Here are some samples from the over 50 different recipes found in Food As Medicine: The Theory and Practice of Food.

Chinese Greens and Arame
Persian Lamb Shanks
Urad-Mung Dhal
Goji Quinoa Pilaf
Mango Chat


Borscht is an important dish of both central Asia and Eastern Europe, eaten from Azerbaijan in the Caucasus Mountains all the way up through the Ukraine to Lithuania in northern Europe. Although prepared with a number of ingredients including cabbage and garlic, the nutritive and healing properties of borscht are a testament to beet root (Beta vulgaris), a reddish-purple colored root that is loaded with antioxidants including betanin, vulgaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. Studies have shown that beet root supports liver detoxification, enhances life expectancy in prostate cancer, and lowers blood pressure, protects the arteries and decreases platelet aggregation in cardiovascular disease. The sweet, grounding taste of beets is excellent for reducing both vata and pitta, useful in supporting the liver and the bowels to promote regularity. Beets are also a good way to track intestinal transit time, to see how quickly the food is moving through your gut. While it is normal for beets to color the feces and urine after eating, high levels of beet root pigments in the urine (beeturia) can be an indication of low stomach acid, anemia, malabsorption syndrome or food allergies.
Borscht is traditionally made with lacto-fermented beets (see p. 127), although because the dish is cooked it cannot be considered to be a probiotic food. To make soured beets scrub well and cut off the ends. Grate the beets and add 3 tbsp (45 mL) salt per five pounds (2.2 kg) of beet. Mix well in a large bowl and then stuff inside a crock or mason jar and let sit between 1 – 4 weeks to ferment, making sure the brine that forms rises above the surface of the beets to avoid spoilage. Once ready, the beets can be incorporated into the recipe below, omitting the red wine vinegar.

2 cups grated beet root
1 small red cabbage, grated
2 carrots, grated
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 red onions, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp caraway seed
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp red wine vinegar (if not using soured beets)
4-5 cups soup stock
2-3 tbsp butter

In a large pot sauté the onion, garlic and celery in butter until translucent, and add in the caraway and bay leaves. Add in the grated beets, carrot and cabbage, and continue to sauté for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. If not using soured beets, add in the red wine vinegar and cook for another few minutes, and then add in the soup stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for several hours. Serve with a dollop of sour cream (p. 176) and chives, and serve with flatbread (p. 185).

Chinese Greens and Arame

Greens are an important food to include at every meal, supplying valuable minerals, phytochemicals and fiber, as well as supporting the liver and bowels to promote detoxification. Chinese cookery is notable for its great diversity of cooking greens, from the cruciferous greens such as bok choy, sui choy, choy sum and gai lan, to other species including amaranth greens (hin choy) and spinach (san choy). Beyond these, any number of greens can substituted for this recipe, such as mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, rapini, chard and beet greens. All the greens have slightly different cooking times, the more delicate ones cooking more quickly, and the denser, more fibrous greens taking a little longer. Arame is a type of seaweed that has a mild taste and is easy to cook with, and as a super food, adds to the overall healing potential of this dish.

2 oz arame
1 lb baby bok choy, ends trimmed off
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp salted Chinese black beans (douchi)
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
2 tbsp extra virgin sesame oil and/or pork fat
1 tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp fish sauce

Soak arame in room temperature water for 10-15 minutes, and then drain. In a pan at medium heat, add oil, crushed garlic, ginger, black beans and arame and stir. After a minute, add in the greens, stirring frequently. As the greens reduce in volume and become bright green, add in the fish sauce and tamari. Continue stir-frying for another half minute or so, and then you’re done. Serves 2-4 people.

This basic Chinese stir-fry recipe has endless variations. Need to boost the immune system?  Throw in some chopped Shiitake mushrooms with the arame. Want a quick high-protein meal?  Slice up a block of organic soft tofu, and add it just before the tamari and fish sauce, stirring gently. Instead of tofu, throw in some broken almonds or cashews with the arame. You might even experiment with stronger tasting seaweeds such as hijiki, kelp or dulse (just remember to soak them for at least an hour). Use your imagination!


Just as there are a huge number of sauerkraut recipes, so too is there an enormous diversity of kimchi, the traditional pickle of Korea. Some recipes are as simple as cabbage and salt, whereas others are more complex, calling for non-vegetable ingredients such as fish. The following recipe is a delicious variation on traditional kimchi, using the pickled pepper paste (p. 160) to kick in fermentation. If you’re not using the pepper paste, add in an extra tablespoon of salt.

