Green beans and almonds are a classic combination in the West. In the old-school French culinary tradition, amandine was the term used when a dish included almonds. Examples would be Green Beans Amandine, or Trout Amandine. Fresh green beans are the star of this amandine dish, with sliced almonds and zesty feta cheese acting as backup singers. It’s finished with a warm lemon-garlic vinaigrette, fresh basil, and lemon zest. Let’s take a look at actions and effects of the various ingredients from the perspective of the Chinese traditional healing arts.
The unripe fruit and protective seed pod of various types of common beans, green beans are actually a member of the legume family. There are over 130 different varieties, and they’re a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K. From the perspective of Chinese dietary therapy, green beans have a neutral to warm thermal nature, and sweet flavor. The warm nature generates and raises metabolic energy, while the sweet flavor has several functions: it nourishes or tonifies, and it also harmonizes or balances.
Green beans also “enter” the Spleen/Pancreas, Stomach, and Kidneys. So they gently nourish and warm these three organs specifically. They also generate fluids and nourish yin. They can be used to strengthen digestion, relieve symptoms such as chest fullness and discomfort, and alleviate back pain. They can also be used to treat diarrhea. However, if they’re over-consumed, they can worsen constipation.
Feta is a crumbly, aged cheese with a tangy and salty taste. Originally from Greece, true feta is made from sheep’s milk, or a combination of sheep and goat’s milk. Dairy products, including cheese, are excellent sources of protein and fat-soluble vitamins. They’re also rich in calcium, though there’s some debate about the bio-availability of calcium in animal milks when consumed by humans. However, Chinese dietary therapy sees dairy products as a double-edged sword.
On one hand, dairy products are a good source of protein, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, and calcium. They build qi, meaning they are energy producing, but they also nourish blood and yin, meaning they are cooling and build body fluids. So dairy products are good for thin and weak people, particularly if they have a tendency toward dryness.
On the other hand, because of their rather cool and fairly strong fluid-building properties, the consumption of dairy products is not recommended for those who have a tendency toward digestive issues, who are overweight, or who experience any sort of mucous-related issues as dairy, particularly from cows, will exacerbate these problems. Both sheep and goat’s milk are considered significantly less “damp,” or mucous-producing, and much more nutrient-rich, than commercial cow’s milk.
Related to peaches, almonds are native to Iran and surrounding areas. But more almonds are grown in California than anywhere else. Iran now ranks as the number three growing region. Almonds have a slightly warming energetic temperature, and sweet flavor. They enter the Lung and Large Intestine channels, reinforce Lung function, relieve energetic stagnation and phlegm in the Lungs, and moisten and lubricate the intestines. They are in interesting addition to this recipe, as they can also help counterbalance any excess of moisture generated by the cheese, as well as any colon dryness from the green beans.
Lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, mustard, pepper flakes, and of course salt and black pepper, make up what is essentially a warm vinaigrette. Lemons have a cooling energetic nature, and a very sour, astringent flavor. They enter the Stomach and Liver. Lemons quench thirst and generate body fluids. They harmonize the Stomach, regulate qi to aid digestion, and relieve bloating and gas. Lemon also resolves mucous and encourages the formation of bile. Lemon is very helpful for individuals who consume excessive fat or protein. Best to consume with caution if you have excess stomach acidity or ulcers.
Garlic is the most pungent member of the onion family. All members of the onion family are spicy/pungent, and enter or influence the Lungs. They promote warmth, expel coldness, move energy and course blood. They’re helpful for people who consume a lot of protein as they facilitate protein metabolism. They also clean the arteries, retard the growth of various pathogens such as viruses, yeasts, and ferments, and promote the growth of healthy intestinal flora.
Because garlic is energetically hot, it has the strongest action of all onions. It enters not only the Lung, but also the Stomach, Spleen/Pancreas, and Large Intestine. It counter-balances cool ingredients by warming and strengthening digestion. It also prevents stagnation from cold or heavy foods, or the general over-consumption of food. Due to its potency, over-consumption of garlic can injure both the Stomach and Liver. And because of its hot temperature, it is contraindicated in conditions of excess heat. Symptoms of heat include red face and eyes, aversion to heat or sensation of feeling too hot, or a desire for large quantities of cold drinks.
Mustard seed, including processed mustard, is very warming energetically. It’s also spicy/pungent, stimulating, and promotes urination. It expels cold from the digestive tract, facilitates the digestive process. It’s also helpful in cases of excessive amounts of clear phlegm in the Lungs. Warm and spicy/pungent, basil harmonizes the Stomach, induces sweating, and relieves seafood poisoning.