Transitions of any kind are moments to pay special attention to habits and cravings, realities and fantasies, routine and instability. They are periods where conflicting desires—attachment to the old and excitement for the new—demand that we pause, reflect before we react, and then move forward with a clear mind.
In Ayurveda, we treat transitions with kit gloves by encouraging a short reset, called ritucharya, when moving between one season and the next, such as winter into spring, but also whenever we transition between jobs, homes, relationships, and identities. A staple of any reset is kitchari, a simple, easily digestable meal that involves all of the senses in its preparation and enjoyment. It’s one of my favorite parts of an at-home ritucharya, and can be part of a one- to three-day monodiet if that’s your thing.
Each ritucharya has a different flavor, and in this particular transition between winter and spring our bodies are in the process of letting go of accumulated thoughts, feelings, emotions, and baggage of all sorts that built up in the winter, just as the frozen ground begins to melt and nature bursts forth into blossom. Our livers get a chance to fire up and process and flush out toxins, requiring a strong digestive fire, or agni. It’s a time of resurgence, upward energy, and renewal, where everything gets lighter, clearer, cleaner.
With bright, cleansing greens—chard, broccoli, and leeks—and a soupier consistency, this kitchari facilitates the body’s natural lightening process without sacrificing on satisfaction and taste. Depending on your spice tolerance, you may wish to adjust the tempering spices, especially the black pepper (I find it to be mild, but my taste buds have been acclimating to heat for years); we do want a bit of kick, though, since the pungent (spicy) taste kick-starts the agni and aids in this internal cleansing.
As I’m writing this, the world is in an exaggerated transition between an old way of life and a new one, which is keeping us at home more and less able to burst forth in the spring-like way we may want to. I’m wrestling with how to deal with this myself, and invite you to do the same. Meanwhile, simplifying our food choices, and working with nature and the reality of our circumstances, will give us the space for insight and awakening we all need more than ever.
Spring Kitchari with Chard, Broccoli, and Leeks
- 1/2 cup split moong dahl
- 1/2 cup white basmati rice
- 7 cups water, divided
- 2 sticks cinnamon (or 1 tablespoon ground)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon hing (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon mineral salt
- 2 cups broccoli
- 1 cup leeks, chopped
- 3-4 cups green Swiss chard
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped stems and leaves (optional garnish)
- Fresh lemon wedges (optional garnish)
For the tempering
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated (or 1/2 tablespoon dry)
- 8 pods cardamom (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
- 3 teaspoons coriander seed (or 1-1/2 teaspoons ground)
- 2 teaspoons black pepper corns (or 1 teaspoon ground)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1/2 teaspoon ajwain, nigella, or sesame seeds
- Soak the moong dahl and rice in water to cover overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse 3-4 times until the water runs clear.
- Add the dahl, rice, cinnamon, turmeric, hing, salt, and 3 cups water to a large dutch oven or pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes uncovered. Do not stir.
- Meanwhile, prepare the tempering: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan for 2 minutes. Add the shallot, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 5 minutes on medium-low heat until fragrant. Gently crush the cardamom, coriander, peppercorns, fennel, and ajwain with a mortar and pestle, or place in a towel and hit with the back of a knife or spoon to release the volatile oils. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure the spices do not burn. Remove from heat.
- Add the broccoli and leeks to the pot with the dahl and rice with 2 more cups of water. Stir once just to combine. Cook for another 10 minutes.
- Finally, add the Swiss chard and another 2 cups of water. Stir, and cook for 5 minutes or until the greens are wilted but not mushy. Stir in the tempered spices. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional cilantro and lemon juice/wedges as desired.