1 head of sui choy cabbage, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
3-5 green onions, chopped
1/2 head of garlic, minced
2 cup of pickled pepper paste
1/2 – 1 tsp of crushed red chilies
1 tsp tamari
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Chop the vegetables and with clean hands mix them with all the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Do this for several minutes, ensuring that the red pepper paste is equally distributed.  Stuff inside a clean dry jar and set aside for 1-2 weeks before refrigerating. This kimchi is excellent for kapha conditions and coldness, and to promote appetite and good circulation.

Persian Lamb Shanks

Persian lamb shanks are the quintessential comfort food of Iran and Persian cuisine, a popular time-honored dish that is cooked in every home. Given where Iran is located in western Asia, it might be expected that Persian cuisine is a hybrid of both Indian and European flavors, using Indian herbs such as black cumin and ginger along with more conventionally European herbs such as parsley and dill. The combination is a fragrant admixture of delicate aromas that is uniquely Persian and totally delicious. To boost the medicinal quality add in a few slices of dang gui and peony root, two important Chinese herbs to nourish the blood to treat infertility. The dang gui in particular has a strong celery flavor that complements this dish nicely.

Lamb shanks are the forelimbs of the lamb, rich in sinewy tendons and muscle, and like many tough or stringy meats, needs to be braised with moist heat (see p. 119). In medicinal terms, lamb shanks are good for building up the sinewy muscles and bones, and are a particularly good food for balancing vata.

4 lamb shanks
2 – 4 cups of stock
4 stalks of finely chopped celery
1 finely chopped onion
1/2 head of finely chopped garlic
2-3 tbsp butter, olive oil or ghee
1 tsp black cumin
1 tbsp of dried leek leaf
1 tbsp of dried parsley leaf
1 tbsp of dried dill leaf
1 tbsp of dried mint leaf
1 tsp of sea salt
fresh-cracked black pepper, as garnish
fresh cilantro, as garnish

On medium-low heat, lightly brown the lamb shanks in butter or ghee, and then set aside. Add a little more fat to the pot and add in onion, garlic, celery, cumin, leek, parsley, dill and mint. Stir-fry until onions are translucent, and then add the lamb shanks, stock and salt. If you are using a pressure cooker, use only two cups of stock, whereas if you are making it in a heavy cast iron pot use four cups of water, and cook covered at low heat for 3-4 hours.  Garnish with fresh cracked black pepper and cilantro. Serves four or more people.


Among the various foods that can be prepared from dairy, buttermilk is a unique medicinal food that is highly prized in Ayurveda. Unlike the thick gooey buttermilk in grocery stores, real buttermilk is a thin acidic liquid that separates out when churning butter. Called ‘takra’ in Sanskrit, real buttermilk is exceptionally useful to restore digestion and is used in Ayurveda as a treatment for many different conditions including fever, diarrhea and hemorrhoids. It is most frequently given as a medicinal soup called khadi, consumed on its own as a warm beverage, or mixed and eaten with rice. Khadi is an excellent food for any kind of indigestion, and is a very good food to restore digestion after fasting, or when recuperating from fever and diarrhea.

2-3 cups buttermilk
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp black mustard seed
1/2 tsp hing
1/2 tsp fenugreek seed
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp pink salt
1 sprig of curry leaves, separated from stem
1 tbsp ghee

Melt the ghee in a pot at medium heat and add the cumin, black mustard and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard begins to pop add in the hing, turmeric, curry leaves and salt. Roast the herbs for another few minutes, and then add in the buttermilk. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5-10 minutes and then serve on its own as a soup, or mix with rice. For a variation, add in vegetables such as onion, garlic, zucchini, okra or tomato. To thicken the khadi add in 1-2 tablespoons of chickpea (besan) flour that has been premixed with a little cold water, and cook for another 10-15 minutes. In India khadi is most frequently eaten as an accompaniment to balance the intense flavor of hot, spicy dishes.

