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SOUP IS GOOD FOOD
Soup is pretty great all year, but especially in the winter. I don't have a name for this one ... should I? Let's call it Kumar's Winter Noodles 2004 & Forever Baby. (N.B: Just because they're called Kumar's Winter Noodles 2004 & Forever Baby doesn't mean you should only eat them in winter. These are good all year round. Forever).
One yellow onion (chopped) Three tablespoons of ginger (chopped or minced) Four cloves of garlic (sliced, chopped, pressed, whatever)
One carrot (thinly sliced - slicing at an angle makes it look sweet) Handful of mushrooms (shiitake is my fave; white ones work too. A variety is always fun) Baby bok choy (a couple bunches) Broccoli (one bunch) Tofu (one package, usually 14oz or so, pressed and cubed) Green onions (two or three, sliced)
Soba noodles (one package)
Canola oil Sesame oil Soy sauce
The most important part is probably the broth, which I believe I invented. Put the onion, ginger and garlic in a pot with about 4 cups of water; bring to a boil then simmer for at least an hour. It'll be pretty flavorful after an hour but it'll be really, really flavorful after 3 or 4 (although you'll probably need more water if you're doing it that long). This is the broth I usually make when I don't have all dang day, because the 1-hour version is pretty great.
When the broth is getting close to done, bring some water to a boil and put the noodles in. Let it return to a boil, then simmer for about 5 or 6 minutes. Rinse with cool water and set aside.
Put a small amount (like, a couple tablespoons) of canola oil in a pan on medium-high heat and add the green onions. As I've said before, I like my onions very well done, so cook for about 4 minutes. Then add the tofu.
N.B: The tofu should be pressed at least a little bit beforehand. Pressing entails wrapping it in cloth or paper towels and putting something heavy (like a bowl of onions) on top of it so that some of the water drains. Loco cookbooks will tell you to press for hours, but I've found that 10 or 15 minutes makes a satisfactory difference.
Cook the tofu and onions for about two minutes, then add the broccoli. Cook for one minute, then add the mushrooms and carrots. Cook for one minute, then add the bok choy (these times are approximate; you don't need to, like, use a stopwatch or anything).
Add a few drops of sesame oil and soy sauce to taste. Add a lot if that's your thing. Salt and pepper are good too.
Put the noodles in bowls and the vegetables & tofu on top of them. Then fetch a ladle and fill the bowls with that tasty broth. I like eating with chopsticks and those big white soupspoons. Makes me feel like I'm in a restaurant, except with a better chef.
I recommend picking up frozen spring rolls or somesuch - even though it isn't spring - to go with this. Trader Joe's has vegetable gyoza that just blow my mind. And don't forget dipping sauce. Thai Kitchen makes some really tasty sauces; much better than the standard sugar-n-salt affair. If you run out, you can always mix soy sauce and seasoned rice vinegar in equal parts for a nice, light dipper.
A bowl of jasmine rice is great too, and jasmine rice cooks really fast. I'm talkin' 15 minutes, usually. The directions should be on the package, but it's basically: add water, boil, and simmer till it's done. Use at least as much water as rice- the more water you use the stickier the rice will get, so adjust to your liking.
I sometimes like sake and Sapporo with this type of food. Just because. But on school nights, water is wondrous.
This recipe, like most I will print, should easily feed two and maybe three. If you want to feed more or less, just put that 2nd-grade math to work and adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly. I usually don't mind having leftovers, but if you do, you'll have to be more careful about the amounts. This recipe will definitely leave plenty of surplus broth if you're only feeding two. That just means more tasty soup, though.
A great source of noodles and mushrooms is Central Fish at Kern and G. They have enoki and other fun fungi for cheap. The Vineyard Farmer's Market on the NW corner of Shaw & Blackstone often has some nice oyster and portabellas - fresh, local and also cheap! You can get most of the rest of the fresh ingredients there too.
As usual, feel absolutely free to substitute ingredients. Celery, Chinese broccoli, yard-long beans, spinach, and bean sprouts are just a few of the many wonderful ingredients I've tried with this type of soup. You can also try different noodles: udon and somen, for example. Crushed red pepper and sesame seeds can also liven things up.
Feel free to email email@example.com with questions, suggestions, requests, whatever. But no whining.
Until next month, peace, love and no more disasters.