Wednesday, August 4, 2010

summer miracle

In college, my vertebrate physiology professor had a New Yorker cartoon posted on her office door showing a couple of people slumped lazily in armchairs. The caption read: "Tropic of Torpor." (A kind of in-joke about her research--my professor studies hibernation in small mammals. As for me, my only excuse for still remembering that cartoon and finding it hilarious is that I am a huge nerd.)

So. For me: summer = Tropic of Blogger. Or Torpor of Blogger, or something. I don't know why I've been struggling so hard to find the motivation to cook and struggling even more to find the motivation to write about it. But there you go.

As if to prove my point, there's this recipe--when the weather turned hot here in Seattle (finally!), my response was to create a dish based on two of my winter staple recipes. The soba noodles at the base are from this dish of boiled kale, and the stew is based on this recipe from Just Hungry that I can't believe I haven't written about here yet (hmm, I blame torpor), because we really do make it all the time.

A recipe that improbably got me into the kitchen for one brief instant: hence the title of this post, a summer miracle. Even more miraculous? The dish caused Monkey to utter the sentence, "Mama, can I have some more turnip?" I still can't believe it myself.

Summer Vegetable Stew with Tofu and Soba Noodles
Even more food for your summer torpor: this stuff is great eaten cold for lunch the next day.

2 large-ish turnips
A dozen big radishes
1/2 of a small onion
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 package atsu-age (deep-fried tofu cutlet)
2 Tbs. sake (mirin is okay too)
3 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. dark (grade B) maple syrup
1/4 lb. sugar snap peas

200 g soba noodles
3 tsp kecap manis (or you could use a combination of soy sauce and molasses or maple syrup)
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
A pinch of ground ginger

Wash and peel the turnips, and cut them into chunks. Wash and trim the radishes, and cut them in half. Slice the onion thinly.

Heat the sesame oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the turnips, radishes, and onion, and stir to coat with the oil.

If you want, you can unwrap the tofu cutlet, place it in a large bowl, heat some water to boiling, and then pour the water over the cutlet. Drain and rinse--this gets some of the oil off of the tofu. But you know what? When I made this it was too hot, and I was too lazy! So I skipped this step, and everything was fine.

Cut up the tofu into chunks and add it to the pan, stirring again to mix everything together. Add the sake, soy sauce, and maple syrup and stir. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile wash and trim the sugar snap peas. Add them to the stew after about 20 minutes and cook about 10 minutes more. You want them to be tender, but not too mushy.

Also while the stew is cooking, heat some water in a saucepan and cook the soba noodles. Drain and toss them with the kecap manis, rice vinegar, and ginger.

To serve, put a mound of soba noodles on a plate and the stew on top.

Makes 4-6 servings.