Hey, Y’all! I write you today from a room full of spirited (read angry) screaming football fans. Yikes. I could personally live quite happily without ever watching a football game again. I think it’s boring- what with all the stoppages in play every two seconds. What? A flag on the play? Shocker. But, folks love them some football, and I really enjoy hanging out with my peeps. So, I figured I’d try to multi-task and write you, while I block out the hollering and occasionally glance up to see the yellow leaves raining down outside.
I kicked this past weekend off with some work. Work?!?!? Yes, I was asked by a client/ friend to cook for a family whose little girl has been sick. Although I knew it would be a real pilgrimage to travel to the burbs on a Friday evening, I also knew that dropping off delicious homemade meals to a family in distress would make a giant difference in their healing process. As if I needed a reminder or some encouragement, this Thank You note showed up in my kitchen around 4pm Friday afternoon.
I am incredibly lucky to be able to touch people’s lives through food. It swells my heart with goodness. Empowered by those words, the trek up north was an easy one. My “Food Fairy” drop-off was incredibly rewarding, as the little girl danced around the kitchen while I showed her all of the goodies. She immediately grabbed and downed a banana muffin, pilfered a strawberry out of the fresh fruit container, and dunked her finger straight into the golden mashed potatoes. Fabulous how food can evoke enthusiasm even from the smallest and sickest beings. Love.
Since then, Adam and I have continued on our path to try to make things right in our world…getting organized and knocking items off our to-do list left and right. Part of that quest entailed taking my new car, Sylvie, back to the dealership to work out a couple of kinks. Sigh. The shop is pretty far out of the city, and we had to be there super early, so we decided to create a breakfast date of it. Adam has been talking about this place Little Barn
for years now, raving about their “cat-head” biscuits. That term means that the biscuits are the size of a cat’s head. And this is the G-d’s honest truth.
The Drive-Thru lane was jam-packed with cars and the line inside was literally to the door. There’s only about ten tables in the whole place, and they were all filled up when we were ordering. So, AP suggested we take our biscuits to a nearby park.
‘Twas a lovely morning to be outside. The geese were basking in the sunshine,
except this guy,
who wanted my biscuit real bad. On the sliver-lining-make-it-all-better path, we needed to purchase some clothes with sleeves. So we ventured on to the Mall of Georgia- a county unto itself- until we heard from the car guy. Thankfully, it was one of those shopping days where things actually fit and we found what we needed. Bonus.
The most cathartic part of the weekend happened Sunday morning, when we went through all of our old clothes, retiring sleeveless duds for next year and creating a pile for donation and a large bag of trash (for grease-stained, shrunken, worn out stuff). I feel noticeably lighter, and my drawers look quite dreamy. I am officially ready for the colder temperatures…at least my clothes are.
I think that catches you up to speed on the personal life front. Lemme give you a good look at the fall veggies that are available locally this week before I share the process of making a delicious pot of soup that will thoroughly warm your bones.
Butternuts- these are excellent for roasting and soups.
Acorn squashes and sweet potatoes galore…
lately I’ve been mashing my sweet potatoes with carrots, which help to highlight the natural sweetness of the potatoes.
also lovely to roast (since they caramelize quickly and are so tasty), and perfect in slaws and salads. Ooh, and there’s plenty of cabbage
for slaws too, though I have been roasting it pretty often as of late.
Greens!! Lots of mustard greens, collards, and different varieties of kale
have been floating through my kitchen. Braising them in apple cider with diced local apples is a fabulous way to go.
I’ve also been baking apple muffins kind of regularly. I am growing, I’ll tell you. Baking on the regular. Wow!
Local peppers tend to work their way into all manners of dishes in my kitchen, but chunky soups and big pots of chili have been hoarding the peppers over the past few weeks.
And- check it out-
green tomatoes. An absolutely perfect excuse for fried green tomato BLTs with cheese!!! So, FGTBLTCs. : ) Yum!
There are tons of excellent choices for locally grown produce right now. Grab it while you can, my friends. Soon enough, cold temperatures will put the brakes on harvesting for a few sad months…Take advantage of these last few weeks!!!
On to the main event! Miso Soup.
I’ve made this soup lots and lots of times, and it is easy peasy. Miso is a fermented soy bean paste available in most grocery stores in a chilled section. The benefits of incorporating miso into your diet are numerous. Here is a list (courtesy of www.care2.com) of ten positive reasons to get your hands on some miso paste STAT:
The 10 scientifically researched benefits of eating miso
1. Contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
2. Stimulates the secretion of digestive fluids in the stomach.
3. Restores beneficial probiotics to the intestines.
4. Aids in the digestion and assimilation of other foods in the intestines.
5. Is a good vegetable-quality source of B vitamins (especially B12).
6. Strengthens the quality of blood and lymph fluid.
7. Reduces risk for breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.
8. Protects against radiation due to dipilocolonic acid, an alkaloid that chelates heavy metals and discharges them from the body.
10. High in antioxidants that protects against free radicals.
Here’s what you need to make my version of this healthful pot of wonder.
