shiitake-miso soup

The holidays are (almost) officially over… phew! In the past 5 days, Chris and I have celebrated 4 Christmases and a birthday in 3 different states. Nothing to complain about of course, but that all amounts to a LOT of eating! So while discussing dinner on our drive home today in a car stuffed with cookies and chocolates (in between mouthfulls of trail mix of course, from one of our gifts) we decided we wanted something on the lighter side for dinner. I also noted that it would be a great soup day, considering the sheets of rain that haven’t let up for the past 8 hours, and I remembered a segment from some morning show the other day about hearty healthy immune boosting soups for the winter. There was one that we really wanted to make, a shiitake-miso soup, but after searching for that recipe on my iphone for over half an hour, I gave up and decided to wing it and make my own based on some of the ingredients we already had. You can enjoy this on a cold rainy day, or if you’re catching your annual winter dose of yuck — which, amazingly enough, knock on wood, I haven’t caught this year! I don’t know if it’s the flu shot or the not having finals anymore to wear me down, but I’ll take it. And this soup will help. The mushrooms contain phytochemicals which lower cholesterol and have even been shown to have anti-cancer properties, and an active compound called lentinan that revs up your immune system. The seaweed contains the broadest range of minerals of any food, in addition to reducing the body’s inflammatory response and also being an anti-cancer food. So here we have it, my own version of shiitake-miso soup:

In a large pot, sauté 1 bunch of chopped scallions, 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger, and 3-4 cloves chopped garlic in 1 tbsp sesame oil for about 1 minute. Add to that about 3/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced. (You can also use dried shiitakes instead of fresh but make sure to soak them according to the package directions first). Cook for 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat and then add 4 cups unsalted vegetable stock and 3 cups water and about 2 1/2 tbsp white miso. Next add about 4 bunches of chopped baby bok choy, and about 6 strips of kombu (kombu is a type of kelp; you can find it at most Asian-run grocery stores near the dried seaweed). Finally, add some bonito flakes or 1-2 tbsp furikake rice seasoning with 2 tsp fish sauce (these are rough guidelines, but do it according to your taste). Simmer for about half an hour, and then remove the kombu strips and throw them away (they’re only for flavoring). Add a 14 oz block of firm tofu, cubed, and I also added a spoonful of sambal oelek red chili paste for a little heat. Serve with nori strips for a little extra delicious flavor, and a dash of sriracha or soy sauce if you like.

shiitake-miso soup

shiitake-miso soup

wintery spring rolls & miso salmon

Sometimes the main course is an afterthought. It’s true. It’s probably not how one is ideally “supposed” to plan a menu, but given that I’m not running a restaurant, I think it’s ok.


Wintery spring rolls

I’d been drooling over the idea of these wintery spring rolls for weeks, from the moment they were posted on my favorite food blog. I followed the recipe pretty closely but have a few notes: 1. I don’t (yet) own a mortal and pestle. I actually looked into getting one yesterday, and was deterred by the fact that Williams-Sonoma only had a $99 one! I ended up using an attachment on my hand blender to sort of pulse the ingredients into a paste. It was either that or saran wrap and a hammer, and I opted for least messy. 2. It is nearly impossible to assemble spring rolls in a mini-kitchen. The only other time I’ve made them (Vegan week 2011), I was actually in my boyfriend’s enormous (by NY standards) kitchen, and last night I didn’t quite realize the extent of what I was getting myself into until I found myself soaking spring roll wrappers in a bowl in the sink, grabbing lettuce off the stovetop, and reaching for my tofu stash on top of the fridge. 3. The recipe says you don’t need a dipping sauce, which is true if you are good at slathering the brown sugar-garlic mixture on the tofu. I chose to make a peanut-soy-rice vinegar-mirin mix anyway, with a touch of red pepper flakes, and it was a great compliment. A little added extra challenge if you’re going to take them for lunch the next day and try to eat them in a classroom however…


