Cooking an African Heritage Meal with Dr. Shiue

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    Left to right, Joyce Mar, Kevin Tan, and Kaiser Permanente’s Rakesh Jotwani, MD, at the stove during class, sautéing a range of colorful vegetables.
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    Linda Shiue, MD, center, assists in making Texas “caviar.” The dish of black-eyed peas, peppers, and tomatoes goes with chips or Dr. Shiue’s healthier choice, collard greens.
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    Students cook onions and okra. The African Heritage Diet Pyramid places greens at its very base — the core ingredient for most meals.
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    Kevin Tan smells a container of cayenne pepper. Dr. Shiue advises buying whole spices in small quantities, then grinding them before cooking for freshness.
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    A student cuts a red onion, as instructed by Dr. Shiue. She said the first dish she ever made was quiche, when she was 7. She still uses the recipe today.
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    Dr. Shiue gestures with a collard green during class. She showed the class how to use scissors to cut the leaves into round pieces to later fill with the vegetarian caviar.
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    Volunteer Nutrition Coach Andrew Conard, second from left, advises students assembling the collard greens dish.
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    Dr. Shiue has a look at her students’ work. She went to culinary school 3 years ago “to know the proper way to do things in the kitchen and learn to be a better teacher.”
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    Dr. Shiue‘s classes often celebrate international foods. Student Sook Hollingshead, right, says her family is tired of her “traditional Trader Joe’s defrosted cooking.”
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    A bowl of colorful cubed sweet potatoes is ready for incorporation into a vegan version of mafe, a peanut-based stew popular in West Africa.
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    Kaiser Permanente’s Dan Santiago, MD, center, helps prep vegetables for stew. He volunteers regularly and says that some of the students have even become his patients.
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    “Throughout my life, I never thought that cooking would be part of my professional career,” says Dr. Shiue. February’s class saw repeat students and physician volunteers.
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Celebrate African cuisine in the kitchen with Linda Shiue, MD, trained chef and director of Culinary Medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. (Get a recipe to try at home!)

West African Groundnut Stew. Texas Caviar in Collard Green Cups. Jamaican Rice and Peas. Grits with Spicy Collard Greens.

That’s what was for dinner Feb. 13 at the Kaiser Permanente Mission Bay Medical Center when Linda Shiue, MD, converted a conference room into the Thrive Kitchen for a cooking class open to Kaiser Permanente members and the public.

These ingredients are also the basis for what’s for dinner in Senegal, according to Dr. Shiue, who visited the country recently.

“Whenever I travel to other countries I take a local cooking class, if I can. If not, the first place I visit is a local market. Food is a great way to understand and interact with people,” she said.

Dr. Shiue is an internal medicine physician, a trained chef, a sought-after speaker on food as medicine, and was an anthropology major in college. She brings it all together in her monthly cooking class now entering its third year.

“My goal is to give people practical skills for implementing healthy eating and cooking at home,” she said. “The idea behind that is preventive health. A healthy diet is a one-size-fits-all first-defense medicine against diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and even cancer.”

Lessons from Linda

Tonight’s menu was chosen by Dr. Shiue to honor the diverse population that “makes the Bay Area great.”

The evening is dedicated to the traditional cuisine of Africa, packed with leafy green and root vegetables and grains. “The traditional ingredients of African cuisine are really good for you,” she said, adding that tonight’s stew is special to her: She first made it for her husband 27 years ago this month.

With 12 students in the class supported by volunteers who include fellow physicians as well as nutrition and culinary professionals, Dr. Shiue runs through the menu, has students share their cooking experience, and begins demonstrating kitchen tips and tricks:

• Use pre-cut vegetables to save yourself time
• Frozen vegetables are inexpensive and often “flash frozen,” so have plenty of nutrients and can be a good choice for soups and stews
• Brown par-boiled rice has more vitamins than white rice, with a similar texture
• Hold your knife handle closer to the blade, then cut and dice using a rocking motion
• Don’t peel ginger with a grater; use the edge of a spoon

“In polls most Americans don’t cook at home as much anymore,” Dr. Shiue said. “In the 70s and 80s more mothers and fathers were working, so we raised a generation that couldn’t cook. At the same time, we saw a rise in chronic conditions. As a result, we learned that eating at home meant better health outcomes.”

Students of Food

Soon the conference room starts to look like a restaurant kitchen, with teams of 4-5 students slicing, dicing, and sautéing everything from okra to jalapeno peppers. With dustings of allspice, cumin, and cayenne, it begins to smell like a kitchen, too. The students are largely strangers to one another, but they pepper their work with laughter and chatter.

Kevin Tan is sautéing onions and garlic. The special education teaching assistant with the San Francisco Unified School District has lost 80 pounds with Kaiser Permanente’s Weight Management Program. He’s given up the sodas, white rice, and soy sauce he loved for the vegetables he used to avoid.

“Now I like all kinds of vegetables,” he said. “Spinach is my favorite. I’m here to learn more about making healthy food.”

At another table, Hannah Schmunk is chopping vegetables. She works as a food educator for children at Bon Appetit Management Company and volunteered at an orphanage in Tanzania for 4 months, where she taught cooking, too.

Two years ago, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and her interest in food became personal as she sought a diet that would reduce inflammation. “I believe in the healing power of good food,” she said. “I’d love to see more hospitals offer food as medicine in programs like this one.”

Like clockwork, the dishes are finished and the class’s enthusiastic eating begins.

“Food is about community building,” Dr. Shiue said. “People start out as strangers, but when people cook together it always draws them closer.”

Upcoming classes include “Eat Your Greens” on March 13, “Spring Vegetables” on April 10, and “Healthy Asian Cooking” on May 8. To sign up, call 415-833-3450 or email SFhealthed@kp.org. More information is also available at www.Facebook.com/TheDoctorsSpicebox. Check out the stew recipe, below!

West African Groundnut Stew (Mafe)                              

Adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, 1990, Simon and Schuster.
This is a vegan version of mafe, a peanut based stew popular throughout W. Africa, which includes the countries of Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, and others.

Serves 12

Ingredients

2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 cups chopped cabbage
3 cups cubed sweet potatoes (1-inch cubes)
3 cups low sodium tomato juice
1 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chopped okra
½ cup natural peanut butter (no other added ingredients)

Technique

1. Sauté the onions in oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until onions are translucent.

2. Stir in the cayenne and garlic and sauté for a couple more minutes.

3. Add the cabbage and sweet potatoes and sauté, covered for a few minutes.

4. Mix in the juices, salt, ginger, cilantro, and tomatoes.

5. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.

6. Add the okra and simmer for 5 minutes more.

7. Stir in the peanut butter, and simmer gently until ready to serve, stirring frequently. Add more juice or water if the stew is too thick.

8. Serve over rice or fufu (a starch made of pounded boiled cassava).

Nutrition Info: Cal 186, Fat 8 g, Protein 5 g, Sodium 249 g, Sugar 11 g

Discussion6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Loved this story! Kudos to Dr. Shiue for sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm for tasty, healthy cooking with Kaiser Permanente members and the community.

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