Now that the fridge has been aggressively scrubbed down, I’ve turned my attention to the storage closet-pantry. It’s primarily cluttered with stacks of shoe boxes (unsurprising), but a good deal of canned and dried foods have accumulated there over the years. Thus far, I have taken stock of about 15 cans of beans that need to be eaten sometime in the next three weeks. That’ll be fun.
I also randomly stumbled upon 4 boxes of half-used pancake mixes, which to me is rather suspect because: a) I haven’t used real pancake mix in about 2 years, and b) I certainly do not remember eating all that many pancakes before then. For the moment, I’ve stacked them up on my dining table, and my apartment now looks like the beginning of an in-house IHOP.
Another work in progress.
Today marks the beginning of my first weekend as a graduate. It is truly bizarre. My fingers are itching constantly, as if to get busy doing something of academic import that needs to be turned in by Monday, flipping through pages of another thesis resource, or typing up a fifth draft of some paper. It helps (or doesn’t, depending on which way you look at it) that I am the only one around here, and I’ve come to the disturbing realization that I talk to myself, out loud, frequently. Especially when I’m cooking.
Mostly it’s to chastise myself when I do something especially foolish, like heat the wrong burner on the stove or slice open my thumb while peeling carrots, but all it has done is make me realize that I am turning into my mother. She always had a particular fondness for criticism in the kitchen.
Needless to say, I’m well and truly starting to feel like a uni graduate.
The restlessness started more or less as soon as I woke up — stupidly early, might I add; a 9-5 job is really hampering with my ability to sleep in — so I immediately hopped into the car and set off for the Farmer’s Market in hopes of snagging a free parking spot in my haste. Unsuccessful. But I took my kombucha bottle with me, so I could only be so irritated.
(Tangent: Not quite sure if GP would approve of kombucha, as technically sugars are required for the fermentation process, but
I really really wanted it they claim that it’s good for detox so I’ll just assume I’m allowed.)
I strolled through downtown for a while after my visit to the market, in no rush to get back, but soon realized that I had no idea what would be acceptable to buy for lunch (which, even besides this cleanse, is a massive internal conflict because usually I want to buy everything) so I ended up dragging myself back home before too long. Quinoa leftovers and a handful of market strawberries later, I threw myself back into the car and drove about an hour west, into the valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains, for a visit to this really massive book fair that’s held four times a year.
(The only thing I love more than food is literature.)
It was a nice drive. I love seeing the rolling green hills, unassuming mansions and farms scattered along the mountains, cows absolutely everywhere. I would have enjoyed it at my usual level of pastoral excitement had I not felt the oncoming of a massive migraine, which I now believe was the product of going cold turkey on coffee. I knew this cleanse had to come bite me in the bum sooner or later, but I’ll save that for another post.
I was tipped off to the fair’s existence by a gracious professor a few weeks ago, and spent the next few days mentally kicking myself for not knowing about it over the four years I’d lived here. But this may have been my last chance to go — and quite luckily, it happens to be happening right now — so it’s definitely as if some higher power is willing me to spend every cent of yesterday’s paycheck until there is nothing left in my bank account but self-hatred.
Now, I sit at home, admiring brand new stacks of books that I will, undoubtedly, not pick up again for a few years, and slurping up miso from a soup ladle while occasionally sticking my hand in the bag of bonito flakes for a few nibbles. It was rather cool out today, so soup seemed an appropriate choice. And I just adore miso — the slightly tangy muskiness it adds to broth inspires a warmth that spreads from head to toe. I’ve had tofu in the fridge for quite a while as well, begging to be used, so I figured this was a good a time as any. Mushrooms and watercress (fresh from today’s market excursion) to add some depth, and I’m in total bliss.
It’s…nice, really. No more jitters, no more one-sided out-loud conversations, headache abated by a few mugs of tea. (By a ‘few’ I mean I’m on my fifth.) Visit to some good friends’ later this evening so I actually have some contact with human beings, and perhaps tonight I’ll even give one of the novels a go.
Basic Miso Soup
Inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s all Good
Yields 2 servings
- 1 package (about 12 oz) firm tofu, pressed and drained of excess water and cut into cubes
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 4 cups dashi (recipe follows), or water
- 4 tbsp red miso paste
- 3 – 4 shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, thinly sliced
- handful of watercress, washed
Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet. Toss the cubed tofu in the sesame oil until coated. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 mins, flip over, and bake for another 20 mins. Set aside.
Bring dashi or vegetable stock to a low boil over medium-high flame. Add mushrooms, carrots, green onions, and baked tofu to the broth. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
In a small bowl, combine the miso with a spoonful of the heated broth and whisk to blend. Pour the mixture into the pot, stir, and let soup simmer — being careful not to let it boil — until veggies are heated through. Add watercress at the last minute, just to wilt it, and serve immediately.
Dashi (basic Japanese sea stock)
Yields 4 cups
- 4 cups water
- 1 8-inch piece of kombu (dried kelp)
- 2/3 cup loosely packed katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
Place kombu in a saucepan and cover with the water. Let soak for about 30 minutes. Set the pan over medium flame and let heat until small bubbles start appearing along the sides of the pan, about 6-7 minutes. Remove the kombu from the pan, increase the heat, and bring to a boil, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and add the katsuobushi. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer lined with a few layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Discard the katsuobushi. Store dashi in an airtight container in the fridge if not using immediately. Dashi keeps for up to 5 days.
- Recipe is 100% gluten free, and can be vegan depending on the stock used as the base.
- Though most miso pastes are made from soy beans, more robust pastes can be made from rice or barley. Be aware if you have any dietary concerns!
- Bringing the broth to the boil after miso paste is added causes the miso to lose much of its flavor. It’s for this reason that the soup should not exceed a gentle simmer once the miso is whisked in.
- It’s not necessary to bake the tofu before hand — they cook through nicely after a few minutes if added straight to the simmering broth. I’m quite partial to a crust on my tofu, though, and adore the hint of sesame.
- Add any other thinly sliced vegetable of choice, if desired.