My husband woke up not feeling well this morning. He only ate a little of his scrambled eggs, didn’t finish his coffee, and really looked like he should be going back to bed instead of getting in the car and driving to work.
I wondered if I’d see him home earlier than usual.
Sure enough, a couple of hours earlier then his normal arrival time, Bill pulled into the driveway. He changed into comfier clothes and crashed on the couch with the tv on.
There wasn’t a whole lot I could do for him at that point other than let him fall asleep. I picked up the kids, got them squared away with snacks and homework and so forth, and got started on dinner.
I’d been thinking about dinner since Bill slouched into the house. Not serious thinking…more like back burner thinking. Ideas drifted in and out as I went about other things, and one by one, the elements came together.
First thoughts: Comfort. Something soothing. Nurturing. Miso.
Well, we didn’t have any miso paste (which surprised me – I thought I had some in the fridge), but we DID have plenty of stocks, in assorted flavors (chicken, beef, clam, crab, fish).
Miso soup is one of the go-to soothing comfort foods I make for Bill if he’s sick or recovering from a migraine. The slightly smoky, earthy flavor is like a warm hug.
Since we didn’t have miso, though, I needed to come up with something similar.
I used a blend of “dark smoky chicken stock” and regular ol’ plain chicken stock (2 cups of each) and, later, some water. I put the two stocks in a pot and added about a handful of sliced, dried oyster mushrooms, from our store of assorted Asian ingredients. (We have one whole cupboard devoted just to things like dried mushrooms, coconut milk, a variety of egg and rice noodles, tamarind paste, dried Thai chili peppers, and too many other things to list here.)
So there was the base of my soup. Kind of like a chicken soup, but with some serious detours.
Next thoughts: Mild protein, no fat, no grease
I wanted to keep things light, easy on the stomach, but filling and sustaining. So I decided to use tofu, which is a typical miso soup ingredient, and the rest of the shrimp (about half a pound) we had in our freezer.
I didn’t really need the shrimp in there – we all like miso soup, and the tofu in it, so there was no reason to think the kids wouldn’t like it. Maybe I was just looking for variety, both visually and texturally.
So I put the shrimp in a pan of water to thaw so I could peel the shells off,
and I cut the tofu into small – about a third of an inch – cubes and set them aside.
I only used half the tofu, so I’ve got some to use in some other recipe another day this week. Yay!
Next thoughts: Ginger and Garlic.
Not thoughts in the same way the previous ones were – these are more specific. But the ginger would help settle his stomach and the garlic…well, garlic is just good and good for you, period. I put it in everything. Well, almost. The kids’ cereal is off-limits.
Anyway, I took a small knob of fresh ginger, peeled it and sliced it thinly and dropped that in the pot with the mushrooms and stock.
I was going to mince some garlic, but when I reached into the basket of garlic on our counter I pulled out a little head of baby garlic and decided to use them instead. I just separated the little garlic cloves and dropped them in the soup – didn’t bother to peel them or anything. I just wanted them in there releasing some nutrients.
Next thoughts: color…vitamins.
Time to go outside.
Miso soup usually also has bits of seaweed in it. I decided to sub in some swiss chard. We had plenty of kale, too, but chard is thinner and cooks more quickly.
And we also have gorgeous carrots in our garden, so I pulled one and used a vegetable peeler to slice it thinly.
I also picked some Thai basil leaves. They weren’t going in the soup – I figured I’d serve them on the side, along with slices of lime (citrus!) and sliced dried and fresh hot peppers, like you get with a lot of Thai soups.
Okay, so the mushrooms simmered in chicken broths until they had softened. The earthiness of the mushrooms mingled with the smokiness and richness in the blend of stocks. Not miso, but similar.
I’d added the ginger and garlic after the mushrooms were soft, and I added some more water, maybe two cups or so, because…well…I needed more liquid. I could have added more stock, but I thought water would lighten it a bit and it just seemed to be the right thing to do.
Yeah, intuitive cooking. I do that a lot.
Anyway, after, oh, say fifteen minutes, I added the carrots, and after another ten – time for the carrots to soften – I added the chopped chard and the tofu. While I had down time at this point, I’d peeled the shrimp.
We had some leftover egg noodles from a feast Bill prepared on Sunday, and some cooked jasmine rice, too, so I figured I’d serve the soup over either rice or noodles, depending on what everyone wanted.
I warmed the rice and the noodles and set out my plate of Thai basil chiffonade and lime and chiles on the table.
I also put bottles of soy sauce and fish sauce out, in case anyone wanted to add those.
At the very end, I sliced the shrimp in half, lengthwise,
and added them to the hot soup. They cooked quickly, curling into pink corkscrews as they simmered.
And then it was time to eat.
I ladled soup over rice for the kids, and over the noodles for Bill and me.
Chopsticks and spoons were on the table, and I told Bill and the kids to go ahead and start while I – of course – took a few pictures.
Or tried to. That’s Alex’s hand. He thinks it’s funny when he does that. I tell him it’s not, but only because, as his mother, I think that’s what I’m supposed to tell him. But then I go ahead and include the picture in the post because he’s right – it is kind of funny.
Everyone liked the soup.
We all sat there at the table sipping and slurping away.
I added a bit of everything to mine – the Thai basil, some lime juice, a bit of fresh jalapeno and a bit of dried Thai bird chiles. And a few shakes of fish sauce, too, just for fun.
Most importantly, Bill enjoyed the soup.
It didn’t necessarily improve anything right away – he still feels terrible – but it tasted good, it provided some warmth, some comfort, some nurturing.
A culinary hug, if you will.