It’s the first few days of spring, and the weather is chilly. It comes to no surprise of hearing about future snowstorms at this time of year in New York. I once experienced the four seasons in one day. The morning started warm as I left my apartment in a sundress with a raincoat that only looks pretty. 45 minutes later, I exited the train station in the city to a crisp and cold breeze, similar to the fall season. By lunchtime snow flurries larger than a quarter were drifting pass the office windows. Toward the evening, the day had returned to a pleasant warmer temperature with no evidence of snow or rain.
At this time of year with the weather abruptly changing, menu planning is quite difficult. Most people crave fresh spring vegetables. Locally grown spring produce, such as asparagus, ramps (wild leeks), and artichokes have yet to arrive in the farmer’s market. Although, their arrival date is very near. Until then, soups hearty, light, and sweet are enjoyed, especially made with root vegetables.
Before under-ripe, bland vegetables and fruit were flown from warmer countries to be sold in the local market or grocery stores, root vegetables were one of the few sources of fresh food found during the colder months, especially the glorious sweet potato. That sweet root is in many of my favorite recipes, such as pies, cakes, and breads. In this recipe, sweet potato and shiitake mushrooms add their characteristic hearty and rich sweetness to a light miso broth. Toward the end, buckwheat noodles, fresh bok choy and shrimp are tossed in the soup. It’s a light and hearty soup that doesn’t take all day to prepare and simmer away. It’s a fresh fast food type of recipe.
April is around the corner. I’m hoping the brutally of this winter will yield beautiful tasting produce. Already, the farmers are bragging about parsnips being sweet from this past winter. Here’s hoping for a cheery and consistent warm spring.
Miso Soup with Sweet Potato, Bok Choy, and Shrimp
2 to 3 tbsp. peanut or neutral oil
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil
1 small onion; thinly sliced
1 garlic; minced
10 to 12 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms; sliced thick
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
A dash of crushed red pepper
Salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
25 to 30 oz. low sodium chicken stock; enough to cover the ingredients
1/8 to 1/4 cup white miso
(Optional) 1 dried red chili pepper
1 medium to large sweet potato or yam; peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium to large bok choy; cleaned and sliced into about 1/4 inch wide; the thicker bottom end roughly chopped
1/2 to 3/4 lb. medium shrimp; peeled and deveined; either previously cooked/defrosted or uncooked; sliced lengthwise in half
4 to 6 oz. Wheat/Buckwheat Soba Pasta (cooked al dente according to the manufacturer’s directions
Garnish: Sliced green scallions and/or toasted sesame seeds
1. In large pot, heat both the peanut and sesame oils over medium to high temperature. Add the onions and stir until translucent, about a few minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds, before they turn golden brown. Add the shitake mushrooms, salt, fresh black pepper, crushed red pepper, and ground ginger. Stir until the mushrooms just begin to soften.
2. Whisk together the chicken stock and the miso. Pour into the large pot with the onions, mushrooms, and seasonings.
3. Add the red chili pepper and sweet potato. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature to simmer while covered. Cook for a few minutes until the potatoes begin to soften.
4. Add the bok choy and cook for a couple minutes. If cooking raw shrimp add them in this step.
5. Reduce temperature to a low heat. Mix in the pasta (If using precooked shrimp, add them in this step). Bring soup to a low simmer then turn heat off.
6. Ladle soup into individual bowls.
7. Garnish with scallions and/or toasted sesame seeds.
“Brown Bag” Suggestion: Pack soup and garnish in individual containers. Gently heat soup in office or cafeteria microwave. Add garnish on top. Treat your self to fresh pineapples from a salad bar for dessert. Enjoy!
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