Long before P.F. Chang’s started serving Lettuce Wraps and Dan-Dan Noodles, Nina Simonds introduced a generation of Americans to ginger, tofu and miso. Through her articles in Gourmet magazine, the New York Times and numerous Asian cookbooks, she showed us how to make Miso Soup and Cashew Chicken. Now on her cutting-edge videoblog (spicesoflife.com), she’s teaching us about the health-giving properties of Asian food.
Simonds includes easy, delicious healthful recipes that reflect the holistic beliefs of Asian culture, in which spices and ingredients have therapeutic properties. For example, ginger aids digestion and prevents nausea, tofu strengthens the immune system, and garlic protects against infections.
“I try to show people how to integrate what I learned while living in Asia into their everyday lives,” says Simonds. To her, these lessons were much more than recipes and cooking techniques. They were also about healthful food choices and lifestyles.
Simonds plans simple meals in advance—such as main-dish salads, soups and stir-fried meals—exercises and meditates regularly, and takes a daily decaf, herbal teatime break to recharge. She frequents farmers’ markets and uses only organic produce.
As a working mother, she has shifted her authentic-Asian mindset to one in which she can pull together quick meals made with ingredients from local grocery stores. Her down-to-earth approach is reflected in Spices of Life (2005) and A Spoonful of Ginger (1999). She’s a big fan of grilled foods, loves to rework traditional family recipes and offers alternative ingredients for her favorite Asian-inspired cuisine.
Story by Charlene Peters, a food writer in Marblehead, Mass.
This barbecued tofu will make a tofu lover out of anyone. Marinate tofu in a fragrant, pungent mixture made with oyster sauce, soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar, chile paste and garlic. Bake for 30 minutes for a meaty, flavorful tofu that’s great on its own, tossed in pasta or soups, or in our Hearty Miso Cabbage Stew. Be sure to use the water-packed, extra-firm tofu that comes in a tub.