Tofu Noodle Soup

January 29, 2013 § 3 Comments

Tofu Noodle Soup

Tofu Noodle Soup

I’m a fan of tofu. Not a crazy fan, but a fan nonetheless. And I’m not sure how it happened. Omitting red meat and poultry from my diet accounts for some of my fandom, I guess. Quite honestly, I am just going to let me fondness of tofu exist for what it is. Why bother explaining, right?

The best tofu I ever had was in a take-out dish from a Chinese restaurant in Ithaca, New York, about 18 years ago. The name, the flavorings, the accompaniments all escape me now. The one piece of the dish that remains in my memory is the tofu. Crispy on the outside. Soft on the inside. The closest thing to a McDonald’s french fry this side of the Golden Arches. I want that. I crave that even.

In the absence of that crispy tofu dish, I’ll take this tofu noodle soup. Soy sauce is in there, but it’s not too salty. And the hoisin gives it that … umami. There, I said it. Umami, that fifth and most flavorable of the basic tastes. A bowl of this broth will satisfy me for lunch. The tofu and noodles make it a real deal meal.

I’ve adapted this recipe – and I keep adapting each rendition of it – from a VegNews Magazine newsletter. I found that the original recipe had too little broth and way too many noodles. A halving of this and a doubling of that with on-the-fly adjustments takes care of that problem.

Ingredients
1 thinly sliced yellow onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs grated fresh ginger (about an inch or less)
4 tbs hoisin sauce
4 tbs soy sauce
9 cups vegetable broth (or water)
1 15-oz. package extra-firm tofu, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 8-oz. package rice noodles, cooked and drained
4  tbs rice vinegar
4 tsp Asian hot sauce
Scallions, bean sprouts and cilantro to sprinkle, if desired

  1. In a large pot, saute the onion in about 1 tbs of oil over medium-high heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another 30 seconds or so.
  2. Stir in hoisin, soy and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in tofu, noodles, vinegar and hot sauce. Now, here’s an embarrassing thing: I have JUST NOW realized the recipe calls for cooking the noodles FIRST, then adding them to the pot. This explains a lot. Well, adding them at the end is fine, too—just simmer them in the broth for about 5 minutes or so.
  4. Serve soup in bowls and sprinkle with scallions, sprouts and/or cilantro if you so choose.

Next time, I’ll boil up the noodles beforehand THEN add them to the soup and report back to you if there is a major difference. Meanwhile, enjoy!

Jennifer’s Ode to a Clam (Chowder)

April 1, 2012 § 5 Comments

What we have here is a guest post. My first guest – awesome! And it’s from none other than the best chef I know personally—my dear wife, Jennifer. She’s the real cook in the Dainty household. Who needs a recipe? Not her, not really. Today’s topic  happens to be one of those recipe-less recipes that she just developed from experience. You eat enough chowder, you’re gonna know how to make it eventually.

So, without further ado, here’s Jennifer’s brilliant rendition of clam chowder.

Ode to a clam. Yes, I said clam. Many of you out there have an aversion to shellfish, which are easy to ruin in unskilled hands. Perish the thought. I know one former Eastern Long Island resident (editor’s note: That would be me) who had such an aversion, until she was able to experience what shellfish cooked well tastes like … manna from heaven. Well, actually the sea—the sweet, briny, bountiful sea.

Inspired by photos posted by dear friends who did some late-winter clamming, I suddenly remembered the quart-sized pouch of clams frozen in our freezer; harvested New Year’s weekend during an unseasonably warm morning outing in the flats of Provincetown Harbor.  I had frozen the clams along with the liquor they produced, waiting for the right moment to make a chowder. Not your typical Monday night meal, and it only took moments to whip up!

-I thawed out 4 cups of clam broth and 2 cups of fish fumet

Jennifer's clam chowder

-Diced into 1 inch cubes 3 potatoes

-I cooked the potatoes in the clam liquor along with 2 bay leaves for seasoning. While the potatoes were cooking I sautéed up a mirepoix (fancy way of saying celery, carrot and onion).

-2 medium carrots

-2 celery stalks

-1 large onion

-Once the veggies were mostly soft I added 4 oz. of shitake mushrooms. I had them in the fridge, and thought, why not?!

