This endless and bone chilling winter is really getting old. In times like these, comfort food is in order. But the steaming pots of beef stew, pasta, bread and cheese haven’t tasted quite as good since my pants have been cutting off my circulation. I’m certainly not looking to cut these essential food groups out, but sometimes I need another hot, comforting meal that makes me feel like, one day, I can wear shorts again.
I decided to make a hot, soba noodle soup. It would have a flavorful but light broth and lots of veggies. And, soba noodles are made from buckwheat which sounds awfully healthful to me.
This is the kind of soup that can handle whatever combination of veggies you’re craving or have in the fridge. And, once you have a few basic “specialty items” for the broth on hand – miso paste, soba noodles, soy sauce, and instant dashi – it’s something you can easily whip up anytime after a quick run through the produce aisle. If you can’t find the instant dashi or soba in a typical market, it’s worth taking a walk over to your nearest Asian market. Having taken several trips to Japan, visiting an Asian market in New York transports me back there without the jet lag. Just walking down the aisles, discovering new ingredients and gadgets is enough to turn your frigid day around. Side note: This is also a great place to pick up delicious Japanese sushi rice. When you’re in need of even simpler comfort food, try it steamed in a rice cooker (yes, I sprung for one, but I had a coupon) and topped with a little butter, salt and pepper. I could just eat that all day, but I have to fit into those shorts.
It was almost meditative as I prepared the base for the broth. Note: I used to think peeling ginger was incredibly annoying until I picked up the spoon trick.
After I threw the ingredients for the broth base in the pot to slowly simmer and steep, there was plenty of time to dice up my veggies, cook the soba and prep a large bowl with the noodles, tofu and scallions. Once the broth was strained, I threw in the veggies to get tender and, after a few minutes, added the adorable little enoki mushrooms I had found. Their tender and sweet flavor is wonderful… but the little mushroom caps also remind me of Super Mario Bros. which makes them irresistible.
Adding a dash of soy sauce, I turned off the heat before stirring in the miso paste. (Miso gets grainy if it cooks on the heat.)
This recipe could really serve 4, but I didn’t need to serve 4. I filled that huge bowl up to the brim. It was cold out, after all, and I needed my strength. I bit down on those fresh vegetables and slurped chewy, nutty noodles in a hot, not-too-salty, umami-rich broth. It was comfort food, but it was also wholesome and clean. The little groundhog in my head slowly emerged from his burrow and did not see his shadow. Spring will come soon and I’ll be ready.
Soba Noodle Soup with Miso and Veggies
4 cups water
1 bunch of scallion, white and light green parts thinly sliced, green stalks reserved
1 bunch baby bok choy, thinly sliced (or any desired green such as spinach, chard or cabbage)
2 cloves of garlic
2 inches peeled and sliced ginger
5-6 inch piece of lemongrass, cut vertically and sliced
2-3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 package enoki mushrooms, roots removed and chopped in half
1/2 teaspoon instant dashi
1/4 cup shiro (white) miso paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
8 ounces extra firm tofu, cubed
dried soba noodles
Bring 4 cups of water to a simmer along with chopped scallion tops (green), 2 smashed garlic cloves, ginger, sliced lemongrass and instant dashi. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook soba noodles according to package directions or until al dente (approximately 6 minutes), drain and set aside. Drain broth base through a fine sieve and return to pot. Bring back up to a low simmer and add carrots, half of sliced scallions and bok choy. Simmer for 10 minutes, add mushrooms and cook additional 5 minutes. Add soy sauce. Turn off heat and stir in miso paste until fully combined.
Place soba noodles in large bowls along with cubed tofu and a large pinch of scallions. Ladle soup on top of the noodles and enjoy.