Moving Toward the Light: A Sweet and Sour Dish for Spring

By Larch On February 11th, 2011

In deep winter, we tend to eat more heavily cooked, salted and fatty foods, but now it’s time to lighten up. This is a basic sweet and sour dish, easy as making a salad and dressing. Once you have made it, you will come up with infinite variations. First, the sauce: In a cup and a half of water, simmer a few strips of digitata kelp, half a cup of raisins, two teaspoons of caraway seeds, a teaspoon of honey, and a few drops of tamari in a small sauce pan. Stir to dissolve the honey. Squeeze a lemon, but don’t add it to the sauce pan yet. Now chop vegetables: a cup of thinly sliced red cabbage, half a cup of thinly sliced carrot rounds and half a cup of sliced red onion. Melt 2-3 tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil in a fry pan you can cover, and saute’ the cabbage/onion/carrot mixture at low heat. While these vegetables are being saute’d, cut a quarter cup of matchstick daikon radish and a quarter cup of thin rutabaga rectangles. Slice the body of a leek into quarter-inch rounds, and scissors-cut a couple of leek leaves into quarter-inch pieces. Remove the digitata from the sauce pan and scissors-cut it into triangles. Now arrange these veggies on top of the saute’d veggies, stir the lemon juice into the sauce, pour the sauce over the veggies, cover and steam at medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. While the veggies are steaming, scissors-cut a scallion or two, and add them to the pan for the final minute of steaming. Don’t overcook. Spring is coming! It’s time to Lighten Up!

Sweet & Sour Veggies

Umami Soup

By Larch On January 9th, 2011

Umami is the fifth taste, after sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Both the tongue and the stomach have receptors for the taste which can be described as savory, meaty, or brothy. The umami receptors signal the body to start digesting foods, especially proteins. Umami is an underlying taste that makes everything else in this soup taste more delicious and appetizing. When you make this soup, make a lot, because you are going to have a good appetite! This soup doesn’t use meat for its basic stock, its dashi. Instead it relies on plant-based ingredients that are umami-rich: digitata kelp (see www.theseaweedman.com), shiitake mushrooms, and shoyu soy sauce. So here’s a picture of the first step:

Dashi Ingredients

Fill a four quart soup pot half full. Soften a six inch strip of digitata kelp in water and then cut it up in half inch pieces with a scissors or knife. Yes, it’s slippery. That’s the sodium alginate which is a great detoxifier for the body. Add the digitata, turn up the heat, then add a few eighth-inch thick slices of ginger and plenty of peeled garlic cloves. Add a few dried shiitake mushrooms. Once they have rehydrated, remove them, cut them into small pieces, and add them back. Add thyme and shoyu to taste. Simmer this dashi (Japanese soup stock) for at least half an hour. While you are simmering the dashi, cut up root vegetables to add to the soup.

Sliced Root Veggies

The photo includes carrot, red potato, daikon radish, turnip, rutabaga, and beets, and you could also add onion, burdock root, celery root, salsify. This soup builds from the sea to the soil to the air, and in evolutionary terms, it starts with ancient kelp and primitive mushrooms and then progresses toward the plants that have been brought from the wild into the garden. So slice them up thin and pretty, and add them to the pot, starting with the hardest roots that will require the longest cooking, proceeding toward the softer roots that won’t need as much time. When the roots are almost ready to eat, you will add chopped greens for the final three minutes of cooking and cover the pot. Use a variety of greens, and use a lot. The soup pot should be near full by now. Here’s a photo of winter greens from our unheated greenhouse in January:

Soup Greens

Kale and parsley and celery are always good additions, beet greens and spinach will bring variety, and even carrot tops, minced fine, will work. Top the soup with chopped scallions and serve hot.

Dashi Veggie Soup

Now here’s a wonderful addition: In a separate pot, cook rice pasta for 15 minutes until al dente, drain the noodles, add them to the soup, and you now have umami vegetable noodle soup! I like this photo Nina took. I told her it reminds me of two little boats gently knocking together at the dock in the harbor.

Vegetable Noodle Dashi Soup

Sea Gypsy Soup

By Larch On December 9th, 2010

Sea Gypsy Soup

This is a late fall soup that’s been warming us up. Outside there’s a bit of snow on the ground, daylight is short, and we spend more time in the kitchen, slow cooking our food. This soup has the warm colors of orange vegetables, flecked with green vegetables. Make a big pot, and I’ll show you some ways that you can brighten its flavor on the second day.

