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Creamy Polenta with Cherries, Pistachio and Cardamom

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

My goal is to obscure the lines between food and medicine, incorporating healing herbs and spices into the foods and drinks I already consume every day.

Today, on a cold, snowy, 7* morning, I wanted something warm and cozy.

This morning porridge is packed full of macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, protein), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and phytonutrients (the plant-based nutrients that influence our health like flavonoids) to give you energy and nourishment. As we increase nourishment and give the body what it needs for optimal functioning, healing can happen as the body rights itself.

The healing highlights of this dish include:

Cardamom- I love this spice! It is commonly used in the Persian cooking of my lineage. It has been used as medicine in Indian and China since records have been kept, making it one of the worlds most ancient spices. Greeks and Romans used it as a perfume, even touting it as an aphrodisiac! In the body it works on the digestive system, as a carminative (helping to relieve gas), digestant (bringing blood flow to the digestive system) and a stimulant (helping digestive secretion and motility). It has a warming quality, great for cold days!

Cherries- Both tart and sweet contain lots of vitamin A and C, and are a good source of copper and manganese. Anti-inflammatory flavonoids such as anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins give the cherry its dark red-blue-black color. In general, the darker the color of the fruit or vegetable, the better it is for you because it contains a higher concentration of these pigments. These give cherry it's anti-inflammatory power, a natural COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitor that were found to be comparable to ibuprofen and naproxen. Cherries contain malic acid. Studies show that people with fibromyalgia, gout and some cases of arthritis may respond to tart cherries due to their malic acid content.

Cherries also contain significant melatonin; a potent brain anti-oxidant that is produced by our pineal gland. It helps regulate sleep-wake rhythms, and even feelings of well-being. In one double-blind study-volunteers consumed placebo or tart cherry concentrate for 7 days. There was a significant increase in time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency with the tart cherry juice supplementation.

Pistachios- These are some old nuts! Humans have been eating them as food since at least 6750 BCE based on archeological evidence found in what is now, Iraq. Even the Bible mentions pistachios. According to Persian legend, two lovers met beneath a pistachio tree on a moonlit nights in the hope of hearing the ripening nuts crack open-a sign of good luck.

These visually appealing nuts are delicious and nutritious too. The green color that makes them look so pretty are from chlorophyll , the same pigment that makes plants look green and allows them to breathe in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Avoid "red" pistachios which are artificially dyed.

Like other nuts, they are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which we need for optimal health. They are also an excellent source of protein and fiber. They are rich in B vitamins (especially B6, B3, B1, B2, B5 and folic acid), as well as vitamin E. Pistachios also contain lots of minerals like copper, manganese, molybdenum, magnesium, selenium, zince and calcium. They are the richest source of Potassium of all the nuts! Two ounces of the nuts provides more potassium than a banana. The best part is that you can enjoy a lot of them while getting all these nutrients! A one ounce serving is 47 nuts!

Potassium and magnesium which pistachios are rich in are crucial for protection against high-blood pressure. One study showed with patients who had moderately elevated blood pressure and substituted 10% of their daily caloric intake with pistachios, after three weeks had an decrease in total and LDL cholesterol with an increase in beneficial HDL.

Pistachios are also very anti-inflammatory, liver protective and in one animal study alleviated dermatitis.

Creamy Polenta with Cherries, Pistachios and Cardamom
Serves 4

For the Polenta
3 cups milk of your choice (I used unsweetened almond)
1 egg (omit for vegan recipe)
1 tbsp butter (I used Miyoko's Vegan Butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup organic polenta/cornmeal

For the topping
2 cups mix tart and sweet cherries (I used frozen)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/3 cup roughly crushed, pistachios without shells

Whisk milk, egg if using, vanilla, maple syrup and salt together in a medium pot. Turn heat to medium and bring to gentle simmer stirring frequently. When small bubbles appear on the surface, add cornmeal in slowly, whisking to avoid clumping. Using a wooden spoon continue stirring as you cook for 6 minutes of a gentle medium heat. Cover with a lid, turn off heat and let sit for another 4-5 minutes.

In another medium pot, pour cherries and cardamom, stir and cook over medium heat until berries are soft. You can smoosh some with your spoon or leave whole.

Scoop polenta into a serving bowl, top with cherries and add a sprinkle of pistachios.

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