If you’ve never tried Persian food, you are seriously missing out. For me, a hallmark of so many of the wonderful Persian dishes that I’ve had is a liberal use of fresh herbs. It makes for meals that are both incredibly tasty and wonderfully health-promoting. The Ash (soup) that I’m making for dinner today uses a truckload of fresh herbs, including 2 cups of parsley. Read on for today’s daily dozen meal plan…
- 1 1/2 c muesli (that’s about 1 c whole grains + 1/4 c dried fruit + 1/4 c nuts & seeds)
- 1 T flaxseed & 1 clove, ground and mixed into the muesli
- 4 kumquats
Checklist items: berries, 1 other fruits, flaxseeds, herbs & spices, nuts & seeds, 1 whole grains (6 out of 18 servings)
- 1/2 c cooked pinto beans
- 1/2 c chopped kale
- lime juice
- corn tortilla
- 2 cups fruit salad
- Mash the beans, and heat them gently along with the the kale, tamari, sriracha, & lime juice.
- Make a burrito.
Fruit salad for dessert!
Checklist items: 1 beans, 2 other fruits, 1 other vegetables, 1 whole grains (5 out of 18 servings)
Tonight, the spotlight is on parsley! Italian or curly – take your pick. I prefer the Italian (or flat-leaf) parsley for 2 reasons: it has a more robust flavor, and it’s easier to chop. The curly variety flies all over the place, and as much ends up on the floor as in the dish. Okay, I’m exaggerating. A bit. But whichever you choose, it’s still a potent leafy green, which we humans seem to be particularly well-suited to eat! Its role in restaurants as an uneaten garnish is downright insulting to this phenomenal aromatic.
There are two different types of components in parsley that are rather uncommon, and that provide unique health benefits: their volatile oils & flavonoids.
First, the volatile oils – myristicin, limonene, eugenol & alpha thujene. These have all been shown to inhibit tumor growth, particularly in the lungs and breasts, by different mechanisms. To give just one of many examples, myristicin neutralizes benzopyrenes which are carcinogens inhaled with cigarette smoke and charcoal-fired grills. (This study, among others.) As a former smoker myself, I cross my fingers and sprinkle that parsley liberally.
Next up, the flavonoids – apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol & luteolin. While the volatile oils are busy protecting you from carcinogens, these guys are working on oxygen-induced damage. During normal metabolic processes, your body produces small amounts of oxygen radicals (yes, the free ones). While oxygen radicals aren’t all-bad (they are also produced by certain white blood cells to help attack pathogens), they can lead to damage to macromolecules, like lipids (fats), nucleic acids, and proteins. The flavonoids in parsley function as antioxidants, binding the radicals and preventing cellular damage.
Parsley is also particularly rich in vitamin C. The amount of vitamin C recommended to avoid deficiency is around 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women, but studies suggest that the optimal dietary intake is around 200 mg per day, which is roughly 5 servings of fruits & veggies. Parsley contains approximately 40 mg per half cup, which will certainly provide a significant boost. It does lose some of its potency with cooking, so adding it fresh to salads & sprinkled on other dishes is always a great idea. Having said that, we are cooking it today, but we’re also using a lot!
Parsley is an excellent source of folate, vitamin A, and iron. These are important for the nervous system & cardiovascular health; vision, immune, & inflammatory systems; and energy production.
And now on to the part where we get to eat yummy stuff.
This recipe is Persian – Ash-e Reshteh, meaning noodle(reshteh) soup(ash). The name of this soup, from my perspective, is a testament to just how par-for-the-course it is to use fistfuls of fresh herbs in Persian cooking. You will know why when you see the ratio of noodles to herbs in the recipe.
We’re making enough for 2 servings, and the checklist below is for 1 serving. Because we’re using large quantities of fresh herbs, as opposed to small amounts of dried herbs, we’re counting them as greens.
- 1 lg onion, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3/4 c garbanzos (1/4 c dry)
- 2/3 c red kidney beans (1/3 c dry)
- 2/3 c lentils (1/3 c dry); I use beluga, but you could also use puy/green lentils. I would avoid red lentils here, because they disintegrate and will significantly thicken the soup
- 1 tbsp spelt (or other whole grain) flour
- 2 T turmeric
- 2 c, packed, fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 c, packed, fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 c, packed, fresh dill, chopped
- 10 sprigs of fresh chives, chopped
- 1 c kale, (chopped at least 45 mins ahead of time)
- 1/4 c mint
- 4 c bouillon or water
- 7 oz (200 g) whole wheat pasta (linguine works very well)
- Sauté onions & garlic
- Add (cooked) garbanzos, kidney beans, lentils, turmeric & spelt flour, and sauté with the onion & garlic for a few minutes.
- Then add all the greens, along with bouillon or water, mix well, and simmer for at least half an hour. The longer you cook it, the better the flavors will be. Add more liquid as needed.
- Finally, add the pasta – when the pasta is ready, the soup is ready.
Checklist items: 2 beans, cruciferous, 3 greens, 1 other vegetables, 1 whole grains, spices (9 out of 18 servings)
Taking account of the day:
20 servings in total.
We got at least the recommended servings of everything today, plus an extra serving of greens, and herbs & spices.