Sunday, January 8, 2012

Carrot-Ginger Soup and Scallion Meatballs with Snow Peas and Shiitakes

It's been a while since I've made something that made me this happy. I'm not sure whether it was just the taste, or if it was the satisfaction of making a meal that my husband raved over, or if it was the knowledge of time well-spent on a Saturday night, or a combination of all of these. But just know that every slice of the knife, every second spent reducing the sauce, every penny spent on ingredients-- it's all worth it. This is a comforting, and yet exhilarating, combination of flavors and textures. You really do need to try these recipes. They have to be experienced to be believed.

But since my job here is to tell you why, exactly, you should spend time making this meal.... let's start with where they come from. One of my favorite blogs is Smitten Kitchen and both the meatballs and the   soup come from recent posts.  The meatballs were introduced as an appetizer, but, since we don't entertain and have no plans to start now that the holidays are behind us, I decided I would turn these separate pieces into a meal, tied together with an appropriate side. I've loved every single thing I've made from SK and was particularly surprised with the flavor of the sauce for the meatballs. It's the richest-tasting, easiest sauce I've ever had the pleasure of meeting and now we're best friends. I will be making this to glaze stir-fries with pork or chicken, more snow peas (because they're my husband's favorite vegetable) and anything else I can think of.

This soup. There may not be words to describe how delicious this is. If you've ever had the carrot and ginger dressing served in any sushi restaurant, that's the flavor profile to start with. Then imagine that fresh taste mixed with the earthy, salty taste of miso and, really, it's a match made in heaven. It's a little bit spicy (I added extra ginger at the end), a little bit sweet and very fresh and light. The drizzle of oil you see above is toasted sesame liquid gold, which adds a roasted depth of flavor that is absolutely perfect. Everything is balanced and everything harmonizes. Just the way I wish my life could be. Is it odd to want to model myself after a bowl of soup? Anyway, this is the perfect dish to make if you've never worked with miso before. I'm ashamed to admit that it was my first and we have an Asian market within walking distance of our house. But now that I am the proud owner of a tub of miso, I need to find other things to make with it... a happy dilemma, really.

I'm starting with the vegetable side since it's my own creation and I'm happy with how it turned out:

Sautéed Snow Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms
serves 2

1/2 lb. snow peas, trimmed
small container of shiitake mushrooms (4 oz), sliced
1 T. butter
1 t. sesame oil

In a medium skillet, melt butter. (I accidentally let mine get very, very browned. It was delicious, but very rich, too. I'll let you decide how decadent you want these to be...) Add mushrooms and cook until softened, 4 minutes. Meanwhile, boil a saucepan of salted water. Add peas and cook 4 minutes, until bright green. Drain and rinse under cold water. Add peas to mushrooms, drizzle with oil and toss until peas and mushrooms are coated and warmed through, 1-2 minutes. Serve hot.

Carrot-Ginger Soup with Miso and Sesame
serves 6-8
This recipe makes a lot of soup. It's so good, I won't mind eating it every day... but if you don't want a large quantity, you might try halving the recipe.

2 T. olive oil
2 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced thin
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed
1 T. chopped or grated ginger or more to taste
                 ( I used closer to two tablespoons and grated more into the soup just before serving)
4 c. vegetable broth
1/4 c. white miso paste
toasted sesame oil
2 scallions, sliced thin

Warm oil in a large soup pot. Add carrots, onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, 10 minutes. Add broth and ginger. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced with a knife, 30 minutes. Puree soup in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender. In a small bowl, combine miso and a ladleful of soup and whisk until blended. Add mixture back to soup and tasted for seasoning. (I added another spoonful of miso, but my vegetable broth was unsalted, so adjust according to your tastes.) If more ginger flavor is what you're after, grate in another small knob of ginger, about 1/2 teaspoon or so, until you get the flavor and heat level you like. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of scallions.

Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Glaze
makes about 24 meatballs

1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. mirin
1/4 c. peeled, minced ginger
1 t. ground coriander
4 peppercorns
1 lb. ground turkey
4 large or 6 small scallions, finely chopped
half a bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
1 egg
2 T. sesame oil
2 T. soy sauce
vegetable oil
steamed rice, for serving

Make sauce: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil and stir until melted. Lower heat and add soy sauce, mirin, ginger, coriander and peppercorns. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 30 minutes. ( I let mine cook down while making the soup and meatballs, which was probably more like an hour and a half. It was nice and sticky, but very sweet, so I added a few splashes of soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste as you go and adjust.) Strain sauce through a sieve. Make meatballs: Combine turkey, scallions, egg, oil, soy sauce and a few grinds of pepper. Mix gently with a fork until blended. Use a tablespoon to portion the mixture and pat into balls with your hands. It will be very moist, but should hold together fine. Place balls on a plate or baking sheet as formed. Heat a good amount of oil in a large skillet (or use a medium one and make two batches). When oil is shimmering, add meatballs and cook until well-browned on bottoms, about 4 minutes. Gently turn over and cook until dark golden brown on other side, 4 minutes longer. Pile on top of steamed rice and drizzle with sauce.

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