cooking

LIVING WITH LESS | WHITE MISO + GINGER UDON SOUP

 

We just got word that our dad, my father-in-law, is administering medical aid to refugees currently living in tents at the port of Piraeus in Greece. He has said little else about it, but the thought of it has not been far from my mind. In a few weeks, we will be swimming in Greece's most beautiful waters, drinking coffee by the sea, and eating what we want, when we want. Not far from us will be refugees, forced from their homes and living in tents. It is a lot to reconcile, yes, but is it any different than living in comfort anywhere in the world? Does merely having oceans to safeguard us from disaster make us, somehow, more sympathetic? 

What a privilege to be able to choose less. Paring back—donating bags of clothing, dejunking your kitchen cupboards and throwing out expired food, selling your unwanted furniture—is a privilege of the comfortable. In fact, choice is a privilege of the comfortable, so often abused and misinterpreted as a right. Each of us lays claim to all manner of things. Mark and I are working ardently to cultivate our life according to an overarching philosophy that we do not own anything: nothing is ours outright, not even our blood lineage. All of us are of the Earth, belonging to no one absolutely. We have faith alone to call ours. If this is true of humanity, as I believe it is, then it is certainly true of stuff. Even the best of it — my pale pink Kitchenaid stand mixer, or Mark's ukulele that we bought from a craftsman in Greece, or the land we hope to one day heal and farm on — is for naught in the end. Genesis is echoed every year on Ash Wednesday, carrying with it the totality of existence: You are dust, and to dust you will return. What a relief. 

This need for less is something I have been wrestling with in Vermont, where we actually have "very little." I brought one Off Farm outfit, on account of being a chronic under-packer and believing I would not need many clothes. And I do not. My yellow sweater and black pants have held up perfectly well to daily wear. Yet I crave my clothes, of which I have many, that are currently living in my parents laundry room in Ohio. We are inhabiting someone else's space, equipped with all the necessities to get by quite comfortably: running water, electricity, a sharp knife, some cutting boards, books and blankets. We are blessed with the essentials, and still I miss Mark's and my things. The point is (I think) that when your accumulated goods are away from you, it becomes harder to claim you do not need them. Or it has been for me. Honesty in the name of the blog, I guess. Sharing this inner struggle embarrasses me, but in striving for improved humility and a more confident faith, I have set to sharing it.

So how does this tie in to photos of udon noodle soup? Ingredients have made this place feel like home. Having access to nourishing, cleansing, and comforting ingredients (hello, garlic) diminish the craving for anything else. I recently found a local jar of an ingredient on my Dream List of Ingredients: sweet white miso. Miso is fermented bean paste hailing from Japan, the addition of which makes everything taste better. This soup is focused on the miso + ginger broth and little else. It is wholesome, nutritive, and ready in no time.


WHITE MISO + GINGER UDON SOUP

INGREDIENTS

2 bundles udon noodles
salt + pepper to taste
2 tb. fresh ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks bok choy
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 eggs
2 tbs. coconut oil
4 c. beef stock
1 1/2 c. water
1 tb. white miso
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 tb. raw honey

STEPS
— warm coconut oil in a stock pot and sauté ginger and garlic until fragrant.
— add beef stock and water, cover and bring to simmer for five minutes.
— in a separate pot, bring water to a boil and then add udon noodles, cooking for five minutes. strain and set aside, saving the water to cook your eggs in (or don't, but it saves you a few minutes).
— in stock pot, add fish sauce*, carrots, and a dash or two of salt and pepper, simmering for five minutes. 
— cut the heat, and miso, honey, and bok choy. stir in and let the flavors marry while you soft boil your eggs.
— bring the noodle water back to a boil, and drop in eggs. hard boil for six minutes and then transfer to ice cold water. peel and slice the eggs in half.
— dish out the stock into bowls, add a handful of noodles, drop the eggs in, and top with a generous handful of scallions. lap it up with the bowl just beneath your chin, because it's fun that way.
*if you do not have fish sauce, i have read that you can sub soy sauce with a bit of worcestershire sauce.


—S

COMFORT | RECIPE: GARLIC HUMMUS + EVERYDAY BREAD

 

The times are a'changing; and when change comes, it comes in heaps. Last Monday, five inches of snow fell, blanketing Northeast Ohio. Come the weekend, it was 65 and sunny—ripe for a weekend visit to Columbus and soaking up precious time with family and our favorite places (think multiple french presses from your favorite coffee shop, a large pizza eaten on a bench outside, crisp beers in the middle of the afternoon). For the next two weeks, we will be relishing in the comfort of living the same life we've been living for the past year. There will be packing and farewells, and a nominal amount of planning; but mostly we will be enjoying the days ahead. When those two weeks are up, we will be headed for Vermont to work at Consider Bardwell Farm. Then to Greece. Then we reenter the unknown. No jobs, no housing, no regional location determined. Together we'll go, and together we'll fare. 

Speaking of fare. We've been eating copious amounts of bread and hummus. Say what you will about gluten; we don't subscribe. There is no comfort quite like that provided by fresh-baked bread. Mark wrote a guide to our everyday bread recipe, viewable on the Lehman's Hardware blog.

