Stereotypical but true: After the excesses of the holiday season, January is time to enter more moderate territory. It’s just as good, but it doesn’t need to feel restrictive. And nothing festive either.
When cooking light meals, I tend to rely on some Asian pantry ingredients that can enhance flavor in lean preparations. For example, I add miso to a soup. Ginger and garlic support a fish dish, and toasted sesame oil turns into cookies.
To start, I wanted a simple vegetable soup that could be prepared quickly. When I make vegetable soup, I really want to taste the vegetables. Some cooks like to add canned chicken stock or shelf-stable vegetable stock. Not necessary. The fact is that when leeks and carrots are boiled in slightly salted water, the result is a very tasty vegetable broth. The vegetables and broth are then mashed together. Just before serving to add depth, mix some miso and a final squeeze of lime adds shine.
Fish is a great choice for a light meal. My fishmonger had flounder, but firm, white-fleshed fish like sea bass or grouper can be cooked with great results. In this case, the fish is a delicious, neutral backdrop for a delicious, savory topping of stir-fried mushrooms. Lightness is achieved without sacrificing taste. Here’s the method: Slice your mushrooms and sauté them in butter or oil, finish with chopped ginger, garlic and some soy sauce. Pour the mushrooms over the fish and cook in a casserole dish.
As it cooks, some delicious ginger-scented juices will come out of the fish. Be sure to apply this liquid to the fish during cooking and just before serving. Any type of mushroom will work, but shiitake is especially nice, or you can use wild chanterelles if available. Serve with steamed rice, perhaps some wilted spinach.
With the winter citrus season in full swing, it’s always a pleasure to celebrate the arrival of sour-sweet seedless Satsuma tangerines. A bowl of these beauties with added leaves is the perfect dessert for me. However, as the rest of the meal was commendably poor, I thought a few small, not-too-sweet triple sesame tea cakes would be fine.
Have another small glass of wine. We must gradually begin to be moderate.
recipes: Carrot-Leek Soup with Miso| Baked Fish with Mushrooms and Ginger| Three Sesame Tea Cakes
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