Friday, January 29, 2010

Perfect for winter: miso soup

Do you ever go into a Japanese supermarket and end up with a full shopping basket just because everything looks so beautiful and you just can't leave the store without it? Well, I'm definitely guilty of that. I love browsing through the aisles looking at all of the exotic ingredients and the ones that aren't so exotic but are so beautifully packaged that they seem so.

There's a small but well supplied supermarket in soho that I love visiting when I am in the neighborhood. Earlier this week, I stopped in with the goal of satisfying a soba noodle craving but of course, ended up with enough to make several dishes.

Miso soup is so easy to make and I was reminded how delicious and satisfying it is. I like to short cut the process by buying soup broth concentrate and I like to add whatever strikes my fancy to the soup. This time, some beautiful enoki mushrooms and Japanese garlic chives caught my eye in the produce section. I added tofu to the mix and some chopped scallion and in less than 10 minutes, had lunch. For dinner, I re-heated the leftovers and added some soba noodles and a fried egg on top. It was the perfect light winter meal - protein, vegetables, warm and soothing.With the left over soba noodles, I revisited a favorite recipe I will never tire of, Otsu (pictured above).

Miso soup
(serves 4)

3-4 cups water
Dashi-based soup concentrate to taste (liquid form, ask for a recommendation at the supermarket)
1 package firm, silken tofu, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1 package enoki mushrooms (trim root ends and use amount desired)
3 scallions (white and light green parts), sliced thinly
1/4 cup chopped garlic chives (nira), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons miso (I like shiro miso)

6 oz dried soba noodles
4 eggs, over easy

Bring water and soup concentrate to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add tofu. Simmer for a couple of minutes. Turn off heat. Dissolve miso in a few tablespoons of the hot soup broth in a small container and add into the pot. Add scallions and garlic chives. Add soba noodles if using. Serve in bowls. Top with fried egg if using.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Something fabulous is cooking: sweet paul magazine (and savory phyllo cups!)

I've blogged about food stylist and master crafter Paul Lowe before. But there's new news: Paul is launching an electronic magazine, Sweet Paul Magazine. The first issue will be out this Spring and it will be chock-full of great recipes and crafts with a pretty impressive group of contributors. And since everything Paul touches ends up fabulous, I'm sure this will be no exception. I'm very excited to be contributing a multi-page story to the first issue. It's a secret: but I'll tell you that it involves sweet and savory pastry. I've been cooking and shooting up a storm. I'll give you a little teaser. This recipe won't be featured, but this will give you a taste of what's to come. Be sure to follow Paul's award-winning blog for more tidbits.

Savory phyllo cups (makes six)

1 package store-bought phyllo dough, defrosted according to manufacturer's directions
8 eggs
18 stalks of asparagus
6 cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup milk or half and half
1/2 stick butter, melted plus one pat for scrambled eggs
Some greens to garnish (pea shoots, chopped Italian parsley or whatever you like)
Butter for brushing on dough
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread stack of phyllo dough sheets on a cutting board, and working quickly, cut into squares slightly larger than the diameter of a standard muffin tin (you will need six stacks of these squares). Working quickly, brush six muffin tins with butter and gently peel back each layer of phyllo dough on each stack and brush butter in between layers. Gently press buttered stack into muffin tin. Dough will stick out slightly from top. Brush inside of phyllo cup gently with butter. Repeat six times.

Place muffin tin in oven and bake for 10 minutes, checking periodically. Remove when dough is golden brown.

Meanwhile, beat eggs with milk and a generous pinch of salt and then scramble in butter on a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Once eggs are loosely set, remove from heat and stir in cream cheese. Egg will finish cooking off-heat.

When phyllo cups are baked, place ~3 inch spears of asparagus and tomatoes on a non-stick cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Broil for a few minutes until asparagus is just tender and tomatoes start to pop.

To assemble, spoon a few generous tablespoons of scrambled egg into cups, stick 3 asparagus spears into each cup (you might want to tie them with a piece of kitchen twine to secure them), and top with one tomato in each cup. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Cups can be made the day ahead.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Re-exploring: Brussels sprouts

Happy new year everyone! I am back, and already breaking one of my New Year's resolutions, which is to post more of my own recipes versus sharing recipes of others. But this recipe is really worth sharing - it might change the way you think about Brussels sprouts. We cooked in for new year's, making this dish along with lobster grilled with butter, garlic, parsley and lemon zest, the scallop and cabbage recipe I shared at the end of the year, and a basic pasta with olive oil and garlic. It was a low key evening of good food and friends, the perfect way to ring in the new year.

Martha (yes, Martha) recently had chef Jeremy Fox from Ubuntu restaurant in Napa on to share some vegetarian alternatives to typical thanksgiving fare. Among the recipes shared was one for Brussels sprouts that called for just the leaves, discarding the core. While the sprouts take some preparation, the actual cooking time is reduced to mere minutes, and the approach transforms them into a beautiful emerald green color and delicate presentation. He pairs the sprouts with almond oil, chopped almonds and radishes. I have no idea why this works so well but the radish is the perfect complement to the sprouts.

The radishes called for are a mix of varieties you are highly unlikely to find in a grocery store or even typical farmer's market. Instead, I mixed common red radishes and breakfast radishes and for variety, left some whole and quartered / halved or cut the rest into matchsticks, using a mandoline to cut slice them thinly.

You can find the recipe here. Let me know what you think!