Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet first came to my attention eleven years ago when I lived in Portland. That was the year I befriended Dana who’s now a kick-butt naturopathic doctor in Portland and landed a job that offered comprehensive health insurance that included coverage for naturopathic treatment.
Before that I lived in constant fear I’d end up in an emergency room after having a heart attack from receiving a doctor’s bill from an earlier ER visit. Living on and off without basic health insurance for years made me painfully aware of how expensive health care can be, and it reminded me that though I can’t foresee disasters and disease, I can do everything in my power to take care of the body I’ve been given. While I’ve dealt with minor health issues, I’m grateful I never faced a major illness or injury while uninsured.
Ironically, the full-time job I mentioned that offered health care was through Americorps, a national service organization that places qualified volunteers in high-needs communities. I worked 40 hours a week and cleared a whopping $775 a month. Certainly I couldn’t build a nest egg, but the health care plan not only prevented me from permanent financial ruin when I was hit by a car while cycling that year, it also covered visits to a naturopathic doctor who introduced me to an anti-inflammatory diet that worked better to heal than any pain killer had. Thanks, Oregon health insurance.
Recently I’ve returned to Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory dietary guidelines, and this specific diet has helped me regain some of the energy I’d been missing since hitting my 30s. Why be so persnickety about my health since I’m gainfully insured again? Just because I can now afford to visit the doctor when I’m not feeling well doesn’t mean I want to treat my body to foods that trash it.
Below you’ll find one of many great anti-inflammatory recipes found in one of my new favorite cookbooks, True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure. I know, I know. The title sounds pretty bourgeois, but most of the dishes are quite inexpensive to prepare. Having lived on $775 a month for a year, I’m a permanent connoisseur of tasty food on a shoestring budget.
This tofu curry is a fine example of inexpensive, flavorful vegetarian cuisine. If you’re looking to cut costs even more, substitute regular coconut milk for the coconut cream and coconut water, and if you want to make the dish vegan, substitute dark brown sugar for honey. I’d add half of the brown sugar and then add a little more at a time until you have the sweetness level you’d like.
Tofu Curry with Cauliflower, Rice Noodles, and Cashews
Serves 4 to 6
2 2/3 cups unsweetened coconut cream
1 2/3 cups unsweetened coconut water
1 lemongrass stalk, mashed
1 Tbsp plus 1 1/2 chopped fresh ginger
2 dried shiitake mushroom caps
1-2 Tbsp Thai red curry paste (depending on your taste)
2 Tbsp honey (to make this vegan, substitute 1- to 1 1/2 TBS dark brown sugar, to taste)
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 kaffir lime leaf, torn, or 1 tsp freshly grated lime zest
4 sprigs of cilantro
3 fresh basil leaves
1/3 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp salt
Noodles, Tofu, and Vegetables
1 small boiling potato, such as red bliss, diced
12 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into large squares
3 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups cups cauliflower florets
2 carrots, sliced on the bias
3 oz. sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 (8-oz) package rice noodles, soaked according to package directions
1/2 cup chopped roasted unsalted cashews
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1. Combine all of the Curry Broth ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. Once the broth starts to simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes. Do not boil.
2. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a large saucepan. Set aside. (The broth may be made ahead and refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)
3. Put the potato in the Curry Broth and cook over medium heat, but do not boil, just until the pieces start to become tender when pierced with a fork.
4. Add the tofu, mushrooms, onion, cauliflower, and carrots. Continue to cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar snap peas and cook for another 2 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt.
5. Divide the curry among warm bowls, then add the noodles to the bowls. Top with cashes and cilantro before serving.