Category Archives: soup

Beat the Heat with Avocado Pistachio Cold Soup


Oh, how badly I needed this freshness for the last few weeks! This was today.
Yesterday.
The heat is on, on the street / Inside your head, on every beat /And the beat’s so loud, deep inside
The pressure’s high, just to stay alive / ‘Cause the heat is on…
 
The heat paralyses me. It makes me feel sick. It makes me feel like jumping into a water spray, then bed crashing under the dozen of fans and watching National Geographic series about rainforests, thunderstorms and waterfalls till dawn. 
Then go back to the sprinkle again….
Why the water sprinkles are only for kids? Why does siesta have to be only a cultural phenomenon? Why can’t we all have power naps during summer heat? I guess these questions are rhetorical, huh? Or, may be, the heat just makes me delirious… I actually thought we were only at the beginning of July, but half of it is gone already. Just yesterday these wild geese ducklets were eggs, these cattails didn’t exist and these strawberries were flowers. I was feeling so much younger. I was actually ready to resume the horseback riding I abandoned back in my twenties… 
I missed jazz festival and dozen of other attractions I wanted to visit so much. I’ve become a reckless blogger. Half of my design projects have been put on hold. The mood board sketches are flying all over the house. My photo-bank is about to eat me alive if I don’t start cleaning it asap. See what the heat is doing to me?  This is not good. I need to slow down this shutter speed of life. I need a fresh start.
At least I’ve done plenty of gazpachos. Cold soups are the wonderful culinary creation. They feed and nourish in a wink and deliver freshness, speed and convenience to our time-poor, exhausting summer schedules.
This one is a keeper for me during excruciating hot summer days. Not only it’s super-delicious and easy to make; it’s hard to underestimate the avocado’s potent anti-inflammatory, hydrating and blood pressure-stabilizing powers, which in this recipe are also supported by cucumber, handful of pistachio nuts, grilled zucchini, buttermilk and organic miso (fermented soya paste) – I marked the last ingredient as optional, considering its rare occurrence in most people’s fridges. I used the leftover grilled zucchini to add a slight grill tone to the soup, recycle and give some extra substance, but leave them out if you want.
You can whip this uber-yummy soup for spur-of-the-moment summer guests in, literally, 10 minutes. Serve it in verrines garnished with extra pistachios and all you can imagine fresh herbs including parsley, dill, cilantro, mint, basil, chives, oregano, tarragon, etc. 
The fresh herbs give an incredible hit of flavor to this otherwise subtle and smooth cold soup. Drizzle it with a bit of olive or truffle oil and/or sprinkle with smoked paprika for an extra zang. Not a big herb lover? Add a dash of curry, cumin and ground coriander in the mix.
Tweak it to be more or less acidic playing with lime or lemon juice to your taste. PS: kosher pickle or kimchi liquids are not excluded as the idea ingredients for a kick and extra health benefit. Thin it with vegan broth, unsweetened almond milk, extra buttermilk, cold spring water or even cold green tea if necessary.
Great tip from experienced guacamole makers: add avocado seed to the soup to preserve the vivid green color if you wish to refrigerate it from few hours till next day.
This soup is a true vegetarian summer dream dish on its own. But if you crave more substance on a side serve it with croutons or these decadent tiny cheese puffs (recipe will follow).
Cheers to All and Viva Summer Freshness!
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AVOCADO PISTACHIO CUCUMBER GAZPACHO
Yields: 4-8 portions (depending on the size of the verrines)
Ingredients:
4-6 ice cubes, made of quality spring water (plus few crushed ice cubes for serving)
1 tablespoon raw pistachio nuts, shelled (plus 1 tablespoon for garnish)
1 ripe avocado, peeled (keep the avocado seed to preserve the color if you plan to eat soup next day)*
1 cucumber (Lebanese, or ½ English cucumber; other kind to be peeled and de-seeded)
1 small zucchini, grilled, broiled, or pan-fried (optional)
1 cup vegetarian (or lean organic chicken) stock
1 cup buttermilk (or unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (optional)
1/2 cup quality spring water
1 teaspoon miso paste (optional)
¼ teaspoon quality salt
¼ teaspoon hot smoked paprika (or chili powder)
Fresh herbs for garnish: mint, dill, cilantro, parsley, oregano, basil, etc.
Olive oil for drizzle (optional)
Instructions:
Add ice cubes to blender. Top with nuts, avocado, cucumber, zucchini, stock, buttermilk, lime juice, water, miso, salt and paprika or chili. Puree on high speed until smooth Thin the soup with additional stock, buttermilk, or water if desired. Pour into bowls. Garnish with ice cube crush, pistachios and fresh herbs. Drizzle with oil or lemon juice. 
* Add avocado seed to the soup to preserve the vivid green color if you wish to refrigerate it from few hours till next day.

