Sep 9, 2012

Nox-Tail Soup

The deeper my yoga practice becomes, the more I understand the importance of a vegetarian diet—though when I say "understand," I don't meant intellectually or philosophically. I've thought long and hard and for many years on that level about this particular issue, and I still ate meat. I mean I'm starting to understand the question physically or emotionally, but even then, "understand" seems too strong a word. Frankly, the decision whether or not to eat meat is an issue I really don't understand.

There are just so many ways to look at it—physical, cultural, and spiritual arguments in both the pro and con departments that I find fairly convincing. All I know is that when I eat meat these days—even if it's only a clam—I feel kind of sad afterwards. And since pretty much the only thing that trumps my palate in terms of my own animal satisfactions  is my emotions, meat keeps growing less and less appealing to me. Not to mention the fact—so obvious, really, once I started paying attention to it—that a meatless diet, one  with many more vegetables and less dairy and super-yummy tamasic indulgences, like sweets and breads and so forth, makes my practice so much more satisfying, light, and floaty (I mean "floaty" in a purely metaphorical way—float I do not, not yet, anyway).

The hardest thing, for me, in my migration away from meat and toward a more vegetarian diet are all the social issues. Traditions. People. Parties. Holidays. Family. And maybe most of all, memories of all those things. There are certain dishes I have a very hard time thinking about giving up because of the whole family-memory mix. Roast chicken is one. Spaghetti and meatballs (my grandmother's recipe) is another. And my husband's oxtail soup. Wow, does my husband make a great oxtail soup. Gorgeous, heady, tangy, rich stuff. Also—I don't know how to say it... Ethereal? Or sexy? Certainly, if food can be sexy, this stuff is sexy. But now his oxtail soup also makes me sad. Bummer.

Sad really cuts back on the enjoyment factor, so, the other day my husband made a vegetarian (actually vegan) version of the same soup. Really, there's only a faint resemblance. I mean, oxtails are oxtails, and beans are beans, and never the twain shall meet. Though this soup/stew is by no means sexy or ethereal, it does have a delicate heady quality, thanks to a very healthy splash of white wine. Here's the recipe (highly fungible... 3 leeks, two carrots, more or less beans—doesn't matter...)


(2, large, chopped in 1/2 inch lengths, just the white & whitish-green parts)

about 1/2 lb dried white BEANS 
(we used canellini, dried & soaked overnight)

(1 can, peeled, whole)
(a lot—a cup at least)
(Delicata, 1 small)
THYME (BAY would be good, too)
PARSLEY (for garnish)

Coat the bottom of a heavy stock pot with olive oil, smash a couple of heads of garlic, toss them in the pot. Chop the carrot into small (1/4 inch) chunks, and the jalapeno into even smaller ones, toss both of these into the pot. Toss in the 1/2-inch lengths of leeks (which you've previously soaked in water to remove any sand). Saute till things look a little transparent. Add the canned tomatoes, roughly chopped, and the beans, the capers, a bundle of thyme or other tasty herbs (to be removed later) and a decent splash of wine. Cook til beans are half-done. Add chopped squash. Add a lot more wine for that mysterious flavor. Keep simmering away until everything is tender. Season with salt and pepper toward the end. Garnish with roughly chopped parsley. Looks like this:



Frances@Lila said...

I've never actually had ox-tail soup, so I have a feeling I will be able to love the vegan version with no nostalgia for the "real" stuff. :) Thanks for the recipe.
I can totally relate to your natural migration away from eating animals. I have been vegetarian most of my life, but through adolescence I went through meat-eating phases. The last thing for me to "give up" was sushi a few years ago. I had long stopped eating meat and cooked fish, but there was something about really great sushi that I still clung to. And then my practice deepened, in particular, I dove into Ashtanga yoga. And then one day I woke up and realized it had been over a year since I had tasted sushi and I didn't even care. The desire for it somewhere burned up in the practice, and I never looked back.

Kim A. said...

I know what you mean about sushi! I have always really loved it, but a few weeks ago I thought what the heck and had some (with fish) and I just had that same soggy sad feeling afterwards. Even during the meal. I realized I was jealous of what my daughter had ordered—a double order of plain old avocado maki. Old dog, new tricks—slow learning curve...
If you do make the soup, let me know how it turns out! I think it would be esecially good with very large beans, like the kind I think they call "gigante."
.sat nam.