Sunday, July 8, 2012

We went to Ranch 99 Market today.  We braved the parking lot (which makes the typical Trader Joe's parking lot look tame) full of tiny spaces, too many minivans and the Sunday afternoon crowds.  Since we live in the boonies now, getting to an Asian market is a big deal and quite a treat.

I hadn't made miso soup for a long time and since the weather has turned unseasonably cold, it was a falta that needed to be rectified.  My larder was empty of miso soup ingredients.  I learned how to make it from youtube video a couple of years ago. 

 This is not the original video I saw, but its very good. I would filter out the bonito flakes, they are tough.  Here is the accompanying dashi video.  Other than the dried anchovies, this is exactly how I make it. I add the kombu back, too. I am a bit superstitious about seaweed-- its natural glutamates are supposed to bind to the heavy metals in your gut and allow you to flush them out (I just tried to find something on the nets to substantiate that claim and I have had no luck, maybe my Grandad made that up). I have been craving it lately, and since it has nearly no calories, I figure, why not? I have also been craving chocolate, but that is a different problem.

So we went to the market.  I feel like a small town bumpkin there-- gawking at the live sturgeon and stopping awkwardly in the middle of the aisles (so LuLu can't grab all the wares off the shelves). LuLu grabbed as many bags of "beanies" as she could hoard on her lap.  I let her.  Beans are a safe addiction-- cheap and healthy.  We found oh so much more than I had originally planned.  We found most of our miso soup ingredients.

Dutch bought me this book after we got married, and it is a wonderful resource for white girls lost in Asian markets.  It also gives the reader a false sense of invulnerability.  I could, conceivably, buy anything I want and have it explicated.  And even eat it.  And enjoy it, dammit. Regardless of any cultural bias or confusion.

I have been intrigued for a long time by the idea of fermented tofu.  Anyone who knows me, knows my fascination with weird, fermented things.  I have no idea what its used for, but that didn't stop me from buying this.  It was a $1.19 and the ingredients were straightforward tofu, salt, sesame oil, and chilis.  I tried eating it and it tastes like blue cheese, with a heavy miso-esque kick in the balls. Fortunately, The Bruce has a recipe for Spinach with White Bean Cheese I can hardly wait to try. I already love blue cheese with greens, so it sounds like it should be very good.  Where can you get vegan blue cheese for $1.19?

Since Ranch 99 is a Chinese market and not a Japanese one, it only had a handful of misos. I don't know what "mild sodium" is but since I have to watch my salt intake, I thought this may be mi miso.  As soon as we got home, I whipped up some miso soup, and this miso is like candy-- sweet, light and not at all like the briny soups you get at restaurants. I also brought a crock of vegetable pickle.

How can anyone resist that gorgeous bit of 1930s Shanghai design?  This would be a nice tattoo.  At least you'd know what it said (ha ha).  I still can't have any family brassicae, until I wean the Spike, but it will wait for as long as necessary-- stewing in its juices, getting stronger and stronger, 'til it breaks free of the bonds of gravity.  According to The Bruce this is a condiment for congee (something I haven't made, but perhaps deserves a bit more research).

My mostly Asian mommy group has lately been expanding my ideas of toddler food.  Toddler food is a class of culinary insanity by itself.  You can give a toddler anything, but there are three very important considerations-- it needs to be easily grabbed by little hands, easy to prepare and it shouldn't be too messy.  Finger foods are ideal.  Poor LuLu has been mostly subsisting on Cheerios, bananas, poached eggs and yogurt (not necessarily a bad diet.  We always give her what we are eating for dinner-- sometimes she eats it, sometimes not). One of The Mommies fed her rice balls and nori at a play date the other day.  Her rice balls were stuffed with cooked salmon and LuLu sucked them down and begged for more. The nori also made a handy grabbing medium for the sticky rice.  Shown here is an experiment I did with half sweet rice and brown rice-- it turned out sticky enough to make little balls (but also had a little nutritional righteousness from the brown rice).  Spike also can eat little rice balls wrapped in nori.  I should have snapped a picture of his green mustache.

So check out The Bruce, and youtube and you too can make wild discoveries at your local Chinese market. Gambei!

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I blog about life and soup, but mostly soup.