Moon Over Watercress Soup











I could feel the light on my eyelids as I savored the last few drops of a dream. It wasn’t a particularly happy dream, but it was a deep sleep and saturated with emotion. In the dream I was sobbing, swallowing sorrowful tears as though I were gulping down rain. My whole body shook with raw emotion. The most beautiful part of the whole thing- it was not real. The source of my sorrow was nothing more that a short scene clipped from my imagination. I woke up feeling cracked open and refreshed, as though I had been sprouted. In my search for dream analysis, I came across these words:

“if you dream you are crying, your mind is helping to achieve emotional balance while you sleep. You are getting out frustrations that would slow you down in your waking life.” (from smartgirl dream dictionary).

It felt true. After the dream, a trance bled into the rest of my day and I began to notice things obscure. The moon, whose late afternoon appearance I have only half paid attention to over the last few days, was now swollen to a loud, round circle. It pierced the blue day sky like a silver studded earring, causing freedom to reverberate through the sky. It was the sort of freedom that George Michael sings about, uncorked and pummeling like a tsunami surging out of a bottle. I leaned forward in my car to get a better look. The glare of the streetlight beamed lollipop red, holding the traffic and giving us all a moment to take it in. I needed to share this with you. I need to remember that this world exists.

Now it is time for some soup.

“Watercress is a good vegetable, we eat this in China, but not very much in the United States” The professor said, with a large toothy smile. He then proceeded to tell us about the studies which we would be reviewing that link watercress to a reduction in both incidence and scope of tobacco carcinogen associated lung cancer. It has been over 6 years since I have had a cigarette, however I am attracted to powerful things and watercress, in my mind, now falls into that category. I decided to feature watercress in this version of Thukpa. Smokers enjoy.

Vegetable Stock

1 white and 1 yellow onion, chopped (you can leave the skins on, but make sure to take off any grocery tags!)

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 package organic mushrooms (I have noticed that the non-organic mushrooms at the store have no flavor at all)

1 bunch celery, chopped

5 large carrots, chopped

Liberal amounts of salt added in intervals each time you put a new vegetable in (about 1 Tbsp total)

1 tsp peppercorns

1 tsp galangal (Thai spice)

6, 4-inch pieces lemongrass

Add the vegetables and spices to a soup pot and cover with cold water (about 8 cups). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 90 min. You may want to periodically sprinkle with salt (if you prefer a more intense flavor)

Thukpa

Boil a pot of water with a little salt and add ½ package of rice fettuccine. Turn the heat off immediately and let sit for 6-8 min. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Return the empty pot to the burner and add

2 Tbsp butter

1 large yellow onion, diced

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 medium yellow squash, diced

4 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 inches of ginger root, peeled and minced

1-2 cups snow peas, chopped

½ lb (or more) shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 Tbsp salt

2-3 tsp cumin

1 tsp galangal

2 tsp turmeric

cayenne pepper (as much spice as you like)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp coriander

Cook until the squash is tender and then add the noodles and stock. Add chopped watercress and 3 green onions. Adjust seasonings as desired.

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Rising Tide Blended Soup

I stare into the white wall across from our bed, and beneath the mermaid painting I imagine an expansive shoreline. The ocean rolls in, riding powerful crests and picks up the sand, the way a horseback warrior might charge through a quiet household and steal his forbidden love. The birds flap hard against the horizon generating eddies of air, which swirl in their wake like gasoline on water. A single lighthouse perches against the gray skyline like a cadet in a crows nest. From shore he is pointing toward the promise of discoveries, from sea he brings home new insights embroidered in distant memories. A single ocean ebbs and flows beneath his watchful eye. I imagine digging my toes into the cold sand, and close my eyes to hear the seagulls squeal…

mrmeow..mrmeow..mrmeow the cats are pawing at the door. Their full body stretches against the wall are traced by claws scraping down wood. It seems like magically they grow four feet taller when behind closed doors. I resign to getting out of bed and letting them in. The moment I turn the door handle, Eugene jumps and twists into the air, and prances toward the kitchen. He looks back over his shoulder like a child hoping to be chased.

I follow him, but am distracted by a sudden lightness. The sun has decided to take Minnesota back into his good graces, and we are getting extended visits from him these days. It is hard to be sad or serious in the presence of such a captivating, and energetic house guest. He dances his toes lightly against our hard wood floor, making shadow puppets out of house plants. He fashions toy birds that bounce off of our computer screens and cellphones, and flutter about on the walls, sending the cats into a wild and playful chase. He takes our coats and hats, and warms our hands and feet. He teases us with stories of barefoot walks, and outdoor swimming. He promises an abundance of gifts from his garden.