About 2 Cups dried shiitake mushrooms
5 Cups vegetable broth
1.5 – 2 inches peeled ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, pressed
at least 2 or 3 Thai chili peppers, sliced
2 packages mixed fresh wild mushrooms, or use baby portobellos or buttons
small container extra firm tofu, patted dry, and cut into small cubes
8 heaping T miso paste
1 big or 2 smaller daikon radish, about 1 Cup diced. Or use red radishes.
2 servings Soba noodles, cooked according to package directions
4 bunches baby bok choy, ribs and stems separated and chopped into bite-sized pieces
handful cilantro leaves, chopped
2 – 3 scallions, sliced
Miso soup is the most common soup in Japan and is typically created using a dashi (stock) made from fish. Since I’ve almost always prepared this soups for vegetarians (and completely enjoy the veggie rendition myself), I make a mushroom dashi instead.
Take the dried mushrooms and place them in a 4 Cup container filled with cold water. I like to fill the mushroom tub with a little bit of water and place it on top of the mushrooms to weigh them down and keep them submerged in the liquid. Let that sit on your counter or window sill for at least 20 – 30 minutes.
go to work on the bok choy. Cut the ribs away from the leaves and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Fill your sink with water and give the white rib chunks a bath.
Remove those to a colander or bowl,
and chop your leaves into ribbons. I like to cut the long strips in half, so they will be easy to scoop up with a spoon.
Rinse your leaves too, and then remove them to a bowl, shaking out excess water as you pull them out of the sink.
Then, cut your dried tofu into rectangles. I call ’em planks.
Then, cut the planks into small cubes.
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. When boiling, add your Soba noodles to the water and cook 4 – 6 minutes.
This gives you a chance to dice up your daikon.
When the noodles are just tender, drain them into a colander and give them a thorough rinse with cold water.
I like to keep the noodles in water until I am ready to use them. This prevents sticking. (Yes, I learned that the hard way, just like I learn everything!!!!!!!)
Mince your ginger and slice your Thai chili peppers. And you are ready to go!!! Heat a heavy soup pot with a good layer of peanut oil to medium- medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot, add your ginger, garlic and chilies. Don’t walk away. You gotta stir for about a minute, otherwise, all will burn and that would be a big bummer.
When the garlic and ginger are fragrant, begin squeezing the water out of the soaking shiitakes. I like to squeeze them right over the container, so I don’t lose any of that liquid. Add the reconstituted mushrooms to the pot and stir. Let them mingle with the aromatics for a few minutes.
Next, stir in your fresh mushrooms. They will need about 5 minutes to soften and begin releasing their own natural juices. You can add a bit more peanut oil if the mushrooms are sticking real bad.
I like to use my spatula to break up any huge chunks of mushrooms that might not fit on my spoon. It’s all about getting the tastiness into my meouf!!!
Time to add the broth. To the mushroom dashi you made, add about a Cup of vegetable broth. This will bring you up to 4 Cups of liquid in that container. Pour that broth plus another 4 Cups of veggie broth into the pot of mushrooms and bring it up to a boil.
When your pot is boiling, add your daikon and tofu to the mix. Allow it to simmer at a pretty good clip.
Then, use a ladle to scoop out about 1.5 – 2 Cups of the soup. I like to use my Bubbie’s measuring cup for this. I don’t know why, but I grab it every time. You also need a Tablespoon and a whisk.
So, it’s a Tablespoon of miso paste for every Cup of liquid in your soup. I typically push 4 Tablespoons of miso paste into my broth and then whisk to incorporate the paste. Then, I add the other 4 scoops and whisk away again. I use a regular spoon out of my silverware drawer, and I tend to err on the side of a heaping Tablespoon for each Cup.
Once your paste has dissolved into the hot broth, turn the stove down to medium-low. You don’t want the miso to boil.
Pour the miso-y liquid back into the pot of soup while whisking.
Add your bok choy stems to the soup as well as the noodles (drained of water).
The bok choy stems only take a couple of minutes to soften, especially if you are using the baby bok choy variety.
After about 2 minutes, you can turn off the stove and remove your pot from the hot burner. Stir in your bright green baby bok choy leaves.
They will wilt quickly under the heat of the broth.
And voila! That is it!!!
Garnish your soup with fresh cilantro and scallions and enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This soup is LOADED with good-for-you deliciousness. I’m telling you, my body becomes stronger with each slurp. It tastes like full-on healthiness, replenishing my energy spoonful by spoonful. And the flavor is magical. The miso-infused broth is salty and rich, with a little bit of nuttiness. The veggies are crisp-tender, not cooked to death, and the mushrooms are serious morsels of delight. I actually enjoy the tofu in this application, as well. All around, it’s a joyful symphony of soul-satisfying perfection.
Make this soup, and eat it for breakfast. I implore you. It is the most amazing, comforting, invigorating way to start the day!! Those Japanese people know what they’re doing.
Love, love, love to all of you. I’ve gotta get myself to the store and back to the kitchen. I’ll be cooking my quickly-becoming-famous White Bean Turkey Chili and Mexican Chicken Ala Ashli- one of the first scrumptious dishes I ever created.
Happy cooking and eating to you!