You will need 1 and 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas, so the first step is soak 3/4 cup dry chick peas overnight and then cook them with a 3 inch strip of kelp or digitata kelp for 1 and 1/2 hours. Nights are long. You’ve got time. And besides, if you cook more chickpeas, you can use them to make hummus with lemon juice, raw garlic, salt and tahini ! (No charge for the extra recipe.)

The second step is to cook 1/4 cup of brown rice with two tablespoons of seaweed soup mix (see www.theseaweedman.com) and five cups of water for half an hour to make a stock. While the stock cooks, cut up the vegetables for the next steps, and don’t worry if the stock cooks longer than half an hour.

The third step is in a soup pot, saute’ 2 cups chopped onions and 3 cloves of garlic (minced) in 4 tablespoons of coconut oil (unrefined) until translucent. Add three cups peeled and chopped sweet potatoes or winter squash and saute’ for five minutes. Add these spices: 2 tsp. Hungarian paprika (sweet), 1/2 tsp. tumeric, 1 tsp. basil, 1 tsp. sea salt (or more) to taste, pepper to taste, a dash of cinnamon, a dash of cayenne to taste, and two bay leaves. Add the rice/seaweed soup stock and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes can be mashed roughly with a potato masher. Do it!

The fourth step is add 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes, 3/4 cup yellow and/or red sweet peppers, 1/2 cup sliced carrots, 1 and 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup chopped green beans or peas, and simmer for 5 more minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped parsley and one tablespoon tamari. That’s it! A masterpiece!

On the second day, squeeze a lime to make a sweet & sour soup, add cumin and cut corn, or serve with corn chips. Add more parsley. Voila! A new soup!

Pear-Dulse Salad

By Larch On October 25th, 2010

Taste it! Sliced pears (soaked in lemon water to prevent browning) encircling a bed of grated carrot, topped with chopped celery, toasted pecans, and rehydrated dulse cut finely with scissors or knife. Dress with fresh orange juice and olive oil, half & half.

Pear dulse salad

Veggie Soup with Seaweed Soup Mix

By Larch On October 25th, 2010

Life evolved from single-celled creatures living in the nutrient-rich ocean. Seaweeds concentrate these nutrients, and when you make soup that includes seaweed, you are nourishing your body’s inner ocean that is around and in the cells of your body. The Seaweed Soup Mix offered at theseaweedman.com is a chopped blend that is 60% laminaria digitata kelp (similar to Japanese kombu used to make dashi, a delicious soup broth), 25% alaria esculenta (similar to Japanese wakame), and 15% laminaria longicruris, a delicate Maine kelp. This is the blend that I use in my own kitchen. I serve soup several times a week. After all, our bodies are mostly water, and we transact with seaweed and veggies at the level of water. Here is a recipe:

I start by filling a four quart soup pot half full of water. I turn on the heat and add four tablespoons of Seaweed Soup Mix. I add three tablespoons of rice or barley. I add a couple of slices of ginger root. I add three dried shitake mushrooms. I peel a few cloves of garlic and toss them in. When the pot comes to a boil, I turn down the┬áheat. When the mushrooms have rehydrated, I remove them to cool, and then I slice them and return them to the soup pot. In a separate pan, I saute’ a medium size sliced onion with liberal sprinkles of thyme. I like to use sesame oil or coconut oil. When the onion slices are golden, I set them aside. I slice root crops like carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, beets, and turnips. When the grain is al dente (soft enough to chew), I add the root crops. If I want a sweeter soup, I might add a few slices of delicata squash and some cut sweet corn. (In midsummer, I would add cut string beans and summer squash.) During the last three minutes of cooking, I add greens like parsley and kale, and I add the saute’d onions. I season with Eden organic shoyu soy sauce (no alcohol) and sometimes a dash of cayenne. I serve up the soup with a topping of fresh parsley and/or chopped chives. When I reheat this soup on the second day, I add more parsley. The seaweed creates a rich creamy broth that boosts the savory flavors of this soup. Yum!

Seaweed Vegetable Soup