With spring floating on the horizon, I begin to consider whether I have fully allowed myself to appreciate winter (as opposed to just surviving it). Since it is not yet too late, I gather together some of my favorite winter vegetables so that Christina and I can indulge in one last cold comfort soup.

Heat the oven to 375.

1 acorn squash

2 parsnips

1 sweet potato

1 head of garlic

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

½ cup beef stock (or onion, or veg stock)

½ small or ¼ large green cabbage

2 Tbsp butter

¼ yellow or red onion

salt to taste

3 cups stock (beef or veg)

2 cloves minced garlic

1 Tbsp muchi curri powder

½ tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp turmeric

½ tsp chili powder

1 pinch of brown sugar (optional if the veggies are not in season)

salt to taste

Prepare the vegetables (cut the acorn squash in half and remove the seeds, peel and cut parsnip into large pieces, cut sweet potato in large pieces, cut the top of the garlic head for roasting). Place them in a roasting pan and cover with olive oil and salt. Cover with tinfoil and roast for 20 min. Add stock and roast for an additional 40 min. Remove the squash and the sweet potatoes and (if the parsnips are not yet done) roast the parsnips and garlic for an additional 20 min.

On the stove, heat butter and salt and add diced onion and garlic. Add diced green cabbage. Cover and simmer until tender, slowly adding the stock as it cooks (about 20 min).

Place all roasted vegetables in a soup pan (removing skin of squash and garlic). Add cabbage. Blend well with hand blender. Add seasonings. Garnish with cubed carrots (if you like).

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Valentines Day Miso Soup

“I am getting a double chin” I whined, one crisp winter morning while gazing into the bedroom mirror. Christina was sitting up on the bed, her neck and shoulders scrunched against the wall.
“You’ve always had a double chin” she said, in the tone a person takes when they have grown all too accustomed to calming a loved one’s neurotic hyperactive sense of vanity.
“really?” I said. “always?”
“Yes” she replied, “it’s like baby fat”
“Baby fat??” I said, horrified by the words.
“yeah, it’s cute” she replied.
When Christina says things like this, she completely interrupts my self loathing. She crashes my pity party. It’s like she is hovering over my shoulder, waiting for me to reach my hand over to touch a hot stove and then WHAP, she slaps my hand away. I wake up from my trance, both more in tune with reality and less afraid of it.

It is exactly the opposite of what I was inviting her to say. Instead of denying my foibles she says “let me get a better look at that” and then “oh yeah, that’s a bad one.. and I love you even more” How can a person hate anything about themselves in the presence of such love?

When I was younger, I didn’t believe in romantic love. When a boy would tell me he loved me, I would respond with some ridiculous task, some quest to make him prove his feelings. Fortunately for me, the proving of love is just the sort of adventure that young men seem to enjoy. It rouses their competitive instinct, else I doubt that any of them would have put up with me.
“I love you” He would say.
“You don’t really love me” I would respond “you love the idea of loving someone”

My first boyfriend brought chocolates or jewelry to my locker every morning. The second started a fight in my honor in the playground. Of course playground love isn’t real love. It is not even a real drama, more like a rehearsal of lines with the professionalism of a Christmas pageant. Throughout my early twenties, I wore my relationships like an over sized costume, too immature to grasp that their was something more meaningful in love than the satiation of my ego. I didn’t stop doubting the sincerity of love until I met Christina. Her incredible ability to laugh at herself, to turn a mountain back into a molehill, makes me willing to share myself out loud. Perhaps it is my own sincerity that has relieved me of my skepticism, but with Christina I have no doubt of love. Happy Valentines day everyone!

Extra Rich Miso Soup
With mushrooms, tofu, and edemame

Dashi
(do not be afraid of the fish flakes in this recipe, you will scarcely notice the fishiness in the flavor of the soup..although the smell of fish will permeate your kitchen…still the fish adds a richness that would be hard to get without adding them)
8 cups water
2, 4 inch sheets Kombu
¼ cup anchovy bonito (fish flakes)

Soak the kombu in cold water for 45 min-1 hour. Then bring slowly to a boil, removing the kombu before the boiling starts (when the little bubbles form). Add the fish flakes and boil for 5 min. Turn off the heat, leaving the pot on the burner and cover for 15 min. Strain through a Paper towel (Viva brand works well for this), or fine mesh cloth.
Soup
½ large yellow onion sliced thin
1/3 package firm tofu cubed small
mushrooms (I used 6 oyster and 3 shitake), diced
edemame (optional)
3 Tbsp mild white miso (or 2 Tbsp dark miso)
1 Tbsp butter or oil
Wakame (dried and shredded)

