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

Ingredients:

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

Toppings:
Scallions
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)

Directions:
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. 

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