Wintery spring rolls & salmon with miso glaze

Oh yes, and the broiled salmon with miso glaze, the afterthought… I can take exactly zero credit for this expertly cooked picture-perfect fish, as Chris made the whole thing AND battled my tiny broiler and fended off the dog with a garbage can barricade at the same time. Recipe can be found here. This will definitely be a favorite recipe in the future, and might even be what I design the appetizer or side dish around next time, instead of the opposite…

edamame salad

So I did an extra day of vegan-ism, unintentionally really. I had so many leftovers in my fridge to eat! My friend Jonill came over for dinner last night, because I had promised to make her veggie sushi after my first attempt last week. This time I did an avocado-cucumber roll and a tofu-carrot-grilled asparagus roll, both made with brown rice. I also made the veggie summer rolls with peanut dipping sauce that I made for Vegan Week day 2. I had some edamame in the freezer, and wanted to make some sort of edamame salad to round out the meal. Most of the recipes I saw involved corn, which is not what I was going for. I came across this recipe though, which was perfect. I had to go buy furikake (after looking up what it was first!) and I just used one large orange pepper instead of five small multicolored peppers – which would have made it look even more colorful than it did. I also sauteed the shiitakes briefly in sesame oil, because they didn’t taste that great after just soaking in water. Now to think of things to do with a giant container of furikake…

Edamame salad with shiitake, orange pepper, and furikake

Vegan Week, Day 2

Day 2: Breakfast

Vegan french toast with peaches, bananas, and maple syrup

While I usually don’t cook a big breakfast except on weekends for brunch, you can’t have yogurt every day if you’re trying to experiment with new foods. I found several recipes for vegan french toast, but since I now have almond milk around, I decided to go with soaking whole wheat sourdough bread (same as the bread from yesterday’s portobello mushroom sandwich) in a simple mixture of almond milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg for about 15 minutes. I cooked it with a light spritz of canola oil, and topped it with peaches, bananas, and organic maple syrup. The nutty flavor of the almond milk works well with french toast, but you might need more oil than expected – I burned my pan a little! Almond milk does not react the same way as eggs in a pan, that’s for sure.
Day 2: Lunch

Avocado brown rice sushi

I’ve been reading The Story of Sushi by Trevor Corson , which I’ve found is torturous for me during Vegan Week, because after every chapter I just want to run out and have a few slices of sashimi. So for lunch today, I figured vegetable sushi was about as close as I was going to get to satisfy my cravings. Luckily the little Korean market across the street from me has about every Asian food product you can imagine, so I picked up some sheets of nori, some short grain Lundberg brown rice (my favorite) and an avocado. I cooked the rice with extra water to make it stickier, like sushi rice. When the rice was cooked and chilled, I mixed it with about 1/4 cup of rice vinegar and spread it evenly across the nori. I added slices of avocado, rolled and sliced it to the best of my ability, and ate the rolls with a dash of wasabi and a dipping sauce of soy and mirin. The rolls tasted delicious (I will definitely be doing this again, with more adventurous fillings when I have time), but the rolls fell apart a little when I dipped them. I have definitely not perfected my sushi chef skills yet.
Day 2: Dinner

Black Sesame Otsu

The ultimate challenge: cooking vegan food for my meat-eating (but veggie loving) boyfriend and his equally carnivorous best friend as they alternated between watching wilderness survival shows and “extreme” elimination game shows (not kidding). I went with veggie summer rolls with peanut dipping sauce, a recipe from, and a Heidi Swanson’s Black Sesame Otsu recipe. The summer rolls were fun to make and the peanut sauce was completely addictive. The soba noodles worried me at first, as the black sesame paste looked a little unusual but the dish was super tasty and a few drops of sriracha on top added a nice touch of heat. And the reaction from the meat-loving men? They devoured it! And I quote: “I can’t decide which one I like better.” Success!

Veggie summer rolls with spicy peanut dipping sauce