Healing Potage with Parsley and Basil

Serves 4 as a meal or 6 as appetizer=)

Parsley-Basil Drizzle and Coconut Milk drizzled on potage.

As the title suggests, this potage is trés healing and last week, it was just what I needed to help me kick a cold that caught me by surprise.  With all the festivities; the cooking and eating, the drinking, snacking, socializing, the shopping, decorating and wrapping, we forget that it’s a common time to come down with colds and other unwanted ills.  There’s a lot going on and our bodies and our minds get run down eventually needing a break from all the fun.

When I’m feeling under the weather, the first thing I think of is soup to help get me on the path to better health.  Soup is love in a bowl, so it’s a good place to start.

I first encountered this (adapted) recipe in a Vegetarian Times issue some years ago.  Apparently, potage, a thick, creamy soup traditionally consisting of leeks, carrots and potato, is often served at meals in French hospitals.  That’s a far cry from what we see in most hospitals here.  It’s a very simple soup and quite unassuming considering its power in the healing department.  But, it’s often in simplicity that we find the greatest gifts.  There are several gifts that make this soup so healing.

In a nutshell:

Leek– Excellent source of carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which provide the body with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant protection.  Leeks also support movement, meaning if you are feeling stuck, physically, emotionally or mentally, you’d be wise to add these to your diet.  “They subtly tonify and support energy movement.”¹ I love Traditional Chinese Medicine interpretations of food.

Garlic– A member of the allium family that is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral.  Need I say more?  Ok, ok, one more thing-it helps eliminate toxins from the body.

Carrot– Beta-carotene is the most researched carotenoid and for good reason.  It’s an antioxidant that kicks a**!  It’s also anti-carcinogenic, anti-aging, and enhances immunity.  Yes, you should be eating more carrots.

Potato– Eaten in moderation, potatoes reduce inflammation and neutralize body acids.  They also boast a good amount of Vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins.

Thyme– Thyme enjoys a long history of being used naturally in medicine to treat problems with cough, congestion, bronchitis, etc.²  The volatile oils of thyme contain enough anti-oxidants and anti-microbial properties to round out an already super-hero potage!

I thought I’d sneak this recipe in just before the fun December recipes appear, just in case.  And, you might want to re-visit Trick for Treat, too.  It’s never too late to build some credit for your body!  In case you found yourself in the red however, keep coming back to this soup.  It will always clear the way for you to start feeling better, fast!

*Note – I borrowed Rebecca Katz’s, Parsley Basil Drizzle to jazz it up a bit and boy did it ever!

You’ll need:

2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 large leek, white and pale green parts, sliced (about 3 heaping cups)

1/4 C dry white wine

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small fennel bulb, diced

5 medium-large carrots, sliced

1-2 small yukon potatoes, diced

5 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 small bay leaves

6-7 C water or vegetable stock (or water with a vegetable bouillon would do fine, too)

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

To make:

1.  Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the leek and a healthy pinch of salt and cook for about 8 minutes until the leeks are tender.  When tender, add the garlic and fennel and cook for 3-4 more minutes before adding the wine.  Cook everything together until most of the wine has evaporated.

2.  Add the carrots, potato, thyme and bay leaves and about 1/2 C of the water/stock.  Cook together until it’s mostly evaporated.  Add the rest of the water/stock and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes, partially covered, or until the vegetables are tender but not mushy.

3.  Turn off the heat, cover completely and let sit for about 10-15 minutes.  Something magical happens in this time of waiting.

4.  Using a 1C ladle, ladle the soup into a blender keeping liquid and veggies about equal.  Blend until smooth (being sure to hold down the lid with a hand towel).  Pour creamy soup into another sauce pan.  Repeat the process until done.

5.  Bring the creamy potage to a simmer over low heat, if necessary.  Stir in the lemon juice and adjust for salt and pepper.

6.  Serve just as is or with Parsley-Basil Drizzle (see below)

7.  Enjoy and feel better!

Parsley-Basil Drizzle (as deliciously written per Rebecca Katz)

1/4 C tightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 C tightly packed fresh flat-leat parsley leaves

2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 T water

1/4 t sea salt

1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a blender or food processor and process until finely chopped.  Slowly pour in the olive oil (with motor running, if possible) and process until smooth.  Adjust for salt or olive oil or lemon.  Drizzle over soup and Enjoy!

¹Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

² http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=77

Cannellini Bean Dip

Makes 3 C

So, remember I said something about minimal cooking?  Well, doing what I can to minimize turning on the stove or oven?  This is another example.  Dip!  Bean dips are such a great way to get a good snack (or sometimes meal…let’s be real about this!) in the middle of the day.  They are also a wonderful appetizer.  I took the opportunity and cooked twice as many beans as I needed because it had been a while since we’d had these and a summer white bean salad had already made an appearance in my dreams.  Of course I dream about food!

Beans and I…we’re good friends.  I’m Colombian and like anyone of Latin origin will attest, beans are part of our everyday and sometimes several parts of our day!  As a vegetarian, I was more than grateful for this.  I relied heavily on various beans for protein, which much like animal protein, builds and repairs body tissue.  They are super blood sugar regulators and thus an excellent choice for anyone with insulin issues.  They’re low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, folate and other B vitamins.  They are also a wonderful source of dietary fiber.  There are 2 types, insoluble and soluble, and both are critical for our health.  Insoluble fiber does not dissolve so it acts as a sponge, literally “cleaning” up by ushering toxins out.  (That’s why our gut and colon stay healthy!)  Soluble fiber dissolves and becomes gel-like in our gut making us feel full, longer. Overeating, while tempting, is never good.  Quantity destroys quality in anything!  (I might have said that before.)  Anyway, thank you fiber and thank you beans!

For the record, Latinos aren’t the only ones with a bean habit.  Beans and legumes, “one of the earliest and most important cultivated crop, are grown everywhere that people farm”.¹  Indeed, most places I’ve traveled, I’ve run into some kind of bean along the way.  Honestly, I can’t wait to encounter more!

You’ll need:

1 C dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1 1″ piece of kombu

1 bay leaf

2-3 cloves garlic confit*

3 T olive oil (from garlic confit)

1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice

To make:

1. Get the beans cooking!  Drain and rinse the beans, then add to a saucepan with water to cover.  Boil over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, skimming the foam that forms.  Reduce heat to medium-low, dd thyme, rosemary, kombu and bay leaf, a pinch of sea salt and partially cover.  Cook for about 45 minutes or until beans are tender.

2. Remove the herbs and kombu from beans, drain and let cool.

3. When cooled, add remaining ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.  You may want to adjust the garlic, oil, lemon and salt so play with it until you get it to your liking.  These measurements worked great for me:)

4. Serve with crudite (my go-to choice for a super healthy snack that sometimes turns into lunch) crispy country bread, pita bread or flat bread.  Gluten-free crackers are also delish with this dip!

5. Enjoy!

*The Garlic Confit adds depth to the garlicky flavor.  It’s umami-ish which translates into deliciousness.  However, this dip comes out lovely using fresh, raw garlic as well.  Start with 1-2 cloves and adjust from there;)

¹ Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia