What beautiful produce this season has yielded. Plenty of rain this spring brought healthy plants and root systems that can reach deep into the ground, pulling up trace minerals that keep the plants strong and productive throughout the growing season. Even those of us who haven't planted a vegetable garden this year can have fresh local produce from the various truck gardens and markets. The colors are so lively and they don't need a lot of heavy oil or spice to make them taste simply delectable. But, using spice, condiments and oils can give a different flavor to the same old dishes, allowing the cook to work with the same groups of vegetables while creating an entirely different taste sensation for family and friends.
One of the delightful parts of summer's bounty is knowing you're serving up wonderful healing foods as well. Many times and very unknowingly the cook will drown those beautiful summer vegetables and fruits in oils, spices and condiments that destroy the natural vitamin and mineral content. This doesn't have to be the case. Salt, pepper, vinegar, oils and spices-- even sweeteners-- can enhance the healing quality of foods rather than diminish them if used correctly. Healthy healing foods are not necessarily bland or dull.
Certain strong condiments and chemical ingredients-- distilled vinegar, table salt, processed white sugar, commercially ground pepper, MSG (monosodium glutamate), baking soda (used extensively), grocery store oils, and grocery store baking powder-- irritate the stomach and cannot be converted into ''good blood'' as the Chinese would say. However, good quality condiments or replacements that make very little difference in the final outcome of your recipes have several healing applications.
Vinegar-- Never use distilled vinegar internally since it is highly demineralizing. Save that bottle for your sunburns or athlete's foot. Quality vinegars can be purchased in the health food stores-- raw apple cider vinegar, balsalmic, rice and white wine. Used with foods, vinegar neutralizes all kinds of poisons in the body and, 1/4 tsp sipped in water is good for food poisoning. Try balsalmic vinegar on your favorite cucumber and onion dish. It's naturally sweet flavor reduces or eliminates the need to add sugar.
Table salt-- One of the ''five great whites,'' known to holistic practioners as the great mineral imbalancer. Instead, use earth salt or ''dirty salt.'' Much more expensive, but you can use much smaller amounts. Naturally pinkish in color, earth salt still contains sodium's companion minerals including potassium.
Black pepper-- Commercially ground black pepper is roasted, which destroys its natural healing properties. Always use whole peppercorns with a mill. Black pepper is warming, opens the pores for sweating and is helpful at the onset of colds and simple viral infections.
Processed white sugar-- Another one of the ''five great whites.'' Processed sugars rob the body of calcium and other minerals, creates havoc for the glandular systems of the body-- especially the pancreas, adrenals and ovaries in women. White sugar is truly empty calories. Use local honey, stevia or brown rice syrup instead. No Nutrasweet please!
Baking soda and baking powder-- Baking soda used sparingly is okay; it does have a tendency to upset digestive juices in the stomach and imbalances calcium. Baking powder should be purchased in the health food store as grocery store brands contain aluminum. Aluminum use is now linked to the increased incidence of Alzheimer's Disease.
MSG-- Known as a flavor enhancer. MSG, once commonly used in Chinese restaurants, has fallen out of favor because of its reputation for causing migraine headaches. It's also found in bouillon cubes, barbecue sauces, sprinkle-on spices and packaged rice and bean dishes. MSG keeps certain enzymes from breaking down causing a chain reaction within the body. For some, this triggers migraines. Read your labels!
Oils-- Most grocery store oils are very old, chemically treated, deodorized and simply denuded of any nutritional value. They cause rampant free radical damage throughout the body. Use oils from the health food store, preferably sesame, olive and soy.
Next week I'll share some of my favorite summertime recipes using some of the above vinegars and sweeteners and dotted with herbs and oils.
Last week in part one, I talked about condiments and spices. Not the exotic stuff, just the basics, salt, pepper, vinegars, sweeteners. The stuff you would find in just about every cupboard in America. I hope you took the time to replace your distilled vinegar, or at least relegated the bottle to under the kitchen sink and off the spice rack. And nothing like a little fresh ground pepper on those summer greens.
Now I'll hope to show you just how easy summer foods can be when made with fresh local produce, good oils, spices and condiments.
Chilled Cucumber Soup
4 c cucumber, chopped
2c water or vegetable broth
1 c yogurt
Several fresh mint leaves
1/2 tsp earth salt
1/4 dill weed
Puree all ingredients in a blender. Chill 30 minutes or more, then serve. Garnish with extra mint leaves, pimento or roasted red pepper.
1/4 onion minced
1/2 tsp ginger, grated
1/tsp sesame oil
1 3inch piece kombu (optional)
Kernels from 6 ears of corn
6 c water
1tsp earth salt
1/2c oatmeal pureed in 1/2 c water
2 Tbsp tahini purchased in the health food store
2 Tbsp croutons
Saute onion & ginger for 5 minutes. Add kombu, corn, water & salt. Bring to a scald. Reduce heat. Simmer 20 minutes. Add oat mixture & earth salt. Simmer 15 minutes more. Add tahini at end of cooking. Remove kombu strip. Garnish with croutons.
Serve either one of these soups with flour tortias or pita pockets stuffed with sugar snap peas, fresh tomatoes, onions, corn, red or green peppers, whatever you like. Add a dollop of yogurt, or sprinkle with garlic powder, olive oil and rice wine vinegar.
1/2 c of the following vegetables, or be creative and use what you like or have on hand. Summer squash, or zucchini, onion, green or red pepper, portabella mushrooms, asparagus.
1 Tbsp garlic minced, freshly pressed preferably
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp earth salt
1/2 tsp Rosemary
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1 & 1/2 c couscous cooked
Sauté vegetables with oil, garlic, soy sauce and rosemary until fork tender.
Line a 9'' pie pan with cooked couscous- press firmly in place. Fill crust with sauteed veggies and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until edge of couscous is a little crisp. Sprinkle paramasan cheese over top during last 10 minutes of baking.
Salad dressings Try 1-2 Tbsp soy sauce with 5-6 drops lemon juice, or Balsalmic vinegar with garlic and honey added, or fresh grated ginger if you prefer. Take either one of these bases and add blended avocado, yogurt, beet or tofu. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Till next time, Enjoy! Rebecca.