Rejuvenation and Dashi

Springtime rejuvenates me. I love the budding trees, the very young, very light shade of green that new leaves have. I look forward to the sweet, sultry smell of the Russian olive trees. And I love putting away the coats and gloves and hats. Here in Central New Mexico, we get to closet them for a good eight or nine months.

Spring is a miraculous season.

Spring is a miraculous season. This photo is dedicated to my blogging friend, Kathy, who lives in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan where she is still experiencing the need for the coats, hats and gloves.

Seems like all living things are awakened in the spring—even my Christmas cactus has decided to bless us with a single bright blossom! This hasn’t happened in three years since I first got the plant as a Christmas present. It was covered in bright red blooms then, but little by little they finished their time and dried up and dropped off. Never to be seen again. Try as I did to encourage another bloom, the Christmas cactus remained a beautiful green with new growth and a lovely vibrancy, but alas, no flowers. Until now!

A Springtime Christmas gift!

A Springtime Christmas gift!

I celebrated with a little springtime rejuvenation of my own.

Shiitake Scallion Soup – Makes 6

  • 1 1/2 quarts of spring water
  • 6 inch piece of kombu
  • naturally brewed soy sauce to taste (I recommend Nama Shoyu)
  • 1/2 cup bonita dried fish flakes (optional)
  • 1 package of extra-firm organic tofu
  • 1 bunch of fresh organic scallions
  • 6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms

1. Make the soup stock, also known as dashi-a Japanese-style broth. Put the kombu and spring water in a pot and let it come to a boil. Reduce heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. The kombu has many minerals and creates a wonderful flavor for this basic soup stock.

2. Remove the kombu* and (optional) add the bonita flakes. Turn off the heat and steep the bonita flakes for a few minutes. They will sink to the bottom. Strain the stock. I used a strainer with an unbleached coffee filter inside to get all solids from the bonita flakes out.

3. Soak the shiitake mushrooms until they are soft. Remove any stem pieces. The stems are not generally used because they remain tough. Slice the mushrooms very thinly and add them to the strained stock and bring to a simmer again. Let it simmer while you prepare the tofu.

4. To prepare the tofu, you can cut it into bite-size squares. Use whatever amount you wish but for me, I’m making this a light, light soup and I don’t want a lot of tofu. I decided to make a single large piece of tofu for each bowl by cutting the tofu into six big chunks and then making partial cuts in each chunk creating a sea anomone effect. Use chopticks or wooden spoon handles to prevent the knife from cutting all the way through. Place the tofu pieces into the broth.

Use the chopsticks to keep the knife from slicing all the way through.

Use the chopsticks to keep the knife from slicing all the way through.

5. Season the (still simmering) soup with soy sauce–just enough to give a light flavor but not enough to be salty or overwhelm the flavor of the broth. The best way to judge this is to taste your broth each step of the way so you know what the flavors are and won’t overdo the shoyu.

6. Wash the scallions and remove the roots.** Make a small verticle slice in the little white bulb of the scallion, then cut on an angle to create 1-inch pieces. I like to use the white part and the lighter green part but not the dark green ends. You aren’t really cooking this; just put it in the hot soup, turn off the heat and it will become a beautiful bright green just like the new spring leaves outside!

Dashi makes a light and flavorful base for your springtime soup bowl.

Dashi makes a light and flavorful base for your springtime soup bowl.

*Save the kombu you used for the broth and add it to another soup or vegetable dish.

** If the scallion roots are nice and fresh, as they often are in the spring and early summer, you can store them in a glass of water in your refrigerator and use them to flavor soups. Just chop them up very fine and add them in!