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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Sup on Soup

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:04 Written by Flax Tuesday, 25 October 2011 11:35

Personally, after a month of holidays, I feel the need to lighten up the meals and drop off some of that extra weight.  One statistic claims that the average Israeli manages to gain 2.5 kilo (5 lbs.) over the month of Tishrei!  Perhaps what we really mean by mar-Chesvan is diet-Cheshvan.   Ironically enough, some of the best foods to assist in weight loss are bitter foods, examples of which include, radish and celery.  While eating a radish a day is beneficial for anyone trying to lose weight,  one of the best ways to feel full while shedding some weight is with a hearty vegetable soup.  Soup is a water based food that is extremely filling while also being low in calories.  To turn a vegetable soup into a full meal I add whole grains to the soup as a thickener while simultaneously adding nutritional value.  I also tend to puree my soups so that the individual ingredients become unidentifiable.  This trick is especially helpful with picky eaters who are afraid of new foods.

This recipe below is a healthier version of a Russian Spinach Soup. While the real Russian would use potatoes, I try to avoid that.  Potatoes happen to be one of the most fattening foods around, not a good choice for anyone wanting to lose weight.  Instead of using a potato, I use both millet and quinoa.  The grains thicken the soup in the same manner as a potato would, but they are a whole lot healthier.  While really any grain can be used here, I chose to use quinoa, for its nutritional value and millet as a wonderful way to balance the spinach.

Quinoa, considered only a few years ago to be exotic, is now a popular food.  The rise in popularity of quinoa  is due to its wonderful nutritional value.  Quinoa has the highest protein content of any grain, has more calcium than milk and is a very good source of iron, phosphorous, and vitamins B and E.  Millet on the other hand, might be one of the least used grains.

Millet is also high in protein and it has a rich silicon content.  Millet is a great food to eat while pregnant and it is helpful in preventing miscarriage. Millet is also used in  treating candida, this is due to its anti-fungal properties. Millet is  the most drying of the grains and is beneficial to a state of excess.  Eating millet during the month of  Cheshvan will help us to lose weight by restoring our normal balance after a month of feasting.  Combining spinach and millet is a very good practice.  While millet is very drying, spinach is very slippery.  The two foods harmonize each other both in flavor and by nature.

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 bunches spinach, washed well
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 5 sprigs dill
  • 2 liters water
  • 2 cups oat milk (optional)
  • 1/4 cup millet
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Saute the onion until they soften. Add the carrots and celery and continue to saute for five minutes more. Add the water and the oat milk and bring to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer on a low flame for one hour.  Remove from the flame and puree.

Serve hot.  Serves 6

Note: Adding a little bit of hiziki (seaweed) to your bowl of soup will add nutritional value as well as promote weight loss.

Sima Herzfeld Navon has a clinic for holistic medicine and nutritional counseling.  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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