If you are frequent reader of The Nosher, chances are you like to cook. And not only do you like to cook, but you probably also like hosting. I bet you may even be hosting Shabbat dinner tonight.
A lot goes into hosting a meal and even though we stress about who is going be there and what the table looks like, ultimately the most important part of the meal is, of course, the food.
Making good menus is a work of art. It means everything is tasty and goes well together, but it also means there is balance. You could make corn chowder, tilapia filets, and mashed potatoes that all taste phenomenal, but your plate will be white and your body unappeased.
There are so many ways to think about how to create a complete and wholesome meal. As Jews our menus tend to reflect both the calendar (traditional holiday foods) and our ancestry (matzah ball soup for the Russian Jews and borekas for the Turkish Jews–lucky me, I get both!). The Chinese have a Five Phase model; in Ecuador lunch is always preceded by a soup course and dinner is usually instant coffee; the macrobiotic diet looks at food as expansive and contractive; many people follow the Indian balance concepts of Ayurveda. The Western media typically just labels foods as “good for you” or “bad for you.”
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting a few simple checks and balances to help you make delicious and balanced menus for you Shabbat dinner tables and normal weekday eating.
Here are some of my tried and true methods for restoring balance:
Amaranth. Amaranth is a high-protein, gluten-free grain indigenous to Mexico. Rich in dietary fibers and essential amino acids, amaranth can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, boost the immune system, increase energy, and strengthen bones. This amaranth porridge is a powerful way to kickstart the day.
Kombucha. A happy pairing of bacteria and yeast, a good swig of kombucha can bring your digestive system back up to full performance. It’s also chock full of the enzymes our bodies use to detox, helps reverse the effects of candida (yeast) overgrowth, relieves arthritis, and can increase energy levels. As tempting as it may be, keep in mind that you should not shake kombucha before drinking, since that upsets the delicate ecosystem within the bottle.
Miso. While most people hear miso and immediately think “sushi appetizer,” there’s a lot more to this paste than a salty soup. A fermented soy product, miso is full of micro-organisms that help our bodies process proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It also contains lactic acids that promote a healthy environment for digestion. Miso is a great addition to salad dressing and sauces, but if you want to stick with soup, make sure to add the miso last, once the broth has been removed from the heat, so you don’t kill the bacteria.
Pickles. Consuming lacto-fermented pickles (which don’t have to be cucumbers, by the way) is a great way to bring lactic acid, active cultures, and enzymes into your digestive system. Pickling vegetables also helps reduces the impact of harmful compounds like oxalic acid found in beet greens and increases the bodies ability to absorb minerals like iron by breaking down phytates.
Seaweed. I was hesitant about seaweed when I was first introduced to it, but now I can’t imagine giving it up. Full of a range of vitamins, including the hard-to-come-by B12, seaweed can help your digestion, regulate your blood sugar, strengthen your nails and hair, improve thyroid function, and relive stress, among countless other benefits. One of my favorite seaweed dishes is hiziki (or hijiki) caviar served on a cracker.
What food remedies work best for you?