SOUP MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER
In times of almost any sort of trouble, cooking can make things better.
Sometimes I turn to the stove not because I need to prepare a meal but for
the sensual pleasure that cooking imparts. In a swirling halo of aromas,
worries fade away, however briefly, and the world is reduced to a pleasurable
rhythm of chopping, stirring and pouring that results in something good.
Add good music and chances are you'll rise above whatever gloom had you in
its grip. Next thing you know, you may be calling a friend with an invitation.
In the end, it doesn't matter how bad things get: Everyone needs dinner. We
might as well enjoy it -- the process of making it, the pleasure of eating it
-- as much as we can. Throughout human history, we have taken breaks from
almost everything to have a meal.
The other day a friend mentioned that she was intrigued by noodle soups,
which got me to thinking about some of my favorites, included here for her and
You can find yam noodles in the refrigerated section of most Asian markets;
they are absolutely delicious. Although this soup is good any time of day, I
enjoy it most at breakfast; it is also good with sauteed or braised greens,
with or without the noodles.
Simple Miso Soup with Yam Noodles
Makes 2 servings
2 cups Dashi (see Note below) or water
1 fresh ginger slice
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons red miso
2 tablespoons mirin (sweetened sake, for cooking)
1 8-ounce package yam noodles, drained
2 scallions, trimmed and very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves
Heat the dashi or water in a small saucepan, add the ginger and garlic,
cover and remove from the heat. Let steep 15 minutes. Remove and discard the
ginger and garlic.
Whisk in the miso and the mirin, return to a medium flame and heat through.
Add the noodles, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit 2 to 3 minutes.
Divide between 2 soup bowls, garnish with scallions and cilantro and serve
Note: Dashi is a simple seaweed stock used in countless Japanese dishes.
You can make it by steeping 1 1/2 ounces konbu (giant kelp) in 8 cups of
water for 1 to 2 hours, until the konbu is very tender. Remove and discard the
konbu, add 1 ounce of dried bonito flakes, bring to a boil over high heat,
steep for 1 minute, skim off all foam and strain through 4 layers of cheese
cloth. Refrigerate and use within 4 days.
There have been great clams at farmers markets these days, perfect for
making this simple noodle soup.
Thai Clam Noodle Soup
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, plus more to taste
6 to 8 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
6 green onions, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths, white parts crushed
with the flat side of a wide knife