Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Pumpkin Miso Broth with Soba

If a pumpkin spiced latte is the most expected use of this winter cucurbita's namesake, I'm coming at you from the opposite end of the spectrum with this Pumpkin Miso Broth with Soba recipe. Sure, you've probably dabbled in pumpkin as a savory medium—maybe delving into my Moroccan Pumpkin Stew, or swapping in a can of puree for a recipe that calls for butternut squash. But today, we're traveling to uncharted territory with what is, essentially, deconstructed pumpkin sushi. Here is why pumpkin plus Japanese flavors, while seemingly incompatible, patently works. 
1. Miso soup is wintery, delicious, cozy, and a runny-nose keep away...as are all squash soups.
If it's warm, brothy, and aromatic, it's perfect for cold weather. So off the bat, here is the lowest common denominator. But let's build on that a bit. Miso soup is inherently intense in it's flavor profile, plus extremely salty—I've never had a bowlful without feeling immediately bloated. Here, it is tempered by the gentle earthy squash, sweet and meaty, the perfect watery-broth enhancer. Minced ginger adds a spicy, bitter undertone that immediately feels proactively cold-fighting. So we retain all of the positives of regular miso soup, but add some hearty substance to create a full-bodied base.

2. The toppings are udon soup level. 
In Japanese udon soup, the broth sits under a vibrant, intricate pizza pie of toppings (udon, mushrooms, snow peas, egg, etc.) that render this dish so pleasing. Same goes here, with a healthy makeover. Instead of udon, whole-grain buckwheat noodles add the slippery spaghetti-like slurp you crave in a big bowl of Japanese soup, along with shiitake mushrooms, sliced scallions, sesame seeds, and nori. They all sit so elegantly on the surface, waiting for that first plunge of your spoon to ensconce them into the rich, inviting pumpkin-miso broth.

3. The gloriousness that is nori (seaweed, not Kimye's daughter).
How is that I've never paid much attention to the edible red algae that holds sushi together? The dried seaweed is incredible—I'd even argue it's my favorite part of this recipe. In the same way that shaved truffles add exponential depth to any pasta dish, so does mineral-rich nori to the fish or vegetables it touches. Nori comes in sheets, and a quick touch of heat via fry pan causes it to crumble easily; now, it's a garnish. The salty, sea-tasting nori blends beautifully with the sweet earthy sugar pumpkin, really driving home the dish.

Are you intrigued? I'd say this lovely, exotic vegan soup will be the perfect antidote after a week of Thanksgiving fodder and fullness. I can't wait to hear what you think.

Pumpkin Miso Broth with Soba (by My New Roots)
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side


1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 medium yellow onions
¾ tsp sea salt
3 cloves garlic
1 medium (~2 lb) sugar pumpkin
3 to 4 cups water
3 to  4 Tbsp white or light miso
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
6 oz soba noodles (can substitute whole-wheat spaghetti)
Juice of 1 lemon

Sesame seeds
Sautéed shiitake mushrooms (I added soy sauce and rice wine vinegar)
Nori/seaweed (available at Whole Foods)
Cubed cooked tofu (optional, if adding protein)
Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

1. Roughly chop onions, mince garlic. Wash the pumpkin well (as you’ll be eating the skin), and chop into chunks. Preserve the seeds if you plan on roasting them: 30 minutes at 350 degrees, tossing every 10 minutes, should toast them evenly.
2. In a large stockpot, melt the coconut oil. Add the onions and salt, stir to coat and cook for about 10 minutes until the onions are just starting to caramelize. Add garlic and cook for about a minute until fragrant.
3. Add the pumpkin and stir to coat. Add 3 cups of water, cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender.
4. While the soup is cooking, prepare the toppings: Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Cook soba noodles according to package directions, drain and lightly rinse. Slice scallions, lightly toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes. Sauté mushrooms in a lightly oiled skillet (plus a dash of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar) over high heat for 5-7 minutes.
5. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend on high until completely smooth. (An immersion blender works too). Add more water if necessary – you’re looking for a creamy consistency, but it should not be thick like a paste. Add the miso, ginger and blend again until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Transfer soup back to the pot and keep warm (reheat if necessary, but try not to boil). Add lemon juice to soup.
6. Ladle soup into bowls, top with soba, scallions, sesame seeds, mushrooms, and remaining optional toppings if using; crumble the seaweed over top. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Miso Harissa Delicata Squash

