These days I have time. Time to wake up slowly, stretch, eat oatmeal, read, think. I do work, oh yes, most days I have many things to do: translations for school, technical writing exercises, statistical documents to read in French, emails to write. My mornings are slow, but I'm usually working by 10. Then comes lunch, more work, singing, dinner and class. Not a bad existence considering it's February and everyone's supposed to be going stir crazy. I feel the opposite. This is the first winter in Montreal I haven't wanted to run at top speed off the top of Mount Royal and fly back home as fast as possible.
In January, I decided I wasn't going to let the solitude get me down. I wasn't going to be harsh with myself - winter is harsh enough. I would eat good soup, lots of roast chicken, broccoli and oatmeal cookies. I would dance regularly in the living room and go for long walks. I would read Kurt Vonnegut short stories and Marguerite Duras. I would enjoy the company of myself; because if we can't do that, where are we? Some days I'm more productive than others; some I go stir crazy from sitting in front of the computer too long; some I lie on the floor after lunch in the sun too long with Sinead O'Connor or Fleetwood Mac blasting from the speakers. Then I frantically leap up and say, "Oh no! Where has the day gone?" My nimble lion fire fuels me. I allow my mind to go where it needs to. And I eat Miso Soup for lunch.
Ros gave me the Cooks Illustrated International Cookbook (an absolute must have) in a cookbook exchange we did. The first recipe I made was miso soup from the Japanese section. I went to the health food store and bought enough seaweed, tofu and miso to last all winter. But my first soup was a disappointment. After several tries, I figured out this soup is best eaten immediately and now only make enough for one. Although it won't satisfy a growling, ferocious hunger, the kind that takes over me around dinner, it's perfect for lunch. And it takes 15 minutes to make.
Kombu is a thick form of seaweed used to make dashi, the basic broth in Japanese cooking. When making miso soup, bonito flakes (at right in picture) are added after the kombu water boils. Some people strain out the fish flakes, but I like to leave them in, as I enjoy their strong, smoky taste.
one bowl of water
1 piece of kombu broken in half
1 TBS (or more or less) bonito flakes
1 TBS miso paste (I use brown rice)
- fill up the bowl you want to eat soup in with water
- pour the water into a small sauce pan
- add the kombu
- cover the pot and bring the water to a simmer
- turn off the heat, take out the kombu and add the bonito flakes (you can cut the kombu up and add it to the soup, but I find it tough)
- let the broth sit for 3-5 min (strain out bonito flakes if you don't want them - they are a bit stringy)
- turn the heat on to medium and start stirring in the miso paste with a whisk
- heat the broth until it just starts to simmer and the miso is disolved
Additions to your soup
While the kombu water is heating up, start preparing your bowl. I like to add tofu, pickled vegetables, sesame seeds and green onion. You can add whatever else you like or drink the broth plain.
1/3 block tofu
1 TBS pickled vegetables (recipe to follow)
1 green onion (sliced finely)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- cut up the tofu into small cubes and place in bowl
- add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl
- when the miso is hot enough, pour it over the tofu in the bowl
Because I'm always very excited to eat, I often burn my tongue on soup. I use cold tofu which cools down the soup while cooking gently in the broth.
1 C rice vinegar (or more)
- cut the carrot and cucumber on the bias so you have long diagonal slices. Lay the slices out on the cutting board so they slighty over lap each other and cut them into skinny strips. This is called julienne. Another way to do this is to first square off the vegetable and then cut it into match-stick slices. You can watch a video of how to do this here.
- for the ginger, you will need to peel it and cut it into coins. Then you can cut it into skinny slices.
- put your julienned vegetables in a bowl and cover them with rice vinegar. Let the vegetables sit for 30 minutes or over night. They will keep for 2-3 weeks in the fridge. I wouldn't keep them any longer, however.
Afterwards, eat a few oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and some fruit. That should be enough until snack time.
Speaking of lunch....it's that time of day.