As you can see, I can't seem to stay away from my Sunday posting routine, and especially that of a series. So here it is, a new series with a simple and fairly open-ended premise: trying out new one-dish meals. Given that I am now a whole lot busier than I was during the A-Z series earlier this year, I expect that this one is going to be low-maintenance.
The first in the series is a soup from a wonderful new cookbook given to me as a graduation gift by my darling friend Laureen. She has that special knack of giving the most thoughtful and special gifts every single time. The cookbook is called Super Natural Cooking, written by a food blogger- Heidi Swanson of 101 cookbooks and Mighty Foods. In a world where it seems like a new cookbook is launched every minute or so, this is a very special body of work. While it has beautiful splashy pictures, it is completely unlike the usual glossy tomes- there is something very earthy about the colors and the paper that appeals to me. The central theme of this book is that it talks about "five ways to incorporate whole and natural ingredients into your cooking". It suggests specific and do-able ways to build a natural foods pantry, explore a wide variety of grains, cook by color (it is well-known that the darker the vegetable, the higher the level of certain micro-nutrients like anti-oxidants), know your superfoods and use natural sweeteners. Essentially, the books encourages the average home cook to look beyond the food in the supermarket and not be afraid to explore ingredients that may be nutritionally far superior. The Indian kitchen is already home to wonderful ingredients such as jaggery, millet, coconut oil and atta- the arrival of books such as these, touting these very foods, makes it more likely that they will be widely available in the US in the near future. This book is also encouraging me to look beyond ingredients that are familiar to me, and I hope to cook with quinoa, amaranth flour and miso in the coming months. Best of all, the recipes in the book are all vegetarian.
Today, I am making a simple and satisfying noodle soup from Super Natural Cooking. The new ingredient that I discovered via this recipe is udon noodles, a flat, beautifully geometrical wheat noodle that comes from Japanese cuisine and is cooked in a hundred different ways. I found a packet at Whole Foods.
I am slowly starting to discover, learn and love many cuisines from around the world, but Japanese cuisine remains mysterious and a little intimidating. While Japanese ingredients are being used in this recipe, the soup overall is an Asian hodge-podge, with the Japanese noodles and shoyu (a Japanese soy sauce), fragrant Thai curry paste and a complex blend of flavors- sweet, sour, spicy and salty. The soup does not call for vegetables, but I added some fresh green beans to make this a complete meal.
Curry Noodle Soup(Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson, serves 2-3)
4 oz udon noodles
2 T peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 t Thai red curry paste
1 C green beans, cut into bite size pieces
1 C tofu cubes
3/4 C coconut milk
2 C water
1 t turmeric powder
2 T shoyu/ soy sauce
1 T sugar
1 T lemon juice
handful of roasted chopped peanuts
slices of scallions/ spring onions
1. Boil a large pot of water and cook the udon noodles until barely tender (they will get cooked further in the hot soup). Drain them and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil and saute onion and garlic until fragrant and starting to brown. Add the red curry paste and stir until aromatic.
3. Stir in green beans and cook until tender.
4. Add tofu, coconut milk, water, turmeric, soy sauce and sugar. Simmer the soup for 10 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat. Add lemon juice and cooked udon noodles.
6. Serve hot, garnished with peanuts, scallions and/or cilantro.
Heidi calls this a "slurp and slop bowl" which describes this noodle soup just perfectly! This steaming bowl is definitely a delicious soup for any season, but with its spicy kick and delicious addictive taste, it could also be called street food...I imagine that such soups are sold by street vendors in many parts of South-East Asia. Next time, I will try cooking the noodles directly in the soup instead of cooking them in another pot. The soup is "soupy" enough that I think this might work. It will save the time and fuel needed to boil a large pot of water, plus the noodles might absorb even more flavor. I loved the silky yet toothsome taste of the udon noodles and look forward to using them in some traditional Japanese ways. Anyone have a favorite recipe with udon noodles?
This big bowl of soup is my entry to the Second Annual Super Soup Challenge over at the blog Running with Tweezers.