Urad Mung Dhal

Among the different beans recommended by Ayurveda, urad or black gram is considered to be unique, with heavy, warm and wet properties, making it the most nourishing of the legumes. Apart from the non-food legumes such as kapikacchu (Mucuna pruriens) and bu gu zhi (Psoralea corylifolia), urad is the only bean used as a sexual restorative and aphrodisiac. The problem with urad however, is that it is difficult to digest and so needs to be properly prepared with herbs and spices or used with other beans such as mung to offset its heavy properties. This recipe calls for the use of washed whole beans, which have the skin coats washed off to promote digestion. Both the urad and the mung dhal should be dry roasted before use, stirring in a pan for 5-7 minutes on medium heat (p. 121).

1/2 cup urad dhal (roasted)
1/2 cup mung dhal (roasted)
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped into chunks
8-10 cups water and/or soup stock
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp black mustard seed
1/2 tsp ajwain seed
1 tbsp coriander powder
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp hing powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
4-5 fresh chopped tomatoes
2 tsp salt
fresh cilantro

After roasting, soak the mung and urad in cool water for 20 minutes and then rinse. Add beans, water, ginger, bay leaves and salt to a medium pot, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking for 1-2 hours. Add water if it gets too thick. If using a pressure cooker, use less water and cook for 30-40 minutes at 15 psi. When the beans are almost cooked, in a separate pan, melt ghee and add cumin, black mustard and ajwain, and cook until the mustard seeds pop. Add in coriander powder, hing, turmeric and 1 tsp salt. Cook for another half minute or so, and then add in the chopped tomatoes, stir-frying at medium heat until the tomatoes are bright red and greasy looking. Add this mixture to the beans, and cook for another five minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, and eat with freshly made rice and vegetables. Serves four people, eaten with rice or another grain dish.

This basic recipe can be adapted to any bean, including toor dhal, chana dhal, kidney beans, dried peas, moth and black-eyed peas. Instead of Indian flavoring consider the Mexican or Italian masalas described on page 142.

Goji Quinoa Pilaf

Pilaf is Turkish for the Hindi word pullao, and thus using the word “pilaf” for this dish might be stretching it a bit, as a pilaf is typically made with rice. With the popularity of newer grains like quinoa, as well as the rediscovery of forgotten friends like buckwheat and barley, I take the term ‘pilaf’ to mean pretty much any grain dish prepared with stock, herbs, vegetables and spices. Originally grown by the Inca, quinoa in particular is an exceptional grain with a high protein content and no gluten, making it an ideal food for those with wheat allergies. This relatively straight-forward pilaf takes advantage of the healing properties of goji berries (gou zi), which in Chinese medicine are nourishing to the blood, liver and eyes.

2 cups quinoa (fermented, p. 127)
1 medium onion, diced
2 small handfuls of goji berries
2 tbsp oil (sesame, butter or olive)
4 cups stock
1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter in a pot at medium-low heat and sauté diced onions until caramelized. Add in the quinoa and cook for 5 minutes with the onions, then adding in the goji berries, cooking for another minute or so.  Add the soup stock and salt, bring to a boil and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Toss before serving.  Serves 4-5 people.

Mango Chat

The Indian word for snack is ‘chat’, and rather than a particular kind of food, instead refers to a diverse array of foods all flavored with a spicy mixture called ‘chat masala’.  Among the different foods traditionally prepared with chat are fruits such as mango, papaya and melon, but I use just about any fruit including peach, pear and apple. According to Ayurveda, most sweet fruits have a cooling quality, and although deliciously refreshing can be congesting and cloying, promoting excess mucus and water retention. Chat masala is added to the fresh fruit to provide a salty and pungent flavor that balances the sweetness, making the fruit easier to digest.

There are a huge number of chat varieties that all make use of familiar Indian spices such as cumin and black pepper. What makes chat unique however, is its use of sour flavored herbs such as amchur (unripe mango powder) and anardana (pomegranate seed powder). Where these more exotic herbs aren’t available, fresh squeezed lime can be used instead.

3 large mangos, not quite fully ripened
2 tsp coriander seed powder
2 tsp cumin seed powder
1 tsp amchar (mango seed powder)
1/2 tsp ajwain seed powder
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp hing powder
1-2 tsp pink salt
1 tbsp extra-virgin walnut or hemp oil

Wash mangos, peel and cut away from the large pit in the middle.  Chop mango into half-inch chunks and place into a bowl. In a separate pan at medium-low heat, roast the hing powder for 30 seconds, and then add the remaining herbs and salt, cooking for another half-minute. Sprinkle over top the mango, add the oil and toss together. Garnish with fresh mint or cilantro. Serves four or more people.