These nourishing soup recipes are inspired, not by Lewis Carroll’s quirky ode to soup, but by two readers’ personal dietary adventures.
M.’s Beautiful Soup
A faithful HJC reader, commentator, and friend in the U.K., M., recently sent me the fluffiest-featheriest hand-knitted! scarf for Hanukah. (I love it).
M. also has been, unbeknownst to me, on a bit of a juicing binge. She bought a juicer and has been juicing pints of pineapple and other fresh juices, all in the chilly, bitterly-damp English winter. She was surprised to discover she had gained weight. She’s given me permission to share her story.
Here’s my response:
Fresh fruit juices contain fructose. That’s the same zippy sugar that’s in hi-fructose corn syrup. And, there is nothing in these fiber-free liquid breakfast and lunches, delicious as they might be, to slow down your blood-sugar rush.
Now, there are times where juicing vegetables is appropriate, and in certain, specific cases (for certain conditions), going on pure fruit juices might be recommended, but drenching yourself in sugar is generally not a great idea.
Cooling, sugary, chilling fruit (and sweet vegetable juices such as beet, carrot, and so on), are probably not the best choice for winter or cool weather. Also, not a great idea if you have weight or blood-sugar issues, or a host of other health concerns.
If you are looking for lighter, less fatty, but hydrating fare in cold weather, vegetarian (vegan) soups are a good choice. Add them to your diet! Especially if you add some serious tonic ingredients like ginger and garlic to the mix.
So for M., here’s a nourishing, yet low-calorie soup for you, loaded with veggies, proteins, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. If she prefers, she can use a chicken or light lamb stock instead of water.
M.’s Beautiful Soup
aka HJC’s Easy Winter Quinoa Tonic Soup (serves 3-5)
This makes a quick lunch or dinner soup. Packed with protein, the bitterness of quinoa is balanced by the sweetness of root vegetables. Add plenty of parsley in right before serving to for the Vitamin C and chlorophyll.
1 tablespoon (or less) hi-oleic safflower oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
1 large bunch parsley (insect-free or checked), washed, stems and leaves separated, stems roughly chopped, leaves set aside covered, in fridge
4 celery ribs, scrubbed, peeled, checked for insects and sliced
1/4 large celery knob, peeled and diced (check for worms)
2 medium-large parsnips, scrubbed, quartered and sliced (if not organic, peel)
2 large carrots, scrubbed, quartered and sliced (if not organic, peel)
1 small rutabaga (not the horrid, giant waxed kind, the little farm-fresh kind), peeled and diced
2 small turnips, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt, Himalayan salt, Celtic salt, or other full-mineral salt
8-12 oz. mushrooms, any type, cleaned and sliced
1/2 gallon water
1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
1 cup quinoa (checked and rinsed if necessary)
1 teaspoon each dried marjoram and thyme (or more, to taste)
1 cup frozen corn, optional (children like this soup with corn)
2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon organic apple-cider vinegar
salt, Braggs Liquid Aminos, or tamari or shoyu, to taste
reserved parsley leaves
Lightly toasted almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, optional
Prepare all vegetables, set aside onions and garlic.
In a soup pot, saute onions over medium-low heat, in oil, until slightly golden. Add parsley stems, celery, root vegetables and let saute another ten minutes. Add mushrooms and salt, let saute another ten minutes until mushrooms wilt and begin to release liquid. Add water and quinoa, tomato paste, and spices and cook until quinoa is soft, about 20 minutes. Add corn if using, and cook until corn defrosts (2-3 minutes). Stir in garlic, apple-cider vinegar well, season, and serve, topped with plenty of parsley leaves and nuts and seeds if you like.
To me, this is a meal. You might prefer to follow with a living (fermented) salad, a salad of cooked green beans, or a broiled fish dish.
(Mysterious Disappearing Photo, Insert Here)
Laura-Leah’s Posh Wok Soup
Laura-Leah, an HJC reader and client in Washington State, says that she feels weak and undernourished especially in the winter. When other people pack on the pounds, she loses them because she loses her appetite in the rain and cold. She isn’t able to eat any animal fat in the form of dairy, eggs, or even chicken that has the tiniest smidgen of fat in it, but she craves it. Then, she becomes lightly nauseated. Although fish is a good choice for her, she doesn’t really like most varieties, but tries to eat it three times a week. She needs a tonifying, warming, invigorating soup sans animal fats.
In November I got involved in a conversation about animal fats when I was interviewed on Kosher Scene radio by Chaim Szmidt. (Please check out the link). In the opening minutes, I tell Chaim that traditional animal fats and fatty foods such as shmaltz (chicken fat) and gribenes (goose, duck or chicken cracklings) are not only not unhealthy, but actually a really good dietary choice for many people.
We were recently blessed to have Rabbi Szmidt join us for a Shabbos. He’s an amazing raconteur, a terrific observer of life, and has stories filled with miracles. We had a great time, but although we began to talk about animal fats again (specifically gribenes) we ended up veering off topic and I never had the chance to give him the skinny on why animal fats are good for you.
Briefly, they are not for everyone. If you load your plate with denatured foods containing oil, hydrogenated fats, and so on; if you already eat a ton of animal foods; if you eat a lot of sugar and drink alcohol; if you are grossly overweight; if you have IBS; and certain conditions of the liver or gall bladder, and so on, you might want to rethink your animal fat consumption.
