Warming Miso Soup

Warming Miso Soup

One of my favorite rituals in Japan was beginning each meal with a small bowl of miso soup. Especially when served with breakfast, the elixir had a special way of warming and opening up my chest, getting me ready for the day. It was the best feeling. Miso soup was never served with a spoon, just chopsticks. To get the broth, you’d lift the bowl to your lips and sip. The whole time we were in Japan, I was excited to get home and make my own miso soup. I knew it was possible, because one of the Global Supper Club members made a fantastic version for our Japan dinner nearly a year earlier. The hardest part about making it is gathering the proper ingredients.

Warming Miso Soup

Two essentials are kombu and bonito flakes. Kombu is dried kelp. I bought mine at a market in Kyoto, but it is also available at Japanese markets or online. Bonito is very thin shavings of dried, smoked fish. They were shaving it fresh at the markets in Japan, but I bought mine online.

Warming Miso Soup

To make the soup, take out 4 pieces of the kombu, wet a cloth, and wipe the white sea salt off of the kombu. Add 8 cups of water to a large pot and add the kombu. Heat the pot until the water steams and gets a few bubbles, but do not let it boil. One of the themes I’ve noticed in Japanese cuisine is cooking foods very gently. Once the water heats to this stage, the kombu should have bloomed and started putting off a kind of sappy substance that adds viscosity and substance to the soup. Remove the kombu.

Warming Miso Soup

Add 1 large handful of bonito flakes to the pot, and give them a quick stir. Heat the soup just below boiling for about 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the bonito flakes sit for another 3 minutes.

Warming Miso Soup

Set a strainer over another pot, and pour the soup through. You now have a dashi! The liquid should be strikingly clear and pure looking.

Warming Miso Soup

To turn the dashi into miso soup, you’ll need some miso. I prefer white miso, also called shiro miso. Add 5 tablespoons of miso paste to a small bowl, spoon in some of the dashi, and stir it together so the miso thins out.

Warming Miso Soup

Then stir the miso into the soup in increments, tasting until you like the flavor.

Warming Miso Soup

Now it’s time to add the floaters. Tofu and green onions are classic. Shaved mushrooms are also nice. Thinly slice a few green onions. Place a block of tofu on a cutting board, stack some heavy plates on top, and angle the cutting board so that excess liquid in the tofu drains away. This will help the tofu absorb the miso soup’s flavor. Slice half of the tofu block into small cubes, and add them to the soup, along with the onions. Let the soup steam- never boil- for about 20-30 minutes.

Warming Miso Soup

To serve the miso soup, sprinkle a large pinch of wakame (dried seaweed) into the bottom of a small bowl, then ladle in the soup. Stir with the chopsticks, sip from the bowl, and pick out pieces…ahhh.

Shopping list:

  • Kombu- 4 pieces
  • Bonito flakes- 1 large handful
  • Miso paste- 5 tablespoons
  • Wakame
  • Green onions- 3-4
  • Tofu- 1/2 block
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Chili Warms the Soul

Chili Warms the Soul

Good riddance, 2015. Although there were some amazing highs (Japan, spending more time with family), the year was overwhelmed by fresh starts and steeped in loss. As silly as it sounds, bowls of chili, prepared by my mom and stashed in my refrigerator, served as buoys of well-being throughout some challenging months. I came up with my own take on her chili, and then devised a bunch of different ways to eat it. I am sure this chili will continue to feature itself in what I hope will be 2016: The year of the new normal.

Chili Warms the Soul

To make this chili, begin by soaking 1 cup of dried beans in water for about 8 hours. I used these pretty Orca beans. Then, add the soaked beans to a large pot of boiling, salted water, along with 2 bay leaves. Let the beans simmer for about 1 hour, until they are almost cooked (like al dente pasta), then drain them. Alternatively, you could skip this step and use 2 cans of the beans of your choice.

Chili Warms the Soul

Then, brown 2 pounds of ground beef in at least a 5 quart pot. While the beef browns, mince 2 garlic cloves and small dice 1 onion, 1 bell pepper, and 1 jalapeño. Once the beef mostly cooked through, transfer it to a side bowl and pour the liquid out of your pot.

