shiitake-miso soup

The holidays are (almost) officially over… phew! In the past 5 days, Chris and I have celebrated 4 Christmases and a birthday in 3 different states. Nothing to complain about of course, but that all amounts to a LOT of eating! So while discussing dinner on our drive home today in a car stuffed with cookies and chocolates (in between mouthfulls of trail mix of course, from one of our gifts) we decided we wanted something on the lighter side for dinner. I also noted that it would be a great soup day, considering the sheets of rain that haven’t let up for the past 8 hours, and I remembered a segment from some morning show the other day about hearty healthy immune boosting soups for the winter. There was one that we really wanted to make, a shiitake-miso soup, but after searching for that recipe on my iphone for over half an hour, I gave up and decided to wing it and make my own based on some of the ingredients we already had. You can enjoy this on a cold rainy day, or if you’re catching your annual winter dose of yuck — which, amazingly enough, knock on wood, I haven’t caught this year! I don’t know if it’s the flu shot or the not having finals anymore to wear me down, but I’ll take it. And this soup will help. The mushrooms contain phytochemicals which lower cholesterol and have even been shown to have anti-cancer properties, and an active compound called lentinan that revs up your immune system. The seaweed contains the broadest range of minerals of any food, in addition to reducing the body’s inflammatory response and also being an anti-cancer food. So here we have it, my own version of shiitake-miso soup:

In a large pot, sauté 1 bunch of chopped scallions, 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger, and 3-4 cloves chopped garlic in 1 tbsp sesame oil for about 1 minute. Add to that about 3/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced. (You can also use dried shiitakes instead of fresh but make sure to soak them according to the package directions first). Cook for 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat and then add 4 cups unsalted vegetable stock and 3 cups water and about 2 1/2 tbsp white miso. Next add about 4 bunches of chopped baby bok choy, and about 6 strips of kombu (kombu is a type of kelp; you can find it at most Asian-run grocery stores near the dried seaweed). Finally, add some bonito flakes or 1-2 tbsp furikake rice seasoning with 2 tsp fish sauce (these are rough guidelines, but do it according to your taste). Simmer for about half an hour, and then remove the kombu strips and throw them away (they’re only for flavoring). Add a 14 oz block of firm tofu, cubed, and I also added a spoonful of sambal oelek red chili paste for a little heat. Serve with nori strips for a little extra delicious flavor, and a dash of sriracha or soy sauce if you like.

shiitake-miso soup

shiitake-miso soup


root vegetable latkes with homemade applesauce

While I’ve never – to my memory – celebrated Hanukkah (although my stepmother owns a menorah which I can remember being lit occasionally and I think I got a hat once as a present), this year I decided to use the holiday as an excuse to try my hand at making latkes. Now of course, because it’s me, I attempted to health-ify them just a little (only in that they’re not completely submerged in oil and deep fried) and make them nontraditional by using a variety of root veggies instead of just potatoes. Root vegetables can be fairly interchangeable in my experience, and adding parsnips, sweet potatoes, and leeks to your latkes bumps up the fiber and Vitamin A content. And the flavor is so much more interesting and complex! I read a few recipes, just trying to get a sense of proportions, and then did this:

Take 1 small baking potato, 1 small sweet potato, and 1 parsnip, peel them, and shred them using a cheese grater. Add 1 tsp of salt to the mix and let it sit for 20 minutes, squeezing out as much moisture as possible afterwards – the regular potato will have the most moisture. Then add to the mixture 1 small grated yellow onion and 1 very finely chopped leek (stopping at the dark green part). Stir in some freshly ground pepper, about 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and about 1/3 cup egg whites. Form into patties – if they fall apart (which mine did at first – a LOT), you need to adjust the amount of egg white and flour until they’re sticky. Generously coat the bottom of a pan with some vegetable oil with a high smoke point (I use safflower or sunflower oil) and heat the oil until very hot. Drop the patties in and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, then transferring to a baking sheet. You’ll have to do this in stages; just make sure the new oil gets hot enough before adding each round of latkes, otherwise they’ll just soak up the oil and not brown. Once all the latkes are browned, bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until cooked through. Serve with sour cream (or Greek yogurt, like these) and applesauce. Homemade applesauce is super easy by the way – just peel a few apples, chop them up into very small pieces, and heat on the stove with a touch of water and cinnamon until the consistency is saucy. You can also use an immersion blender if you like smooth applesauce.

Root vegetable latkes with homemade applesauce and Greek yogurt

Root vegetable latkes with homemade applesauce and Greek yogurt

Happy Hanukkah!