The Miracle of Miso

Last Updated on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 08:03 Written by Flax Tuesday, 8 November 2011 08:03

Miso is a fermented paste, salty in flavor and rich in nutrients.  There are three basic types of miso:

  • Dark miso, strong in flavor.
  • Red miso, more mild in flavor.
  • Yellow or white miso, mild and sweet in flavor.

Look for miso in the Asian section of your health food store.  Miso, sold inside a thick plastic packaging, is a live food-like yeast and after it is opened it must be kept refrigerated, preferably in a glass jar. Properly stored, miso can last for up to a year.   The live element in miso is called lactobacillus.  Lactobacillus, (also now known as probiotics) creates an alkaline condition in the body and helps us to fight off disease.  Ancient tradition holds that eating miso promotes long life and good health.

Miso first became known as the “miracle food” during WWII.  On August 9, 1945, there were two hospitals, each located about one mile from the epicenter in Nagasaki.  At University Hospital 3000 patients suffered greatly from leukemia and disfiguring radiation burns. This hospital served its patients a modern fare of sugar, white rice, and refined white flour products. The second hospital,  St. Francis Hospital, under the direction of Shinichiro Akizuki, M.D., fed his patients and staff a daily diet of brown rice, miso soup, vegetables, and seaweed.  Neither he, nor his patients suffered from the effects of the nuclear blast.   Dr. Akizuki and his co-workers continued to go around the city of Nagasaki, in straw sandals visiting the sick in their homes.  Dr. Akizuki, his staff, and the hospitals patients, were considered to be an example of a modern miracle.  Today we understand that the “miracle” was due to a healthy diet which included both miso and seaweed.

Miso soup, standard fare in any Asian style restaurant has become quite popular and is now relatively well know.  Miso however is easy to use and is also very versatile.  Try spread white miso on bread as an alternative to butter, hummus,  tehina, or even peanut butter.  Combine it with sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and honey, to make an Asian style dressing, or make a marinade out of red miso, mustard, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and soy sauce to use on grilled meats, fish, or tofu.  It is important to note however that once miso is cooked the lactobacillus dies.  Add miso to the soup only after it has been removed from the flame.

Asian Style Cole-Slaw

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp white miso
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp grated ginger

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well.

Place the vegetables and sesame seeds in a large salad bowl.  Pour on the dressing and toss.

Serve cold.  Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

Sima Herzfeld Navon has a clinic for holistic medicine.  She also teaches healthy cooking.

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An Abundance of Pomegranates

Last Updated on Sunday, 25 September 2011 10:01 Written by Flax Thursday, 22 September 2011 10:54

Pomegranates and Rosh Hashanah are a bit like turkey and Thanksgiving-there are always left-overs.  If there are only a few remaining seeds then just toss them into a pitcher of water with a slice of lemon.  It looks absolutely magnificent!  I actually buy extra pomegranates as I like to use them throughout the holiday in many different dishes, especially in salads.

In keeping with the whole holiday mood, I bought some pomegranate shaped cookie cutters, I am hoping that they will help me in one of my more anal obsessions.  Honey drips and sticky fingers drive me absolutely bananas!  I am constantly looking for ways to avoid them.  One method that has worked nicely in the past is individual miniature honey pots.  This years new idea is one which I think will nicely occupy my children on erev chag as well.  Use some pre-sliced bread or challah and punch out some pomegranate shapes. If the bread is too soft to work with, then put it in the freezer first for about an hour to harden it.  Spread the cut out shape with honey and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.  Repeat the process, but instead of pomegranate seeds use a few slivers of apple (pour some lemon juice over the apples first to prevent them turning brown).  Arrange the cut-outs on a platter or on individual plates along with the other simanim.  The double advantage here is that it looks beautiful and I it will hopefully will prevent sticky fingers, sticky cutlery, and a sticky tablecloth.  Cut up the remaining bread into small squares and surprise everyone with home-made croutons.

