When my good friend Robin Asbell asked me to be part of an online potluck celebrating her brand new book, Big Vegan, I said “Yes!” real fast. Robin is an accomplished and prolific food writer and brilliant cooking teacher. She knows food and cooking, and her inspired recipes remind me how much pleasure there is in eating good-for-me food. Though Robin lives up in Minnesota and I’m way down here in North Carolina, she got me in on today’s potluck feast, along with fellow bloggers around the country. Our various posts make up a meal from her book, giving you the flavor of its wide-ranging recipes, from scones and smoothies to soups, stews, pastas, sweet and savory pies, and more. Robin ends this volume with a luscious round-up of dessert recipes, including Pistachio Thumbprints, Lemon Cake with Pomegranate Filling and Orange Glaze, Pumpkin-Cherry Bundt Cake, and Ginger-Mango Rice Pudding. My potluck contribution is a rustic and satisfying Korean-style soup, made with a hearty miso-powered stock and boasting a beautiful bowlful of textures and flavors: daikon radish, fresh shiitake mushrooms, tofu, potato, zucchini, and red peppers.
By the way, Robin is providing me a copy of Big Vegan to give away to one of you wonderful readers. Leave a comment after this post, and I will draw a name to see who wins that treasury of great eating. Comment by November 10 to be included in the drawing.
Here are the ingredients for the soup stock. At 12:00 o’clock, you’ll see squares of dark green kombu, a sturdy and intensely flavored seaweed with a feisty little pile of coarsely ground chiles on top. To the right are garlic cloves and onion, dried shiitake mushrooms at 6:00 o’clock, slices of daikon radish and fresh ginger at 9:00 and 10:00 o’clock respectively. In the center is the engine that drives this soup to flavorful heights: Miso, a fermented soybean paste beloved in Asian kitchens for centuries and an essential ingredient in the traditional cooking of Korea and Japan.
After simmering these ingredients together to make an excellent stock, I strained out all the taste-makers, keeping their mighty flavors and composting their remaining elements. Then I returned the soup pot of great stock to the stove and added the tasty items pictured below. At the top are green onions thinly sliced on the diagonal along with small strips of red Fresno chile. Had I not found red Fresno chile, I think red bell pepper would have worked just fine. Next are chunks of zucchini, slices of fresh shiitakes, and cubes of both potato and soft tofu.
Once the stock was ready, I could have set it aside for later, or even frozen it for future soups. It would be a marvelous frozen-pantry item to have ready, definitely one to consider making in quantity to keep on hand. Big Vegan includes several recipes for making a quantity of vegan stock with various flavor profiles. The soup stock was rich and fragrant, and we were hungry, so I quickly forgot all thoughts of putting it aside and instead finished up the recipe, in the time it took the potatoes to cook. Then in went the zucchini and tofu, and supper was ready; fast, fresh, and fine. I wanted to make the soup with whatever I could find at my local Whole Foods. This meant using a dark miso with rich, very deep flavor. With red or white miso from an Asian market, this soup would be a little more delicate, a good choice for springtime meals. All in all, the recipe gave us a hearty, gorgeously-hued bowl of soup/stew, perfect for the rainy fall evening on which we ate it for supper. The true test of its deliciousness was when my high-school aged daughter (who had eaten dinner) wanted a bowl of Korean Miso-Tofu Soup with rice as an 11:13 p.m. homework snack. This Big Vegan soup would work well as one of several dishes in a rice-centered meal, or paired up with a salad and Quick Indian Flatbreads (page 106), or Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits (page 103), or your favorite sandwiches. For the recipe, scroll down to the end of this post. To learn more about Robin Asbell, and to check out all the bloggers and recipes in this Big Vegan Potluck, look at these links below. A baker’s dozen of recipes by food bloggers who love Big Vegan: Here we go!
This is Robin’s website and blog:
You can find Big Vegan wherever books are sold, as they say. For a link to independent booksellers around the country, click here:
To find Big Vegan on Amazon, click here:
To enter my drawing for a copy of Big Vegan: leave a comment on this blogpost, and do so before November 10th. Many thanks to Robin Asbell and Chronicle Books for providing a big, gorgeous copy of this excellent, gorgeous and worthwhile book to share with one of my readers.
Korean Miso-Tofu Soup
4 large dried shiitake or black mushrooms
3 oz/85 g daikon, peeled and sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 6-in/15-cm piece dried kombu
7 tbsp/90 ml dark miso
4 slices/11 g fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, halved
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups/360 g cubed zucchini/courgette
8 oz/225 g cubed red potato
4 ox/115 g fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
12 oz/3400 g silken tofu, cubed
1 large red Fresno chile, slivered, for garnish
2 large scallions/spring onions, diagonally sliced, for garnish
1. Put 2 qt/2 L water in a large pot and add the dried mushrooms, daikon, onion, kombu, miso, ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. (I let mine simmer 45, since I wasn’t in a hurry and wanted its flavors to have more time to blossom). Line a colander with a sturdy paper towel/absorbent paper and set it over a bowl. Strain the liquid through the paper, carefully shifting the vegetables to the sides to help it drain completely. Discard the solids.
2. Add the broth to a large pot and bring it to a simmer. Add the zucchini/courgette, potato, and shiitakes and cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked all the way through.
3. Add the tofu and simmmer for about 5 minutes to heat through. Serve the soup in bowls garnished with the chile and scallions/spring onions.