Posts Tagged ‘soup’

Start with Perfection

May 24, 2012

I love a good soup. The flavors blend together so you can’t tell what’s in it yet each elememt contributes something that would be lost without that specific ingredient. A perfect harmony of the fewest possible ingredients that creates intrigue and comfort in one spoonful.

Perhaps I have astronomical aspirations or am embellishing the simplicity of soup. The reason, at least, is because I cannot make a simple clear stock. I use my leftover chicken bones fanatically – to the point of buying and roasting a whle chicken just so I can make some stock. I pile on the veggie scraps, taking care to leave out any pungent ones like broccoli or cabbage. I’ve made some good lentil soups and pumpkin is a personal favorite. And yet a simple egg drop soup is beyond me.

I found the ideal I’ve been striving for in giant bowls of noodles at Japanese restaurants so I raided the library for all non-sushi Japanese cookbooks. I read through Harumi’s Japanese Cooking first for a quick and easy introduction to Japanese dishes, then consumed myself so thoroughly in The Washoku Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh that I wound up buying a copy. Both books confirmed the secret to a delicate, clear broth is seaweed! I don’t understand the science of it but apparently seaweed is gelatinous and imparts this quality to the broth when cooked carefully, as well as a very light flavor which can be enhanced by dried tuna flakes or mushrooms.

Stock Ingredients

Dried tuna flakes (bonito) and seaweed (kombu) are all that’s needed for a perfect stock.

The result? I’ve made soup every week for the last two months!

Fish Stock

inspired by Harumi’s Japanese Cooking and Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh


  • 4½c water
  • 15-20" piece of seaweed
  • ¼c dried tuna flakes
  1. Soak the seaweed in the cold water for 15min.
  2. Bring the water just to a boil over medium heat.
  3. As soon as the water is boiling, add the tuna flakes and drop the heat to low.
  4. Turn the heat off and remove the seaweed and tuna flakes after a few minutes (the tuna will start to sink).


I am not an expert in Japanese cooking or ingredients. I am only just learning. However, there is a wide variety of seaweed available and seaweed itself, from what I’ve read, is a misnomer. It should be considered a leafy green that grows in water. Kombu is recommended for making stock. I don’t know why. Perhaps it has the best gelatinous properties. It is important not to rinse it before use as the salt-like granules on the seaweed contribute to the stock’s character.

Tuna flakes (bonito) are available in many Asian markets and have a very strong smell but do not overpower the stock as they are used for just a few minutes. I encourage you to try making the stock as is but for vegetarians and those who do not like fish or strong fish smells while cooking, substitute a few dried shitake mushrooms.


Cure for the Common Cold

May 16, 2010

I have been sick with a sorethroat and cold this past week. My diet consisted mainly of liquid such as gatorade, tea with honey, and whatever I could turn into soup. The following soup was a first-time try and needs tweaking, but was delicious enough that I thought posting it was worthwhile. I want to become an expert soup maker because they are so simple and a great way of using leftovers. It’s been a long learning process with some great and some mediocre results. Suggestions are welcome!

Mushroom Leek Soup

a bowl of mushroom leek soup garnished with chive flowers

Mushroom Leek Soup

created on the fly by Sarah Johnson


  • 1 leek
  • 1-2 c mushrooms
  • 2 T butter
  • ½ c vermouth
  • 4 c stock
  • ½ c evaporated milk
  • sprig of sage leaves
  • sprig of thyme
  • sprig of rosemary
  • 2 cloves
  • 8 white peppercorns
  • 3 T flour
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 2 chive flowers
  1. Chop the leeks and mushrooms.
  2. Heat the butter in a pot over medium heat.
  3. Sautee the leeks until tender.
  4. Add the mushrooms and sautee until they release their juices.
  5. Add vermouth and cook for a few minutes until the alcohol has evaporated.
  6. Add stock and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add milk, herbs, cloves, and peppercorns.
  8. Simmer covered for 45 minutes, then remove cover and simmer for 15 minutes more.
  9. Place about 1 c of the liquid in a small bowl and add flour to it.
  10. Whisk the flour and liquid until well blended, then return to soup.
  11. Add salt and black pepper.
  12. Garnish with chive flowers to serve.


The beauty of soups is that the ingredients are so flexible. Start with some vegetables or meat, sautee, then add stock and herbs and let it cook until the flavors are blended. I was inspired for this recipe by oyster mushrooms being on sale at the local market. I love leeks and will use them any chance I get. The two pair nicely and cream of mushroom soup feels so good on a sore throat. The point is, any kind of mushrooms will work well for this recipe. The more flavorful the better.

I use evaporated milk when making cream recipes to reduce the fat, but if you want real flavor, go for cream. It will be thicker and much more delicious. The vermouth is a personal preference instead of white wine. If you have a delicious and light dry white wine it will taste excellent. Sherry might work well too. The herbs are what I have an abundance of in my garden so feel free to experiment. I thought some lemon juice or lemongrass might add some refreshing flavor to the soup but I decided to stick to one flavor group at a time and used only earthy, savory herbs.

Chive Flowers

The chives surprised me this year and went to flower before I knew what happened. They are now my garnish of choice.

The chive flower garnish made the soup look more appealing but also added a nice sharp onion flavor. Again, I just have a bunch of chive flowers sitting on my counter and am trying to find ways to use them, so raid your cupboards and get creative! Then tell me all about it.