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Profile: Health Counselor Sanae Suzuki

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    Sanae Suzuki
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    Macrobiotic Spring Breakfast: Miso Soup, Brown Rice with Sesame-Nori Condiment, and Steamed Baby Bok Choy
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    Ingredients: brown rice, baby bok chou, broccoli, wakame, carrot, nori flakes, sesame seeds, miso paste, turnip
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    Cut the broccoli into flowerets, cut the turnip into half-moons and julienne the carrot
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    Separate the green part of the baby bok choy leaf from the white.
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    Toast the sesame seeds, stirring often, until the water evaporates and the seeds change color slightly, about 6–8 minutes.
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    Combine the sesame seeds with the nori flakes in a small bowl. Sprinkle over cooked grains.

Text, photos and food cooked by Michal Martinek

Apr 19, 2015

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Sanae Suzuki is a very good cook. She is also a sought-after macrobiotic counselor, holistic food cookbook author, and busy vegan café co-owner. But the road to her métier was indirect, unexpected and at times scary.

In the summer of 1993, several years after moving to Los Angeles from Nagoya, Japan, she became sick with a flu-like illness and couldn’t shake it off. “I thought it was my liver,” said Sanae one recent afternoon, sitting on a bamboo tree-shaded porch at the Santa Monica home she shares with her husband and six golden retrievers. She’d had some prior liver issues, and her father had died of a liver disease. A blood test uncovered a different problem, however—an aggressive type of ovarian cancer.

“The doctor told me I needed surgery right away,” remembered Sanae, “otherwise I wouldn’t make it.” Shocked, without health insurance, and not willing to go back to Japan to be a burden on her family, she left the hospital and walked into a nearby natural food store she sometimes shopped at. The owner of the store, Mr. Kikuchi, noticed she had been crying and asked her what was up. He suggested the healing power of a macrobiotic diet, noting its similarity to Japanese cooking, and gave her the name of a macrobiotic counselor.

Macrobiotics isn’t just a diet, but a philosophy and way of living. “Macro” stands for big, and “bio” means life. The principles are simple: being aligned with nature—physically, spiritually and emotionally—and being in tune with the yin and yang forces of the universe. Of course, that’s easier said than done; but this is where eating the right food—whole grains, vegetables, beans, sea vegetables, fermented food, pickles, and no processed food, dairy, animal food or highly refined sugars—comes in.

The counselor put Sanae on a very strict regimen and gave her the tools to heal herself. With the help of friends and her then-boyfriend Eric—a professional chef and now her husband—she slowly reclaimed her health. “It took me one full year to feel better, and two more years to be cancer-free,” said Sanae.

Encouraged by the profound effect the macrobiotic lifestyle had on her life, Sanae decided this was her calling. She applied to the Kushi Institute—a leading educational institution in Becket, MA—and completed all four levels to become a certified macrobiotic counselor.

Age 60 — Hometown Nagoya, Japan — Where do you live? Santa Monica, CA — Occupation Whole health counselor — Signature dish Root vegetables — Who taught you how to cook? My husband Eric Lechasseur — Favorite kitchen tool Cooking chopsticks, ceramic grater with bamboo brush — Always in your pantry Whole grains, beans and sea vegetables — Go-to snack Something sweet — Favorite cuisine Japanese and Italian — Do you diet? No — Food addictions No, but I used to be a sugar junkie. — Food allergies Sugar — Food fad pet peeve Foie gras — Who’s your sous chef? My six dogs — Drinking while cooking? Yes—tea — What’s for dinner tonight? Miso vegetable soup, brown rice with quinoa, homemade natto beans with scallion, and nori sea vegetables mixed into tamarai mustard, red radish salad, sautéed yam cake with kale — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? I don't drink milk but I have cried when I spilled soy sauce. — Best meal you ever had This is not easy to answer since I have had so many great meals in my life. I love my husband's homemade pasta with vegetables from our organic garden, basil and Meyer lemon pesto sauce. And a four hour lunch at French Laundry in Napa—they made a special vegan course for me. — Contact seedkitchen.com

Miso Soup

Forget fried eggs, bacon, buttered toast and coffee, or other typical Western breakfast staples high in saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar. Sanae wouldn’t have any of it. She likes to start her day with vegan food “that provides an uplifting quality, lightness, warmth and softness.” Here is an example of a delicious breakfast menu adapted from her Love, Sanae cookbook.

Miso paste—the base for this soup—is made from fermented soybeans or grains. It is light, very nutritious (B vitamins), easy to digest and rich in protein. Use it not only to make soup stock, but also in salad dressings, marinades or dips. Boiling miso destroys its nutrients; make sure to heat it quickly, and never cook too long. And it shouldn’t be reheated.

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  1. Serves 4
  2. 4 cups purified water
  3. 1 1-inch piece of wakame
  4. 1 large carrot, julienned
  5. 1 turnip, cut into half-moons
  6. 1 cup baby broccoli, cut into flowerets
  7. 2 tablespoons miso paste

1

Bring the water and the wakame to a boil in a covered soup pot over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the carrot. Simmer for 1 minute. Add the turnip, and simmer for 2 minutes. Finally, add the broccoli and simmer for another minute.

2

Reduce the heat to low. Take out 3 tablespoons of the water and mix it with the miso in a small bowl. Stir the diluted miso into the pot and simmer over very low heat for 1 additional minute. Taste and add more miso if you like. Remove the wakame piece, cut it into smaller pieces, and stir it back into the soup. Serve in individual bowls.

Steamed Baby Bok Choy

Bok choy is a mild, naturally sweet, crunchy vegetable of Chinese origin. It comes in a large or baby size and is a good source of vitamin C and calcium. It is pretty versatile—use it in soups, stir-fries or salads; boil it, braise it or steam it.

O

  1. Serves 4
  2. 4 heads baby bok choy
  3. 4 cups purified water
  4. Pinch of salt

1

Cut off the baby bok choy root base, and wash the individual leaves to remove any dirt. Separate the green part of the leaf from the white.

2

Bring the water and salt to a boil in medium-size pot. Add the white part and simmer for 1 minute; then add the green part and simmer for another minute. Strain the water. When cool enough to handle, cut up the white parts diagonally. On a plate, arrange the green parts in a circle and place the white parts in the middle, like a flower.

Green Nori-Sesame Condiment

This simple condiment adds an extra layer of flavor to your grain dishes. Store it in a covered jar. 

O

  1. Serves 4
  2. 4 teaspoons sesame seeds
  3. 4 teaspoons green nori flakes

1

Rinse the sesame seeds under cold running water and drain. Place the seeds in a dry skillet that has been heated over a medium-high flame. Toast the seeds, stirring often, until the water evaporates and the seeds change color slightly, about 6–8 minutes.

2

Combine the sesame seeds with the nori flakes in a small bowl. Sprinkle over cooked grains.

Brown Rice

Sanae likes to soak grains prior to cooking “because it imparts a softer texture and increases their digestibility.” For this recipe, you can wash the rice, place it in a pot with the water, and let it soak on a kitchen counter for 4–8 hours or overnight; then bring the pot to a boil and cook. 

O

  1. Serves 4
  2. 2 cups short-grain brown rice
  3. 4 cups purified water
  4. 2 small pinches of salt

1

Wash the rice and place it with the water in a medium-size pot; cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the salt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, tightly covered, for 40–50 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Using a wet (to prevent sticking) wooden spoon, gently stir the grains. Serve with the Green Nori-Sesame Condiment.

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