Four Seasons Cream of Roasted Cauliflower and Four Fabulous Takes on It

This post might look like an epic tale about what you can do with roasted cauliflower, but it is basically one undeniably mighty fine and elemental soup formula, which on the merits of simplicity, economy and taste is hard to beat. Depending on the take you decide to choose, the cream of roasted cauliflower can stretch from a bowl of a humble cold weather comfort to the utterly festive haute cuisine dish you’d find in Michelin-star gastro-pub, or at a festive banquette.

In this post I will feature the following five splendid recipes:

  • BASIC CREAM OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER;
  • CREAM OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH HAZELNUT BROWN BUTTER;
  • CREAM OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH LEEKS AND FORAGED GREENS;
  • CREAM OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH LOBSTER DUMPLINGS;
  • CREAM OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH GOAT CHEESE AND ROASTED CHESTNUTS.

As you might have noticed already, some images from our latest travel through Quebec countryside and NYC full of spring blossom made a splendid back drop to showcase these recipes.

First thing first: why roasting cauliflower? Why not just boil it? Good point. Roasting cauliflower (see the tips below) to slightly browned and caramelized taste gives an added value, as does any extra ingredient from spice to vegetable, to nut, or bacon, or crustacean bits. This soup tastes wonderful when served piping hot, but on a hot sunny day you can cool it down and serve with the splash of cream or almond milk.  The basic roasted cauliflower soup formula is gluten free and totally vegan. Most importantly, for a simple few ingredients dish, it’s a low-caloric highly nutritional flavor bomb that you can easily overdose on few times a day feeling deeply satisfied and guilt-free. Which I guess is especially crucial now that many of us are poppin bikini/speedo tags, n’estce pas?

Depending on the spice or an additional ingredient, you can make this soup savory, sweet, salty, spicy, pungent, sour, or any combination of those. 

TIPS on ROASTING CAULIFLOWER: The method of oven roasting cauliflower in most recipes suggests that you separate the cauliflower into the florets, season with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast it at 350F to 400F for up to 30 minutes. Well, my experience suggests that cutting the cauliflower into the 1-inch thick steaks works better and using the oven preheated to 425F for 20-30 minutes, provides better, more evenly roasted results. Note, if your oven is very powerful, keep the temperature at 400F.

PS:Naturally, you can always sauté the cauliflower in the skillet, however, roasting it is healthier option.

SPRING TO WINTER: My favorite all-year version is with hazelnut brown butter and a pinch of smoked chili/paprika or curry (the choice is yours) garnish. It is easy, sophisticated and cosmopolitan, adding a smoky nut crunch contrast to the creamy cauliflower goodness. It is exceptionally balanced and the combination is thought out and trendy. How about turning it up more by doubling on the smoke and crunch with some bits of bacon? HEAVENLY…

TIP on SHELLING HAZELNUTS: Contrary to the popular advice to shell hot roasted hazelnuts in a slightly wet towel (which doesnt do a good job from my experience), this good ol tip coming from the SNL sketch look-alike video from 70s with glorious Julia Childprovides the fool-proof result on shelling hazelnuts (ps: this video will also arm you with a biscotti recipe).

Needless to say, you can play with other nuts too in this recipe, including almonds, pecans, walnuts, even chestnuts (see the recipe below).

Adding one or more vegetables (i.e. leeks, sweet potato, squash, etc.) to the roasting process and/or some sautéed greens to garnish can make an interesting twist in flavor and nutritional value. Try adding any root vegetable of your choice in fall or winter, and/or some garden/foraged greens in spring or summer. I like to apply almost any fresh farmers market finds to it, like in this version with chives and foraged fiddlehead ferns (pre-steamed or sautéed for 3-5 minutes in butter).

I use whatever is in season, from chives and green peas in summer; to corn, squash and pumpkin in fall; to cubed sweet potatoes or carrots in winter – the basic formula is a wonderful host for all of them. The only non-variable remains cauliflower.

As for applying and varying spices in this soup, sky is the limit: nutmeg, chili flakes, cumin, smoked paprika/chili, caraway or fennel seeds, curry, in fall-winter time; sage, thyme, lemon zest, mint, basil tarragon for spring-summer, etc.  A splash of white wine or a table spoon of apple cider vinegar would add some complexity to the soup as well.

SPECIAL OCCASIONS.  The Cream of Roasted Cauliflower with Lobster Dumplings comes to my memory first. I remember having this exquisite soup at the wedding reception years ago. Fixed wedding menus/dishes can be hit or miss, with most of the time being and unfortunate miss of which young Winston Churchill would say: “It would have been splendid… if the wine had been as cold as the soup, the beef as rare as the service, the brandy as old as the fish, and the maid as willing as the duchess.” But that time the food was exceptionally good. I consumed that bowl of soup with reverent awe. Later, I found the approaching recipe on Food Network by Chef Michael Symon, whose taste buds I trust almost blind-foldedly. I used a roasted cauliflower instead of the sautéed one and the result was fantastic.

Today Im sharing this recipe with you. This riff on roasted cauliflower is highly festive, helps to stretch the lobster to many plates and evokes the felling of comfort and elegance. If lobster is difficult to find, feel free to use shrimp (peeled, cooked and deveined) instead. 

