Drink your fiber
Belly-warming soup a good way to fill up
The easiest way to consume loads of fiber is to drink it, compared to chomping your way through a pile of whole grains, stems and leaves.
Fiber is a catch-all word for carbohydrates, such as cellulose, that we cannot digest. Although we can’t derive energy or nutrients from these particles, they exert their goodness in other ways, such as feeding the microbes in our gut, scrubbing our pipes, and helping to regulate blood sugar and fat.
The beauty of a green smoothie is that you can take your fibers easily and deliciously, in the form of fresh fruits and veggies. The wintertime analog to this dish is pureed soup. I call it Winter Purry, because when I’m sitting all winter cozy with my bowl of soup, I feel “purry” like a happy cat in a splash of light.
There are endless ways to make a purry, but most recipes can be simplified to a few basic steps and ingredients.
You’ll need some good stock or broth, either of meat, vegetable, mushroom … it doesn’t matter. I keep a jar of Better than Bouillon paste, which is an excellent substitute for homemade.
You will also need some sort of tool with which to puree your purry. They come in many names: La Machine. Vitamix. Food mill. I use the immersion blender, which I call The Tool. I like it because you can leave the purry in the pot, and don’t even have to wait for it to cool.
Finally, you need your fiber-filled winter vegetables, prepared in a way that softens them for your tool. They can be roots like carrots, stems like celery, seeds such as lentils, fruits a la tomato, florets from broccoli and the like, and various leaves.
The drill is simple. Sauté the onion in oil with spices. You don’t even need to cut the onion super-small, because it will be soft, and because we have our tools. Meanwhile, prepare your other veggies by steaming until soft, either separately in the steamer or added to the steamer in proper order (roots and other hard things first, leaves and other soft parts last). When the onions are translucent, transfer the softened veggies to the pan of onions and allow to cook, along with some minced garlic. When it starts to brown deliciously, deglaze with several cups of stock and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes or so. Allow it to cool to a point your tool can handle, and puree.
No vegetable epitomizes the green smoothie like kale, and there is a place for everyone’s favorite leafy green roughage in the winter purry as well. But you have to be careful not to overdo it, as happened last week when I thought I could just substitute pureed kale for spinach and make a cheesy saag paneer.
The trick, I’ve since learned, is to first make the kale into chips, and then crumble them into purry. On that note, here is a recipe for Kale and Cauliflower Purry, adapted (and renamed) from the Williams-Sonoma Vitamix sales literature.
Kale and Cauliflower Purry
- 1 head of cauliflower, deconstructed into florets, with the larger ones sliced in half Olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder
- 8 or so cups of stock or broth
- 1 bunch of kale, leaves stripped and torn into evenly sized chunks, about 2-inches across
- 3 sticks celery
- 1 onion
- Herbs and spices
Preheat oven to 400.
Toss the cauliflower in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place it in the oven on a baking sheet.
Toss the kale with the same oil and spices as the cauliflower, and spread it on a tray.
After the cauliflower has been in the oven for about 25 minutes, reduce heat to 300. Add the kale tray to the oven. Monitor the chips closely as they cook, and take them out before they get too crispy, as they will continue to crisp after you remove them. You want them bright green and shiny with oil. Remove the cauliflower when it’s done.
In a heavy-bottom pan, sauté the onion and celery. Add the stock and cauliflower after a few minutes. Cook, covered, until everything is tool-tender. The kale chips can be added before it is pureed, or after, as a garnish. Or both.
This purry can handle many different spices, from harissa to herbs de Provence; I take mine with a mix of toasted and crushed cumin and coriander seeds.
To serve, ladle into bowls, or a steaming cup, and sip your fiber pleasantly.