In Chinese medicine theory, foods can either cool us down or warm us up, however oftentimes our bodies don’t require all cooling or warming foods for a specific condition or deficiency but rather we simply want to maintain a balance. Having an understanding of how to keep our digestive system and our middle burner balanced with the foods we eat allows us to customize meals for our personal energetic needs.
Rainbow chard is a wonderful leafy green vegetable that is abundant in the fall, especially at farmer's markets. It is a relative of the beet and the rainbow variety has brightly colored stalks. The big tender leaves and crunchy stalks are delicious and can be cooked in many different ways ranging from a quick saute with garlic, raisins, pine nuts, lemon and olive oil to a creamy baked version with bacon and cheese. I love making a simple fall soup with the leaves and stems adding in a bit of celery and cilantro. A crispy rice noodle cake adds a great crunchy texture to the soup. The rice cake can be made without the egg and cheese if you like but I think it adds a welcome bit of richness to the soup.
- Chard tonifies the blood, treats the spleen and stomach, detoxifies and cool overheated conditions.
- Cilantro is pungent and sweet, can support the spleen and stomach while regulating energy and aiding digestion. It is commonly believed to remove toxins and soothe inflammation.
- Scallion is a warming yang tonic that supports blood circulation and stomach functions, eliminates toxins and serves as a digestive aid.
- Celery is cooling and can treat the stomach, liver and kidney. It is known to have blood cleansing abilities while also being able to lower blood pressure by relaxing artery walls and enhancing blood flow.
Raw vegetables in their natural state are invaluable for their nutrition however proper cooking methods can preserve the majority of their nutrients and can make other nutrients more accessible than they would be otherwise. Wilting down the chard and these other vegetables in this soup reduces the bulk and allows nutrients to be extracted more easily while concentrating the flavors and making it easier to digest.
Rainbow Chard and Scallion Broth with Smoky Rice Noodle Cake
Prep/cook time about 45 minutes
Serves about 8
- 1-2 bunches Chard, red or rainbow, depending on size
- 1 stick Celery
- 2 Bunches Scallion
- 1-2 Bunches Cilantro depending on size
- 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 2-3 Inch Ginger
- 1 Teaspoon Black Sesame seeds
- 2-3 Tablespoons Sesame oil
- 4 Ounces Dry Rice noodles
- 2 Egg
- 1-2 Ounces Parmesan/Asiago cheese grated
- 2 Teaspoons Gochujang or to taste
- ½ Cup Canola Oil
- 11/2-2 Quarts Vegetable Stock
- Sea Salt
- Fresh Cracked Pepper
- White Pepper
Rice Noodles are more delicate than wheat noodles which makes them quick to prepare by pouring boiling water over the rice noodle and allow to sit for about five minutes, moving around a bit every so often to loosen them up. Thin noodles take less time than a wide noodle, keep checking as they will become mushy if overcooked. Once they are tender, drain and run under cool water to stop the cooking, toss with a touch of sesame oil to keep from sticking together and to add a nice flavor.
Beat egg whites to firm peaks, then stir in the yolk, noodles, cheese, cilantro, sesame seeds and gochujang to taste. These ingredients will develop into almost a type of batter which you will make the cakes out of by dropping about two to three tablespoon portions at a time into a skillet on medium high heat with enough canola oil to fry on both sides until golden brown. Set aside on paper towels.
For people who are new to gochujang, I like to describe it as a spicy version of miso which is used in Korean cooking. It is a hot and smoky pepper paste that comes in a red plastic tub made from red chile paste and fermented soybeans, it is thick, sticky and spicy. A little goes a long way so don’t use too much. Once you start experimenting with it you will find yourself using it in all sorts of ways, I love adding it to barbeque sauces and marinades to add heat and depth of flavor. It contains rice powder and sometimes wheat or barley so it is not always gluten free if that is a concern look for a gluten free version.
To prep the chard, strip the leaves from the stem and chop the leaves into larger pieces while slices the stems into smaller pieces as the leaves cook faster than the stems.
The soup is made simply by sautéing the chard stems, scallions and celery with a small amount of garlic and ginger, after a few minutes add just enough water so the ingredients braise or stew rather than fry. Now add the chard leaves and cilantro with a bit of salt and pepper, including a little white pepper and cover so the chard begins to wilt down, be sure to add just enough water to continue the braising/stewing. When the Chard had wilted down, add stock to desired consistency of a broth soup and simmer until the chard is tender. Adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls with one or more rice cakes nestled in.