Cooking with Fern

Fern and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Just within the last few days she has transformed from uninterested floor creature to culinary co-creator. On Monday we spent the entire afternoon concocting nourishment. I prepped veggies for our favorite miso noodle soup and had several pans of delicious Anadama bread rising on the oven door. At first Fern was going a little stir crazy, so despite it’s potential for head-splitting falls, I got out the step ladder and positioned her at the counter with me. She was so content to sort through lids and spoons and to push soap suds around, while I washed dishes, it was a thing of beauty.

I brought back from Redding all my childhood toy pots and pans, wonderful little things with lids and handles, and put them in “her” cupboard in the kitchen. I want to make her a kitchen playstation, but we don’t have one yet. So I got out our (truly) washable crayons and drew a little stovetop on her snack tray. I added a pot and pan and strategically placed her special rocks and other tidbits nearby, to see what would happen. Here is the result:

Fern’s Stone Soup

5 or 6 semi-precious stones
4 miniature Amanita Muscaria mushrooms
2 mini wooden gnomes

Heat slowly over invisible fire, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. When the faeries start gathering around, asking when dinner’s ready, taste for salt and serve hot.

Mama’s Miso Noodle Soup

2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 potatoes (We like yukon gold), diced
1 cup shitake mushrooms (fresh), sliced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 slices of ginger
1 bay leaf (foragers, use that bay laurel!)
2 cubes veggie bouillon (unsalted)
1/2 T thyme (I vary this, sometimes using basil or majoram or all three)
1 1/2 cups black beans (precooked or canned) OR 1 package tempeh (if using tempeh, slice into 1/4 inch strips and then quarter)
fresh udon or soba noodles (from your chinese grocer, or use dried and cook before hand)
2-3 T white miso
6-8 cups water
2 T olive oil or butter

In a soup pot, heat the oil or butter. Add the onion and garlic and saute over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Add the veggies (NOT the mushrooms), the bay leaf, ginger and the herbs and saute for 3 minutes more. Add the water, bouillon and a few squirts of Braggs. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, saute the mushrooms in oil or butter, adding a pinch of sea salt as they cook so they will release their juices. They are done when they are just starting to brown, and still soft. You can cook further if you prefer, so they are nice and chewy, but the more you cook, the more nutrients they loose.

If you are using tempeh, also saute in a lightly oiled pan, on medium heat, until brown on both sides. If using beans, add to the soup after 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat of the soup, scoop out a cup of the soup broth and allow to slightly cool. After 10 minutes, add the miso to the cup and dissolve. Put the miso in the soup, along with the noodles, tempeh and mushrooms. (Never add miso to boiling water, since the heat will kill off all the beneficial flora). Watchout for the bay leaf and the ginger slices as you slurp up those noodles!

(ingredient amounts are approximate and to taste, so experiment as you go!)


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