To really emphasize the pomegranate theme try using pomegranate concentrate.  Pomegranate concentrate is a great way to sweeten foods without using any sugar.    I use pomegranate concentrate as a sweetener in cooked dishes, but I especially like it in salad dressing.  On Rosh Hashanah I always make at least one salad that will have pomegranate seeds as an ingredient,  as well as pomegranate concentrate in the dressing.

I offer below two salad recommendations. Notice that both salads contain onions, this is because the flavor of the onion and the pomegranate harmonize beautifully.  The green salad works with any type of lettuce or even with spinach.  If you decide to make both of the salads then double the vinaigrette recipe.

Salad #1

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Salad #2

  • 3 medium-sized beets, cooked, peeled, and diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate concentrate
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
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Fig and Goat Cheese Salad

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 August 2011 09:25 Written by Flax Wednesday, 3 August 2011 02:17

“Drink Milk. It’s Good For You.”

I heard it, I believed it and I drank it, every single day. Ten years ago I stopped drinking milk, I felt absolutely amazing!  All of my minor health complaints, digestive or otherwise, basically disappeared. People constantly ask me, “but what about calcium?”  Kudo’s to the dairy industry and their PR/lobbyists who have us all believing that we need to drink milk in order to get our RDA of calcium.  I’ve got news for you, all fruits and vegetables have calcium.  Figs have double the amount of calcium than milk, while seaweed, my favorite source of nutrients, can have up to ten times more calcium than milk.  Countries with the highest dairy consumption also have the highest rate of osteoporosis, a disease directly related to calcium intake.  This statistic leads me to question the idea that dairy is a good source of calcium for humans.  An even more worrying statistic is that countries with the highest dairy consumption also have the highest rate of both breast cancer and prostate cancer.

But, as my brothers like to say: “73% of all statistics are incorrect”.  So, let’s look at dairy from a purely ecological point of view.  Cows produce an enormous amount of methane, a major contributor to global warming.  They also excrete a huge amount of biological waste.  A normal sized dairy of two hundred cows produces the same amount of waste as 10,000 people.  The aspect however that worries me the most, is the enormous water consumption involved in producing dairy in Israel.  The natural diet of a cow is grass, they are meant to live in countries with large rainfalls where grass grows in abundance.  Israel, an arid land, doesn’t naturally produce grass. Raising cows in Israel means that we have to first grow everything that the cows eat and then hand-feed it to them.  Cows eat about 40 kilo of produce a day (they produce on average 60 liters of milk a day).  Growing 40 kilo of food a day for each and every cow uses enormous amounts of water.  We use more than 2,000 liters of water in order to produce 1 liter of milk. Shocking, isn’t it.  If the government wasn’t behind the cottage-cheese protestors than they should have been.  Yes, I think dairy products should be imported.  Israel should not and can-not sustain a large dairy industry.    Personally, I say, eliminate the dairy industry and build more pools.  Every time you buy a bag of milk, think to yourself, I could have a pool instead.

So, why am I giving a cheese recipe?   It’s the nine days, people who generally eat meat on a daily basis are hungry and are looking for alternatives. Many might try eating more dairy to replace their usual  meat meal.  I recommend that if you are planning on eating a dairy meal, than go for the goat.  Goat milk is easier to digest than cow milk, it also contains less steroids and antibiotics.  Goats are indigenous to Israel as well and are suited to the environment.  Goats are environmentally friendly as they like to eat the weeds that grow here in abundance. By munching on our abundant weeds, goats also reduce the risk of forest fires.  True, goat milk does taste different to cow milk  Like cow milk, goat milk is also an acquired taste.  If you haven’t yet adjusted to the flavor of goat milk you can try doing what your Mother might have done when you didn’t like milk as a kid, try mixing it with Cocoa Pebbles until you adjust to the flavor.

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 1 bag of mixed greens (about 4 cups)
  • 6 figs, quartered
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 150 gr. mild goat cheese, crumbled

Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard

Place the salad ingredients in a wide bowl.

Mix together the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad.

Serves 4-6

Enjoy!

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