Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vegetable Love, My Own Personal Soul Food

A few months ago I caught a parasite that is feared and loathed here in the Dominican Republic. I thought it was cholera, but to my luck - it was only an amoeba.

This amoeba shredded, pulverized, and elbow-dropped my insides.

I was urged not to eat grease, fat, sugar, or dairy among other foods and liquids. I cannot recall the other food no-no's because everyone and their mother told me to avoid different things. Also, I was scared to eat vegetables because I assumed they were the source of my parasite pain. What if I didn't wash them well enough? What if someone else didn't wash them? WHAT ARE ARE THOSE THINGS? Generally speaking, I was paranoid. Not only that, but the cures were just as obscure - my favorite being that I would be completely healed if only I would eat a puree of pumpkin seeds and fresh garlic. Really?

But, what the hell did I know about amoebas and their cures? Nothing.

When you go to a restaurant in the States and want to order a salad, do you stop yourself because you are unsure of the state of their vegetable washing? No. The difference is that in the DR, I'll either make my own salad by cleaning the vegetables with a few drops of bleach (in water for 20ish minutes), or I avoid them as much as a can without being rude. As a North American, a raw garlic/pumpkin paste sounds like an improbable cure compared to the availability of antibiotics and vigorously-trained doctors. Does that make it wrong?

The medicine I took left me fatigued and weak for almost 2 months. Although I knew I would never rely solely on "green" cures, I realized that I had to start listening. Garlic will make me better, you say? Instead of the 1 clove garlic I added when making rice, I would add 6. I understand this was a bit overzealous of me, but I was desperate, and over time, I began to build my strength back. Whatever the magic cure was I will never know, but something has stuck with me: The fiance and I have to pay better attention to our health.

This soup was was like soul food for me when I was recovering, and it is just as delicious and refreshing now as it was then. It's full of vegetables, cooked to the core, and it explodes with flavor. Served on top of rice, it is comparable to a Dominican "asopao" - which is a Dominican soup with rice in it.


Vegetable Love

1 onion
2 large eggplants
1/2 lb of auyama (pumpkin) or whatever squash is in season
3 medium potatoes
2 medium carrots
1 can of diced tomatoes - I used a can that also had garlic and onion seasonings!
4 cloves of garlic
15 oz. vegetable stock (or a vegetable bouillon cube)
3 cups water
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lime or the equivalent in lime juice (2-4 tablespoons, depending on your preference)

Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot and when it is sizzling hot, add the onions. Let them cook for 3-4 minutes, and then add the eggplant, garlic, and carrots. Drizzle another tablespoon on the mixture and cover over medium heat for about 5-8 minutes, or until soft. Now mix in the cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, and oregano. Make sure it covers all of the vegetables!

Next, pour in the vegetable stock, canned tomatoes, and water. Bring to a boil and then add the potatoes and auyama.

Cover over low heat for at least 45 minutes. There needs to be enough time for the potatoes and squash to cook and soak up all flavors. The longer you let the soup marinate, the better it will taste.

Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over each individual serving. I prefer to serve this over rice, but of course you can serve it alone! Serves 6. (I love it for leftovers and lunch for the week).

a buen tiempo!

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