Last week was not my week in the kitchen, friends. I had great, ambitious designs on a rhubarb meringue tart that would be pink and pretty with a scalloped tart-shell edge and a meringue that looked like piped roses that had toasted petal tips. But as the week went on and as various really non-torments in the greater definition of the word but nonetheless tormenting to me mounted — thin curds, too thick curds, beige (you know, the color of pink rhubarb + multiple yolks) curd, slumped tart shells, wet meringues, useless broilers, blowtorches so close to empty, they emit the useless wisps of sleepy dragons, refill canister AWOL — my enjoyment of the project plummeted. But, because I’d like to teach my kid one day that he should follow through and finish what he started, I did, and lo, it was good, you know? Maybe I’m just not a meringue pie person and I forgot? None of this matters because the finished pie slid off the plate flopping face-down into the open fridge as I tried to put it away and then, as I crouched on the floor in front of the open fridge scooping fistfuls of meringue and curd into a garbage bag and questioning my life choices, my son walked in and asked what I was making for dinner.
It’s the first week of January, so I am going to go out on a limb and guess that no fewer than 52 percent of you are gnawing on a carrot stick right now. If you’re not gnawing on a carrot stick right now, you probably have some within reach of you. If they’re not within reach of you, they’re in your fridge, because you, like most of us, are more ambitious when it comes to grocery lists than you might be when it’s time to consume said groceries. And if they’re not in your fridge, you might have them on your mind, nagging at you. Early January is like that. (Late January is all about rich comfort foods. Trust me.)
I set off 2012 on this site with a carrot soup, and it’s not accidental that I’m doing the same in 2013. You see, one of the sadder facts about me is that I’m plagued with indecision about everything, from bangs to coffee tables to soups, and before you ended up reading about Carrot Soup with Miso and Sesame and maybe even some pickled scallions, I had at least three ideas for carrot soup spinning in my head and it likely took me a solid week with immeasurable hemming and hawing to even settle on the miso version first. This carrot tahini soup was first runner up last year, but it’s clear to me, eating my first bowl of this right now, this was a mistake. The inspiration is one of my favorite snacks (sadly, not shared by my assistant, yet), carrot sticks dipped in hummus* and here I tried to deconstruct the two things only to reconstruct them better.
If you told me a week ago that I would willingly adding cold chicken to cold noodles and call it a meal, a meal I’d eat enthusiastically, I’d think you had lost your mind. The various intersections of cold chicken and cold pasta are littered with foods I’d rather forget, such as those macaroni salads with shredded, overcooked chicken, suspiciously squicked together with mayo in a clear plastic take-out container of dubious expiration at the nearest corner deli. Hey, who’s hungry? Probably not you anymore!
But in David Tanis able kitchen (and I hope you’re following his City Kitchen column each week as eagerly as I do) chicken is marinated with a potent mix of ginger, garlic, lime juice and fish sauce before being flash-grilled or broiled and then cooled and roughly chopped. It is then added to rice noodles as long and twisty as skeins of yarn, topped with lots of crunchy vegetables, a medley of two sauces (one loud with chiles, lime and fish sauce and the other nutty and perfect with ginger, peanut butter and toasted sesame), salted roasted peanuts, slivers of cooling herbs (mint, basil and cilantro) into something that’s about as close to a dream of a summery one-bowl meal as we can get, and just in time for our first inferno of a New York City heatwave this year.
If I could have a breakfast rallying cry, a breakfast mantra, if you will, it would be, It’s not cake! It’s breakfast! It would be rather dull, naturally. I know that the line between Cake For Breakfast and our various formats of Breakfast Cakes (muffins, coffee cakes and pancakes) is thin, I know the distinctions on either side of it are, at best, tiny, but they are what allows me to pretend I’m eating cake for breakfast when I’m really not, so I cling to them.
I said as much a few weeks ago when I made coconut muffins. Oh sure, they’re like a glorified macaroon, but! a macaroon full of healthy oils and Greek yogurt and whole wheat flour and a moderate level of sugar. They win at breakfast. Cake, 0, Breakfast 1, you could say. But when I spotted a recipe for carrot cake pancakes, replete with what we all know is the very best part of carrot cake, a sweetened cream cheese topping, I said, “No way, uh-uh. Carrot cake is dessert, not breakfast.”
I hadn’t meant for this soup to be so quintessentially early January — that would be, virtually fat free, dairy free, gluten free (miso dependent), vegan and the very picture of healthful do-gooding. It’s about one cube of tofu away from earning a halo or at least being surrounded by singing cherubs. In fact, if you advertised a soup to me with all of those qualities, I’d probably run in the other direction because I am a dietary heathen, and I love butter, even if overdoing it in December now requires it in moderation. For the rest of time.
In fact, the reason why I made this soup is because, in general, I don’t find carrot soups all that interesting and wanted to challenge myself to make one I’d love, and eat often. I turned to one of my favorite dressing recipes for inspiration — the ginger-carrot-miso awesomeness most of us know from sushi restaurants — and decided to mash up a miso and carrot soup.