Before you accuse me of a typo in the first two ingredients of this recipe—um hello questionable kveller, don't tell me you mean to intentionally combine the all-encompassing umami Asian flavor of miso with the distinctly spicy, capsicum essence of Moroccan cuisine's harissa?— let me assure you it is not. Ever since I saw these two incongruous tastes paired together in Miso Harissa Delicata Squash, I've had my eye on this recipe. Last weekend I came across all the main ingredients at the Greenmarket—kale, radishes, and fingerling potatoes play a supporting role in addition to the delicata namesake— so it was finally time to fulfill my curiosity of the marriage of these bold, distinctly different flavors. The result was a dazzling, daring flavor bomb of spicy, sweet, and salty that transformed these sometimes overplayed fall-forward vegetables into an exciting and edgy novel dish.

It's simple, really. The salad is very good. And the fact that it's dressed in an unusual blend of known, but rarely mixed, flavors makes it even better. There is sweet, thanks to the inherently honeyed delicata squash and sugary miso; and there is earthy, thanks to the starchy potatoes and bitter kale. These two profiles play beautifully off each other, ensconced in tinges of harissa components cumin, coriander, and chili pepper. Biting radishes and toasted seeds give crunch to the tender baked vegetables. The salad is best served warm, though room temperature is fine, too.

The recipe is extremely efficient with its time allotment. You can prepare all remaining ingredients while the squash and potatoes are roasting, so upon their completion (which is only 25 minutes, not the protracted 50 minutes of a sweet potato or spaghetti squash) everything else is already sitting in one large bowl. Their transfer finishes the recipe.

The hearty dish feels like a main, so I added a can of chickpeas for protein to secure that title. The original recipe calls for roasted almonds, but I subbed in the toasted seeds from the delicata. If you don't want to roast those seeds but stay in the squash family, toasted pepitas also suffice. One more note: I doubled all the vegetables (reflected in recipe) but used the called-for amount of harissa/miso, as both ingredients are very pungent. I thought the vegetables were dressed just right, so I suggest erring on the side of less harissa and miso. You can always add more once the vegetables have roasted.

Miso Harissa Delicata Squash (from 101 Cookbooks)

1 lb small fingerling potatoes, washed and dried
1 1/2 lb delicata squash
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil (OK to use less)
1/4 c white miso*
1-2 Tbsp harissa paste*
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 bunch kale, de-stemmed and finely chopped
4 radishes, very thinly sliced
1/8 c toasted delicta squash seeds, pepitas, or Marcona almonds
1 16 oz can chickpeas, drained (optional)

*Both of these ingredients are available at mainstream markets like Whole Foods and Fairway. For those who live in NYC, try Taim harissa paste. It's the best!

1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. If the potatoes aren't tiny, slice them into pieces no larger than your thumb. Cut the delicata squash in half length-wise, and use a spoon to clear out all the seeds. Cut into 1/2-inch wide half-moons. You can leave the peel on these squash.

2. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, miso, harissa. Place the potatoes and squash in a large bowl with 1/3 cup of the miso-harissa oil. Use your hands to toss well, then turn everything out onto a baking sheet. Bake until everything is baked through and browned, about 25-30 minutes. Toss once or twice along the way after things start to brown a bit. Keep an eye on things though, you can go from browned to burned in a flash.

3. In the meantime, whisk the lemon juice into the remaining miso-harissa oil. Taste, it should be intensely flavorful, but if yours is too spicy or salty, you can dilute it with a bit more olive oil or lemon juice. Stir the kale into the leftover dressing and set aside.

4. Place the warm roasted vegetables in a bowl and toss with the kale mixture, radishes, seeds/almonds, and chickpeas (if using).