For the top notch finish, season with coarsely ground black pepper and drizzle with a bit of truffle oil. 

Voila, the simple step by step:

And for the lobster dumplings:

Finally, the recipe search for the cream of roasted cauliflower from the wedding also once brought me to Jackie Kennedy–style recipe of the Cauliflower Goat Cheese Soup (arguably served at the Kennedy wedding party among other thing at Hammersmith Farm), smooth and polished enough to be showcased in a stylish setting for those who admire the goat cheese (or many other kinds of cheese for that matter). 

I made it with the mix of crumbled goat cheese and feta bought from Chevriere de Monnoir farm I wrote about previously here and here. I also modified it by adding some roasted chestnuts (which you can buy now small-packaged in Adonis and even Walmart) into the soup and garnish and added a few drops of maple syrup. It came up sweet and umami and lick-the-plate-clean good. If goat cheese is not your thing, try it with grated cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gouda, Emmental, Swiss, etc.  or any cheese that you put in your favorite cheese fondue – all would work wonders in this forgiving cream of soup formula.

I hope you will try one/all of the below recipes and will enjoy it/them as much as I did.  I also hope you will give me some feedback upon trying. I am sure you will love at least one of them!
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BASIC CREAM OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER
Yields: 6 to 8 portions
1 large cauliflower head, cut into 1-inch steaks
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted ghee
5 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar (optional)
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1+ cup almond or regular milk
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425F. Brush the sheet with olive oil or melted ghee. Place cauliflower steaks in one layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn the cauliflower steaks over: if they break in pieces, its OK, just stir. Scatter onion and garlic over cauliflower and return to the oven. Lower the temperature to 400F and roast for another 15 minutes.
Heat the chicken stock in the pot. Add roasted vegetables, wine or apple cider vinegar if using, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Discard bay leaf, transfer the soup to the blender in batches carefully.  Purée soup to desired consistency. Transfer back to the pot. Stir in almond or regular milk. Heat through and check the seasoning. Ladle into the bowls and serve with your favorite garnish, or just with freshly cracked pepper. Optionally, drizzle with butter milk or olive (truffle) oil.
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CREAM OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH HAZELNUT BROWN BUTTER
Yields: 6 to 8 portions
1 large cauliflower head, cut into 1-inch steaks
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted ghee
5 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar (optional)
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried sage
1+ cup almond or regular milk
For Browned Butter Hazelnuts:
½ cup hazelnuts, shelled (see above instructions) and coarsely crushed
4 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter
Pinch of coarse salt
Pinch of smoked chilly or paprika
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425F. Brush the sheet with olive oil or melted ghee. Place cauliflower steaks in one layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn the cauliflower steaks over: if they will break in pieces, just stir. Scatter onion and garlic over cauliflower and return to the oven. Lower the temperature to 400F and roast for another 15 minutes.
Heat the chicken stock in the pot. Add roasted vegetables, wine or apple cider vinegar if using, bay leaf and sage. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, bring ghee or butter in a skillet to medium-low heat. Add hazelnuts and cook until butter turns brownish, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with coarse salt and smoked paprika or chili, mix and set aside.
Discard bay leaf, transfer the soup to the blender in batches carefully.  Purée soup to desired consistency. Transfer back to the pot. Stir in almond or regular milk. Heat through and check the seasoning. Ladle into the bowls and sprinkle with browned butter hazelnuts and freshly cracked pepper. Optionally, drizzle with butter milk or olive (truffle) oil.
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CREAM OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH LEEKS AND FORAGED GREENS
Yields: 6 to 8 portions
1 large cauliflower head, cut into 1-inch steaks
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 leek, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted ghee
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar (optional)
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1+ cup almond or regular milk
For garnish:
1 cup fiddlehead ferns, washed
1 tablespoon ghee or butter
Pinch of sea salt
Small bunch of chives, minced
Olive or truffle oil (optional)
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425F. Brush the sheet with olive oil or melted ghee. Place cauliflower steaks in one layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn the cauliflower steaks over: if they break in pieces, just stir. Scatter onion, leeks and garlic over cauliflower and return to the oven. Lower the temperature to 400F and roast for another 15 minutes.
Heat the chicken stock in the pot. Add roasted vegetables, wine or apple cider vinegar if using, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, add 1 tablespoon of ghee or butter to the skillet and bring to medium-high. Add fiddlehead ferns and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
Discard bay leaf, transfer the soup to the blender in batches carefully.  Purée soup to desired consistency. Transfer back to the pot. Stir in almond or regular milk. Heat through and check the seasoning. Ladle into the bowls and garnish with sautéed fiddlehead ferns, chives and cracked pepper. Optionally, drizzle with butter milk or olive (truffle) oil.
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CREAM OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH LOBSTER DUMPLINGS
Yields: 6 to 8 portions
1 large cauliflower head, cut into 1-inch steaks
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted ghee
6 cups chicken or lobster stock
1 tablespoon white wine (optional)
1 pinch nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
Cooked Lobster meat for garnish, chopped
1 tablespoon truffle oil
For Lobster Dumplings:
1 ½ cups white bread crumbs
½ tablespoon softened butter
1 egg beaten
2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, chopped
½ cup lobster meat, cooked and chopped
Milk to bind
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425F. Brush the sheet with olive oil or melted ghee. Place cauliflower steaks in one layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn the cauliflower steaks over: if they will break in pieces, just stir. Scatter onion and garlic over cauliflower and return to the oven. Lower the temperature to 400F and roast for another 15 minutes.
Heat the stock in the pot. Add roasted vegetables, wine if using, bay leaf and nutmeg. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Mix the dumplings ingredients and roll into small firm balls about ½-inch in diameter.
Discard bay leaf, transfer the soup to the blender in batches carefully.  Purée the soup to desired consistency. Transfer back to the pot. Stir in heavy cream. Bring the soup to simmer. Poach the dumplings in soup for 3-4 minutes. Check the seasoning and remove from heat. Place the lobster meat in individual soup bowls.  Ladle 8 ounces of soup with dumplings on top in each bowl. Garnish with lobster claw and drizzle with truffle oil.
*This recipe was adapted from Food Network: Cauliflower Soup with Lobster Dumplings by Chef Michael Symon
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CREAM OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH GOAT CHEESE AND ROASTED CHESTNUTS
Yields: 6 to 8 portions
1 large cauliflower head, cut into 1-inch steaks
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted ghee
6 cups chicken stock
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup roasted chestnuts, plus a few for garnish
1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
1+ cup half and half (10% cream)
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425F. Brush the sheet with olive oil or melted ghee. Place cauliflower steaks in one layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and white pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn the cauliflower steaks over: if they will break in pieces, just stir. Scatter onion over cauliflower and return to the oven. Lower the temperature to 400F and roast for another 15 minutes.
Heat the chicken stock in the pot. Add roasted vegetables, nutmeg and cinnamon if using. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Discard bay leaf, transfer the soup to the blender in batches carefully.  Add crumbled goat cheese, roasted chestnuts and maple syrup to the mix in the blender. Purée soup to desired consistency. Transfer back to the pot. Stir in cream. Heat through and check the seasoning. Ladle into the bowls. Garnish with some crushed roasted chestnuts. Optionally, drizzle with butter milk or olive (truffle) oil and sprinkle with freshly minced parsley. Serve with croutons on the side.

