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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Hints for an Easier Fast

Last Updated on Monday, 3 October 2011 01:33 Written by Flax Monday, 3 October 2011 01:33

Yom Kippur is approaching and we are preparing for this wonderous day through a process of spiritual awareness and cleansing.   On Yom Kippur itself our cleansing of the spirit extends even to the physical level, where we fast and deny ourselves the most mundane and basic needs of our material existense.   Not-withstanding our spiritual needs, I offer a few tips to prepare for Yom Kippur on a purely physical level:

  • Drink at least two liters (eight cups) of water on the days leading up to the fast.  Hunger is often confused with thirst and it is easy to dehydrate on a fast.  Making sure that we drink enough on the days before the fast can help minimize both our hunger and our thirst on the actual fast day. 
  • Eat whole grains before the fast. Whole grains provide us with more energy over longer periods of time.
  • Avoid sugar and fruits.  Sugar highs and lows can cause headaches and the body also requires extra fluid to remove the sugar from the system.
  • Eat a lot of vegetables.  Vegetables are a great source of both energy and fluid. 

Fasting is a way of cleansing, both physically and spiritually.  While fasting, we rise above the physical needs of this world and we are able to connect to G-d on a more spiritual level.  Our bodies are given a much deserved rest, and like our souls, they devote themselves to releasing stored toxins.  The purpose of the fast is renewal, where we start of the new year with a clean slate, or old misdeeds having been forgiven.  As with our souls that have been cleansed to a point where small transgressions cause us regret, likewise, eating badly or overeating after a fast can make us sick.

The best way to break a fast is to slowly rehydrate the body while allowing the digestive channels to open.  One of the best ways to do this is with a hot drink that requires small sips.  Dandelion tea or chamomile tea, (sweetened with stevia or raw honey) is a great way to help cleanse the body of stored toxins. 

While bagels, lox, and cream cheese are pretty much standard after the fast, try instead to open up  the meal with a light vegetable soup.  A great soup to eat after fasting is miso soup.  This is not only because Chinese tradition holds that miso promotes long life and good health, but also because miso is a live food that contains lactobacillus, (the same as in yogurt) which helps in the digestion and assimilation of food.  Another bonus to eating miso soup after the fast is that on the purely practical level, it is quick.  Prepare the vegetables before the fast and then just add the boiling water and miso after the fast is over.  The soup requires only two minutes of cooking time so it will be ready to serve by the time the men come home from shul.

Note:  The soup calls for kombu.  Kombu is a seaweed, that like all seaweeds, is high in vitamins and minerals.   Kombu is not an essential ingredient and the soup is tasty (some might say even more so) without it.  Look for miso and kombube either in health food stores or in the health food sections of your local market.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 leek, diced
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 1 small piece of kombu (optional)
  • 4 cups water or dashi (Japanese soup stock)
  • 2-3 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 scallions, sliced on angle, for garnish
  • soy sauce, to taste

Saute the vegetable, add the water/stock and bring to a boil.  Simmer for two minutes.  Remove from the flame, cream the miso in a little bit of the broth and return to the soup.  Use the soy sauce to adjust the flavor, garnish with scallions and serve. 

Serves 4-6

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Dead Sea Soup

Last Updated on Wednesday, 5 January 2011 12:03 Written by Flax Wednesday, 5 January 2011 12:00

Being that it is now winter, people are cold. Additionally, since I have everyone eating seaweed, they are colder than usual. While the cooling effects of seaweed are wonderful for the summer they add an extra layer to the regular winter chill. The best way to counter-act the cooling effects of seaweed is to eat it together with ginger.

Therapeutically, ginger is warming, invigorating, and decongesting. Ginger helps to strengthen the kidney-yang energy and to tonify the kidneys. This means that it gives us fuel for our own internal fire and also enables the inner heat to then circulate. This makes it the ideal spice for someone suffering from cold hands and feet.

While the original title for this soup was a Mushroom-Ginger Soup, a trip to the dead sea provided me with a much more memorable title. As I was floating in the healing waters I realized that the dead sea is the ultimate expression of Kidney energy. The dead sea is the lowest point on earth, the earth’s foundation if you will. The waters cleanse your skin and bodies of toxins and helps with water metabolism. Likewise the kidneys are the lowest of the bodies yin organs. They help the body to remove toxins and they help with water metabolism.

The title of this soup is intended to express that the soup functions in the same way as the dead sea. It’s purpose is to tonify the kidneys, strengthen the kidney-yang energy and to help remove toxins from the body. And, like the dead sea, it is meant to be enjoyed.

Ingredients:

olive oil
1-2″ ginger, grated
1 onion, cut on an angle into small pieces
1 clove garlic, diced
1 package shitake mushrooms, chopped small
1 package button mushrooms, chopped small
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 tbsp wakame, soaked for 10 minutes
3 liters boiling water
2 tbsp miso (or to taste)

Saute the onion, ginger and garlic for two minutes. Add the mushrooms and cabbage and saute until the mushrooms are soft. Squeze the excess water from the wakame and add to the pot. Add the water, bring to a boil and remove from the flame. Remove a cup of liquid from the soup, mix in the miso and then return the soup-miso mixture to the pot.

Serve immediately accompanied with soy sauce.

Enjoy!

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