Tuesday, May 27, 2008

baking and miso soup

Our long weekend was largely composed of sleeping, cuddling, dispensing medicine, and taking walks. No bbq, no household projects, no tackling of the task list. Just taking care of our sick little boy, and trying to keep us grown-ups from getting sick(er) ourselves. Still, it was Denis' birthday and we managed to celebrate a bit. Denis is fond of chocolate, and the past two years I have baked him chocolate cakes (actually I think I skipped a year in there when I was still in first trimester wooziness). Anyway, those who know me know that I am MUCH more of a cook than a baker. In fact, before getting married and having a baby, I really didn't want to have much to do with flour and measuring spoons at all. Somehow having a husband and child changed that and suddenly I find myself with a kitchenaid mixer and a bunch of sugary recipes.
Well, I could use some help. I opted out of the chocolate frustrations of my previous cake forays, and picked this Three-Berry Cake which seemed simple enough for a non-baker-nurse-mom. It turned out great, as you can see by the photo above, but that is despite the fact that I completely screwed up the lemon zesting. I have a small zester, which I find very ineffective, and a small cheese grater, which I used this time and managed to grate all the way to the pith (though I tried not to), making the zest bitter and useless. If anyone can tell me how to successfully zest a lemon (i.e. a good tool to use), I would be very grateful. This cake was tasty though, and best of all Denis liked it. He even packed himself a little piece for his lunch today.

While we're on the subject of baking questions, I've been getting into baking banana bread, using this recipe and it is very banana-y and delicious, but again I could use some advice. While this bread is baking, it oozes out a LOT of watery buttery liquid which drips to the bottom of the oven (or now that I know, onto a cookie sheet). This doesn't seem normal, and makes cleanup more involved, though the bread is moist and fantastic. Any ideas on how to avoid the ooze? And now, back to cooking....familiar territory. I am fully convinced that the soup above has been responsible for the fact that I am not sick, and that Denis is not sicker than he already is. Miso soup is the most delicious and powerful medicine you can make. Meat-eaters have chicken soup, I guess, but for me, miso soup is where it's at. It only takes 20 minutes to make! Sam even ate the tofu and noodles, and his appetite has been basically non-existent for days. I made it twice this weekend: basically I sauteed in a saucepan on medium high heat a lot of minced ginger, a couple dashes of red pepper flakes, and some tofu in toasted sesame oil a couple minutes. Added a lot of crushed garlic, a few sliced scallions (and julienned carrots one time), sauteed some more. Added a handful of baby spinach leaves, some cooked noodles, and a dash of shoyu (or tamari). Added some water to not quite cover the raw spinach leaves, and covered pan until wilted and water just boiling. Took pan off heat. Stirred in a cup or two of warm water with a few tablespoons of (stirred and dissolved) miso. Done! If you get the proportions right, you have a nice savory broth with perfectly balanced ginger-garlic flavors, a hint of scallion and other veggies, a touch of heat, and the satisfying softness of noodles and tofu. Yummy! Or as Sam would say, "Mmmmmmm."

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