Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Aarti Cooks: Come Back Rain! Soup

I hate to rub it in (ok maybe I don't...) but it's been in the 80s over here. In February. And while it's probably good for my desert-loving skin, my heart is pining for the glorious rolls of grey cloud to come back.

I have always loved the rain. I grew up in the desert; Dubai desalinates sea water from the Arabian (you say Persian) Gulf for public consumption and for other basic needs like oh, watering golf courses (ha!). Hence, salt-free water raining down from the heavens of its own accord was a rare, bizarre joy. If it rained on Christmas Day, we called it a White Christmas.

My favorite memory of a "White" Christmas was about 6 years ago. Brendan had come with me to Dubai, for the first and only time. We were walking out of church on Christmas morning, gussied up in our finest threads, and wishing each other Merry Christmas (which we never did until we had finished church. Do you guys do that?).

Suddenly, the skies opened wide. WIDE. Seriously, it was like someone had flushed the toilet. We all ran to the car, the women of the family hiking up the hems of our soaking saris, Dad dashing daintily over big puddles so his precious shoes wouldn't get wet. We were all laughing, particularly Dad. I love that memory.

Another rainy-day memory: my friend Joo and I were living together in Hoboken. One Sunday, we decided to be comrades in chili-cheese fries, so we walked to the Johnny Rockets about 7 blocks away from our house. I was wearing a sarong; I'm not sure what Joo was wearing. On the way home, it started pouring. We ran as fast as our bellies (full with chili cheese potato goodness) would allow us, but once we got home, I was so drenched already that I went back outside to try to enjoy it. I got soaked to the bone but it was so refreshing, I didn't care.

Do you guys love the rain? I'm sure I'm not the only one who likes to stand outside and enjoy it. I think that may have been one of the first things Bren and I did when we were "courting". He pulled me outside, against my will if I remember rightly (so bossy!) and we stood in the rain, holding hands. Cute, huh?

The only time I shook my fists at the rain was when I rewarded myself with an ice-cream cone after a punishing Bikram Yoga class in Hoboken. Rain on your ice-cream cone is probably one of the saddest things in the world, or at least it seemed so on that day. Hmmm, now I want some ice cream. (When don't I?!)

Anyway, this soup is my rain dance, my plea to the heavens to turn our blue skies grey... to shower us, quench the crops and clean the smog out of the air. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it works. If it rains in LA tomorrow, you'll know who to thank. So there.

It's very very very easy to make; just make sure you don't let the soup boil once you've added the miso because it can get a bit bitter... which I just realised in making this batch, hmph. It's a healthy standby when your fridge and your wallet are bare. A tub of miso keeps at least a year in the fridge, and I'm sure you'll finish it before the year is through. Besides, the tub I bought was only $6. I use white miso paste (shiromiso).

This isn't a traditional miso soup; no dashi or bonito shavings here. I don't have the time for all that. So, miso-purists, forgive me, but my rumbling tummy (and fingers crossed, rumbling storm clouds!) wait for no man. I found some miso paste with bonito already in it. Handy, huh?

I love this soup because it plays on that basic salt and pepper combination: the miso is salty, the watercress, peppery. Plus, I love pouring the hot soup over the fresh watercress. Feels very Iron Chef-y. You can add whatever you want to it really. Thinly-sliced carrots, chunks of store-bought rotisserie chicken, cooked grains, soba or udon noodles... the world is your oyster. I made it with shitake mushrooms, some leftover bamboo shoots, baked tofu and lots of ginger. You could try making this with arugula instead of watercress too.

One note: I made a mistakey. I put the sesame oil in the picture and I meant to put the mirin (sweet cooking wine) in there instead. So just pretend that s-e-s-a-m-e spells m-i-r-i-n, 'k?

Come Back Rain! Soup: Miso Soup with Ginger, Watercress, Shitake Mushroom & Tofu

You'll need this stuff (minus the Sesame oil, remember!)

8 cups water
1 generous tbsp minced ginger
Handful (6-7) shitake mushrooms, cleaned with a damp cloth, and sliced thinly
3 spring onions, chopped finely, whites and greens separated
3oz-7 oz baked tofu, cut into small cubes (depending on how much tofu you like)
8-9 tbsp white miso paste
Splash mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) or sake
A bunch of fresh watercress (arugula might work here too)

1) Add whites of spring onions and minced ginger to water, and bring the whole lot to a bare boil.

2) Put the miso paste in a small bowl, and once the water is boiling, add a ladle of water to the bowl, and whisk until the paste has dissolved.

3) Turn the heat down on the pot so that the water isn't bubbling anymore, just steaming, and add the miso paste solution. Stir, and add the mushrooms and the tofu. Cook, gently, until the mushrooms are cooked through. Add a splash of mirin. Taste, adding more miso paste if you want.

4) Rip a handful of watercress into individual serving bowl. Ladle soup over the cress. Allow to sit for a minute and then serve, garnishing with the greens of the spring onion.




bodaat said...

Very well written! I unfortunately am not a fan of miso soup. For some reason I feel propelled away from it like two plus sign magnets. Not sure why! It did look yummy!

elizabeth said...

The first time I ever had miso soup (at the japanese place on Main Street in Evanston, almost 10 years ago...), I really, really hated it. And didn't enjoy the rest of my meal because of it, if I recall. But now I LOVE it. I might have to go get some for lunch, now that I'm thinking about it... I'm still trying to learn to like sake, though. blech.

aartilla the fun said...

miso soup is a total acquired taste; i had forgotten that i wasn't really into it either in the beginning. i suppose it's that "umami" flavor that takes some getting used to. i will say that i've had some pretty awful miso soup, and that would probably kill my love of it forever!

i love sake but only if it's hot... if it's cold, it tastes weird to me. keep trying eli! :)


Patty Jean Robinson said...

Your soup worked! It's raining!

Thank you.

I love the rain, too. I'm just never prepared for it. Like today. I'm parked about 8 minutes away from work. On the top of the garage - no cover. It'll be an interesting walk back, to be sure.

aartilla the fun said...

good luck patty! i think that 8-minute walk totally warrants a cup of hot chocolate when you get home. :)

joo said...

i love miso soup. when are you going to come out with a cookbook??

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