|One of the hightlights of the annual Hoes Down festival in California's Capay Valley is the mass pumpkin-carving.|
The seasonal foods we find at the farmer’s market in the autumn are traditionally used to strengthen lungs and large intestine. Many also help our bodies fight the effects of both breathing polluted air and exposure to pathogens. Onions, garlic, and other naturally spicy foods are thought to be protective to the respiratory system. Dr. Irwin Ziment, a professor at UCLA, based on the finding that Hispanics who smoke in the polluted Los Angeles area have a surprisingly low rate of lung cancer, routinely prescribes chilies for respiratory problems. In addition to chilies, radishes, turnips, ginger, cabbage and white pepper are considered mildly spicy in flavor in Chinese medicine and will help strengthen the lungs. Modern research has validated the age-old remedy of chicken soup for fighting respiratory infection and it is even more effective with the addition of garlic and chilies. Many common culinary spices, like turmeric, ginger, fennel and rosemary, have been found to have cancer-fighting properties as well (Aggarwal & Shishodia, 2004). Pears and Asian pears are another traditional remedy for lung irritation from illness or pollution, and can help soothe a dry cough.
While we seek seasonal foods to use in fall cooking, the techniques of cooking should also shift to support our bodies in adapting to the changing climate. Sautéed, baked and roasted foods should begin to replace and complement the raw, steamed or sprouted foods of summer. While mildly spicy foods keep energy moving, we should also seek out sour flavored foods such as sourdough bread, pickles, leeks, umeboshi vinegar, and sour apples, plums and grapes, which will help consolidate the body’s energy, while we should begin to choose more salty and bitter flavors as the season progresses to further internalize our energy. These two recipes feature fall foods and flavors, and make use of the healing powers of seasonal spices. Choose a Sugar Pie pumpkin for your Halloween decor, don't carve it, and enjoy it in soup. If you've already cut into that Halloween monster, pick up a Kabocha, green or red Kuri squash, or butternut. And yes, all squash peels are all edible--whether you do so depends on your intestinal fortitude!
Curried Apple Cabbage Slaw
It's a rare salad that improves with a day or two of aging, as this one does.1 medium head red or Savoy cabbage
1 celery root, strawberry daikon or other fall root vegetable
3-4 tart green apples
½ cup minced parsley or cilantro
¾ tsp sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon sesame, olive or coconut oil
2 tablespoons fresh ginger cut in tiny matchsticks
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons curry powder
Thinly slice the cabbage, shred the carrots and celery root, and finely dice the apples. Place in a large mixing bowl with the parsley or cilantro, salt and lemon juice. Mix well, and let sit a few hours to soften if you have time. When ready to serve, heat the oil in a small skillet on medium low heat. Drop in the ginger strips and fry gently. As they begin to brown, add the mustard seeds and turmeric. Stir quickly for a moment or two until a fragrance is released. Scrape the toasted spices into the slaw and mix. Correct the seasonings and serve. Additions: many—try toasted coconut, peanuts, soaked almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, red grapes, the list goes on and on. Top with shredded chicken for a meal salad.
Adapted from Love Soup by Anna Thomas. Serves 10, or makes many meals for one or two. Overnight soaking, and cooking the beans with kombu seaweed, will optimize their cooking speed, digestibility, and nutritional value. Would you believe that beans are high in antioxidants?
¾ cup dried navy, baby Lima or cannellini beans
1 teaspoon and 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ onion, diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 6” strip kombu seaweed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 medium Sugar Pie pumpkin or similar, or butternut or Kabocha squash
2 large leeks, white and green part, chopped
4-5 cups water or stock
½ bunch Swiss chard, chopped
½ cup cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chickpea or sweet white miso
Juice of 1-2 lemons
¼ tsp or more freshly grated nutmeg
Put the dried beans in a large soup pot and cover by about 2” with water. Soak overnight. Bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, and add the onion and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes until beginning to brown, then add to the beans along with the strip of kombu. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and continue to cook until they are tender. When the beans are soft, add a teaspoon of salt.
While the beans are cooking, prepare the pumpkin: split it in half, and place on a cookie sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Let cool, and remove the seeds and strings (I rinse the seeds clean and roast in the oven with tamari and cayenne for a snack and garnish).
Using a butter knife, remove the peel and coarsely chop the pumpkin flesh.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and add the leeks, then sauté until they are beginning to brown. Scrape the contents of the skillet into the soup pot with the beans, and add the stock or water, pumpkin pieces and the chopped chard. Simmer together until the chard is tender, and add the cilantro or parsley leaves and garlic. Mix the miso with ½ cup water in a bowl until smooth, and add this to the soup—don’t let the miso boil. Add the lemon juice, and season to taste with black pepper and nutmeg. Serve it with a garnish of fruity olive oil or a big dollop of Parsley-Lacinato Pesto.