Pick-Me-Up Spinach, Egg Drop & Parmesan Toast Soup Recipe


How should I explain better my appreciation of this soup in a few words? Umm, remember when Chef Sean Brock is reminiscing about his favorite mom’s chicken soup dumplings ‘In the Mind of a Chef ’ saying it’s the best dumpling dish he ever had? This dish is better, period. A bowl of it will make you feel as good as gold…
I make this vivid green soup at least four times a year, mostly around mid-seasons: summer and winter solstice; spring and autumn equinox. It is one of my favorite complete meals which never fail to surprise with the taste, texture and color. The consistency and color of it can vary depending on the amount of ingredients (which you can modify according to your taste – more/less spinach, greens, eggs, stock or Parmesan bread). This soup is very forgiving: the different stages of the eggs’ coagulation depending on a temperature or cooking method would deliver smooth, ragged or clouded broth. Nevertheless, all forms of it deliver a fine bowl of comforting, homey goodness: full-bodied yet very light. If you like the Greek soup Avgolemono , this egg drop soup might be your next favorite. If the Avgolemono’s color is pure yellow, this one is bright green and always reminds of the nature’s renewal. Which we are still some ten weeks (hopefully less) away from…
This soup is an immune system booster and will pick you up fast whenever you need. We felt we badly needed it last Sunday upon coming back from St-Paddy’s parade in a form of half-humans/half-icicles who haven’t felt their toes up until dinner. It brought us back to life fast.  
I can’t exactly state the origin of this soup other than disclose that this recipe is coming from the magazine clips of the cooking journal of my dear French Canadian mother-in-law. It is very close to Italian egg drop soup called Stracciatella and may be it is, by virtue of its ingredients including Parmesan, although most of the Italian versions have some pasta and/or herb in it instead of the Parmesan toast and spinach. I tentatively tag it as an Italian dish, but if you happen know the exact origin of it, I am all ears.  
I couldn’t resist messing with the egg’s chemical formula having studied its molecular magic as an ingredient. Few times, instead of following the recipe (below) method, I would mix fresh, spinach, herbs and eggs with a bit, or a lot of warm stock in the blender. It makes some white foam on top, which I discarded carefully. Other wise, it makes absolutely stunning emerald-colored mix, which when warmed through under the boiling point, would granulate into tiny green egg drop microspheres giving luxurious velvety texture and feel to the dish. I warm it through whisking carefully, without reaching the boiling point; then place it in the 400F oven for 15-20 minutes topped with Parmesan toasts. Voila – viva the cooking experiments!
This method delivers bright green, grainy texture that is really worth showcasing. Not bringing the soup to the boiling point also helps to preserve a lot of healthy enzymes in the dish, which you will find packed with flavors. Equally, I sometimes swap spinach for kale, Swiss chard or arugula, add a bit of garlic and sometimes, during the flu season, a dash of minced ginger. Spinach version is my favorite however because it doesn’t overpower the delicate taste of eggs and stock. You may wish to follow or not these leads, the results will be great anyways.
Complex in taste and highly invigorating, it is yet very simple and fast to pull off. Eggs, fresh spinach, home-made broth, sliced baguette (or other kind of stale bread of your preference) and Parmesan are five core ingredients to it. I like to also add a big bunch of parsley to bring the nutritional and detox value of it to even higher level.
Sometimes I use this simple trick to cut the rounds of the stale bread with the shot glass to have a better appeal and coverage especially if you are serving the soup to the guests.