This bread is the lifeblood of our kitchen, and it pairs well with literally everything. Most recently, we have been slathering it with homemade garlic hummus, a signal of all the change to come: the warm months, leave from Ohio, and a return to the Mediterranean diet. For now, though, we will be enjoying it in the comfort of our first home together. A note on the hummus: it's made with a  food processor. We just added one to our kitchen—a most exciting event. We were previously using a brass meat tenderizer to smash the chickpeas. The product was by no means smooth, but it did the job and works well if you do not have the luxury of a food processor, as we didn't for many years.

GARLIC HUMMUS
adapted ever so slightly from My Name Is Yeh

steps
— Cover chickpeas with water and soak for 12 hours, or overnight.
— Once chickpeas are soaked, drain and cover with 2 inches of water in a sauce pot.
— Add baking soda, cover and simmer until fork tender (which was about 30 minutes for us).
— Drain chickpeas and transfer to a food processor. 
— Add tahini, olive oil, salt, cloves of garlic, and lemon. Blend until smooth and buttery soft. Sometimes we add just a little bit of the strained chickpea water to help with consistency.
— Garnish with several glugs of olive oil and oregano, or any herbs that suit your fancy. At this point there's no harm that can be done.
 

ingredients
3/4 c. dried chickpeas
6 T. tahini
7 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 pinches of salt
2 pinches baking soda
4 cloves garlic
juice of 1/2 lemon
 


—M&S

IN DEFENSE OF VALENTINE'S DAY | A HOME TOUR

 

Oh February, you fickle month, you. Being a resident lover of winter (best season forever and ever amen), even I have never met a person who really loves February. Funny, then, that the holiday representative of love falls smack in the middle of this gelid, forgettable month. As if the collective groan of Midwest society wasn't enough, Lent — a liturgical season of fasting — often lays claims to February. Enter me. For more than a decade I have hailed Valentine's Day as my second favorite holiday of the year, and I always mean it. My reasoning has nothing to do with random acts of kindness or saying 'I love you' an extra time; I'd wager I am already at maximum capacity with telling my husband I love him. Roses and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are certainly of no interest to me (though I'm not in the business of turning those things down).

Valentine's Day is the day when I get to offer my affinity for winter and all things pale pink to those around me. Stews become romantic and cracking a bottle of mead is reasonable. The craft chest gets opened and I design Mark's annual valentine. In college we would hole up together and cook a time-intensive meal like traditional paella. Now we opt for cooking for others because we can. We spent all of February 14th preparing a four course meal for my parents and oldest sister. It was simple, Mediterranean, and in our wheelhouse.

I sliced each Blue Adirondack potato with wonder. Vibrant purple vegetables in winter: what a treasure. Our table settings included my mother-in-law's first dish set, now our first, gold cloth napkins handed down from my sister, and new flatware—the dearest wedding gift from our grandma (who spent months watching the 'specials' so as to pick up each piece when it went on sale). We had the aural delight of listening to the entirety of The Beatles discography on vinyl. A Valentine's Day not unlike other days of the year, but noteworthy in its own right. So while I'm not here to convert anyone to loving a holiday famous for being unloved, I would like to make the assertion that Valentine's Day can be non-commercial and worthy of celebration if we make it so.


—S

NEW ADVENTURES + NEW FLAVORS | GOAT CHEESE TWO WAYS

 
TableSetting

I started a new job last month at a wonderful place called Lucky Penny Creamery. The opening was for a part-time delivery gig, butlike most life things—reality has strayed far from the plan. After a few weeks of building websites, running donation drives, and campaigning against national food policy, among other things, I am beginning to question the point of making any specific life plans at all. It has been an exciting, challenging, and slightly scary start to a new adventure.

With a new job comes new perks, and one particular benefit of my affiliation with Lucky Penny makes my life feel much fancier than it really is. A few times now, I have come home toting several pounds of goat cheese (or chèvre). This past weekend, that comically oversized bag of cheese was accompanied by an assignment to craft a simple holiday recipe using Lucky Penny's chèvre.

We developed two different spreads. The first, a Honey + Balsamic chèvre, is moderately sweet and tempers the tanginess of the goat cheese while maintaining the earthy integrity. Using good honey is the key. The second, an anything-but-sweet Winter Spice chèvre, is perfect for dolloping on eggs or a whole grain cracker. It's a little bit Moroccan, a little bit Indian, and very holiday-centric.

BowlofChevre
PouringCarrotJuice
carrot-juice
spreads

WILDFLOWER HONEY + BALSAMIC CHÈVRE
2 tb. Down Home honey (hey, that's us! but any local honey will be good)
1 tb. balsamic vinegar
1 c. Lucky Penny Creamery Chèvre

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or by hand, mix the honey and balsamic vinegar. Then, incorporate the chèvre, mixing until the texture is nice & creamy. Garnish with herbs if you've got 'em. We used a couple sprigs of fresh thyme.


WINTER SPICE CHÈVRE
1/8 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
dash carrot juice (optional)
1 c. Lucky Penny Creamery Chèvre

Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl. Then, in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or by hand, combine the spice mixture with the chèvre. Once mixed, you may add a dash of carrot juice. Or don't. It helps with the creaminess, but isn't critical.

Enjoy!


—M