Community Healthcare Network

Rasam is a spicy lentil soup eaten with rice. It is thought to help with digestion and to treat colds and flus. It’s a go-to dish when funds are low. It can feed the whole family and can be eaten for several meals a day. The British call it Mulligatawny. The name comes from the Tamil words milagu, and tanni literally meaning “pepper-water.”

History of Rasam: The story goes that the King’s son had taken ill and would barely eat anything, so the King declared a prize for anyone who could come up with a dish that the son would eat. A chef in Madurai in Tamil Nadu, named Karuna is believed to have made Rasam for the son and it healed his illness! This is why Rasam is thought to be a healing dish to this day.

Ingredients you’ll need*:

Rasam Seasoning:

  • 2-3 dry Kashmiri or any dried red chilies
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds

Rasam Ingredients:

  • 3 whole garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • 1 small diced tomato
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils (toor dal)
  • 1 key lime-sized ball of sour tamarind, soaked in water
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 pinch of hing or asafetida
  • 4 sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • Kosher or rock salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Tempering Spices:

  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 2 dry red Kashmiri chilies, broken in half width-wise
  • 1/2 teaspoon urad dal
  • 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter)

*Visit your local Indian or South Asian grocer to find some of these specialty ingredients.

How to make:

  1. Soak dal (lentils) in 2 cups of water for at least 1 hour.
  2. Soak tamarind in warm water for at least 45 minutes
  3. Cook dal (lentils) with the turmeric, hing, and 2.5 cups of water. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until tender. Once the dal is done, blend until smooth. Set aside.
  4. In a separate pan, dry roast the rasam seasoning ingredients on medium-low heat for no more than 2 minutes.
  5. Once roasted, add the rasam seasoning ingredients to a coffee or spice grinder. Grind them until fine.
  6. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a pan. Fry the cumin seeds for 30 to 60 seconds.
  7. Add garlic and tomato. Sauté for 2 minutes.
  8. Use your finger to crush the tamarind in the water it’s been soaking in to get as much tamarind juice out as possible.
  9. Pour tamarind juice through a fine mesh strainer into the pan with the cumin, garlic and tomato.
  10. Add in blended dal, salt, and freshly ground rasam seasoning.
  11. Let it all come to a boil. If needed, add water to get the consistency you want. Rasam should be a thin, watery, but deeply flavorful soup.
  12. In a small sauce pan, heat the ghee on medium heat.
  13. When hot, add in tempering spices. Lower the heat, and swirl the pan until you can smell the toasted spices, about 30 seconds.
  14. Add the ghee and tempering spices into the rasam.
  15. Turn off heat. Garnish with cilantro and freshly ground black pepper. Add more salt if needed.

What is Haitian Independence Day?

January 1st marks Haitian Independence Day when revolutionary, Jean-Jacques Dessalines “the father of Haiti,” pronounced that Haitian-born slaves were free and independent from colonial French rule. General Dessalines and an army of “les gens de couleur libres” (free people of color) defeated the French military and declared Haiti a free republic. On January 1,1804 Haiti became the first black free independent republic nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Joumou Soup

Before emancipation, Haitian slaves were forbidden to eat joumou soup or squash soup, a delicacy reserved for white French slave masters. After winning the war, to commemorate Haitian freedom, the newly-emancipated Haitians celebrated by preparing squash soup. This act symbolized freedom, independence, and pride.

In keeping with this traditional ritual, many Haitian families in Haiti and throughout the diaspora prepare the soup every year to remember the freedom that their ancestors fought for. Usually, the matriarch in the family will prepare the ingredients the night before and actual cooking takes place on the morning of the 1st. It is believed that eating joumou soup on January 1st serves as a blessing for a prosperous and healthy new year.

Joumou is not only served on New Year’s Day but is reserved for important milestones and events in Haitian life. Usually served on Sundays when the family gets together or at a funeral reception, the soup is believed to help restore and revitalize the body, a symbol of fortification and strength.

Joumou Soup Recipe

Adapted from A Taste of Haiti Expanded Edition (Serves 8-10 people)

  • 2 pounds pumpkin/squash peeled, cut into large chunks
  • 2 pounds beef neck bones
  • 1 lime, cut in half
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and mined
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons Haitian pikliz
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 10 cabbage leaves, cut into 4 pieces each
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 to 6 whole cloves
  • ½ cup penne pasta or macaroni
  • 2 potatoes, peeled, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 large turnip, peeled, cut into pieces
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper
  • Salt, pepper, and more herbs to taste

To prepare:

  1. Cook pumpkin over medium heat in 6 cups of water for 30 minutes.
  2. Clean meat with lime juice. Marinate meat with scallions, onion, garlic, shallots, green pepper, pikliz, salt and black pepper.
  3. In stockpot, add the meat with 1 cup of water and cook covered, over medium heat for 40 minutes.
  4. Add 3 cups of water and pureed pumpkin and bring to a boil for 40 minutes.
  5. Add celery, cabbage, carrots, and whole cloves. Cook, uncovered for 20 minutes.
  6. Add remaining ingredients. Cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and more herbs to taste.

Mindful eating can help us to make more intentional food choices and be aware of our feelings related to eating. Try these tips to help practice mindful eating during the holiday season:

  • Don’t skip meals. “Saving calories” for a big holiday meal can lead to low blood sugar, more food cravings and overeating. Listen to your hunger cues. Allow yourself to have balanced meals and snacks like you would on any other day.
  • Enjoy. Many holiday foods hold special memories or cultural relevance. Avoiding them may lead to cravings or feeling unsatisfied. Allow yourself to enjoy these foods in moderation.
  • Reflect. Try to identify your emotions before you start your meal. Are you truly hungry? Are you feeling stressed? Sad? Lonely? Bored?
  • Practice self-care. As you notice your emotions, find ways to address them like taking walks, meditating, resting, and embracing social support from loved ones or professionals.
  • Tune in. Chew your food slowly. Notice the colors, tastes, textures, smells of your foods and how eating them make you feel. Check in during the meal and notice how the feelings of hunger and fullness change.

Brussels Sprout Slaw

Ingredients: (Serves 8)

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 diced apple
  • 1/3 cup toasted and chopped pecans

How to prepare?

  1. Make the dressing by mixing olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl combine the sliced Brussels sprouts diced apples, toasted pecans and dressing and toss to coat.