Parsley is a known kidney tonic and the powerful antioxidant along with spinach, which also boosts the iron stores in the body, they help strengthen bones, detoxify and heal. The eggs nourish liver, heart and kidneys, while the home-made stock comforts and supports the stomach and digestive tract with minerals, glucosamine (in case of chicken stock), iodine, etc. 

Should you wish to make this soup a real taste bomb, try to assemble it with the ingredients of possibly highest quality, including: free range eggs, spinach and parsley from your own garden, stock made with organic chicken/veggies and so on. Ahhh, I can’t wait to welcome spring to our territory…
Bon Appétit!

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SPINACH, EGG DROP & PARMESAN TOAST SOUP
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
6 cups packed, rinsed and minced spinach leaves, equal to 1-2 bunches fresh spinach, OR 10 ounces frozen spinach
1 cups fresh parsley, minced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground (preferably white) pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-7 cups of hot broth, chicken or vegetarian
4 bread slices (or more depending on a size), grilled (* select gluten free if necessary)
½ cup Parmesan, shredded
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Add butter to a big sauce pan or Dutch oven and heat to medium high. Add the minced spinach and parsley, stir for 1 minute. Add one cup of stock, mix and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.  Beat the eggs in a bowl and gently stir them into the spinach mix with the whisk.  Add the rest of the hot stock, mix well with the spinach-egg mix and check the seasoning. Place the grilled bread on top of the soup and sprinkle generously with Parmesan. Place into the pre-heated oven uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the bread and Parmesan dumplings are golden brown. Ladle into the bowls and serve immediately.

Classic Miso Soup Recipe: Keep it Simple


Classic Restaurant Style Miso Soup
Japanese cuisine topic is broad and challenging, but quintessentially Japan’s food tradition rests on rice and Miso soup. The Miso soup is a beautiful ode to the Sea and the Earth. Almost 40 years ago, Avelin Tomoko Kushi, the legendary advocate for macrobiotic diet and the ‘moving force’ across the US behind the wave of the health food restaurants back in 70’s, published the book ‘How to Cook with Miso’. I found a copy of it few years ago in a thrift store and have embarked of a wonderful journey of experimenting with miso and myriads of interesting combinations with it.  Kushi poetically described Miso soup as ‘… soup, containing a sea vegetable, can be likened to the ancient sea we have evolved from. As that ancient sea nourished our first beginnings, miso nurtures us as the internal sea of our blood.

Visually, when you look at a bowl of Miso soup it somehow reminds of a cloud of sand suspended in the water under which the treasure of other ingredients is hidden…

Japanese Miso Soup & Kombu Seaweed

Although I’m quite sure no one remembers that great activist woman of a Japanese origin, we all know that as of today, Japanese cuisine has officially conquered the world with its food culture intangibles.  In a nutshell, to me it’s a story of the Japanese Chef Nobuki Matsuhisa, who came to the US via Peru, opened his first restaurant in Beverly Hills back in 1987 and was convinced by the rich admirer, Robert De Niro, to open one in NYC 7 years later (celebrity Hiroshima-born Iron Chef Morimoto used to be a head chef there as well). Today Chef and restaurateur Matsuhisa celebrates his 66th anniversary. ‘Nobu’ is all over the world, including US, UK, Italy, Greece, Russia, UAE, Hungary, Hong Kong and, of course, his native Japan…

Chef Matsuhisa and his Miso Soup Images from Nobu’s Vegetarian Cookbook by © Nobu Matsuhisa
What started as an exotic personal or professional travel to Japan few decades ago by selected chefs, food critics and writers has now turned into a massive food tourism pilgrimage to the land of samurai and cherry blossom.  It’s not just the exotic atmosphere, steamy bowls and sultry paper lanterns that lure foodie tourists from all over the world to this destination. With 267 Michelin starred restaurants under its belt Tokyo became the global gourmet capital where food is perceived as SUPER-HEALTHY and ATTRACTIVE; and Japanese chefs known for their stiff upper lip work ethics have become an example of a professional EXCELLENCE to be judged against.