Make dashi above, and keep warm on the stove. Add the wakame (optional if you like seaweed in your soup). Remove a steaming cup of the liquid and stir the miso paste in. Then pour the melted paste into the rest of the broth.
In a separate pan, heat a little oil or butter. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until they soften. Add tofu. Cook until heated through and add to the soup. Garnish with shelled edemame (optional)

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The next big thing: Ash-e reshteh


“Emeelee I vas vunderings if I could talk vith you for a moment” said the short, Hungarian professor. Her black rimmed glasses dangled from one corner of her mouth. She pursed her wrinkled lips around them and furled her brow as though she were thinking hard, so as to communicate something telepathically to me. I felt sort of dim witted for not being able to hear her thoughts.
“Uh sure” I said. She whisked around and began to walk swiftly down the hallway. I was expected to follow, which I would have known had I been following along with her thoughts.
She walked quickly and freely for a woman her age, and I had to skip my step to keep up. I was lugging along my laptop and various books, and had not yet taken off my coat. She stopped before the door of her office and began to search her pockets for keys. For a moment, she was just a little old lady, and not the strict, accomplished chemistry professor, with a reputation for being intimidating. Her red hair was thin and flat in the back, and her scalp showed through in swirled patterns which had undoubtedly been created by her pillow. Her shoes were flat and sensible, and around her neck she wore a string of pearls. She turned the key and then turned her head to look at me over her glasses.
“Come in” she commanded. “Sit down”. Obediently I sat.
“I vas vundering if you could halp me vith my slides.” Silence.
“yes, of course” I said. Then she leaned in close and took her glasses off.
“I cannot type, you see, it is my great handicap. I have never learned. All ov my notes have been typed by the secretary and converted to overhead. I need somevone to turn them to powverpoint.”
“Sure” I said.
She pulled her pursed lips back into a smile and said,
“GOOD, I vill be taking you to lunch then, have you been to Caspian?” and she swiveled her chair, put on her glasses, and with her nose two inches from the monitor began meticulously scanning the screen for the email icon. “Yes, I was there yesterday, actually. I had the ash reshdeh”
“Ah yes” She said, “that is very good”. Still facing her computer,she looked first over, then under her glasses. She then squinted and furled her brow, as though trying to communicate telepathically now with the machine.

Her bookshelves were lined with scientific journals, which were dusty with age. The bound journal, which was once the booming metropolis of scientific information, is now a ghost town. Bright young minds no longer walk the printed lines of written word. The academic world has built a new glowing city, in front of which my professor now sat and peered into like it were a snow globe.

On the way home from school, I thought about my professor. In her career, she has isolated three of the different isomers of vitamin E, has published numerous articles in the field of antioxidants and lipid chemistry, has taught at major universities for over 30 years. Now the world that she has thrived in has moved out of the physical realm, and I wondered if she felt lonely.

Over the next few days, I began noticing how much of my life is lived online. Nobody really calls me anymore (except for my professor). I communicate with friends over facebook or text message. Emails are reserved for the more formal relationships. If I need to call a plumber, or order a movie, or buy new clothes, I just look online.
“Maybe she just doesn’t want to be a part of the new world” Catherine said, as I told Christina and her mom about my professor.
Maybe she doesn’t feel she needs to, as she has students to navigate it for her”. I thought about how before I left her office, she asked me to look on my computer and research a few things. I imagined how we would sit at the Caspian, over two steaming bowls of rich and flavorful ash, and exchange stories from our adventures in our two different homelands. The physical and the virtual meeting over a common interest in chemistry and food.

Vegetarian Ash-e reshteh (this recipe is loosely based on one from Najmieh Batmanglii, I modified it so that it would be vegetarian by substituting a mushroom broth for a beef broth. The Persian cookbooks of Najmieh Batmanglii are wonderful.)

rinse and soak overnight:
1/3 cup kidney beans
1/4 cup great northern beans
1/3 cup garbanzo beans

In a soup pot, fry:
4 small onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
a punch of salt
1 tsp turmeric
Add 12 cups of water and the soaked beans. Simmer uncovered for 45 min-1 hour, skimming the yellow foam off of the top (but try not to lose the onions!) In the meantime, add
3 packages fresh, organic mushrooms, and
1 chopped red onion
to a wide dutch oven and cover with water. add some
salt
and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered. When the beans are cooked in the soup pot, add the strained mushroom liquid to it (about 5 cups), and
1 1/2 cups of dried lentils.
Cook uncovered for 50 min. Slice and cut into small matchsticks:
1 large red beet
and add to the pot. Add 1 cup of
chopped fresh dill
chives
parsley
and a pinch of fenugreek
after about 15 min. add
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 lb fresh whole wheat linguini
8 cups fresh chopped spinach
cook 15 more min and add
1 tsp sherry vinegar (optional)
garnish with
minced sauteed garlic, onions, turmeric, fresh mint, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

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