Chili Warms the Soul

Drizzle some olive oil into the pot, and sweat the garlic, peppers, and onion. Once softened, add the ground beef back into the pot and season everything with salt and pepper. It’s time for the spices. Add in 1/2 cup of chili powder, 2 teaspoons of paprika, 1 tablespoon of cumin, and 1 teaspoon of oregano. Stir everything to evenly distribute the spices.

Chili Warms the Soul

Then, stir in 8 ounces of tomato sauce, 16 ounces of diced tomatoes, and 2 cups of water. Partially cover the pot, and simmer the chili for 30 minutes. Add your beans to the pot, partially cover, and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Chili Warms the Soul

When the chili is done cooking, add more salt and pepper to taste. If you’d like the chili to be spicier, mix in some cayenne pepper as well. This chili tastes even better after it has had a chance to rest in the refrigerator overnight. Here are some my favorite ways to serve it: in a bowl with crumbled tortilla chips; as a dip for tortilla chips; over a split baked potato with parsley and cheese; inside a halved roasted squash, such as delicata or acorn; over rice. I’m sure you can come up with a bunch more ways too! Freeze any extras for an easy, lazy-day dinner.

Shopping list:

  • Beans- 1 cup dried and 2 bay leaves, or 2 cans
  • Ground beef- 2 pounds
  • Onion- 1
  • Bell pepper- 1
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Jalapeño- 1
  • Tomato sauce- 8 ounces
  • Diced tomatoes- 16 ounces
  • Olive oil
  • Chili powder- 1/2 cup
  • Paprika- 2 teaspoons
  • Cumin- 1 tablespoon
  • Oregano- 1 teaspoon
  • Salt and pepper
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sesame Almond Snack Bars

Sesame Almond Snacks

Alternate title: Thanksgiving Travel Treats! These bars are for the sesame lover or anyone who appreciates a crunchy-chewy, healthy snack. They remind me of sesame candies- those small rectangles wrapped in crinkly plastic. But this version is much less sweet and less sticky. And with the addition of almonds, or another nut of your choice, they have more depth. Perfect for road trips, train rides, plane rides, or breaking up the monotony of a daily routine, make a batch of these bars and watch them dwindle.

Sesame Almond Snacks

To make them, heat your oven to 350 F. Spread 1/2 cup sliced almonds, or another nut of your choice on a baking sheet, and put them into the preheating oven to toast. Remove the nuts when they become fragrant. In a medium bowl, stir together 3/4 cup of sesame seeds (a mixture of black and white ones look pretty), 3/4 cup dried coconut flakes, the toasted almonds, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. 

Sesame Almond Snacks

To a small pot or bowl, add 1/4 cup of honey and 2 tablespoons of almond butter or another nut butter. Heat them so they loosen up, and then stir them together. 

Sesame Almond Snacks

Add the heated wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, and use a rubber spatula to stir them together very well. 

Sesame Almond Snacks

It takes some work- push and spread the honey/nut butter around until it’s evenly disbursed. 

Sesame Almond Snacks

Line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving some overhang, and then press in the sesame seed mixture. Use a piece of wax paper to press down on it and compact it evenly. Sprinkle a pinch of flaky sea salt over the top, and press that in as well. Put the pan into the oven for 20 minutes until the edges of the sesame seed mixture are golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, and let the mixture cool for a few minutes. Then, use the edges of the parchment paper to lift the contents out of the pan, and let it cool until it’s easy to handle but still warm. 

Sesame Almond Snacks

While still warm, slice the sesame seed block into 16 bars, and allow them to cool completely. If you let the bars cool all the way down before slicing them, they will be crispyish and much more difficult to cut cleanly. Store the bars in an airtight container between snacks, and be sure to check your teeth for stray seeds! 

This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit magazine. 

Shopping list:

  • Sesame seeds- 3/4 cup
  • Slivered almonds- 1/2 cup
  • Unsweetened coconut (shredded or flaked)- 3/4 cup
  • Honey- 1/4 cup
  • Almond butter- 2 tablespoons
  • Vanilla extract -1/4 teaspoon
  • Salt
Print Friendly, PDF & Email