Most of us however can’t afford to hop on a plane and fly to Japan to explore its rich culinary map and this is when the classic simple Japanese recipes come in handy. This post is my tribute to the humble Miso soup, a simple traditional Japanese concoction with exotic flavors of umami, sea and earthy and tangy taste of fermented soybeans. The mentioning of it instantly brings most of us to the sushi restaurants, where miso is a staple to begin the feast.

Unfortunately, the Internet is riddled with pseudo-classic miso soup recipes (missing kombu, using roasted nori instead of wakame, chicken stock or soya sauce for the stock base, firm tofu instead of soft, etc.) which can repulse you fast and make you forget about trying Miso soup DIY forever (this is how my first pack of miso paste ended up in garbage in a first place). But may be this fool-proof recipe will hook you on it without a problem.

The vegetarian version of Miso soup is made of primarily two basic ingredients: dried kombu seaweed-based stock called ‘dashi’ and ‘miso’, fermented paste from cooked salted and aged soybeans.

Kombu Vegetarian Dashi Stock
KOMBU VEGETARIAN STOCK (called KOMBU DASHI) + MISO make a powerful healing and detoxifying soup packed with fiber, probiotics, proteins, enzymes, rare vitamins (like K and B12), microelements and scientifically proven anti heart disease and breast cancer properties. Truly, this soup is a wonderful dish to kick-start a day, have a healthy lunch, break or a quick dinner. While the spring is trying to break through and the Lent has started back in February, this soup DIY recipe can’t be more timely in my point of view.
Miso Paste

The RESTAURANT STYLE, NON-VEGETARIAN classic version of dashi stock is called awase dashi and has an extra ingredient in it: dried fermented and shaved skipjack tuna flakes called KATSUOBUSHI, which you can buy at any major Asian grocery like Kim Phat:

Katsuobushi Flakes (Bonito)
Equally, and more on a budget, dashi stock can be made of dried baby anchovies and is called the iriko dashi:

Dried Anchovies

The sushi restaurant-style version also usually includes:
– soft silken tofu (never firm tofu);
– shitake mushrooms;
– wakame seaweed;
– minced scallions

Other Miso Soup Ingredients
If you are a Miso Soup lover, its exotic ingredients will not cost a fortune and have a very flexible shelf life. Here is what you need to to stock on (requires one single trip to the big Asian supermarket like Kim Phat,Tai Food (smaller places would be more expensive) – don’t forget to bring this list with you:
THE BREAKDOWN FOR A RESTAURANT-STYLE MISO SOUP INGREDIENTS
– DRIED KOMBU SEAWEED (can last well-sealed in a pantry indefinitely) – the 100g/$3.99 pack lands me with around 20 batches of 4 cups dashi stock;  
– BONITO FLAKES (can last well-sealed in a pantry indefinitely) –  the 30g/$5.99 pack is enough for 4-5 batches of 4 cups dashi stock; 
– MISO PASTE  (can last in the fridge for up to 12 months) – the 500g/$9.99 pack of uber-healthy white non-pasterized miso paste by Hanamaruki brand (my preferred) makes 8 to 10 batches of 4 cups miso soup and can be used in tones of other recipes (NOTE: as a general guide, the darker is the miso, the longer fermentation it went through, so begin with white type of miso to gradually get used to the taste and proportions);
– SILKY/SOFT TOFU – the 200g/$1.99 pack is found in most major groceies, enough for 1-2 batches of 4 cups of soup;
– DRIED WAKAME SEAWEED (can last well-sealed in a pantry indefinitely) – the 100g/$2.99 pack lands me with around 40+ batches of 4 cups dashi stock; 
– DRIED SLICED SHITAKE MUSHROOMS (can last well-sealed in a pantry for up to 12 months) – the 100g/$4.99 pack lands me with around 20+ batches of 4 cups dashi stock;
Follow the recipe below for the few simple steps:

 And voila, your restaurant-style miso is ready!

Enjoy your first real miso! I will come back with more takes on it.

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One Year Ago: 
Rosemary Oatcake Crackers
Candid Citrus Peel DIY

Two Years Ago:
Pear Yogurt Granola Muffins
Home-Made Granola

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CLASSIC RESTAURANT STYLE MISO SOUP
Yields: 3 to 4 portions
Ingredients for the dashi stock:
4 cups water, OR rainbow vegetable broth without beets
5-6 of 2-inch pieces of kombu (dried kelp)
4 tbsp (1/2 cup) loosely packed bonito flakes (katsuobushi), optional
Ingredients for the miso soup:
2 tbsp dried sliced shitake mushrooms (optional), soaked in cold water to reconstitute 
½ to 1 pound silken/soft tofu, cubed
2 tbsp wakame seaweed
4 tbsp white miso, OR mix of red and white miso paste
3 scallions, minced
Instructions: 
To make the dashi stock combine water/broth and kombu in a saucepan and bring the mix to boil. Simmer for 10 to 40 minutes (depending on how strong you want the flavor of seaweed)* Remove kombu and add bonito flakes, if using. Bring the stock to simmer, remove from heat and let bonito flakes steep for 5-20 minutes. Strain the stock through the mesh and discard bonito flakes.  Add some boiled water or stock to bring the quantity back to 4 cups.
Bring the broth to simmer and add shitake mushrooms. Simmer for 1 minute. Add tofu – don’t boil, because it will ruin the distinct flavor of dashi.
Dissolve miso paste in a cup of hot broth separately. Pour the miso mix back into the stock, add wakame and scallion, warm through (don’t bring the stock to boil) for 1 minute. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.
*Please note that restaurant chefs prefer to cook kombu longer for more intense flavor.

