October 30, 2010

A Hearty Miso Soup with Greens

We are not big fans of turnips in our house.  I've tried frying them like home-fried potatoes and I've tried them braised in a beef stew.  As a family we have agreed: no more fried turnips.  In a stew they are okay, because they soak up the delicious meatiness, which plays nicely with their sweetness and hides their bitterness.  When I scored a beautiful bunch of turnips at the farmers market last weekend, the vendor recommended roasting them.  So we tried it.  (For those of you keeping score at home it was on the evening that I had planned to serve leftover Eggplant Parmesan casserole.  Some of us had the casserole while some of us had sliced ham and cheese and roasted turnips. Some evenings are like that, okay?)  These turnips were about an inch or two in diameter.  I cut them in half and tossed them with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and roasted them at 350º for 30-40 minutes, until the cut side was nicely browned... And we all agreed, no more roasting turnips.

The turnips came with their vibrant green tops attached.  And I couldn't let good greens go to waste, so I blanched them and used them in Miso Soup later in the week.  It seems silly to share more than one Miso Soup recipe, but it is so versatile, and, if the Asian section of your pantry is well stocked, it's quicker to put together than a homemade chicken noodle soup.  It is equally soothing on a sore throat, and since I was fighting off a sore throat this week, we had Miso Soup twice.

I almost always include nori and green onions in my miso soup, but when using hearty greens, I don't think the nori is necessary, and this week we didn't have any green onions, so I substituted chives (that I got in my Stuff a Bag for $5 the week prior).  I like to keep the ingredient list short:  highlight a couple vegetables, don't just throw in all the remnants left in the vegetable bin.

When you buy root vegetables with the greens attached, cut the greens off as soon as you get home.  I've read that this prevents the sugars in the root from escaping to the greens.  If you plan to use the greens, rinse them well in a sink of cold water, separate the leaves from the stems, and blanch them in salted boiling water for a minute or so. Drain.  Shock with cold water.  Drain again and squeeze out excess moisture before storing in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.

Miso Soup with Greens and Soba Noodles
Inspired by Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen

1.  Prepare Dashi Stock.  In medium soup pot or dutch oven heat 4 cups water with some seaweed (something roughly equivilant to a 6" piece of kombu).  When I last purchased Kombu I was only able to find it packaged with a mixture of assorted sea vegetables.  Since then, I've been using the other sea vegetables (which I cannot identify), and the stock is just as good.  When the kombu is soften and the stock is almost to a boil, add a handful of bonito flakes and reduce heat to low.  Cover and let sit a couple minutes, then strain, pressing to release all the flavor into the stock.

2.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add a tablespoon of salt.  Return to boil.  Add 4 oz dried soba noodles.  Cook according to directions on package (generally 3-8 minutes depending on thickness).  Drain.

3.  In small frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon grapeseed or other vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Add 2 cloves garlic crushed.  Cook and stir about 10 seconds.  Add a large handful blanched greens (turnip, mustard, chard or kale) that have been squeezed to remove excess water and chopped.  Cook about a minute or two, just to heat through.  Sprinkle with seasame seeds, about a teaspoon.  Cook a couple seconds, then add a splash of mirin.  Let it bubble away.  Remove from heat and drizzle with toasted seasame oil.

3. Meanwhile bring dashi to a simmer.  Add 2 cloves of garlic, minced, a splash of soy sauce and some grated ginger or grated daikon.  Add a small handful cubed summer squash and/or 1/4 head napa cabbage, chopped.  Let cook a few minutes.  Remove about half cup of broth.  Add cubed tofu.  Pour reserved broth over 3 tablespoons miso paste.  Whisk to combine.  Turn heat off under soup.  Add miso-dashi mixture back to the soup.

To serve:  In each large soup bowl place 1/4 of the soba noodles. and 1/4 of the greens.  Ladle 1/4 of the soup over the noodles and greens.  Garnish with grated daikon and sliced green onions.  Serve hot.  We like to eat this with chopsticks and drink the broth.

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