The plate of abundance and love | introduction to Macrobiotic

The popularity of healthy diets is growing inexorably - lucky us - and with it the recognition that food is the foundation for many levels of personal well-being.

There is something a little intimidating about attempting to describe Macrobiotic nutrition. How can I capture the profound sense of it, without sounding too simplistic in this immensity of healthy diets and experts?

I will try to give an overview of it through the lens of my own personal experience. In Greek, macro means large and bio means concerning life, Macrobiotic is intended as wide view of life. Macrobiotic nutrition uses unrefined wholefood in its best Energetic state which is the seed, where all the potential for life is stored. Then, in the cooking process the ultimate goal is to make the food easily digestible, so as much goodness can be absorbed as possible.

Macrobiotic nutrition is also based on Yin & Yang philosophy, and when I talk about Energy I refer to this concept. Yin & Yang is relevant in choosing the ingredients, the sodium and potassium balance, cutting styles, food combinations, cooking techniques, and final presentation.
The other keystone of the philosophy is the five transformations or colours (orange/yellow, red, green, white, black/blue) that are the five shadows in between Yin & Yang Black & White extremes. Those "transformations" coincide with seasons, tastes, emotional states and organs or tissues. These are fascinating tools that turn simple ingredients into magic.

The core aim of macrobiotic nutrition, from my understanding, is the combining of nourishing and cleansing properties with special support for our lower chakras energy, that gives the roots and the steadiness for a prolonged health. The food needs to be highly digestible and soft on the body so it tends to avoid food with extreme Energetic qualities (extreme Yin or Yang such as refined sugar and red meat for instance) that can cool digestive fire or interfere with the PH body balance.

The 5 transformation plate.

I eat this combination of foods at least twice a week, varying the ingredients and rotating the cooking styles depending on needs or the seasons, although brown rice and azuki beans are  perceived as a common baseline and are often my choice as grains. The dish is meant to be composed of a cereal, a legume (or other proteins like tofu or fish), and different shapes of vegetables: some roots, some leafy greens, a floret or a fruit, seaweed. It possibly has all the colours in it too. And different cooking styles combined: roasting, steaming, pressing (probiotic rich fermented salad), raw...
The choice of both cooking styles + ingredients is dictated by the season, the local food availability and the constitution+condition (health) of the person.

The following combination will be fine in most seasons and for most constitutions. It is gluten free, soya free, highly digestible and alkalising. It is a combination of nourishing and detoxifying properties and supports all the body Yin and Yang Energies at once.

Note : Avocado is a tropical fruit and it is not normally included in the classic macrobiotic dish as it is not local in most Europe. However, as in Liguria it grows in a very little tasty fruit called Palta, for me it represents a memento. Its richness and its smooth texture have an unquestionable place in my kitchen and perfectly marries with baked sweet potatoes and azuki. This combination is a staple element of my cooking.


Ingredients {3 servings + a baby tasting}

3 sweet potatoes medium size
1 big green broccoli, classic or a bunch of tenderstem
2 avocado, ripe
1/4 circa of a purple cabbage
1 or 2 pock-choi, depends on the size
1/4 cup lemon juice
-
1 1/2 cup of SGBR(short grain brown rice)-soaked 6h or overnight
1 cup of azuki beans-soaked 6h or overnight
-
4 cm strip of kombu
1/3 cup of shoyu sauce (for gluten free diet tamari soya sauce)
1 Tbsp of barley malt or rice syrup
3/4 Tbsp of sesame oil
1 tsp of fennel seeds
1/4 Tbsp of Umeboshi vinegar, or alternatively, juice of a lemon (1/4 cup)+ 1tsp of salt
some fresh ginger
garlic
some parsley leaves or sprouts to decorate
unrefined sea salt
water
.
gomashio condiment- to use on rice:
1/2 cup of sesame seeds - washed and drained
1 1/2 tsp of unrefined sea salt


1. Place the rice in a heavy pan with double the water and half the kombu or a couple of pinches of salt. Same with the azuki beans, double water and half of the kombu, possibly using a pressure cooker (in case reduce the water of 1/3). Bring to boil over a medium ring, cover and cook on a low flame for 45 min circa or until the rice is dry and the azuki creamy. Meanwhile wash, peel and cut the vegetables.
2. Vegetables! 1. Start (after washing it), slicing the purple cabbage very finely with a mandolin or a sharp vegetable knife. To cut try to follow the ridges of the leaves. Place in a large bowl with 1tsp fennel seeds, umeboshi vinegar or 2tsp of salt and 1/4 cup lemon juice, and massage. Put a smaller bowl on top and a weight (such as a bottle of water), leave the salad to press. 2. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes in small squares of similar dimension. In a large oven dish mix the potatoes with 2 tsp of salt and a generous glug [?] of olive oil. Bake in the oven for 35 mins at 180º 3.Wash the broccoli and cut into small florets, peel the stalk if necessary and dice it. Wash and slice the pock choi into 2 cm large pieces. Bring 2cm of water to the boil in a medium sauce pan (lid on) with a pinch of salt, a "skin on" garlic clove and 2 Tbs of olive oil. When the water is bubbling take the lid off and put your greens in to blanch for 5/6 minutes. Drain immediately, you want them to be soft enough and yet stay bright green. {you can use the water as a base for broth or sauces.} 4. Peel and cut the avocado in quarters.
3. Roast the sesame seeds with the salt until a nutty smell comes out (few minutes) keep stirring from time to time to ensure the seeds are all toasted. Blend until smooth.
4. Beans again. When the beans are cooked, add 2/3 Tbsp of shoyu and the barley malt, stir for 2 minutes more and switch off.
5. You are almost done! Grate some ginger to go on the greens, chop some parsley to go on the beans.  Arrange the plate with the grain or the sweet potato in the middle. Decorate with sprouts or your choice of fresh herbs, and sprinkle the Gomashio salt on the rice. Enjoy!


I cook beans and rice with kombu for its immense benefits in aiding digestion, the iodine content in it and the richer mix of minerals compared to ordinary salt. It also has no taste, which is great if you are not confident with seaweeds or want to use it in childrens’ food. Also it is less yang than salt and I personally need this quality.

Umeboshi is a plum from Japan. It is a so-called super-food, has healing qualities for digestion, is  super for alkalizing, cleanse the body from excesses fats and sugars and it is incredibly tasty. It really gives a kick to the cooking!

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