Baked Butternut Squash and Black Bean Soup

One of the aspects of cooking that Chinese Medicine pays attention to is method. Each method of cooking adds relative values of heat to the dish being prepared.
Steaming and boiling are the mildest. Then, in degree of warming-ness comes stir frying, followed by croc-pot slow cooking/stewing, baking, and finally, the hottest form, deep frying.

That may explain in part why baked and deep fried goods are so satisfying; life is a process of warm biochemical or energetic transformations; qi and blood are warm--baked and deep fried goods reinforce that warmth, although with the latter method there is a negative side affect of pathological damp production.

If you are not convinced, as an experiment just steam or boil a potato and compare how warm that makes you feel, vs. a baked potato, vs. french fries. You probably only have to think about it.

There is a logic here. Water is inherently cooling--anyone who hikes in the desert knows what it feels like when you hit an oasis; the difference is the moisture.
Water is inherently cooling, so that when you boil, although you heat, that heat is balanced by the cool nature of water. But when you bake, you add dry heat.

This is nearly in the realm of alchemy, but, especially for cold Vata or Kapha types, in the cold weather baked hard squash is just so much more appealing than boiled. I should add that on the other hand, in summer, boiled hard squash and tofu are so nice with buckwheat soba, which is also cooling in energy.

And then when you deep fry, not only are you adding very high heat, you are adding the concentrated caloric intensity of fat that coats the vegetable or meat keeping all its energy intact. That is why deep fried food is not recommended, as it contributes to the build up of pathological damp heat in the body. Terrible for acne and chronic yeast issues. If you are a dry cold type, its not bad once in a while, but even there, oil heated to that level goes rancid very quickly. And restaurants reheat and reuse the oil forever. Personally, I have vegetable tempura once a year in the winter, and maybe french fries, made at home, once a year.

Hard squashes are mild, sweet, slightly warm, easy to digest, a little bland. They are a perfect foil for beans, which are denser and have chewy texture. This is an especially fortuitous marriage for people on gluten free diets, who miss the chewy quality of wheat and gluten.

As we move into the cold weather of late autumn we crave warming grounding baked foods, like root vegetables (turnip, parsnip, rutabaga, carrot, yam, potato) and hard squashes, also known as winter squash (vs. zucchinis which are known as summer squash).

Here is a recipe perfect for early Winter--grounding, warming, a little heavy, sweet, sour, slightly pungent. Cumin and coriander are two of the spices that do are well tolerated by Vata or Pitta. And this dish is light enough for Kapha.
See below for modifications for each dosha.

You can use any hard squash, each has its own qualities. Butternut squash has lovely golden color and a beautiful almost floral aroma, whereas Kabocha squash is much denser, darker, and meaty.

Baked Butternut Squash and Black bean soup


Baked butternut squash
Black beans 1-2 cups, cooked
Bay leaf 3-4
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder 1 tsp
Coriander powder 1 tsp
Garlic 1 tsp crushed
Cilantro 1.5 tbsp chopped
Salt to taste
Black pepper 3/4 tsp
Cayenne pepper 1/4 tsp
Wine Vinegar 2 tsp
1 tbsp olive oil

1) Scrub squash well, slice in half legnth-wise, scrape out seeds, and bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. When done, cool, and remove from skin and mash with a fork roughly, or puree in blender finely, your choice. Boil black beans with turmeric, salt, pepper, and bay leaf, till soft.

2) Heat olive on a low flame with coriander and cumin. Brown lightly for a few minutes, as the color changes and aroma rises, add garlic and stir without stopping for a minute or two. Do not allow to burn. When the garlic starts to change color and become more aromatic, add 1 tbsp cilantro, turn off heat, and stir a minute as the cilantro turns bright green.

3) Add the cooked spices and squash to the beans, adding water to your desired soup consistency. Simmer for 10 minutes, adding the balance of freshly chopped cilantro at the end as a garnish.

Kapha: Delete vinegar, add more cayenne
Pitta: Reduce pepper, increase cilantro
Vata Delete cayenne, puree beans, reduce amount of beans

Copyright Eyton Shalom, San Diego, CA Oct 2011, All Rights Reserved, Use With Permission
Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego