When the air turns brisk we feel invigorated, refreshed and ready for cooler weather. It’s time for baked and stewed foods, sweet, nourishing, warming grains and pungent spices. The harvest moon shines on ripe, round berries, apples, figs; moon cakes and hungry ghosts are also here—round, round the seasons go. Fall’s in the air bringing exciting rewards.
With cool weather and shorter days, stay cozy inside, enjoy baked and stewed foods, spicy pumpkin ginger soup made rich with peanut butter, warming whole grains like freekah, kasha, coucous, and pungent herbs and spices. It’s time to experiment with baked roots like carrots, parsnips, and kohlrabi a good source of calcium. Slice them, add olive oil a dash of spice—nutmeg, cumin powder, or cinnamon—and bake.
The Seasonal Change
The change of season is a good time to address the temperature of our foods and their effects upon our vitality and mood. Do we need more cooling or warming foods? It is an individual question.
- If your tongue is red and you tend to have chronic thirst and hunger or feverish issues, cooler foods are best.
- If your tongue is pale and you feel weak, lackadaisical, chilled, nervous and pale, warmer foods and spices work best.
According to our AcademyHealingNutrition Chinese food teacher, Nam Singh, chicken is considered to be warming, beef neutral and pork cooling. Since most proteins are warming, for cooling acne and fevers, avoiding animal protein is best. At the Academy, online and in class, we learn how to incorporate healing herbs into cooking. The Fall session begins in October in New York and registration is now open.
Chinese Herbal Cooking
Here is a novel idea from Chinese health recipes. Stuff a chicken with blood tonic herbs. Soak a piece of he shou wu and rehmannia in water for 15 minutes or parboil for 5 minutes and stuff the whole chicken cavity with them. For added flavor and warming energy you might add ginger and garlic. To support weak spleen (bloating, diarrhea etc) add dried orange peel (chen pi) to the stuffing. Or simmer the chicken in a pot with ginger, soy sauce and the ginseng that suits your needs:
- white ginseng for cooling/moistening or for treating diabetes
- red ginseng for warming, low blood pressure and poor endurance.
Garlic in Italy and Spain.
Folk recipes love garlic: It is cheap, healthy and flavorful. Garlic, onion, radish: Pungent foods help clear lethargy and congestion. Try to eat some raw or lightly steamed for a stronger effect.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio e Peperoncino
In Italy my friend Ferruccio taught me the simplest and one of the most popular Italian dishes:
Cook pasta al dente. Chop raw garlic (or lightly sauté), add virgin olive oil to the garlic and mash it with salt. Toss the oil, garlic and hot red pepper flaked into the pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve warm and enjoy with a dry red Italian wine.
Garlic Soup: Sopa de Ajo
Healthy Spanish garlic soup, a humble recipe using 7 simple ingredients, ready in 15 minutes from start to finish. One of the most nourishing bowls of healthy restorative soup. Traditionally the soup is prepared by sauteing a lot of garlic in really good (preferably Spanish) olive oil and smoked paprika. Some say Spanish smoked paprika is an absolute necessity, but coming from a Hungarian background, I would say Hungarian sweet or hot paprika works as well. But here is a sweet smoked Spanish paprika:
Paprika is high in vitamin C, but it is the punchy taste we love. The recipe also calls for day old stale bread to be added to the soup, and 2 whisked eggs. Like a smokey, bread-ey, egg drop soup. I don’t love the texture of soggy bread. Turning day-old bread into croutons is just as easy, and a crunchy paprika crouton on top of this garlic soup is heaven.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic, sliced (not too thin)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp smoked or sweet paprika
- 2 tbsp white wine
- 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup bread, sliced into cubes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Toss bread cubes with olive oil, paprika, and salt. Spread out in single layer on a baking sheet
- Bake for 15 minutes or until browned. Allow to cool and set aside. (Extras will keep well in a sealed container for up to 1 week)
- In a large pot over medium-low heat, add olive oil and garlic. Slowly simmer garlic until fragrant – but not brown- for 3 minutes. Add salt and wine, cook to burn off alcohol for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add paprika, stir well to combine. The aroma will be intoxicating.
- Add chicken stock (or vegetable or even water will work) bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl whisk 2 eggs, slowly drizzle the eggs into the soup, stir gently and cook for 2 minutes.
- Serve immediately, piping hot, with a few croutons on top.
Moistening, Nourishing, High Fiber, Seasonal Fruits
Berries, grapes, apples, figs. Traditional Chinese medicine stresses that Fall is a time when we need to address lung dryness, low energy and pollution. Sweet fruits cleanse the body with fiber and cooling fluids. Figs are a good source of potassium. Soak or par-boil them to remove the excess sugar. You might refrigerate the resulting juice as a sugar substitute. Berries and grapes can be frozen and added to foods instead of ice cubes.
