I swear I am not becoming a vegetarian. This weekend I attended a party devoted to drinking beer and eating foods full of bacon and beer – bacon-wrapped-artichokes, bacon mac & cheese, moist chocolate cake made with stout, etc. Until the day I die, I will want to rip into rare steak, or tear a roasted chicken apart with my hands, and eat funky stews with oxtail and goats. Let’s talk for a moment about chicken livers cooked with shallots and then mashed up and spread on small pieces of toast.
But I don’t need or want to eat meat every day. I pay a premium for meat that was raised with care and kindness and devour it with joy, and the rest of the time I eat vegetables and fruits and nuts and grains and cheese. Lots of cheese. And in the dead of winter, when everything sucks, and my shoulders hurt from hunching them against the cold, and I dread the first step outside and the way that first breath will tear into my asthmatic lungs like a fist made of knives, the more I turn to that guru of great vegetarian cooking, Deborah Madison. I know with her recipes I won’t get scurvy and that there will be lots of bright colors and happy textures and flavors on my plate.
Tonight’s recipe is adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, in the chapter on light and restorative broths. We wanted a heartier soup, so we altered it a bit – we left the vegetables pretty chunky and didn’t puree the whole thing, and we used udon noodles and cubes of soft tofu. There are a lot of ingredients and a good 30 minutes of chopping involved, but once you do all that the soup comes together very very quickly.
- Scant 2 lbs of broccoli (3-4 broccoli “trees.”)
- 1 tbsp light sunflower seed oil (or light sesame oil, or peanut oil)
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 large garlic clove, chopped (Um, we used 6)
- 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and diced
- a 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and chopped (about 1 tbsp)
- 1/4 cup of minced cilantro stems or leaves, finely chopped
- 1 small potato, grated (this is to add some body and starch to the soup, we substituted 1 bundle of udon noodles, cooked in boiling water for 5 minutes and drained).
- sea salt
- 2 tbsp white miso (available at Whole Foods + Asian grocery stores)
- A few drops of sesame oil to garnish
1. Separate the broccoli into crowns vs. stalks. Chop the crowns into small uniform florets. Peel the stalks of the outer fibrous edge and thinly chop them. Chop the other vegetables and savory things. If using, cook the udon noodles for 5 minutes in boiling water then drain and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a wide heavy pot. Add garlic, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and ginger. Cook for 1 minute, stirring well, then add in the potato (if using) and chopped broccoli stalks. Add 2 cups of water, cover and simmer until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and simmer until the broccoli is just tender, 5-10 minutes.
3. Choose your own adventure.
Madison suggests: Let the soup cool, then puree in batches in a blender or in the pot with a stick blender until smooth, leaving only miniscule nubbins of broccoli. Mix a little of the soup with the white miso in a bowl to blend, then stir the miso into the soup. Serve with a few drops of sesame oil in each bowl. I have no doubt this would be amazing, especially when you’re getting over a cold or flu.
What we did: We took 2 cups out of the soup and let them cool in a bowl. In the meantime, we dumped the tofu and noodles into the big soup pot and let them heat. We pureed the small bowl of soup, mixed it with the miso, and then stirred it back into the big pot. We served with chopped scallions and a dash of nanami togarashi.
This makes about 7 cups, and I have a good feeling about the leftovers.