-When the potatoes were done (15 minutes or so), I used an immersion blender to break down the potatoes, but not completely. I wanted to leave some chunks, but also give the illusion of some cream in the broth, so I let my starch be the cream substitute. To the pot I added my cooked veggies and the quart plus of clams, warmed the mixture through and wished I had some crusty bread to serve along with it.

Man, oh man that was good!  Thank you P & J for inspiring me to bust out the bounty harvested a few months ago. Food-inspired memories!

Comments? Questions? Your favorite clam chowdah experience? Leave us a note below!

Brothy Asian-Inspired Soup

March 19, 2012 § 4 Comments

Hearty soups … yes, I love them. And the ones I make are nearing the definition of stew. But every once in a while I will be in the mood for something light, breathy and brothy.

This Asian-Inspired Soup is a riff on something Mark Bittman published in March 2011. He gave three simple (very simple) recipe suggestions in each of four categories: creamy, brothy, earthy and hearty. The second and third recipes are slight twists on the first in each category. By the end of making the twelfth, he says, you’ll never need to follow another soup recipe.

With a package of firm tofu and some leftover chickpea broth (remember that from Pressure Cooker Basics?), I twisted Mark Bittman’s own Asian twist on brothy soups.

Ingredients ingredients for Brothy Asian-Inspired Soup

  • 8 cups water, in this case chickpea broth and water
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions (about 3-4)
  • 1 package firm tofu, drained and cubed
  • 4 oz oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs sesame oil

-To a large pot add the water or broth, scallions, tofu, mushrooms, soy and sesame.

-Heat over a medium-high flame to just boiling, them bring to a quiet simmer, partly covered. Let simmer for … 15 minutes? 20 minutes? It’s up to you and how tender you like your oyster mushrooms. Check it at 15, then check the mushrooms every few minutes.

oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms - aren't they just beautiful?

-Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a few chopped scallions. You might enjoy a crispy baguette to dunk.

Asian-inspired soup

Brothy Asian-inspired soup

Seriously, I tried to make this soup sound difficult/complex/sophisticated/finicky. But that’s just impossible. This soup is just way simple. And delicious.

Any Asian-inspired and simple soup suggestions or ingredient ideas? Leave a comment and let me know.

Hearty Soup: Potato & Kale

March 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

We’re nearing the end of Hearty Soup season. And I feel like it got short-shrifted this year. Bone-warming broths, stews and soups weren’t really needed so very much this winter. And it’s too bad—hearty soups are my favorite to make.

We were able to squeeze in a batch of Potato & Kale Soup earlier this week. Thank goodness, because a winter soup season shouldn’t go by without this cooking on the stovetop at least once.

Jennifer and I tag-teamed this recipe. I chopped and prepped late in the afternoon, then she came home and cooked, giving it her special touch while I lunged and downward-dogged and shavasana’d. The potatoes and kale really satisfied a hungry yogini.

Full disclosure here: Full credit goes to Jennifer, who got this recipe from a soups class she took back in the late ’90s. We’ve adjusted a bit here and there. But not spectacularly so.

Potato & Kale Soup

Potato Kale Soup

Potato-Kale Soup with a drop of sherry vinegar

  • 1+ tbs evoo
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thin (we omitted, used extra onion)
  • 6 cups water (we used 4-6 cups leftover chickpea broth – remember that from the chickpea stew and hummus?) PLUS 2 additional cups water/broth
  • 4 medium potatoes, cut into medium-sized cubes (~4 cups)
  • 2 tbs minced fresh parsley
  • 3 carrots, trimmed but whole
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed but whole
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 lb kale (we used an entire bunch of kale as bundled by the local neighborhood grocery)
  • sherry vinegar

-Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions (and leeks if you have them) and sautee until soft and translucent.

-Add potatoes, parsley, whole carrots, whole celery, bay leaves and 6 cups water or broth, and season with salt and pepper (several good pinches of salt/twists of the pepper grinder). Cover. Simmer on low to medium low for about 45 minutes.

-While the soup is simmering, wash the kale and remove the thick ribs. Tear the kale into a size that won’t annoy you – i.e. not too big. You’re going to steam/cook the kale in about a cup or two of water/broth in a high-sided skillet with a lid. Boil that water, add the kale, cover, and let it cook for not that long – 4-5 minutes. You want it tender but not melty-mushy. Drain out the water and set the kale aside.