However, if you want some information on the health benefits of animal fats that your cardiologist will never tell you, just check out the Weston Price Foundation’s fat page (I’ve referred you to them before). There is a caveat: The fat must be from naturally raised poultry, cattle, sheep, goats, etc. If the fat is from typical, factory-farmed animals, then it may be not worth eating.
Additionally, if you have been eating a typical “heimish” diet, well, then, I do recommend taking a break from animal foods for a while. There are right ways and wrongs ways to take this break—and the same method is definitely not good for everyone.
Now, I’m with Laura-Leah, I cannot digest chicken or most other animal fats except in the tiniest quantities. My gall bladder screams for mercy, even if I eat more than one egg! I do really well on a largely vegetable-oriented diet, most of the time (usually.) That could, of course, change as I change, where I live, my age, my level of physical activity, and so on.
My great grandfather (who lived until 102) thrived on fatty foods. I guess I didn’t get his genes. By the way, my great grandpa smoked cigars, and ate tons of herring and smoked fish and wasn’t adverse to schnapps washing the whole smokey-salty diet down (did I forget to mention the corn beef and pastrami and pickles?). He defied everything we’re taught about health and nutrition and lived with all his mental faculties intact until age 102; it just goes to show that Hashem holds the keys to life and death.
Anyway, just last week Tzirel Chana, in her wonderful blog: Kosherhomecooking.com, shared her recipes for shmaltz and gribenes and also touts their health benefits, so if you want to try them out, please check out her blog. And if you’re going to make these fatty delicacies, remember: buy pasteured chicken. That’s free-range, not free-roaming or cage-free, which merely live in a barn; for more information on sickly vs. healthy chickens, see my post on eggs). Fat can store toxins.
Laura-Leah’s Posh Wok Soup
aka HJC’s Tonifying Pumpkin, Noodle, and Ginger Soup (Serves 3-5)
We want a soup that clears and calms the mind and body, tones and warms it, too. Also one that tempts a fussy eater. This soup contains sour, sweet, salty, slightly sharp/spicy, and only a little bit of the bitter flavors since they tend to clear the body of heat, not what Laura-Leah wants.Basically, Laura-Leah feels weak, nauseated by fatty foods, yet craves warming foods. The gently baked pumpkin warms without dehydrating.
The fiery-quick sizzle of stir-frying tempts picky eaters. And most children (and adults) cannot resist pasta or noodles and are surprised by the squash. They also enjoy the novelty of toppings.
Even though they can be cooling, the noodles appeal to LL’s depressed appetite. Cellophane noodles are made out of mung bean starch, and very digestible and fun to eat. I’ve found cellophane or bean threads, as they are also called, with excellent kosher supervision in a natural food store once, and a supermarket another time. Now, I can’t find them anymore! Rice noodles (also called rice sticks) are easier to find with good kosher supervision, so you may have to substitute them or go ahead and use rice.
1 medium winter squash (kabocha squash, ambercup squash, or small sweet pumpkin, don’t use spaghetti or acorn)
1/2 gallon of water
1 12 oz. package cellophane noodles (bean threads) or rice sticks, cooked and stored according to package directions
1 very large or 2 medium onions, peeled, and sliced in half, then sliced into “moons”
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 thick leeks, cleaned, checked and sliced into 2 inch long pieces
2 inch knob of ginger, peeled, finely grated, juice also reserved along with grated bits
1 really hot dried, red chili such as Thai bird chili, optional or 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds or flowers
*2 bunches bok choy, washed, checked and roughly chopped (use both green and white)
*Instead of the bok choy you may substitute 12 oz. frozen broccoli (Eden brand is greenhouse grown and most say they are the best brand claiming to be free of insects)
12 oz. shredded green/white cabbage (checked or insect-free bagged brand) or use Napa cabbage for a more authentic taste
1 star anise, optional
6 oz. snow peas, checked and cut in half on the diagonal
2 tablespoons shoyu or Braggs liquid aminos
1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar
Optional Toppings to pass around:
1 cup freshly roasted peanuts or pumpkin seeds
1 cup ripe, fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized wedges
1 bunch scallions, insect-free, sliced on angle
1 bunch cilantro (and/or holy basil or basil or other herb) insect-free , roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub skin of squash, cut in half, scoop out seeds, and place in heavy pan. Pour in some of the half-gallon of water halfway up sides of squash (if there is leftover water, set aside for soup, later). Bake until tender. If top appears to be drying out, baste with water from pan or cover loosely. Set aside. You can do this a day in advance and refrigerate squash, but bring to room temperature before preparing soup.
Cook and set aside noodles. Keep them at room temperature.
Place squash in pan in low oven to heat through.
In a very deep wok or very deep skillet, heat oil and quickly stir fry onions, leeks, ginger, garlic, and chilli if using. When aromatic, add carrots, bok choy and cabbage. Stir fry for two minutes. Pour in water you baked the squash in, and reserved water. Add more water to cover if needed, depending on size of pot. Add snow peas and stir in cellophane noodles and star anise, if using. Add shoyu and apple-cider vinegar. Turn heat low and let everything simmer lightly for two or three minutes.
Meanwhile, set out three to five bowls and place a slice or two of the warm squash in each bowl. Divide soup broth, vegetables and noodles, between bowls and serve, with optional toppings. To me, this is a meal. You might prefer to follow with a simple baked fish or tempeh dish.
And just in case you’re having a silly poetry emergency:
Beautiful Soup by Lewis Carroll
BEAUTIFUL Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!
Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening,
Beautiful, beauti–FUL SOUP!