Archive for the ‘soup’ Category

Looking back, I’ve been at this blog thing for 14 years. That’s a long damn time. Much to my surprise, its a teenager. Some years I’ve fairly active, others – like last year – I’m rather neglectful. The level of activity usually corresponds with my workload as a recipe/product developer which tends to sap my creativity, time and energy. It happens. I can’t make any promises for the coming year other than I’ll try. Saying that, I’m starting with one to celebrate the Lunar New Year that at first glance might seem a bit ridiculous. Homemade noodles. Only two ingredients and some kneading that you can do with your feet. Really. That alone should have piqued your interest. Stick with me here.

During the pandemic to make ends meet, I did zoom cooking classes for a west coast company; mostly corporate parties and events. I’d receive the recipes and most of the ingredients, log in, turn on my camera and away we went. They were pretty fun and I got a kick out of watching everyone cooking in their own kitchens. One class was fresh udon noodles and miso soup with a fun twist. Apparently in Japan before the advent of manufacturing technology, wheat udon noodles were traditionally kneaded for up to six hours by foot. As gluten development is necessary for that wonderful bouncy chew, kneading by foot allowed the noodle makers to put their whole weight into it. Makes a lot of sense if you remove your disbelief and think about it. Easier on the hands too. I’ve been told that there are restaurant/bars in Tokyo that hand you a bag of dough upon entry and you hit the dance floor to work your dough. Hand it off to the server and they bring your disco noodle soup to you when its ready. Note: my Japanese colleague laughed out loud when I asked him about this so I have no first hand confirmation but it sure sounds like fun. I would absolutely do this.

I realize for Americans, this seems very very strange. Discomforting even. Put aside that disbelief and give it a try. It’s really very easy and the result is wonderful, especially if you live somewhere that doesn’t have easy access to this type of noodles. Relax – there is no direct foot-to-noodle contact. The dough is in a plastic bag wrapped in a tea towel. Then you just let loose, smooshing and pressing the dough with your feet, putting all your weight into it. Its remarkably effective. I like to use a combination of moves involving a very effective heel smash and a throwback to my ballet training – a relevé, slowly rising up on my toes and back down. Consider it a pre meal workout. Now then, if this is all just a bit much for you, you can do all the kneading by hand or my mother has told me she makes these noodles quite successfully in her KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook. Um, ok but that’s not nearly as fun. Too each their own.

Today we’ll make the noodles and I’ve included a simple miso soup recipe. The next post, if I get my act together, will be a quick and easy stir-fry noodle dinner. So get ready, cue up your favorite dance playlist and flex those feet. Noodles are on your horizon.

STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: DANCE DANCE DANCE. Talk about a stress reliever! Dance all over that bag of dough and you’ll feel 100 times better. Kids think this is hilarious – put that youthful energy to work. These noodles are wonderful. Really really wonderful – chewy, a little bouncy, just delicious. They are ridiculously easy too – just 2 ingredients. You can have fresh noodles and a delicious soup in under an hour. What’s better on these chilly days than some great noodles and a warming, comforting soup? Nothing.


Serves 2

You can use any vegetables for the broth that you like. Save the prep work to do while the noodle dough is resting. Same with the proteins – you can use virtually anything you like or have on hand. Everything should be pre-cooked but you can slip raw shrimp into the hot broth at the end as they’ll cook quickly.

For the noodles:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup warm water

For the miso broth:

3 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken stock

¼ cup thinly sliced carrots

¼ cup snow peas, sliced on the diagonal

¼ cup thinly sliced mushrooms

2 Tablespoons white miso

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 Tablespoon mirin (can substitute sake, shaoxing rice wine or ½ teaspoon rice vinegar)

Optional seasonings: sesame oil, sriracha/chile paste

For optional garnishes:

1-2 large eggs

Optional protein: peeled deveined shrimp (3-4 per serving), cooked shredded chicken, diced firm tofu, sliced Japanese fish cake, BBQ pork, etc.