-When the soup base has simmered 45 minutes, remove and RESERVE the carrots. And remove and DISCARD the celery. Puree by using a light touch with an immersion blender—you want part of it pureed but you still want some chunks of potato in there. OR, just puree half of the soup in a food processor and return it to the soup pot.

-Stir in kale. Chop the reserved carrots, add them back in there, too. Heat until nice and hot. Give it a taste – add salt and pepper as necessary.

-Here’s the last bit that is Jennifer’s touch and it’s completely optional: Add a tad – let’s say a 1 tbs – of sherry vinegar. Not so optional, uh? That’s good stuff, that soup is.

A nice “creamy” soup—and absolutely no cream! And now that I think about it, it’s vegan. Bonus.

What’s your favorite hearty soup recipe? Drop in a comment and let us know.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

March 1, 2012 § 9 Comments

If you don’t like cumin, step away. You’ve made up your mind about the spice, and no amount of my praising it will change the way your taste buds feel. So, I’ll see you another day, okay?

But you cumin fans, lean in a bit closer—I have something to tell you. This stew … it’s awesome. Awesome as in delicious. Really. Super. Delicious. And it’s all due to the cumin.

It being from Bon Appetit may explain why it’s so delectable. Theirs is a meaty version. I’m sure the addition of chicken thighs is nothing but fabulous. I didn’t have them on hand—plus I’m doing a no-meat kinda thing currently. Still, this rocks with out the cluck factor.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbs olive oil, divided

    Chickpea Stew

    Chickpea Stew ala Bon Appetit

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs—optional
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbs ground cumin—yes, that much
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained OR 1 lb. dry chickpeas cooked to firm
  • 1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar (I just roasted a whole large red pepper myself)
  • 2 tbs (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • country-style bread
  • 3 tbs coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

-IF you’re going the chicken route, heat 2 tbs of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to pot and cook, turning once, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

-IF you’re not using chicken, heat 2 tbs of oil to medium low, add onion and garlic, and saute for 5-6 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add cumin, tomato paste and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute.

-IF using chicken, add it back into the pot along with bay leaves and 4 cups water and dislodge any of the brown chicken bits that might be on the bottom of the pot.

-Just a quick note: I used dry chickpeas and cooked them in a pressure cooker with 9 cups water, kosher salt, a celery stalk, a carrot, 2 bay leaves and 3 whole garlic cloves for 28 minutes. When I drained the chickpeas, I reserved the liquid and used that in place of 4 cups water. Mmmmm … more flavor.

-Bring everything in the pot to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, with occasional stirring. IF using chicken, let it simmer until chicken is tender (20 minutes). Sans chicken, 10 minutes is enough to get the flavors to meld.

-Transfer chicken to a plate (if it’s in there). Add chickpeas to pot and bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Shred your chicken off the bone and add it in there. Otherwise, skip it. Add in the red peppers and stir in remaining 2 tbs of oil (but only if you want – you don’t need to).

-Don’t skip this part: Give it a taste. Good, right? Yummy power-packed cumin flavor. Okay, now add in 2 tbs of lemon juice (or about half a lemon). Let it simmer for a minute. Now give it another taste? Better, huh? Yup, that lemon is a major major plus here. Adjust seasonings with salt and maybe more lemon if you think it needs it.

-Serving: Bon Appetit says to cube crusty bread, put it in an individual bowl, and ladle the stew on top. DO NOT even attempt. All you get is soggy bread. Bleck. But DO enjoy a nice slice alongside, dipping it to your liking. Oh, and sprinkle some parsley on top, too.

Good, good stewy stuff. There’s no room for cumin haters here.

Homegrown Food Challenge—Days 6 & 7

October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

No, we did not whither away and die from lack of food after Day 5 of our Homegrown Food Challenge. We survived quite nicely, thank you very much. I’ve just not been … well … in the blogging mood, I guess. If you’re a blogger, you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. Hey, it happens. I’m back on track now, though, no worries.

