We are all familiar with the well-known maxim, “you are what you eat,” and we have all felt the ill effects of food not properly digested. Since the body-mind connection is an interdependent circle, supplying the body with simple, nourishing food makes life lighter and less encumbered; our attention is not diverted but focused and concentrated. We can also choose to bring a special dimension to the preparation and serving of food. A meal cooked and served with love and awareness lifts the spirit and clears the mind of both the giver and receiver.
Once the great sage Ramana Maharshi was asked to prepare appalum (also known as pappadum, a thin cracker-like dhal wafer). This is no simple task; it is an extremely complicated and delicate procedure. Taking up the work, Ramana also produced a poem, one that makes a profound statement, freezing this act of love forever. The poem compares making appalum to a spiritual aspirant. As the pappadum wafers are deep-fried and ready to eat, the aspirant is fully awakened and lives in a state of complete freedom. This is a wonderful illustration on many levels; the simple act of preparing food, done consciously and with full awareness, can serve as an opportunity for a leap into the infinite.
Winter is a time of retreat, and a bowl of steaming soup and wholesome unyeasted brown rice bread is a lovely meal. I was first introduced to this bread in 1970 at the Paradox Bakery on St. Mark’s Place, in the East Village, New York City. This heavy, dense and earthy bread waited thirty years for me to try and bake it myself. When I finally did, the sweet sourdough aroma which spread throughout the house brought me back decades. After a little experimenting, I developed the following recipe. It’s really simple, but it takes a little patience; patience and cooking are great partners.
The 1-2-3 Paradox Rice Bread
When baked to a golden brown, the crust is crunchy and the inside is soft. A friend describes this bread as something the 19th century Russian pilgrim in the book, The Way of a Pilgrim, would have carried in his knapsack. It is a full-bodied, Old World, wholesome meal in itself.
1 C corn meal
2 C whole wheat flour*
3 C unsalted cooked brown rice
¼ C canola oil
1 T salt
¾-1½ C warm water
1. Combine the corn meal, flour and brown rice. Mix thoroughly with your hands to fully separate the grains of rice.
2. Add the oil and salt, then mix again.
3. Start by adding ¾ cup of warm water until the mixture begins to come together as a dough. Adjust water or flour, until dough is pliable enough to begin kneading, don’t over flour, use flour on the bread board as you’re kneading.
4. Knead the dough about 10 minutes, until it begins to feel smooth. You can’t over knead, so it’s better to knead a little more than less.
5. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and stretch plastic wrap over the bowl to form a tight seal.
6. Let it rise in a warm place for 24-36 hours.**
7. When the dough has increased in volume and has a sweet/sour smell, place in an oiled bread pan and make a shallow vertical slit on top.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out dry. This bread tastes great served with butter, almond butter or miso spread.
*It is important to use very fresh whole wheat flour when making sourdough bread.
**Turn your oven on the lowest possible heat. When it is quite warm, turn off the oven and place the bread inside to rise. Do this about 2-3 times during the entire process. Don’t forget to turn off the oven and check the heat or you’ll have to start all over.
This is an interesting butter recipe. Of course for people who cannot digest milk or who are vegans, there are a number of soy-based margarines in natural food stores from which to choose.
1 C safflower or canola oil
1 C (½ pound) sweet butter
2 T water
2 T powdered nonfat milk
¼ t lecithin (found in the refrigeration section of natural food stores)
¾ t salt
Blend all ingredients until smooth, then refrigerate. Makes just over 2 cups.
1 t canola oil
¼ C scallions, chopped very small
2 t robust miso
5 T roasted tahini (sesame butter)
½ C water
1. In a skillet, heat oil and sauté scallions 3-4 minutes, until soft.
2. Whisk miso, water and tahini, until very smooth.
3. Add to scallions and simmer together for 1-2 minutes.
4. Cool and refrigerate. Makes about 1 cup.
Split Pea Soup with Roasted Sesame Tofu
Make extra of this smoky, silky soup—whoever comes over to share your meal will want to take some home. It’s even better the next day. Just add a little water and salt if necessary, then reheat.
3 T olive oil
2 onions, chopped and 4 cloves garlic, minced (less if you’re not a garlic lover, more if you have a cold and want the medicinal effects of garlic to work through your system)
1” fresh ginger, minced (don’t skimp on ginger, it’s what helps this soup to become more digestible.)
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 small zucchinis, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 medium red potato, chopped
Pinch chipotle pepper*
½ t smoky paprika
2 T fresh dill, chopped (if using dried, 1 t)
½ t thyme
1 t salt (or to taste)
1 vegetarian bouillon cube**
1 C split peas (rinse and drain well)
5 C water
1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pan and sauté the onions until translucent.
2. Add the garlic and ginger. Sauté for about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic.
3. Add celery, zucchini, carrots and red potato. Coat with oil and then add the spices, herbs and salt.
4. Add split peas, bouillon cube and water or soup base.
5. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Cook for about one hour or until the vegetables are very tender. If you are using a pressure cooker, bring up to pressure, adjust heat, and let cook for 10 minutes.
6. Blend in food processor or hand blender until silky smooth.
* Using a pinch of cayenne or chipotle pepper in any dish enlivens the flavor.
** A good brand is Morga (a product of Switzerland). It is found in most health food stores. You can also use a soup base instead of water and cube.
Roasted Sesame Tofu
Add to each bowl of hot soup. Save any extra pieces in a separate bowl for the next day. It’s great with brown rice too!
1 C extra firm tofu, chopped in small cubes
1 T olive oil
1 T tamari or soy sauce
¼ t ginger, fresh minced
¼ C sesame seeds
1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add tofu, tamari, ginger and sesame seeds.
2. Fry on medium heat until tofu is golden brown.