sesame seeds


scallion, sliced on the bias

  1. For the udon dough: place the flour in a large bowl, make a well in the center and mix in the water with a fork until combined and shaggy.
  2. Use your hands to squeeze and knead the dough in the bowl to pick up all the dry bits. It will be pretty dry and falling apart and that’s perfectly normal.
  3. Knead the dough, pressing with the heels of your hands until the dough comes together. It might be a little rough but further kneading will do the trick.
  4. Continue kneading with your hands for 7-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and springy OR place it in a gallon size Ziploc bag. Press out all the air, leaving a gap in the seal and lightly wrap the bag in a kitchen towel. Put the towel/bag on the floor and knead the dough with your bare feet (particularly the heel) for 7-10 minutes until soft and springy. Every once in a while gather the dough back into a ball, place back in the bag and continue kneading.
  5. Form the dough into a rectangle, place in the Ziploc bag, seal and let rest at least 20 minutes.
  6. For the egg(s): Fill the pot you’re going to boil the noodles in with cold water.
  7. Place the egg(s) in the pot (the water should cover the eggs) and bring to a boil over high heat. 
  8. Start the timer as soon as the water comes to a boil: 5 minutes for a jammy egg, 10 minutes for a hard boil.
  9. Immediately remove the egg from the boiling water and plunge into a bowl of ice water to cool. Turn off the heat and cover the pot to keep the water warm until you need it for the noodles.
  10. For the garnishes: slice the scallion on the bias. 
  11. Cut/slice/shred/peel any desired proteins (tofu, chicken, fish cake, etc.) 
  12. Peel the egg(s) once cool enough to handle (hold off slicing to just before serving.)
  13. If you haven’t already, prep the vegetables for the miso broth.
  14. Roll/cut the noodles: dust your work surface lightly with flour, place the dough down and lightly dust the top of the dough.
  15. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to about 8 ½” x 11” and 1/8” thick. Keep the dough moving, flipping and turning and lightly flouring as needed to prevent sticking but take care not to use too much extra flour.
  16. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and arrange with the long edge closest to you.
  17. Fold the dough in thirds, like a letter, top down then bottom up.
  18. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into thin strands. Try to make each cut the same width so the noodles are the same size and cook at the same rate. Ideally, the noodles should be as wide as the dough is thick – 1/8”.
  19. Unfold/unravel each strand and lightly toss with flour and let dry for a bit as the water comes back to a boil.
  20. Drop the noodles into the boiling water, give a stir and cook until tender 5-8 minutes depending on thickness. Cook for the least amount of time, test and add more time if needed to fully cook.
  21. Drain into a colander and give a quick rinse with cold water.
  22. For the miso broth: in a medium pot, bring the vegetable or chicken stock to a boil. 
  23. Lower the heat to medium, add firm vegetables, like the carrots, and cook until crisp-tender, 1-2 minutes. 
  24. Add softer vegetables, like the mushrooms and snow peas, and cook until slightly tender but still bright, about another minute. 
  25. Place the miso in a medium bowl, add a ladleful of hot broth and whisk until the miso is completely dissolved.
  26. Pour the mixture back into the pot and simmer on low to warm. Do not bring to a boil as the miso will become gritty. Note: if using raw shrimp or greens like spinach or bok choy tops, add them now, off the heat. They will cook in just a few minutes in the hot broth.
  27. Season with soy sauce, mirin and any optional seasonings. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  28. To serve: Divide the cooked noodles between two bowls.
  29. Ladle the miso broth and some of the vegetables over the noodles. Add any proteins, if using. Cut the egg(s) in half and place in each bowl. Garnish as desired with scallions, sesame seeds and/or nori.

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Last month, I spent a chunk of time caring for my mother, post surgery. This essentially consisted of me complaining how hot it was (115°F), cajoling her to do all her physical therapy, eating as much Mexican food as possible and cooking up a storm. I wanted to fill her freezer with easy meals that could be simply reheated in the coming weeks; healthy, comforting dishes that both she and other friends and family members could easily heat up for lunches and dinners without much fuss.