Breakfast:
Day 6—it was all the way back last Saturday. I had promised we’d kick it up a bit with something for breakfast that was more interesting than yogurt. And we did—omelets! Not an omelet, per se, but more of a flat egg. That’s what my mom called them when I was growing up. It’s just two eggs, slightly beaten and NOTHING added to the eggs, as you would were you making omelets. Just a straight ol’ egg. We added in some local goat cheese and diced homegrown tomato right at the last second, folded and called it breakfast. A slice or two of toasted homemade bread made it a filling meal.

homegrown omelet

Lunch:
After, Jennifer took off for the weekend to attend to some business, leaving me to fend for myself. Lunch was … honestly, I can’t remember. Must have been the last of the grilled eggplant paninni … yum … By the way, that post was way popular. Way. Popular.

Dinner:
Dinner was when I got creative on Day 6. Earlier in the week I had cooked up some homegrown Vermont cranberry beans. Used the pressure cooker, actually, and the process yielded some terrific bean broth. Add some homegrown leeks, homegrown carrots, and a neighbor’s small bunch of homegrown celery, and it’s the beginning of soup! I added to that the leftover Vermont cranberry beans, some leftover homegrown/homemade tomato sauce, a fading homegrown zucchini and a couple of locally grown potatoes—along with salt, pepper, homegrown oregano and sage. Soup and bread for dinner—the end of a great gardening day.

Day 7

Our weeklong Homegrown Food Challenge ended not with a big banquet ala Julie and Julia, but on a much more common, everyday note. Plans for going out with a bang—lasagna of homemade pasta, homegrown broccoli, eggplant and kale—faded with the afternoon. Instead we hunkered down, ate our soup and toasted our accomplishment with the last of the local beer.

Next year … I truly wonder what that will bring.

Spicy Tomato Soup

October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Normally, if you let produce sit around for awhile, bad things happen. Soft spots. Wilt. Mold. Eyes sprouting. Ooze. Fruit flies. Rot.

Okay, I’ll stop with the grossness.

But sometimes, if you let produce sit around, good things happen. Like what? Like ripeness, for one.

This time of year, you just never really know what’s gonna happen in the garden. And I speak specifically of the summer hangers on—the zucchini and yellow squash, the basil, the peppers, the tomatoes. Especially the tomatoes. Less sun, cooler weather means they take a way long time to ripen on the vine. And the frustrating part is a tomato could be green and happy one day, and then the next day it could be on the ground, fodder for the ants.

So, I pick them up and bring them home. Or I pick them when they’re just turning orangy. Or I pick one or two whenever I visit the garden, which is about twice a week this time of year.

What to do with green tomatoes? Orangy tomatoes? Let them sit on the counter—they’ll ripen. Kinda. Not a nice and juicy vine-ripening experience, but they’ll turn red. Ish.

Spicy tomato soup

The fixins.

colorful tomatoes

It's Tomato Christmas.

colorful tomatoes

Look at that tomato in the middle—it's like the Italian flag.

With a mix of tomatoes in all stages of ripeness, I turn to a recipe from Emeril Lagasse I pulled off the Food Network website. The original calls for pancetta and three different types of hot peppers – jalapeno peppers and Anaheim and pasilla chiles. And, it calls for just green tomatoes.

Is it spicy? Oh yeah, it’s spicy. Feel free to add a dollop of sour cream to cool it down. Me? I like to add a spoonful of pesto. Tomatoes and basil – a perfect match.

Spicy Tomato Soup(this is a double batch)

  • Spicy tomato soup

    Spicy Tomato Soup

    1 Tbs olive oil

  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5-6 hot peppers, whatever type you want to cook with, diced (I used jalapeno and Hungarian wax)
  • 3.5 lbs tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper

-Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute onion until just translucent – 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

-Add garlic, bay leaves, garlic, and peppers and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and stock, then adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Bring soup to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the tomatoes are soft.

-Time to puree!! But remove the bay leaves first!! You can puree in batches in a blender. Or, we have an immersion blender that does a terrific job. Sure, you’ll get a bunch of tomato skins getting kinda caught in the blendery parts. Just remove, or put back into the soup—whatever your preference. If you’ve pureed in batches in a blender, pour the soup into a separate bowl.

-Add the lemon juice. Give it a taste. Spicy? That’s what it’s supposed to be.

Try with a bit of sour cream. Or shaved parm. Or the runny part of your stash of pesto. Be sure you have some crusty bread. You’re gonna want to sop up that goodness.

You know, this would be a great soup to make for the Homegrown Food Challenge. Luke, give this a try—I know you love spicy stuff!

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