For many reasons, but a big one is that kitchari is sattvic. The Samkhya philosophy, the philosophy that underpins Ayurveda, breaks down the three primordial states of the universe, called the gunas. These states are tamas, rajas and sattva. These forces work on the largest cosmological scale as well as in our bodies and minds. Tamas is density and creates inertia, rajas is movement and creates disturbance and sattva is knowledge and bestows balance. I know, it sounds a little theoretical but you have experienced each of these states. You know that tired, foggy feeling you get after eating something really heavy? Or the mind numbing cloud that descends after watching a full season of Arrested Development? That feeling is tamas. It is a sluggish, lazy feeling. And then there’s the manic buzz that you get after too much coffee (or if you are me any coffee). Or that feeling of pursuit that one derives from shopping – the desire, the high. That’s rajas. It’s active, it’s ambitious and it’s a little amped up.
Sattva is something that we experience less frequently in life. Most of us fall into tamas and then propel ourselves into motion through rajas, bouncing between these two states. But I know that you have glimpsed the sattvic state. Have you ever had a beautiful, clean, love-filled, high-vibe meal that made you pause and say, “What is this feeling”? That’s sattva. Or that post-savasana moment at the end of a yoga class that is utterly tranquil? It’s peaceful, it’s aware, it’s content. It is a feeling of harmony within the self and with that which is happening outside the self. You might even say that it is luminous. It was the state that the yogis were after. It is the state that leads us from the darkness of tamas to the illumination of our true nature. And all you have to do to achieve it is eat kitchari.
Just kidding! But food is definitely a tool. All food is either tamasic, rajasic, or sattvic. The food that we eat becomes our blood, and therefore our bodies. And the energy of our food feeds our mind. Therefore the quality and the energy of our food contributes greatly to who we are. I mean that very literally. We become our food. From that perspective, the impact of sattvic eating becomes clear.
So what is sattvic food, you ask? It is fresh and full of prana or life-force. It doesn’t come in a can. It is in its whole, natural form; it is unprocessed. Generally sattvic food corresponds with a whole food, vegetarian diet. Kitchari is super sattvic.
But the Veda Bowl…the Veda Bowl is kitchari gone glam. It has sweet yams, sour tamarind, subtle saffron, and warming masala all working in concert with the quiet magic of kitchari. It is as impressive as it is nutritive – a super special, enormously healing experience that I think you deserve to have.
Sattva is a lofty goal. It is something that is cultivated through every aspect of one’s life. It isn’t just the food we eat. It is created through the thoughts that we have, the company we keep, the way we spend our time, our relationship to our work, our family. It is created in the way that we live our life. I think, though, that food is a lovely way in. Diet is an aspect of life that we have some control over. It is an aspect of life that we can approach and work with, and it’s a lot less overwhelming than trying to tackle the balanced, sattvic life in its entirety. The beautiful thing about fostering balance in one small area is that the ripples expand out, touching other aspects. It’s not that eating sattvic food fixes everything, but it bolsters the strength to work with the other, more complicated dynamics of one’s life.
And so, you don’t have to master the sattvic state or find ultimate balance in life. You can start with something simple, something small like adding kitchari to your routine. Or if you feel like making an experience out of it, make the Veda Bowl in all of its glory, invite some friends over, sit back and watch the illumined fruits of your labor shine through their faces, beatified by the glory of sattva.
- 1 cup brown basmati rice, rinsed and soaked overnight
- 1 cup split mung dal (the split ones are yellow!), rinsed in a couple changes of water and soaked overnight
- 3 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 6 cardamom pods
- 2 tablespoons grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh turmeric, or a heaping ¼ teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar or sucanat, optional
- pinch asafoetida, if available
- ¼ cup shredded coconut
- ½ teaspoon
- 8 cups water
- the juice of half a lime
- chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (you can include some seeds if you like it hot)
- 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, cleaned and roughly chopped
- ½ teaspooon salt
- ½ cup water, more if needed
- ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon corriander
- ¼ teaspoon cumin powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- a pinch of saffron threads, crumbled with the finger tips
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- 1½ teaspoons grated fresh turmeric or a good pinch of dried
- ⅛ teaspoon cardamom
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut, sheep or goat yogurt
- 2 medium bunches of kale
- 1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon unhulled white sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- ¼ cup tamarind pulp soaked in ⅓ cup boiling water
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- salt to taste
- sesame seeds
- melted ghee or olive oil
- Drain the soaking water from the rice and mung dal into a strainer, rinse them and set them aside to drain.
- Heat the ghee or coconut oil in a pot over medium flame and add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Allow them to cook, shaking the pot frequently, until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the turmeric, ginger, asafoetida, sweetener, salt and coconut and cook for 30 seconds, stirring.
- Add the rice and dal and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the water and bring to a boil. Give it a stir, reduce the flame and cover.
- Let the kitchari simmer for about an hour or until the dal and rice are soft and much of the water is absorbed. The consistency should resemble risotto. Turn off heat and add the lime, chopped cilantro and salt to taste. If you are making the other components, prepare them while the kitchari cooks.
- Place everything except the mustard seeds into the jar of a blender. Blend until a smooth mixture forms, adding more water if needed.
- Heat a small pan and add the mustard seeds, shaking, until they start to pop. Remove from pan and set aside to cool slightly.
- Add the mustard seeds to the chutney and stir to combine.
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- Wash the sweet potatoes, pat them dry and cut into ¼-inch slices.
- Mix the spices and salt together in a small bowl.
- Put the 2 tablespoons of coconut oil into a large baking dish and place the dish into oven for about a minute or until the oil has melted. Remove and add the sweet potatoes and spice mixture, tossing to coat. Make sure that the rounds are in a single layer.
- Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are beginning to brown, tossing half way through the coking process.
- Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Add more salt if needed.
- Place the saffron in a small bowl and pour the tablespoon of boiling water over it. Set aside to infuse for 5 minutes.
- Juice the turmeric by placing the grated flesh into cheese cloth and squeezing the juice into a small bowl.
- Add the saffron, turmeric juice (or pinch of dry turmeric) and cardamom to the yogurt and stir to combine.
- Wash the kale and tear the leaves from the stems. Place in a colander and set aside to drain.
- Mash the tamarind pulp into the water until a paste forms. Pass it through a strainer, pushing the liquid through with the back of a spoon. Add the maple and tamari to the tamarind water and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Set a large sauce pan over medium-high heat and toast the sesames, shaking the pan frequently, for about a minute.
- Add the coconut oil and swirl the pan to coat. Add the kale and cook, tossing, until the it has wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the tamarind mixture and cook for another 30 seconds, tossing to combine. Turn off heat.
- Divide the kitchari into bowls and arrange the sweet potatoes, greens and chutney on top. Drizzle with the saffron yogurt. Garnish with sprouts, sesame seeds and ghee or olive oil if desired.