Asian Style Chicken Soup I Make Over & Over Again

Ginseng Chicken Soup Version
This is my super bowl for Super Bowl: the total winner and ultimate energy booster. Each time I make this soup I can’t get enough of it (one hundred percent serious). The exact name of it is: Ginseng Chicken Soup (Samgyetang in Korean). There is also a Chinese variety of this soup called ‘medicinal’or ‘healing’ soup for cough. If you have cold or the flu, a bowl of this soup may be your best medicine. I first made it few years ago curious about the idea of the rice stuffing, clear broth and all the new ingredients (to me) in it like ginseng and jujubes (Chinese dried dates). 
Tosokchon Restaurant in Seoul via Kampungboycitygal

Traditionally this soup is served in Korea in summer to engineer spontaneous sweating and counter-balance the heat.  For me, there’s no season for it. I like it rain or shine and find it specifically intensely nourishing during our 6 months-long Canadian winter-cold weather. It’s also not just a soup, but a bowl of a wonderful complete meal: with remarkably different nuances in taste, highly aromatic clear stock, mouth-watering chicken and delicate congee-like mix of rice that would absorb the flavors of broth and chicken and the sweetness of dates and goji berries. The ginseng adds a subtle bitter taste (barely noticeable), while garlic and chestnuts complete this insanely tasty composition with zero of in-your-face bold flavor. Shortly, it tastes like the king of the chicken soup for soul to me (if there’s such thing) evoking warm and fuzzy feeling (that lasts for a few hours after) almost instantly and creating the memory of almost luxurious meal.

