Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gentle and Warm Comfort

This is not the post I had intended to write today.  I had *intended* to post about a very good, if unplanned day in the kitchen I had earlier this week.  That post will come, in time.

Today, I woke up late.  Way later than I wanted to, even for me.  And when I woke up, it was cold.  And I was cold.  Cold in the house, and cold outside, and cold in my bones and cold in my soul and brain.

Yes, cold.  OK, it's a Southern California cold.  The house thermometer showed it was below 65°F in the living room, and the patio thermometer read just a hair over that around mid-afternoon.  For us, in mid-April, that's cold.  And it was windy.  We'd had a bit of a pseudo-storm blow through yesterday, which the weather weenies were saying was a very, VERY unusual, "winter-type storm event" in the Spring.  Some areas got a deluge and thunderstorms, some areas got brief interludes of hail, and our local mountains got snow.  Me?  I got about 2 minutes' worth of spitting rain on Friday late afternoon, and cold winds from then 'til now.  I have my heater running, and I can't remember the last time I ran the heater this late in the year, ever.  And I've lived in this house for 40 or so years.

Anyway, for me, in SoCal, it's cold for April.  And I had some tsuris in my mind and soul which made me colder.  I woke up, let the girls out, and felt chilled to my core.  I thought about running the errand I'd planned, and making the dinner I planned, but the only thing that sounded good to me was my blankie.  So, after sleeping a bit longer than I ever intended today, and putzing around the house a bit, and reading a bit, and watching TV a bit (Saturdays are still good here for PBS cooking shows), I took a little nap with a couple of willing, snuggly dogs.  When we finally roused ourselves, I realized we were still going to need to eat something.  The girls of course, were easy.  Pull the can of IAMS out of the fridge to warm up a bit.

For me, my first thought was, as it frequently is on these "cold,  blue" days, just to have a bowl of cereal for dinner, and call it done.  But that was too....cold.  My next thought was what I call my "Bad Day Blue Box" of macaroni and cheese.  Yes, I'm ashamed to admit it.  I do eat (and enjoy, there, I've said it), Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  But I *HAVE* up-classed a bit from my childhood.  At least now I get the "Deluxe" kind with the squeezie cheese goo, rather than the powder that has to be reconstituted.  I like it.  It's pure comfort food, and easy and warm in the tummy.  Like a hug when I'm in that blue grumpy mood.

But today, on my way to the "Bad Day Blue Box", I spotted a package of konbu and a package of katsuboshi I'd purchased about a month ago at a local Asian market, with the intent of *someday* making dashi  for "real" miso soup.  I had the miso, I had the makings for dashi, I had some veg I could throw into the broth, so I decided I was there.  No tofu.  Don't stock it, don't like it.  I've tried, still don't like it.  I'll eat it in hot & sour soup, or miso soup, in a restaurant, but reluctantly, and mostly not to be a rube and offensive.

So.  I did the requisite web search to find some proportions (because the instructions on both the konbu and katsuboshi packages were written in Asian pictographs I don't read), and off I went.  I soaked the konbu in water for about 10 minutes, after wiping it down, then brought it to a gentle boil.  Plucked the konbu out, and let the resulting broth come to a full boil.  Then I dumped in the katsuboshi flakes, and stirred them around a bit.  I cut the heat, and let them steep for another 10 minutes in the hot broth.  Then I strained the broth through a sieve lined with a paper towel, back into another saucepan.  As I was bringing the broth back to a boil, I tossed in some thinly sliced carrots.  (The add-ins for miso soup on the web site I found suggested potatoes, tofu, sweet potatoes, carrots, scallions, peas, etc.)   Again, this is a tofu-free zone, and potato didn't seem right to me.  So I went with carrots, scallion and some beautiful, FRESH sugar snap peas from my CSA (we'll talk about my CSA in the future....they're amazing).  After the broth got back to a boil, I ladled out about half of it into a bowl with the miso paste (I had red miso) and stirred it around to dissolve it.  Then I stirred THAT back into the pot, added the thinly sliced scallion and peas, and let all of that warm up and soften.

This was the first time I'd made miso soup at home.

My first reaction was "it tastes just like what I get at Japanese restaurants".  Which was a GOOD thing, because the dashi alone smelled, well......fuhhhnn-kaayyyyyy.

Then I took a big, deep breath, and realized I'd been warmed.  I was....WARM.  From the inside.  From the outside.  From my gut.  Gently.  That was how I'd describe that miso soup.  Gentle.  It was like someone wrapping a warmed blanket around me.  My hands warmed up.  My feet warmed up.  My brain warmed up and my tsuris and blue grumpies vaporized.

I was warmed.  Life looked a bit better.  The storm clouds, literally and figuratively, cleared.

Unfortunately, miso soup is not tremendously photogenic, but here is the wonder broth that restored my spirit tonight.

The girls?  They got the leftover veggies (carrots and peas, no onion) mixed in with their IAMS.

Yes, the heat's still running, but my world is warmer due to miso soup.


  1. Actually, I think that is gorgeous. What kind of miso? It looks very red - like a good tomato broth!

  2. Hey Kim !

    It was a red miso (the strongest). I know that's not so traditional for miso soup, but at the time I bought it, it was all I could find. I actually liked it with the dashi, it was a very deep, rich flavor.