October 17, 2012

Recipe: Greenmarket Vegetable-Rice Soup

Vegetable soup, before addition of rice.

During my recent 2-week road trip through the Eastern Southern states, I was shocked by how my GERD did not flare up; in fact, it was better controlled than usual, even with a diet packed with cheese, eggs, and eating out each day.   Maybe being out of New York City and "on vacation" reduced my stress overall, or maybe my body does like dairy products.  I'm still figuring this one out.

In other ways, my body did feel deprived.  I am used to eating generous quantities of vegetables, fruits, and whole foods -- not getting these on the trip was difficult.   Restaurants don't serve "plates of vegetables" aside from salads, and much of Southern cooking involves animal ingredients.  My personal affinity for eating simply prepared vegetables -- braised, roasted, sauteed with a bit of olive oil and perhaps garlic or herbs -- was not going to be met on the road, while my protein sources -- beans, tofu, the occasional soy/seitan meat substitute -- was rarely an option.  I relied on eggs and cheese for most of the trip.  (I will admit, having an "excuse" to gorge on cheese was a guilty pleasure.)

After two weeks on the road, my first day back at my local farmer's market sent me into euphoria.  I over-bought (squash! string beans!  every kind of herb! potatoes! greens! carrots! broccoli AND cauliflower!) and needed to use things up.  Thank goodness for roasted vegetables and for soup!   


A week after we returned home, I experienced severe GERD after over-eating at a dinner.   It was the first time I literally vomited as a result of reflux.   What a lousy, scary, terrible experience.  A week later, severe reflux again resulted in vomiting, and I lost three pounds.   (These incidents have inspired me to make an appointment to see my GI specialist next week.)   I did not feel like eating anything, afraid of vomiting, and feeling immediately bloated after even a bite.   I'm blaming "return to work" stress on top of "racing around" stress (just five days after returning, I was back on the road for a family reunion, and a week after that, hosted out of town guests).  I FELT extreme stress. 

I decided my body needed food that was easy to digest, familiar, and packed with nutrients to help my immune system, and developed this soup using all greenmarket ingredients.   I later added a few cups of Savannah heirloom rice (about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of rice per serving of soup) -- a trip souvenir.    This soup combated all GERD symptoms -- after days of eating this, I feel much better and able to tolerate food again.  No vomiting, no reflux, minimal "food in throat" sensations. 


Using fresh, greenmarket-quality vegetables is key!  I prepared white rice separate from the soup, adding it when reheating the soup, as needed.   You could use kale instead of chard, but I think the chard provides a more bright, calming flavor.  

1 medium onion, sliced thin
2-3 cloves garlic (3 cloves if small; 2 if large)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced (thin and/or in chunks)
1 large white potato, sliced (unpeeled, with skin)
4 small fingerling or new potatoes, any variety, sliced (with skin)
Handful of string beans, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch lengths
1 small bunch of chard, stems removed, leaves sliced into strips
olive oil
fresh thyme
fresh rosemary sprig

1. In large pot, heat olive oil over low heat; add onion and saute, stirring frequently, until softened.
2. Add carrots.  Stir with onion and cover.  Let saute-steam for a few minutes.
3. Add potatoes, stir and heat for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add water to cover contents of pot by two inches.
5. Add string beans.
6. Bring to boil.  Reduce heat, add thyme and rosemary, and simmer until carrots and potatoes are soft.
7. Remove rosemary sprig.  
8. Add chard; simmer until chard is softened and soup "smells" and tastes done.   You should smell a fragrant, delightful aroma as the ingredients come together.

Prepare rice as directed.  A sticky rice works best.   This can be done in advance of the soup, or later on.  Add rice as desired when reheating soup batches for meals.  I even added rice to my prepared lunch containers of soup, just microwaving everything together.  

Heirloom rice, bought in Charleston, SC.

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