When it rains, it pours.
There was a time a couple years ago when my car got towed while I was away, traveling for a month. An entire month in a Philly tow truck lot costs the equivalent to an entire month of a lot of people’s salaries. It was an unfortunate way to return home from a trip. To further this unfortunate nonsense, my wallet got stolen the week that followed. And in the days that followed that, I got hit by a car (luckily without much injury). To end out that week, I was laid off from a steady freelance gig, because times were apparently tough for everyone that year.
It was a month of rain – the kind where lighting seems to strike down without warning, and the power goes out, and you’re left in silence wondering what to learn from the entire situation as you wait for the lights to turn on again. (Part of what I learned is that tears don’t work on Philly tow truck guys, ever. Ever. Sometimes money situations aren’t fun, but they aren’t usually worth that whole breath-stealing mountain of your stress. And sometimes it just pours in life, and if you don’t learn to move on, you’ll become a miserable human being. Like I imagine the tow truck people are.)
Fast forward two years later, and again, it appears to be pouring. However, this time it’s that good kind of storm, where the sun’s somehow peaking out while the drops are still falling, and you’re looking at the sky in pure awe. Waves of rain. That is life, at least from my own experience.
It feels like everything I’ve been working at for awhile now is starting to all pick up steam. All at the exact same time, spearheading in one single month. I’ve had my soup spoon in a million different pots these past few years, so a lot is going on right now. Crazy.
It’s a weird, terrifying, exciting, overwhelming[ly satisfying] feeling that often leaves me in this bright-eyed, slightly wiped area. My time these days is running short, which is where food and cooking comes in.
I’m a firm believer in finding balance and space to connect with those you love – and what better way than through food? Ideally, that’s in the kitchen, over shared conversation and creativity, if you have any creative steam remaining.
This was one of those Sunday soups, dreamed up on a rainy (speaking literally here) afternoon with one of my good friends. She brought some tiny thai chilies from her parents’ garden, which inspired the hot sesame chili oil that gets drizzled on top. Collaboration – it’s the start of all good things.
Full of hearty-healthiness, this soup is perfect for when you need brain power and stamina, and just something that tastes downright awesome in your bowl. It’s nourishing, packed with kale, butternut, and seaweed, and warming for the winter. Feel free to adjust how many chilies you use in the sesame oil, depending on your desire for spice and warmth!
P.S. FoodFitnessFreshAir is coming alive tomorrow night! For all my Philly friends, I’ll be running the food truck inside Garage bar, serving up socca with tons of fancy sauces, and simple, quality toppings. 6p.m. till sold out! Introduce yourself. Come say hello. Join me.
-Beet Pesto with Arugula & Bulgarian Feta
-Curry Coconut Lentils with Roasted Carrots & Spicy Thai Chili
-Fire-Roasted Eggplant with Black Tahina, Honey Labane, Crispy Chickpeas, and Pomegranate Sauce
- 13 cups water
- 6 sheets of kombu
- 3 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 lg. butternut, cubed
- 3-4 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
- 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I like a variety of shiitake and white buttons)
- 1 pkg. extra firm tofu, drained and pressed (place tofu block between a towel under a cast iron pan or another heavy object)
- 3/4 bunch of kale, stems stripped, chopped
- 8 oz. soba noodles
- 6 Thai chilies, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup toasted sesame oil
- 4 scallions, chopped
- Add water and kombu to a large pot, and slowly bring to a simmer. Keep at a low simmer and let cook for 25-30 minutes. Remove kombu and set aside. (You can either discard the kombu, or finely chop it and add it back in later.)
- Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add butternut, and saute for 3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. of soy sauce, and continue to saute until butternut begins to soften, but is still slightly crunchy, about 4-5 minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside.
- Use 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in the saute pan over medium high. Add garlic and ginger. Saute for 2 minutes, and then add mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms get a nice sear. Add to bowl with squash.
- Cube the pressed tofu, and then add remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. of oil to a saute pan over medium-high heat. Place tofu in pan and cook until edges begin to brown, flipping halfway. At first point the tofu begins to stick, add 1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce.
- When broth is ready, add butternut, mushroom/garlic/ginger, and chopped kale to your broth in the large pot. Add noodles. Cover, and bring pan to a rapid simmer. Cook until noodles are tender, 8-10 minutes. Check broth, and add remaining 1 Tbsp. of soy sauce, if needed, and the tofu.
- Over medium-low heat, saute chilies in sesame oil for 3-4 minutes. (Be mindful not to turn the heat too high - toasted sesame oil does not like that.) Serve soup in large bowls, with chili sesame oil drizzled over top. Top with scallions, and enjoy.
The veggies here are cooked one at a time to break the recipe down into simple steps. Their flavors then layer on each other once added to the seaweed stock. When making the stock, feel free to discard the kombu once it's finished simmering, or chop the kombu and add it to the soup.