In Korea this soup is a symbol of attainment. The recipe goes well into the depth of Korean history itself and, as usually for such case there are multiple varieties of this dish. A few known restaurants in Seoul are specialized in just serving this soup to celebrate and honor Korean food heritage (see above image). The strictly authentic version of this Koreans dish asks for exactly 49-days young old free range chicken and 4-years old Geumsan cultivated ginseng. Other players are:  glutinous rice, Jujubes (Chinese dates), chestnuts/pine nuts, wolf berries (goji), garlic and sometimes ginger, which might sound like a strange lineup of ingredients, but ultimately results in the better, more comforting chicken soup you ever tried.
Ginseng Chicken Soup Ingredients
The downside of this dish is that it requires a trip to the Asian supermarket, as you won’t find most of the ingredients in your local grocery. On the upside, any young free range chicken would be good for this recipe (I use Cornish hen most of the time). The Silkie black chicken however is considered to be the best for this dish in Korea (again, only available in Asian supermarkets).
Silky Chicken via Wikimedia Commons
Black Chicken Ginseng Soup
I kind of slightly cringe at the color of it and its other properties: black skin and bones, blue earlobes, five toes on each foot (all other chicken have just four), fluffy white plumage that feels like silk. No kidding, it reminds me of voodoo sacrifice I’ve seen in Havana or the Pompeii museum artifacts. I suggest you trip over the YUK thing in advance if you are ready to be a good chef: it’s sold with its feet and head still on.  I admit the color of the silkie chic is an acquired thing. But it tastes truly outstanding and decadent, like no other chicken I’ve tried.
Silky Black Chicken Ginseng Soup
For the best results, please apply the following tips:
Use free range chicken like Cornish hen or black Silkie. One chicken is plenty for two generous portions, although one super-hungry adult can eat it all by himself.
Thaw it in a fridge overnight if necessary, rinse and pat/dry well. Although it’s not necessary, I also scald the stuffed chicken with boiling water prior to covering it with boiled water to ensure the clean/clear stock.
I cooked this dish in pans and clay/ceramic pots, on the stove and in the oven. I find the tastiest version is coming for the oven cooked chicken in the clay/ceramic pot or Dutch oven.
Soak rice mixed with dried ingredients in cold water for 20 minutes; drain and mix with goji berries, few jujubes (I use them not  pitted, but you can remove pits if wish be) and garlic.
Don’t over-stuff the chicken cavity: rice will expand during the cooking process and might break the seal if it is overstuffed.
Stuffing Chicken with Rice, goji berries, jujubes and garlic for Ginseng Chicken Soup
Optionally, I add a few 2 inch pieces of dried kombu (Japanese kelp seaweed) in the stock for the boost of umami and extra layer of favor.
Dried Kombu Kelp Seaweed
Finally, I also add a small shallot (gives extra flavor and benefit) and a bunch of parsley at the end (for clear stock): discard both before serving.
Don’t overcook the chicken: it has to fall of the bone, but still keep the shape intact (the smaller is the hen the less it will take to cook).
When ready to serve, season chicken with minced scallions and a dash of Sriracha for some heat (optional).  Serve with quality salt on a side to dip the chicken. You can also add some fresh bok choy into the soup once is still out of the oven piping hot.  
Ginseng Chicken Soup Garden Style
This dish is very forgiving. One day I really craved it, but only had Cornish hen: no ginseng, jujubes, sweet rice or other exotic ingredients. I did have goji berries and chestnuts. I also had Arborio/jasmine rice and regular dried dates in my pantry; and some fresh parsley roots, green peas, scallions and chives from the garden, plus ginger. I decided to pull it off anyways with what I had at hand and it worked marvelously.  The soup still got a very special delicate aroma, tasted divine and was devoured in a snap even without added benefits of missing ginseng.
Ginseng Chicken Soup Steps
The fresh ginseng is the most expensive ingredient in the recipe. Not to be discouraged: for $6.00-$8.00 you get enough of it for at least three batches. It can last in the fridge (in a closed plastic container) for up to 6 months (that’s how potent it is!).
Fresh American Ginseng
Once I didn’t have the fresh ginseng and used a package of dried one mixed in with other herbs designed to flavor this soup from the Asian supermarket (price is between $3.00 -$4.00) called Ginseng Soup Mix (FDA approved, HA!). It had some extra herbs like dried lotus seeds, astragalus and angelica roots, etc. – all adding to the healing powers of the dish. It worked very well too.
Ginseng Soup Dried Mix from Kim Phat Asian Supermarket
A few final words about the benefits of Samgyetang (Korean Chicken Ginger Soup. Due to its powerful ingredients, this dish (I compiled the nutritional data from different legit sources):
Promotes a sense of well-being;
Helps prevent and fight colds and flu;
Has a powerful diuretic action supporting healthy kidney function;
Helps detox, alkalize the body;
Promotes efficient metabolism, tissue growth and repair (it is believed to strengthen stomach lining and digestive track);
Helps lower blood cholesterol, improve blood circulation and calm the nerves;
Helps strengthen and boost the immune system;
Helps maintain energy levels and increases potency (considered to be a sex booster in Korea, it’s often served to the newlyweds).
Did I just honor myself with a Gangham merit badge for this recipe? Yes, please.
Psy, Gangham Style, New Year’s Eve 2013
Although, I feel more like Ashley MacIsaac’s fiddle in the Last Girl on Earth when/upon eating this soup. I hope this article will inspire you for a little thrill of discovery and the new energy booster you will find with this dish. FYI, the Silkie black chicken often goes on special between Western and Chinese New Year – don’t miss the chance to try it. Turn it on, you won’t regret it!
Ginseng Chicken Korean Soup
CHICKEN GINSENG HEALING SOUP
Ingredients:
1 Cornish or Silky black hen (about 1.5 pounds)
1 fresh American ginseng root, washed
½ cup sweet (glutinous) rice
2 tbsp goji berries (dried wolf berries)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 chestnuts, shelled
8 jujubes (Chinese dried dates, pitted if necessary)
1 knob (1-2 inch) of ginger
3 scallions, white part OR 1 shallot
2 dried kombu (kelp seaweed) pieces (optional)
5-6 cups of boiling spring water
1 bunch of fresh parsley (optional)
Garnish & Serving:
2 green scallions, minced
2-3 baby bok choy or other Asian green
Sea salt and pepper served on a side for dipping
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F.*
Rub the chicken generously with sea salt inside out. Pat dry with paper towels and let air dry for 30 minutes. In the meantime, soak the rice in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain the rice and mix with 1 tablespoon of goji berries, two garlic cloves, 4 jujubes and 4 chestnuts. Stuff the chicken cavity with the rice mix. Use the toothpick to secure/stitch the cavity, OR, if not enough skin close the cavity with chicken feet. Optionally, place the chicken on the heat-proof plate in the clean sink and scald with boiling water (make sure to direct the water away from the cavity seal). Place it carefully into a clay/ceramic pot or Dutch oven. Place the ginseng root and remaining garlic, goji and jujubes around the chicken. Add ginger, scallions/shallot and kombu. Bring 5-6 cups of water to boil and pour over the chicken carefully. Cover with foil+lid and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350F and cook for 1 ½ hour. Remove from the oven and add the parsley bouquet. Return to the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let the soup sit for 10 minutes before serving. Discard the parsley and the toothpick. Cut the chicken in half with paring knife without removing it from the pot. Place the chicken halves in serving bowls, ladle the broth with rice over. Add bok choy.  Garnish with green scallions. Serve immediately with sea salt on a side to dip the chicken pieces.
*For the stove method, bring the soup to boil upon assembling, turn the heat to simmer and cook covered for 1hour and 45 minutes.