Cranberries are in season from October through the winter months. Freeze them to enjoy adding them to salads, breads, jellies year round. Cranberries are a super-food due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content. In fact, research has linked the nutrients in cranberries to a lower risk of urinary tract infection (UTI), the prevention of certain types of cancer, improved immune function, and decreased blood pressure.
How do you know whether you should add more cranberry to your diet? Does your urine smell strong or look a bit dark or oily? You need to add cranberry as food or capsules to detoxify the urinary tract. Cranberries are anti-inflammatory and packed with antioxidants. Like other berries, cranberries are antioxidant powerhouses. In fact, when it comes to fruit, they rank just under blueberries (often called the king of antioxidants) in antioxidant potency. Cranberries provide anti-inflammatory compounds.
Cranberries prevent the development and growth of ulcers and bacteria in your urinary tract, and can help manage current bacteria/ulcers because they make urine more acidic and help keep bacteria from attaching to the inside of the bladder. Since cranberry is mildly diuretic it can also protect the heart and help regulate blood pressure.
Late August and September: Ghosts
How do we find balance in a chaotic world? We make peace with the change of season, replenish our store of energy and appease our ghosts. Ancient cultures have understood that for a long time.
Ghost Month –August 19th – September 16th, 2020; Ghost Festival Night: September 2, 2020
Almost every culture has a holiday honoring the departed. In Japan there’s Obon, in Mexico and America there’s Día de los Muertos, and Catholics around the world celebrate All Souls’ Day. In China, and ethnically Chinese communities around the world, there’s the Hungry Ghost Festival. A long time tradition in Chinese and Vietnamese ancestor worship 鬼法界, and Taoism is “the realm of hungry ghosts.” Villagers believed that ghosts return to earth during Ghost Month. They are hungry, ready to take what they find of food and wine offerings, especially if they are not given offerings by their living relatives. One of the key components of this festival is food — if you don’t want the ghosts to wreak havoc on your lives, you need to feed them. So at this time we often see offerings of oranges, tea and other food set out on sidewalks and in temples in China and Hong Kong to honor the dead. There are also some paper offerings of food that people may burn.
Celebrating the Hungry Ghost Festival is about looking after wandering, unfortunate souls. Discontented spirits are without families or have died because of unfortunate events like the pandemic. With the number of lonely people in the world, this theme resonates today more than ever. The Taoist name for the Hungry Ghost Festival is the Zhongyuan Festival and Buddhists call it the Yulanpen Festival. They perform special ceremonies to avoid the wrath of the ghosts such as putting the family’s ancestral tablets on a table, burning incense, and preparing food three times that day.
During Ghost Month, families at home placate unhappy spirits with gifts of food, wine, incense, and they burn symbolic paper money. The month culminates with the Hungry Ghost Feast on the evening of the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, when the worlds of the living and dead are most closely linked. This year that day falls on September 2nd when families will get together (wearing masks or social distancing via Zoom) to eat traditional foods, drink wines and generally have a good time. I have been asked for some suggestions. Here are a few ideas for a Hungry Ghost Feast.
Ghosts love flower scents and jasmine tea. A fine fruit flavored wine is also appreciated. Orin Swift Slander Pinot Noir St Helena California 2017 blends complex aromatics of ripe cherries and dried rose petals, and a hint of alpine forest with sweet strawberries, cranberries, and traces of rhubarb. The finish is toasted brioche, a dash of caramel and fresh raspberries.
White wine lovers appreciate: Epoch Estate White Blend 2018 “Ripe green and yellow melon, wet rock, white pineapple and baking spices on the nose make your mouth water, begging for a taste. Yellow peaches, fresh cream and lemon are laced through with crushed rock and delicate texture.”
For ghosts with indigestion; they may not be used to elegant cuisine. Here is a great digestive: Wanglaoji Bao Ji Wan (20 b/box) to help ease stomach aches, indigestion, and the stomach flu made with fragrant herbs and tangerine peel. WHF Item Number: 561934
There is often sadness with the Fall season. For some the Harvest seems empty especially if they have been kept inside most of the year or have lost loved ones. Sharing time, love and food with those we love, living and dead, can bring a measure of comfort. At AcademyHealingNutrition we enjoy a natural healing community of cooks, students, and people who hope to change their profession, help others and enhance their own health, immunity and longevity. Registration is now open. Classes in New York begin in October but online classes are available year-round.