Springtime is just around the corner, as evidenced by our state’s recent transformation into the land of 10,000 puddles. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recommends eating foods that move upwards (primarily warm and sweet foods) in order to stay in harmony with the Spring season. By eating foods that energetically move upward, you harmonize with all living things in the spring which have a tendency toward upward movement as they begin to sprout and grow. Green foods, and foods that correspond to the liver are also beneficial during this time. The following recipe’s main ingredients are all ideal during this seasonal transition (they also happen to be easy to prepare and absolutely delicious). The recipe is as follows:
1 pound asparagus, woody stem ends removed
1 pound of shrimp
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced (1/2 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons, depending on how much you like fresh garlic. If you don’t like the spice of fresh garlic, use roasted garlic.)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (more to taste)
1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
Salt and black pepper to taste
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it well. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and boil for 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the asparagus to a bowl of iced water. Shocking the asparagus in an ice bath at this point will leave it perfectly cooked and delicious. Add the shrimp to the pot of boiling water. If they are pre-cooked, remove after 30 seconds—this is just to warm them. If the shrimp are uncooked, boil them for 2-3 minutes for small shrimp, 3-4 minutes for medium shrimp, 5-7 minutes for large shrimp until cooked through. Remove the shrimp and add them to a large bowl.
2. Slice the asparagus spears thinly on the diagonal until you get close to the tip. Cut the asparagus tips off in one piece. Put the asparagus in the bowl with the shrimp. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Add more lemon juice if desired, to taste.
Asparagus is slightly warm, bitter and slightly pungent in nature. Slightly cooking the asparagus, and vegetables in salads in general, is beneficial from the viewpoint of TCM. Raw foods are more difficult to digest, and can damage the Spleen Qi. People with Spleen Qi Deficiency or an abundance of Dampness in their body should especially avoid raw foods. Even though raw salads and smoothies are quite trendy, from a Chinese food therapy perspective they should be eaten in moderation. In Ayurvedic medicine it is also said that people should eat 80 percent cooked food, and only 20 percent raw.
Shrimp is warm, sweet and used to increase Yang energy. It’s important to know the origin of any meat/protein you intend to eat. In some ways where food comes from in our day and age, is more important than what it is. When I made this recipe, I used wild caught shrimp, but sustainably farmed shrimp will work just as well. When selecting shrimp look for shrimp certified by an independent agency, such as Wild American Shrimp or the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies that wild fisheries are well-managed and sustainable. If you are going to buy farm raised shrimp look for the Best Aquaculture Practices label, which is for farmed (not wild) shrimp, raised without antibiotics and in conditions that exceed local environmental regulations.