March 02, 2010

Dreaming in color | daikon soup variations | crochet

Daikon, shiitake and buckwheat soup
I always dream in color. Sometimes my dreams are so vivid I wake up not knowing where I am and what is real. I used to remember more of my dreams, and at one time kept a dream journal to document the weirdness. Now I hardly ever remember my dreams, but recently I woke up disturbed after a particularly vivid one, and recounted it to my husband who suggested I write it down. Here it is, open for interpretation.
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.

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.
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.

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
  • dashi
  • 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
1. In a large soup pot, sauté the mushrooms, carrots and buckwheat for a few minutes in the oil.

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.

The soup was so delicious we had variations of it two more times. My husband made it with buckwheat noodles instead of groats, and cauliflower instead of spinach but it wasn't as good.

We purchased a set of white serving bowls that make perfect large eating bowls so I've been a little obsessed with making dinners in a bowl. Here's a lovely stir-fry with rice noodles and mushroom broth that I made for myself on a night when I was dining alone.

Now, I know this doesn't look good — it looked the same way in person — but it WAS good. It was 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.

Last but not least, this is me, modeling the hat and scarf I crocheted. It's made from Lion Brand Homespun yarn which is one crazy yarn to work with. I bought this yarn because Bethany from 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!


  1. That was a doozey of a dream Andrea!

    Where do you get the patience from to crochet? I have none.

  2. Interesting the way you turn the daikon round. I always eat the daikon raw. What taste has it got cooked? Like turnip?

  3. I love that hat and scarf--lovely. Well done!


  4. Jacqueline,
    The patience comes from thick yarn and a BIG hook — makes it go much faster! (And I don't have a new baby to care for. That would be much more fun than crocheting.) :)

    I think the taste is similar to turnip but maybe more watery.

    Thanks! I love it too — it's very cozy. But I wasn't kidding about it growing. The scarf gets longer every time I wear it.

  5. I have some of that yarn too, and I know what you mean. That was quite a dream!!!!

  6. Thanks for your reply Andrea. About Tonka bean, sorry I forgot to include a link toward more information on my post. The wikipedia page is quite poor:
    Last year, I posted about it here for complements:
    It is a very special spice, that gives lots of nice flavor (close of almond extract with vanilla, caramel and cinnamon). It became quite fashion these last years in France (the new IT thing to get in the kitchen!).Can't you find almond cream in USA? It can also be home-made, I've never done it yet though.

  7. Claire,
    The yarn is beautiful and cuddly but very weird. I have another skein to make a scarf with but I have to be in just the right mood to crochet.

    The dream was a kind of mild nightmare - the kind where you're lost and can't get home. But the part about the sculptures was definitely odd.

    I can make almond cream but will have to look for tonka beans so I can try them.

  8. Your scarf and your hat both look beautiful!

    I think I can't get daikon over here, but I'd love to make that soop with another kind of radish. It sounds fantastic!

  9. What a great post! I do think the dream had something to do with fear of being in an unfamiliar place and wanting to keep your family close. The lady spoke in a different language b/c you feel like a foreigner there. Just a guess.

    The soup looks amazing! I love how you aren't afraid to give an honest opinion of your husband's version.

    The creeping hat is very cute. I think it's hilarious that it keeps growing!

  10. Mihl,
    Thank you! Do you have Asian markets? I'm astonished at the amazing variety of products found in ours.

    LOVE the dream interpretation — foreigner, yes.

    I don't think my husband has seen the post, yet — he might not agree with you! :)

    I believe the hat may have finally reached its full potential but the scarf is another story ...

  11. You look adorable in your hat and scarf! Love the color.
    Dreams can be very odd, I dreamt recently that I worked in an alarm clock factory testing the alarms. When mine went off I hit the snooze and said yup, that works and went back to sleep! Luckily my hubs hadn't left for work yet and woke me up:)

  12. I love that you posted your dream! And I wish I knew you better, because dream interpretation is something I really enjoy doing. I also dream in colour, but just the other day I was having this conversation with my mother and sister, and both of them swore they dream in "black and white." This sounded all wrong to me. Diane hadn't even been born until the days of colour television, so I asked how on earth she would even know what black and white *was*, but she answered, very perceptively, that in the dark, as deep under water, everyone loses colour vision, and her dreams, which are in general vivid and terrifying, are nevertheless like that, colorless. I can imagine it, but not quite relate...

  13. Interesting dream, it does sound like you're worried about getting lost and being separated from your family. I'm just glad I don't usually remember my dreams, they're pretty weird. Great looking soup! I just bought some kombu on sale so I can make dashi. That's too funny about the growing hat and scarf - looks cute on you though. :-)

  14. Wow, that was some dream! It reminds me a lot of my anxiety dreams when I am separated from my husband and can't communicate with him. The phone doesn't work, I can't remember the number, my fingers turn limp and noodley. Unfortunately I have those very frequently, I hope you don't! :)

    From nightmare to dreamy, your soup looks amazing! I will have to consider it for my "J" entry of E.A.T World. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

    Your hat and scarf are beautiful and so fluffy! You are very talented, Andrea! I hope tonight I don't dream of a growing head-eating hat! :D

  15. Janet,
    Your dream gave me a good laugh. It's amazing how realistic dreams can be, isn't it?

    I was surprised when I first learned that most people dream in black and white, it seemed so odd. My dreams are in vivid color, sometimes more vivid than reality. I asked my husband about his dreams, and he said they were black and white. At first I didn't believe him but I guess it's true. If you dream in b&w, how do you know if a twig is deep red? Do you just "know"?

    Chow Vegan,
    I've been having a great time with dashi. It's so easy to make, and everything I cook with it tastes delicious. It does have a somewhat funky smell though, from the mushrooms.

    Since I hardly remember my dreams anymore, I don't know what dreams I'm having!

    Actually, I'm not very talented at crochet, but I appreciate your thinking so. The hat and scarf are very basic but look much nicer because of the cool yarn. Cool and STRETCHY yarn, I should say.

  16. Adorable! Purple is my favorite.

  17. Andrea,
    I made the buckwheat daikon soup when the moon was full. I sliced the daikon into disk-like rounds and placed one in the center of each bowl. I dubbed it "Full Moon Soup:" cosmic as well as delicious! I also used dandelion greens instead of spinach. The sweet saltiness of the broth cut the bitterness of the greens. Thanks so much for the recipe. I'm already planning to make it again!

  18. CV,
    Thanks for telling me about your soup — I love the astrological connection! Using dandelion greens is a great idea that I'll have to try.

  19. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I've been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!



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