Kosher Kitchen

As Maimonides knew, food nurtures our health


The idea of using food as medicine is nothing new. Maimonides believed in using food to prevent and treat illness and to maintain health. But what if your health is already in the throes of a cold or worse? Then what?

We have all heard of chicken soup to help with a cold and congestion. We have all heard that certain foods help loosen the congestion. But are there others that can help with every day aches and pains? Some health providers and nutritionists say the answer is a resounding yes — there are foods that help with common ailments and some that are not so common.

We can go back hundreds of years to find that the great doctor, Maimonides, had a very modern take on food and health. He wrote, in the Mishna Torah, “Anyone who conducts himself in the ways we specified, I guarantee that he will never get sick his entire life until he reaches a hoary old age and dies. He will not need a doctor and his body will be perfect and he will remain strong his whole life.”

Those ways were many of the same ways that we are advised to eat in the 21st century. And while I do not believe that cancer and other serious diseases are a result of a poor diet, I do believe that, in many cases, diet can help. We cannot cure cancer with an apple, but we can do more through our diets to stay healthy and, perhaps, keep a recurrence at bay. We may not be able to cure Celiac Disease, but we know that we can that avoiding wheat can be a boon to our good health. We can identify food allergies and lactose intolerance and more and do our best to avoid trigger foods so that we feel better.

The bottom line is that, in our age of thousands of processed, sugary foods, we can make better choices to help us live long, healthy lives.

Sadly, illness will happen, from the common cold — I feel one coming on right now — to worse. We cannot prevent many ills that befall us. But we can use food to help make us feel better and keep some illnesses such as Type II Diabetes, away. And some people feel that with a strong immune system, the viruses and illnesses we do pick up, might have a milder impact on us. Of course, comfort foods and more can help ameliorate some of the symptoms of colds, the flu and joint pain.

Food is delicious. I work hard every week to bring you yummy treats and main dishes and more. I think we also need to look to Maimonides and take his wisdom to heart.

Easy Skillet Ginger Turmeric Chicken (Meat)

Ginger and turmeric are both have strong anti- inflammatory properties and turmeric is now even prescribed by mainstream doctors.

1 chicken cut into 4 or 8 pieces, or breasts and thighs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp. transfat-free pareve margarine or extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion

4 to 6 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated to about 1 generous tablespoon

1-1/2 tsp. turmeric you can use fresh and grate it to about 2 tsp.

1/2 tsp, curry powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cumin

1 small can diced tomatoes, drained, reserve liquid

3 cups chicken stock

Fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish

Generously salt and pepper the chicken and set aside. Heat a deep skillet and add the margarine or olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until light golden. Add the garlic, ginger and turmeric and mix well. Stir until fragrant. Add the curry powder, cinnamon, cumin and mix well, about 30 to 60 seconds. 

Add the chicken, skin side down and cook until the skin releases without any pulling, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook another 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate. Add the tomato liquid and chicken stock and mix well, stirring up any browned bits. Add the rice and mix well. Add the chicken back to the pan, skin side up, reduce heat to a simmer, and partially cover the pan.

Cook for 10 to 12 minutes and check to see there is still plenty of liquid in the pan. If not, add more chicken stock. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Check for doneness.

If the rice is done, and there is not too much liquid, turn off the heat and partially cover the pan to steam for 5 to 7 minutes. If the rice is not cooked enough, continue to cook in 3 minute intervals, until the rice is tender, and the chicken is 165 degrees in the thickest part. Season the rice with more salt and pepper, if needed.

You can also add more of the other spices, as desired. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro. Serves 4.

Yemenite Chicken Soup (Meat)

This soup recipe, given to me by a Yemenite Israeli friend, includes several anti-inflammatory spices, some heat giving spices, which loosen congestion, and also adds whatever health giving vegetables your family enjoys. I often use carrots and diced yams added about 45 minutes before serving.

3 to 4 quarts water

1 large pullet, cut in quarters

4 large garlic cloves

3 medium onions, left whole

1 small bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped

1 Tbsp. Cumin

Large pinch ground cardamom

Tiny pinch ground cloves

Large pinch turmeric

1 tomato, grated

Small zucchini, diced

3 medium potatoes, Red bliss, or yams, diced

Various vegetables, your choice, carrots, celery, cauliflower or broccoli, leeks, fresh green beans, etc.

Salt and pepper, to taste 

OPTIONAL: Add some cayenne pepper and/or fresh lemon juice

NOTE: You can substitute Hawaij spice (to taste) for the other spices. It contains all the spices above and more.

Place the water in a very large soup pot. Bring to a boil. Add the onions and chicken. Boil on medium until chicken is cooked through, about an hour. Add the spices, diced potatoes and other hard vegetable of your choice such as carrots and/or celery. Lower heat, cover and simmer for at least another hour. Skim fat when necessary. Add more water if necessary. Add zucchini and other soft vegetables of your choice. Cover and simmer for another hour, adding more water if necessary.

One half hour before serving, add grated tomato. Grate the tomato over the simmering soup with a hand grater. The skin will stay on the grater. If you don’t have a grater, peel, seed and dice the tomato.

Serves many.

Vegan Cashew Almost Mayonnaise (Pareve)

Mayonnaise is one of those condiments that we use without thinking. We may buy olive oil mayo or low-fat, but it is still mayonnaise. I like this a lot mixed with tuna or more. It is not exactly like may, but it is delicious and can be doctored with all kinds of spices to make dips and more.

1-1/2 cups raw cashews, unsalted 

Water to cover

2 to 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 to 4 cloves garlic, roasted 

1/2 tsp. vegetable broth powder or paste mix

3 to 4 Tbsp. cashew water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Seasonings as desired such as parsley, cayenne pepper, paprika, etc.

Place the cashew in a bowl and cover with water. Let sit, covered, for 3 to 8 hours. Drain the water and reserve.

Place the cashews in the bowl of a food processor. Add the lemon juice and the garlic, the broth mix and 3 tbsp. of the reserved cashew water. Add any spices you like and process until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. Makes 1-1/2 cups.

Green Goddess Vegan Dip (Pareve)

1 bulb scallion, green and white parts

2 to 3 Tbsp. minced chives, more to taste

1/3 cup freshly snipped parsley, no stems

2 cloves garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Season as desired. Makes 1-1/2 cup.