Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rosemary Beet Soup

Happy Equinox!    Today is shorter than yesterday, and it marks the official first day of "soup season" in the GardenHouse.  There's already a difference in the air,  a sharp coolness that marks the change of  season.  As the winds blow in the cold wetness, the flowers go to seed, and leaves of the plants die back, returning their nutrients to the soil.  In order to have enough nutrients to live through the winter, the plant's vital energy is sent to their roots.   

In Chinese medicine, the most important quality for food-as-medicine is the "thermal nature."   When cooling foods (i.e: raw salads, cucumbers, and apples) are eaten, they support the body's ability to cool by directing the energy and fluids inward towards our core.  When warming foods are eaten, energy and blood are pushed up and out to the surface of the body.  Vegetables that take longer to grow tend to be "warmer" foods (i.e: root vegetables, cabbages, hot peppers).  Root vegetables store heat over the many months they take to mature, making Autumn a perfect time for harvesting roots for warmth, sweetness, and nutrition.

Rosemary Beet Soup
This recipe is made with a combination of legumes, herbs and roots and offers a deep, satisfying taste.  My favorite feature about this soup is its vibrant red color coming in and going out. ;-)

Makes 6-8 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 beets, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 cup dried red lentils
2 bay leaves
1 tsp red pepper flakes
6 cups water or stock
2-3 tablespoons light miso

Heat oil in a soup pot; add onion and sauté until soft.  Scrub and chop the carrots and beets. Add carrots and beets; sauté a few minutes more. Wash and drain lentils. If using fresh herbs, finely chop rosemary and oregano leaves.  Add herbs, lentils, bay leaves, pepper flakes and water or stock to onion mix; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 40 minutes.  Remove bay leaves.  Remove 1 cup of soup water and dissolve the miso paste into it, add it back to pot.  It's important not to boil the soup after the miso is put in or it damages the microbes that are oh-so-good for you.  Puree soup (I prefer to use an inversion blender).  Serve warm or cold. 

Beets have long been valued as a blood tonic, and are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, carotein, B complex and vitamin C.  Beets also offer us a bonus that not all root vegetables do, the beet greens are edible and offer the many nutritional benefits too.  The bitter greens are also a great compliment to the sweet earthy root.  

Carrots maybe the most popular, versatile, and nutritious vegetables.  They are a rich source of carotenoids, B vitamins, phosphorus, calcium, and iodine.

The lentils in this recipe provide the protein foundation that should be a component of every meal.  The lowly lentil has nourished people across the globe since the beginning of time.  Lentils are high in minerals, calcium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, and iron.  

Using red lentils with red beets and orange carrots will help emphasize the robust color provided by the carotene and betanin antioxidants in the root vegetables. The deep red color that makes this soup so extravagant is responsible for improving circulation and purifying our blood.

An entire post is necessary to justify the seemingly endless benefits of using fermented foods such as the ancient food, miso.  In short, it is high in amino acids (building blocks of protein), vitamin B12 and lactobacillus (which aids in digestion and nutrient assimilation).  Historically, miso is noted to contribute to longevity and overall good health.  

Go ahead, try this soup, do it!

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