Monday, April 4, 2011

The Soup Project: Long Life Miso Noodle Soup

Last Thursday Badger our oldest dog died. It was sad, but she was 14 1/2, and according to this website that's 104 in dog years! Basset hounds typically live to 12 and I've had two make it to 13 but 14 1/2 is amazing.

I had Badger ever since she was a puppy. She was the runt of her litter and no one else really wanted her. "Oh she'll get big, you'll see," a friend told me, but Badger never weighed more than 42 pounds as an adult. Her size and personality--a follower by nature--made her the underdog.
I gained new respect and insight for the underdog because of Badger. Whenever the other dogs squabbled over a toy, crouton or carrot on the floor, Badger quickly swooped in and carried off the treasure, and left them squabbling over nothing. And often when I returned on market days, while the other dogs greeted me, Badger quietly raided my produce bags and snagged produce, cheese or bread. Her favorites were carrots, but she once walked off with an entire head of cauliflower and I found her happily eating it outside. Another time I caught her stealing an expensive cheese, a treat for our salads.

As a puppy, Badger quickly became friends with Abe, our other misfit underdog, whose misshapen front legs gave him a duck-like waddle walk and an eggbeater run. Abe's one washed-out blue eye frightened children, and adults often asked if he was blind. But Abe had one of the most beautiful howls I'd ever heard. A fire engine would go by and Abe would start low like this--whooooooo and then work up to a full-pitched howl. But just like people, some dogs can sing and others shouldn't even try. All the other dogs were compelled to join in, and Badger's howl was way off-key and grating, but like most bad singers she had no clue.
The howling stopped completely at our house when Abe died at nearly 14. I cried over Abe and Badger sat next to me, hunched her shoulders and hung her head as if she understood. But Badger was never sad for long, and as a life-long follower she quickly followed young Finn's lead.

As the oldest hound in the house, Badger got special treasures--corn cobs, ice cream dishes and bits of eggs, toast or cheese. Finn and Chloe played together and it must have helped Badger feel young, but gradually she slowed down and there's nothing slower on earth than an old basset hound. Zen masters one four legs, old hounds teach you patience.

Last year when Badger's appetite declined, my sister said, "Why don't you try rotisserie chicken." I can't believe I bought rotisserie chicken for so long--the only meat we had in our house and it was for the dogs. But last week even the scent of chicken failed to interest her. I think she was just tired out from her long happy life.

She slipped away quietly last Thursday and Finn sat by my side while I cried. I wanted to make a soup that would celebrate this very sweet dog for giving us so many years, so I typed in "long life soup" on Google and that's how I found this soup recipe from Mark Bittman's book Food Matters. I thought the soup was called Long Life Soup, but it was the website not the soup, so I changed the soup title along with some of the ingredients. The original recipe has an option for salmon instead of tofu and the ingredients don't include carrots or mushrooms. And now the instructions have changed too. That's the way it goes with soup recipes.

I found a jar of Hearty Brown Rice South River Miso tucked behind a few jars in my refrigerator. I couldn't remember how old the jar was, so I called the company to make sure it was okay to eat. A woman checked the records and said I'd purchased that miso in 2003. "Is it still okay?" I asked. She assured me it was, making my title change for this recipe perfect. I guess miso has a naturally long life.

As I put the ingredients together, Finn took mental notes on everything that went into this soup.

I hope this spring soup revitalizes your soul.

Long Life Miso Noodle Soup with Bok Choy and Tofu
(Serves 4)

4 to 5 mushrooms, sliced
10 ounces extra-firm tofu
Sauce of choice to season tofu (teriyaki, hoisin or another Asian sauce)
6 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
5 to 6 cups vegetable stock or water
3 or 4 large stalks bok choy, leaves removed from stems and both sliced thin
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1/3 cup miso (your favorite; I used hearty brown rice)
1/4 cup sliced green onions or snipped chives (for garnish)

1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. When skillet is hot, add mushrooms. Stir and cook until mushrooms lose their juices. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Slice tofu into four slices. Cut each tofu slice into a triangle and spread one side with sauce of your choice. Heat a stove-top griddle to medium-high. Place tofu, sauce side down on the grill. Spread top of tofu with sauce. Cook tofu until browned; then flip and cook the other side. (Watch carefully, it doesn't take long for tofu to brown nicely with grill marks.) Remove from grill and set aside.

3. Put stock or water into a pot and bring to a boil. When the stock is almost boiling, put miso into a small bowl and ladle in a cup of the stock. Whisk in the miso until the texture is smooth. When the stock boils, add bok choy stems and carrots. Let them cook for about a minute, then add the leaves and continue cooking until the soup bubbles steadily and the bok choy gets silky--3 to 5 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and quickly add miso mixture, mushrooms and soba noodles and heat just to warm everything. Serve the soup with tofu triangles and garnish with scallions. This soup is great with leftovers or for dinner another day.
Check out the Asian spoon. It's over a hundred years old and not a crack in it. Three cheers for long happy lives!


SuperFunHappyChick said...

What a beautiful post to commemorate your puppy's life.

Trista said...

What a wonderful tribute to Badger! I'm so sorry for your loss, but glad that she lived such a long and happy life. I hope the fond memories you have of her help with the heartache.

ddzeller said...

Thanks for the comments and support. Badger was the sweetest dog who never had an unkind word for anyone. We were lucky to have her for so long!

Joan said...

I'm so sorry you lost Badger. What a sweet story, you brought a tear to my eye. Losing them is so hard and I'm glad you had Badger for so long.

Thanks for the soup sounds wonderful and I'm always looking for ways to get through my tub of miso! :)

ddzeller said...

It is so hard to lose someone so special, but she had such an easy, pampered long life, and I'm happy we got to share it with her. Thanks for your thoughts, Joan.