Restorative recipes to warm from within The Denver Post

By Yewande Komolafe, The New York Times

Like a lot of people who have moved to New York from warmer climates, I always find it takes me some time to adjust — both physically and mentally — to New York winters. When I feel the kitchen floor getting cold in the mornings or the draft seeping in from the windows, I know it’s time to start modifying my meals.

Each year, I find myself making the same dishes almost by instinct: broths, soups and teas built from simple ingredients and requiring minimal prep. I call them restoratives, as they replenish and nourish me.

I live with a chronic illness, and, like many who do, I take special care about what and how I eat, most especially in winter, when colds, flus and other ailments seem all around. The adjustments I make to my diet are informed by trial and error, and by the knowledge my mother has handed down to me.

A food scientist and nutritionist, my mother was always trying to sneak nutrient-rich elements into everything our family ate, and she possessed an exceptional knack for finding great-quality ingredients. My last trip to Lagos, Nigeria, where I grew up, was in January 2020, and the visits I took to market apothecaries with her have stayed with me. I was struck by her conversations with the ìyá èléwé ọmọ, the apothecaries themselves, who all had such intimate knowledge of the spices, herbs, roots and greens for sale, as well as their medicinal qualities. It was a reminder of how much the earth provides, and of how its bounty can restore and uplift.

These market visits inspired me to keep honing my routine, something that is most evident in my winter kitchen. My pantry and refrigerator are packed with an array of broths, infusions, tonics and tinctures. But there are several recipes I always rely on and come back to, made from ingredients I can get nearly anywhere, at any time of year.

In Lagos, lush, green lemon grass bushes, grassier sisters of the yellow lemon grass stalks, grow locally. They are often referred to as “fever grass” for their reputation as an aid to reducing fevers, and I use the ingredient in a citrus tonic when I can find it. But when I can’t here in Brooklyn, I swap in lemon grass stalks to infuse a tea of lemons, limes, oranges and fresh ginger root. I let the tonic cool and store it in the fridge, and, when I need it, I mix one part tonic to one part hot water, with a little honey drizzled in for sweetness.

Then there is my ginger-turmeric bone broth with greens, which is just as good consumed curled up on the couch as it is sipped on the go. Any broth, homemade or store-bought, will do. Even a vegetable stock would work fine. As it simmers, grated ginger and garlic, lemon or lime juice, and a pinch of turmeric are added, then it is steeped and strained. I often take this with me on leisurely park walks with my little girl, or on brisker walks running errands, to keep me hydrated and warm against the cold. There are times when I reach for this while I’m stuck in a commute and suddenly feel as if I am drinking sunshine. (That said, the broth’s garlic and turmeric essences will often “season” your reusable container, so be careful when selecting a vessel.)

Soups are especially important for helping me get back on my feet. And, as anyone who is convalescing knows, straightforward preparations are preferable. This coconut red curry soup incorporates silken tofu and cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes can be canned or fresh, and left whole: As they steep in the broth, they plump, becoming little bursts of flavor. A little lime juice, a source of vitamin C, adds some brightness.

These three restoratives are great to share with others as well, and can be easily brought over to anyone who may be on the mend — a little warmth and brightness for the gray days.

Recipe: Ginger-Turmeric Bone Broth With Greens

By Yewande Komolafe

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 quart bone broth or chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, scrubbed and grated
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups torn greens, such as mature spinach, kale, mustard greens, dandelion or beet greens (optional)
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for squeezing

Preparation

1. Pour the broth into a medium pot and add the turmeric. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the greens, if using.

2. Divide the broth in bowls or large mugs. Serve hot with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Recipe: Citrus and Herb Tonic

By Yewande Komolafe

Yield: 1 3/4 quarts

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 whole limes, scrubbed
  • 1 whole lemon, scrubbed
  • 1 whole orange, scrubbed
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 lemon grass stalk, approximately 8 inches long, cut into 2-inch pieces and crushed
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, scrubbed and thinly sliced
  • 5 fresh oregano sprigs
  • Hot water, for serving
  • Honey, for serving

Preparation

1. Slice the limes, lemon and orange into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, leaving the skin on. Place the citrus slices in a medium pot and fill with 8 cups of water. Stir in the turmeric and add the lemon grass pieces. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

2. Remove from heat, and add the sliced ginger and fresh oregano. Cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a mesh sieve.

3. Serve hot in mugs, as 1- to 2-ounce portions, diluted to taste with more hot water and sweetened with a drizzle of honey. Tonic can be cooled and stored refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. To reheat, portion the cold tonic into mugs and top with boiling water.

Recipe: Brothy Thai Curry With Silken Tofu and Herbs

By Yewande Komolafe

Yield: 6 servings

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 (14-ounce) packages silken tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed
  • 2 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, scrubbed and grated
  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 (14-ounce) can cherry tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil and dill
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for squeezing

Preparation

1. Pat the tofu blocks dry with a clean kitchen or paper towel. Cut each block into 3 slices.

2. Heat a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high. Add the oil and shallots, and stir until softened, 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and curry paste, stir, and cook until fragrant and the paste turns deep red, 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the tomato juices thicken slightly, 4 minutes.

3. Pour in the vegetable stock, stir, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer to slightly reduce the liquid, 10 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, season to taste with salt and remove from the heat.

4. While the broth is simmering, divide the soft tofu into 6 bowls. Break each slice into 4 or 5 pieces. Season each bowl of tofu with 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and a few cracks of black pepper, and top with about ¼ cup of the fresh herb mix.

5. Ladle the hot broth and tomatoes over the bowls of silken tofu. Top with sliced scallions and serve hot, with lime wedges for squeezing.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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