|Daikon, shiitake and buckwheat soup|
I was in Australia with my husband and youngest son, and we were headed off to tour a scenic area. We were in an underground train station, and I became separated from them — couldn't see them anywhere, and was feeling a little panicky. The station was packed with people trying to board the train, and the doors closed before I could enter the car. Suddenly the doors opened again and I rushed in, convinced they had boarded and would be inside. They weren't there but I hoped to find them when I got off at our destination.Well, I suppose some parts of the dream are about my feeling separated from my home, and stranded in this new city, and my difficulty navigating the streets. But the worms? What are they? Too bad the dream wasn't about daikon or dashi, and didn't take place in Japan — it would have been a better segue into the soup I prepared and would like to share with you. The soup was influenced by the Japanese cooking class we recently took, and the recipe for cooking the daikon comes directly from that class. It's very easy to make and incredibly delicious but may take a little advance planning to make the richest tasting dashi. It's worth it.
The inside of the car looked exactly like the worn-out buses I used to ride to high school, with cracking leather upholstery and a bench seat stretching across the back. It was packed with people but there was one space open on the rear seat, so I went to sit down. A young woman who seemed to know the other people on the seat came and squeezed in beside me. She and her friends were all laughing and talking in a language I didn't understand but somehow I knew that the seat had been hers — she had just left it for a few minutes to talk to friends. The seating was ridiculously tight and uncomfortable so I got up and worked my way to the front of the car. I was worried about missing my stop (15th and 45th Street!) so asked the conductor for help. I got off at my stop but my family wasn't in the station. I tried to use my cell phone to call my husband but I couldn't seem to press the right numbers. I kept messing up. Suddenly I was accosted by a man who tried to steal my phone. I told him I really needed it but he demanded I turn it over, and I asked if I could make one last call. While the thief was distracted I ran out of the station with my phone, into the city.
I wandered around and discovered a craft fair where a woman was selling small sculptures, each with a thin, reddish twig attached. I was thinking that the sculptures weren't too great, when someone approached me and whispered that there existed a certain worm that had four stages of life, and one of the stages was a reddish twig. I asked the sculptor if the twigs would turn into live worms but she didn't answer — just murmured something and smiled enigmatically. I walked away.
I needed to find a bank to change U.S. dollars into Australian dollars so I could take the train back to where we were staying. After I got directions and headed towards the bank, I tried to call my husband again and reached an operator. I learned that because we were using U.S. cell phones, an operator had to place the call. The operator knew us (though I wasn't exactly sure who she was) and was very friendly and helpful, and she placed the call for me but my husband still didn't answer. I tried calling my son but he didn't answer either.
A traveler's aide representative came out of a building and offered to help me. (I was kind of surprised to see she was someone we know from Wisconsin.) I told her I needed to find a bank and she gave me Australian dollars. Then she walked me to the train station and told me which train to catch. I was very worried because I only had one bar of power left on the phone, and wasn't sure how to get home from the train. I woke up suddenly, and after several moments of disorientation, realized with relief I was in my bed, and wouldn't need to find my way home after all.
Daikon, shiitake and buckwheat soup
To make the dashi:
Soak 8-10 dried shiitake mushrooms (rinsed) and 1-1/2 pieces dried kombu seaweed (wiped off with damp cloth) in 6 cups of water overnight in the refrigerator. When you're ready to prepare the soup, remove the kombu. Gently squeeze out the mushrooms into the stock and remove the stems. Slice the mushrooms into 1/4" strips and set aside.
To prepare the daikon:
- 1 medium daikon radish, peeled
- 1 cup dashi
- 3 tablespoons sake (or brown rice vinegar) (you can buy a cheaper sake for cooking)
- 3 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 1 teaspoon salt (or less to taste)
1. Cut daikon into 2" pieces. Trim off the edges of each cut end so the pieces are slightly rounded.
2. Put the daikon in a pot with just enough water to float the daikon, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cook, covered, for 30 minutes, until the daikon is mostly cooked.
3. Drain the daikon and add 1 cup of dashi to the pot. Add sake and mirin. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
4. Turn heat to low and add tamari and salt. Cook until daikon is tender. (easily pierced with a toothpick) Turn off heat and let sit while you prepare the soup.
To prepare the soup
- 2 to 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick on diagonal
- 8 to 10 shiitake mushrooms (from the dashi), stems removed and sliced into 1/4" strips
- 1 to 2 cups 1/2" firm tofu cubes
- 1/2 cup buckwheat groats, lightly toasted in a pan
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3 ounces fresh baby spinach, washed
- scallions, thinly chopped
2. Add the tofu and remaining dashi and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to simmer and cover. Cook until buckwheat is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Add daikon and its cooking liquid.
4. Just before serving, add spinach and stir in to wilt. Check and adjust seasonings.
5. Place in bowls and garnish with scallion. Serves four as first course or two to three as a main course.
really good. Maybe it just needs a little parsley or something. I was the lucky winner of a copy of "Vegan Fire and Spice" from Robin Robertson's blog, and this was the first recipe my husband tried. It's red beans and rice casserole made with pinto beans instead of kidney beans. I think it needs the deep color of the kidney beans rather than the bland-looking pintos.
Spotted Devil Cat and His Vegan Assistant made a fabulous scarf with it, and I wanted to make one too. (Of course, mine isn't half as cool as hers.) It does make beautiful stuff but it takes some getting used to working with its crimped texture, and items made with it seem to grow. Seriously, the photo was snapped just before the hat grew past my eyes. :D I wet it and put it in the drier, and now it seems to have stopped growing, but consider yourself warned!