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I have three go to soups: chicken noodle, French onion and clam chowder. If they’re on the menu, I will order them. Always. I may stray now and again, but these are my constants. I was recently in a Cracker Barrel in a soupy mood and the two offerings of the day were: vegetable beef (never) and clam chowder (absolutely.) My friend asked the server if the clam chowder was New England (white), as opposed to the lesser known Manhattan (tomato based) or the even lesser known Rhode Island (brothy). We got a blank stare in return. Of course we did and we deserved it, the food snobs in a Cracker Barrel that we were.


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When the squashes start appearing in the farmers markets and grocery stores, I get a little twitchy. First, it’s a harbinger of fall. Summer’s over and the grey and cold where I live is inevitably on its way. After all these years you’d think I’d be used to this but I’m not. Second, the site of the first squashes and pumpkins make me want to cook warm, comforting, homey things. Then it happens: I’ll buy a bunch and they’ll sit on my kitchen table for weeks.


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Back in the days right out of college when I was scraping to get by, I survived on soup. It was easy to make, inexpensive and could be varied countless different ways. Meatless chilis, various vegetable concoctions and chicken-less chicken noodle were my standards. Soups were filling and they reheated beautifully in small office microwaves but more importantly, one could really stretch their dollar far with a pot or two. When you were saving any bit of extra cash to buy a few rounds of beer Friday night, this was important.


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I keep a strange schedule that follows no patterns. Such is the life of a freelance recipe developer – it’s a drought or a tsunami – and right now I’m drowning. Given that I’m cooking all day, when it comes time to actually make something for myself, I usually punt. Classic case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes, I tend to default to delivery, take out or nibbles here and there of leftover scraps from whatever I’ve made that afternoon. Sometimes it works out well, other times not so much. Case in point: my dinner the other night was a bowl of partially mashed edamame. That’s not even a thing. I spend a lot of time staring at the contents of my fridge and while I may shut the door and dial the number for Chinese delivery instead, I do get a lot of ideas this way. That’s how this post came together.


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It was a dreary day, typical of a Chicago spring, and I was looking for something to cook. I was tired of hearty soups, stews and pasta and was on the hunt for something light and bright. Something spring-like. Putzing around the internet for inspiration, going from one random link to another I came across something on the Eating Well website. Radish Soup. Was that a thing? The color caught my attention – a lovely shade of light pink. Curiosity piqued, I was about to find out if this was indeed a thing.


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Freezing rain always makes me want soup. Hot, hearty, comforting bowls of soup that warm from the inside out are just the thing for these times. I live in a very old apartment with unpredictable radiator heat. Over the winter my apartment is either blazing hot or a bit chilly and I monitor the temperature through a series of simple steps honed over years of experience – open the window a smidge, close the window, put on socks, take off a sweatshirt, hide under a blanket. It’s a little involved but I’ve figured out how to make it work. In these instances, soup works very well too. As does a good supply of comfy loungewear and thick socks.


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Today, the day after Thanksgiving, are you taking that picked apart carcass and making soup? No? Me neither, but to be fair, I haven’t hosted a Thanksgiving in years so I’m not usually left staring at stripped poultry bones the next day. I always go to someone else’s house, bring the pies and leave behind the leftovers. In some ways that’s good; no clean up to deal with. In other ways, it kind of stinks; no turkey-stuffing sandwiches. I also don’t get to make soup. No carcass means no soup. This year I’m traveling for the holiday and enjoyed my Thanksgiving meal in a restaurant so they’ll be none of this. I’m good with that but I do wonder where I might find a stuffing sandwich.


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I’ve been completely immersed in Olympic coverage the last two weeks. It’s pretty much all I’ve accomplished even with a trip to New York City and several Client meetings.  I watch in the morning. I watch at night. I watch late late night. I tape during the day and watch in between. And can I just say, across the board, the ladies are killing it. I’m finding the women’s sports much more exciting than the men’s this go round. Also, throughout the games, I’ve been inspired to cook with a Brazilian flair, making all sorts of dishes that fit the theme. For an Opening Ceremonies party, I made Brazilian cheese bread (pão de queijo) and feijoada that were both very delicious. In the interim I made Coconut Quindim, a lovely and very easy coconut flan and a tropical Fresh Mango Coconut Tea Cake. Then the other night I made this: a coconut milk based fish stew known as moqueta.

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