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The picture above was taken yesterday on the campus of my kids' school, where leaves are gloriously changing colors and carpeting the grounds. However, I find it a bit unsettling that we have welcomed Fall with a 101ºF. Dear Mother Nature, what the heck is going on?
For now, I am pretending is a cool day, perfect for a nutritious leafy soup. Jute Mallow is commonly used in the Middle East and Asia (Japan, Malasia, Thailand,Vietnam, China and India). We call it Mloukhiyye and the only dish that I know is made with it goes by same name and the recipe is here. It's absolutely delicious and I make it often. Even my little ones love it. I get it fresh from a local Asian store that grows it organically in their garden and the leaves are always small, bright green and tender. It's also sold in dried and frozen forms. It's known by many names like bush okra, saluyot, jute, jew's mallow and Egyptian spinach. In fact, it is believed that it originated in Egypt and around 6000 BC, an Egyptian king was cured from his ailment by taking a jute mallow soup everyday. Mloukhiyye is known as the king of vegetables as it offers over four times more carotene than spinach, nine times more Vitamin C, and more potassium, iron and Vitamin E than other leafy vegetables which makes it very beneficial to the immune system, the skin and the eyes.
Cooking with jute mallow is very easy. It requires very little prep and wilts quickly to a melt in your mouth consistency. To prepare fresh mallow, pick the leaves, wash and cook. If leaves are big, you can cut them in half, but since it's has a mucilaginous texture like okra, it tends to get slimy if you chop it too much. Tomatoes' acidity complements the mallow flavor perfectly in this healthy soup.
Jute Mallow with Fennel and Tomato Soup
4 cups "packed" jute mallow leaves, fresh (4 oz dried)
3 cups good stock -vegetable or chicken (I used homemade chicken stock)
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1.5 inch fresh ginger, grated
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp olive oil or grape seed oil
2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sea salt (adjust to taste)
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional)
To easily peel the tomatoes, blanch for about a minute in simmering water, remove and cool in an ice bath. The skin will peel right off. Dice and set aside. In a heavy bottom pot, heat the oil, sauté the garlic, ginger and fennel until softened. Add diced tomatoes, salt and pepper(s), and sauté for another three to five minutes until the tomatoes softened and the juice begins to ooze out. Add stock, fennel, and mallow leaves. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Add apple cider vinegar and turn off heat.