February 15, 2013

Groovy Mood Soup

Some ingredients
My staging area

Whole wheat linguine which I boil in broth

The veggies all cooked and ready to be added

My current go-to white table wine*

My Groovy Mood Soup

I stood in the bathroom this morning looking in the mirror with a pair of baby scissors in my right hand and a hunk of hair in my left hand.  I had it in my mind that if I held clumps of hair straight out from my head and cut all the strands at a uniform length I'd get a pretty awesome haircut.  Have you ever been physically so close to doing something that your nerves and muscles already feel like they did it?  I never have until this morning.  It took all my might to prevent my hands and fingers from doing what felt as natural to me at that moment as stirring my coffee.

Trying to sell this house and not getting any takers is really putting a strain on my mental well being right now.  Probably because of this I've been desperate to make a huge change and cut my hair to brighten things up a bit.  Anyway, I didn't do it, mainly because I talked myself into waiting until after Beaver and I do our quickie tour of San Francisco next week.  Beave likes my hair long.  It used to be because he really preferred it that way, but the last time we discussed it (which is often because I consider my hair a serious topic of conversation) he admitted that at this point long hair better balances out my body shape.  I didn't get mad at him for that comment because I thought of it first.  It was just really horrible because it felt like he hacked my profile.

So I didn't cut my hair this morning but I did go to the grocery store where I bought a bunch of fresh produce: bok choy, baby portabella mushrooms, green onions, a red poblano pepper, a jalapeno pepper, snow peas and cilantro. These things along with organic free-range chicken broth formed the basis of the soup I was in the mood for today.

Mood Soup**

4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 small boneless chicken breast half (about 5 oz.)
3 stalks bok choy (including dark green leaves)
3 green onions with green stalks
handful of fresh snow peas
6 - 8 oz. small mushrooms
5 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 red pepper
1 hot pepper
low sodium soy sauce
ground white pepper, ginger
red pepper flakes (only if you prefer heat)
sesame oil
peanut oil
4 - 8 oz. whole wheat linguine

Wash and trim some cilantro, chop up and set in the refrigerator while you're preparing the soup.  If you like handfuls of cilantro on your noodles go for it.  Otherwise you only need about 2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro to add kick to your soup.

Poach the chicken breast until cooked through.  Cool and cut into small dice (so there's a bit of chicken in every spoonful).  Meanwhile decide how noodley you want your soup.  If you want it like a noodle bowl use 8 oz. pasta; if you want noodle soup use 4 oz. pasta.  Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Set the pasta and chicken aside.

Wash and trim the vegetables the way you like.  Julia Child would faint if she saw me practically scrub my mushrooms under the tap; she instructs prep chefs to gently rub a mushroom with a damp towel.

My rule of thumb for making any kind of a stew, goulash, casserole or stir-fry, is to make sure all the things that cook similarly are sized similarly.  Also I separate ingredients into bowls according to cooking times.  Staging your ingredients helps so much, as most of you already know.  So, for this recipe, separate out your quartered or thick sliced mushrooms, garlic, bok choy leaves, green onion stalks (cut into rounds) and snow peas into one bowl, and stick the other cut up veggies (bok choy stalks, hot pepper rings or strips, red pepper strips, diced green onion bulbs) into another bowl.

Pour 4 cups broth into a small stock pot or dutch oven pan.  Set the burner to medium so the broth heats up but you don't need or want to evaporate all the good stuff out so try not to let it boil.

Film a large frying pan with peanut oil and add a teaspoon or two of sesame oil for flavor and fragrance.  Turn the heat up to high and throw in a piece of bok choy.  When the bok choy starts sizzling it's time to add the longer cooking ingredients.  Make sure to turn down the heat at this point.  Turn it down to medium and grab a wooden spoon to distribute the vegetables evenly.  Let them cook undisturbed a little, then you might want to give a quick stir and shake the pan. When the vegetables look softer and edible dump in the bowl of mushrooms, garlic and all the quick ingredients.  Shake and stir to make a nice even layer and let that go for a couple of minutes.  This is where you add the red pepper flakes to taste (if you like hotness).

Put 2 tablespoons soy and 1 teaspoon ginger into the hot broth.  Add 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and 1/4 to 1 teaspoon ginger depending on how strong you want it.  Some people don't like the ginger flavor.

Stir the noodles and chicken into your steaming hot broth.  As soon as the veggies are done, slide them into the pot and stir it all up.  Ladle your soup into bowls and garnish each individual bowl with the cilantro.  Pass the soy and salt (for people who aren't into low sodium) and enjoy.

 *Some white wines, yes even the mid-price ones, taste alarmingly like a box wine to me.  Coppola's Chardonnay consistently offers a full-bodied white that never tastes sour or cheap, and at a great price.

**Any combination of vegetables, meat, or meatless will do, according to your mood.  This recipe isn't a rule; it's a guildline.

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