miso shiitake soba soup

miso soba soup / @loveandlemonsmiso soba soup / @loveandlemonsmiso soba soup / @loveandlemons

To all of you who are snowed in… this is my attempt to send warm thoughts through the computer screen. It’s not exactly balmy here, but it’s a far cry from the -11 degrees my weather widgets (and text message updates from my mom) are showing for tomorrow’s Chicago’s forecast. Yikes…

This soup is full of warming healing ingredients (shiitakes, ginger, miso, etc)… and would be the perfect thing if you’re under the weather… figuratively or quite literally.

homemade ponzu

meyer lemon ponzu / @loveandlemons

If I had to pick two condiments to take to a desert island with me, my choices just might be rice vinegar and ponzu. Sriracha is a close third, and the Kewpie baby might be my number four.

But back to the ponzuit’s so versatile. I love it over noodles, and as a dipping sauce… it’s citrusey salty-soy goodness is perfect for quick, bright meals. Since the bottled version is often made with tons of additives, I set out to make my own. Turns out, it’s surprisingly easy. After a number of experiments, I figured out that meyer lemon replicates the (traditional) yuzu flavor the closest (but by all means if you have fresh yuzus available to you – use those). I contributed this recipe last week to Food 52, so I thought I’d share it here today.

And since we’re all probably Thanksgiving-ed out, here are some light & bright dishes that would be great with the addition of fresh ponzu:

ponzu-friendly recipe roundup / @loveandlemonsRecipe links:
Sesame Clementine & Chopped Cabbage Salad

Ginger Citrus Soba with Snow Peas
Peanut Soba Spring Rolls
Mushroom Quinoa Lettuce Wraps
Miso Citrus Cod with Bok Choy 

kappabashi kitchen town

kappabashi kitchen town, tokyo

We rounded the corner onto Kappabashi-dori. My eyes lit up, my heart skipped two beats. At the same time Jack let out a big sigh and whined “oh nooo… today is going to SUUCK.”

Luckily, there was some free wifi in the area so he could distract himself while I carefully looked through every last copper pot, ginger grater, and tiny painted bowl… I have no words, really. Store upon store, stuffed with stuff (good stuff). Pinch me.

click to keep reading, more after the jump:

nasu dengaku {miso eggplant}

nasu dengaku (miso broiled eggplant) / loveandlemons.comnasu dengaku (miso broiled eggplant) / loveandlemons.com

If you need a reason to try (and love) miso, this is your recipe. I’m hoping eggplant is still in season where you are. I was excited to find these little nearly-black beauties at our farmers market last weekend. If you don’t have eggplant, this sweet & salty glaze is amazing on cod, tofu, and even sweet potatoes.

nasu dengaku (miso broiled eggplant) / loveandlemons.com

There are many variations to the dengaku recipe – some use sake along with mirin, some add a bit of ginger… I’ve even made it with agave syrup before (although that would probably not be approved by the Japanese, shh). 

I like this version – it’s 1/4 cup of just 3 ingredients: miso, mirin (japanese sweet cooking wine) & sugar. It’s easy to remember without having to refer back to a recipe, and you can alter it however you like from there.

nasu dengaku (miso broiled eggplant) / loveandlemons.com

I fell in love with this dish in Kyoto – definitely an all time favorite!

yudofu (tofu) in kyoto

tofu in Kyoto / loveandlemons.com

In Japan, tofu is not a meat or dairy replacement. It’s just a regular food that regular people eat – and hardly anyone there is vegetarian. The very best way to experience tofu is at a yudofu restaurant in Kyoto. You sit down (on mats) to a set meal which starts with a few small dishes made out of various types of tofu. Then comes the big star – the simmering pot of soft tofu. It’s luscious, creamy, and unlike any kind of tofu that has ever come out of a box. This particular meal was at Okutan, a 350 year old establishment, where they make their own tofu on site every morning.

tofu in Kyoto / loveandlemons.com

Cute story – this woman, our Japanese grandmother (at least for that afternoon), noticed us taking photos at the start of the meal. When she brought out the big hot pot, she motioned to Jack and made a charades-style camera-clicking motion… preparing him to get the camera ready before she opened the steaming pot. It’s always awkward trying to photograph in restaurants, so of course we loved her participation… language barrier and all.

tofu in Kyoto / loveandlemons.comtofu in Kyoto / loveandlemons.com

The tofu is served simply – with soy sauce, grated daikon, scallions and shichimi. The meal is finished off with crispy veggie tempura, rice & Japanese pickles. I wish could eat like this every day!

For more Kyoto restaurant/travel recommendations, see this post.