finding solace in steam.

The lone wolf days of winter are officially here.

Cue desolate wailing.

Actually, I don’t mind the cold temperatures.  It inspires a change in rhythm, a natural contraction after the languid, loose feeling of summer: the city gets quieter, the snow muffles all sounds (never mind the two scarves and toque and parka hood covering my ears), allowing time for introspection and measured pacing.  Days of solitude require meals that need to be eaten slowly, methodically.  During this time of year, I prefer dinners that lend a feeling of solidity when they are enjoyed – a period at the end of the sentence, decided punctuation to end the day.

Noodles in soup are the perfect winter comfort food: nourishing, with endless possibilities for embellishment, and simple enough so there is time to knit or catch up on reruns before turning into bed.  A meal like this leaves me feeling full and complete, but not heavy, thereby avoiding the accumulation of an extra winter layer that is less easily removed than a sweater…

Soba Noodles in Miso Broth
makes two servings

for the broth:
1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into 2″ logs
1 Thai chile, slit open
1″ fresh ginger, cut into thick coins
1 heaping tablespoon of brown miso paste
1 good splash each of mirin, rice vinegar, and fish sauce
1 somewhat good splash of tamari soy sauce
3-4 cups water

miso broth

for the meal:
2 little bundles of Japanese soba (buckwheat) noodles (though I usually make more, so I can make cold noodle salad the next day)
some vegetables, like enoki mushrooms
some garnishes, like green onions and dried seaweed

First, bring 2 L of water to boil in a big pot to boil the noodles.  Meanwhile, throw all the ingredients for the broth into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover and let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on when the noodle water begins to boil; when it does, throw in a touch of salt and the noodles, and let it boil rapidly, stirring occasionally to make sure the noodles don’t stick to each other.  While your kitchen windows steam up with all this boiling, you can prepare your vegetables and garnishes, by which I mean look in your fridge and see what you feel like eating that night.  I used enoki mushrooms, which are so thin and delicate they don’t really need pre-cooking beyond being steeped in hot broth.   When the noodles are cooked (should take 5-10 minutes), drain and rinse in cold water.  Pile some noodles in the bottom of two large bowls, and arrange your vegetables and garnishes on top.  Pour the steaming hot broth over top, and serve immediately.

soba prepWe ate the noodles with some pan-fried shrimp tossed in garlicky butter.  I think a fried egg would go very well with this, slid on top of the noodles with the yolk still runny so that its yellowy goodness can get acquainted with its noodley companions when it is cracked open.

soba noodle love

May your belly feel warm and full!

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