A (mostly) white vegetable soup recipe

What do you do when you’ve got a small cabbage head and a bunch of small carrots from your CSA? Not to mention that your mother bought you half a nagaimo (Japanese mountain yam) and a couple of chayote squash for no reason?

Soup!

And I must be absolutely mad to be making soup on a hot summer Sunday evening (a little humid and 90F!). It was only made possible by the lone air conditioner in my apartment which was strategically placed in the kitchen.

I was inspired by two driving forces: by the memory of the shiso-white wine-chicken recipe in “Ancient Kitchen, Modern Wisdom,” and by my belief that chayote squash doesn’t pair well with traditional herbs. (I roasted chayote squash once with dried basil, and discovered it was one of the worse pairings I could have done.  It generally tastes good with spices.)

Here’s how the (mostly) white vegetable soup went:

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Chinese Black Sesame Soup (dessert soup)

(In advance, I apologize for the lack of pictures. When I first thought about writing this post, I felt that it was too early. Now that I am ready, I do not have the soup thawed out for the task of photo-taking, but I don’t want to wait on this post any longer.)

Recently, I attended a soup swap. What’s that, you might be asking. Well, it’s a gathering of sorts involving something like a game. All of the attendees bring six quart-sized containers filled with a frozen homemade soup/stew of their choice. All of the soups are lumped together in a spot in the room. Then, attendees pick out a number, and proceed, in their numbered order, to explain what they brought in. Once this is completed, the guests then  take turns picking out a new soup container to bring home. So, you bring over six quarts of your soup, and you bring home six quarts of someone else’s soup.

This year, I decided on a Chinese dessert soup – black sesame soup (aka “hak zi ma wu”). Researching only provided me with two recipes that looked usable.

Recipe #1
http://chinesefood.about.com/od/desserts/r/black_sesame.htm

Recipe #2
http://www.flavorandfortune.com/dataaccess/article.php?ID=219

The first time I made this soup, I followed recipe #1 exactly. This time around, I followed recipe #1 in general measurements, but tried the methodology of recipe #2. I had hoped that recipe #2 would be a time saver, what with the rice being blended before cooking. In the end, I got a superior result to my first attempt… but it didn’t take any less time.

The long of the short of it? You must blend your ingredients before and after it is cooked. This is the only way you will hope to obtain the same thick but silky texture that you’ll find in a restaurant. (I guess I would liken the viscosity to something like honey.)

Ingredients:
1 cup white rice (long grain or short grain)
1 cup toasted black sesame seeds
7 – 8 cups water, depending on how thick or thin you want the soup (you may even want to go down to 6.5 cups of water if you plan on freezing this as defrosting seems to affect the texture a little)
1 cup granulated sugar (the amount of sugar is up to you – my family found that the original half cup specified was not sweet enough, so I prefer using one full cup at least)

1. Soak your rice in cold water for at least an hour.
2. In a blender, crush up the sesame seeds. Add half of the rice and crush this as finely as you can. Add about a cup of water, and then blend well. Tip this out into your stockpot or large saucepan. Crush up the rest of the rice, add another cup of water, and blend well. When done, tip this out into your pot too.
3. Add the remaining cups of water into the pot. (I have found that I like the consistency of about seven total cups of water. If you want it thinner, use more water.) Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to medium. Meanwhile, make sure that you stir continuously. Until the rice is cooked, it will sink to the bottom of your pot. If you don’t mix continuously, you will run the risk of burning the bottom.
4. Add the sugar (this can be honey, or a mixture of the two… or you can be silly like me and use powdered cactus honey which was purchased some time ago on a whim). As the sugar dissolves, you will notice that the consistency of the soup has gotten thicker. After about 5-8 minutes, the sugar is completely incorporated and the cooking is done.
5. You can try using an immersion blender, but I prefer letting the soup cool a little and blending it in a normal blender. Blend the finished soup to make sure that you have a silky texture (it’ll lumpy if you don’t… perfectly edible but totally lumpy).
6. Serve the soup. I prefer this soup warm-bordering-on-hot, but my mother says you can serve it cold. (Personally, I have never seen this served cold.)  And enjoy.  ^_^

~Mikan