Cold Weather: Two Hot Soups

Two soups: Italian Minestrone and Japanese Nikujaga. Minestrone:A wonderful, stick to your ribs soup is minestrone. My version is vegetarian but you can add cooked chunks of chicken to it or use beef or chicken broth. It is so rich and the beans add such good protein, I don’t think it is needed. this is just one version of minestrone. Italy has different culinary regions and the same dish may be different from region to region. This version goes together quickly and is so good served with a rustic, crusty bread.

The Japanese beef stew, while similar to many versions here in the US and elsewhere, is still, a little different. It is thinner than most stews and the snow peas and ginger add a wonderful difference. I like this served in a deep bowl over rice.

Either soup will warm your tummy, make your family smile, and make you glad to be inside where it is cozy instead of outside where it is cold and yucky.

NIKUJAGA
2 lbs beef stew meat (brown in a bit of oil before adding to crock pot)
1 cup water
3 tbs. Japanese sake
3 tbs. mirin
3 tbs. sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb baby carrots (whole)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large white onion, diced
10 snow peas halved (can substitute equivalent of shredded cabbage or bok choy)
quarter sized piece of ginger, grated
cooked sticky rice
garnish with some chopped parsley and/or slivered scallion

Directions:

1 Put all into crock pot and cook on low 10-12 hours or on high 4-6 hours.
2. Add snow peas last two hours of cooking time
2 Stir before serving. Serve over sticky rice. Use chopsticks to stir or stir carefully to not break apart

Minestrone
1 16 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinse
1 16 oz can navy, great northern, chick peas, or cannellini beans drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 stalk celery diced
2 potatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1small can diced tomatoes and juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 quarts vegetable broth
bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, sprig of thyme, 1 tbs chopped basil)
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 cup macaroni or any small pasta 1
Grated parmesan cheese, to serve
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbs. sugar

DIRECTIONS
In a large heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and add the onion, carrots, potatoes, celery and garlic; reduce the heat and cook for 5 minutes until tender. Add the tomato paste and broth, stirring thoroughly. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the bouquet garni salt, pepper, and sugar, and cabbage and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Add beans and return to heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.Remove bouquet garni. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve. NOTE: cooked chicken can be added and heated through.

 

Nikujaga – Japanese Beef Stew, crock pot version

nikujaga01[1]    This is an excellent cold weather dish. It is similar to other stews of this type. I like best to use thinly sliced fatty beef but the type the Japanese use is hard to find. Instead, my adaptation to this recipe is to use nice chunks of chuck roast. I also use Yukon gold potatoes so they stay more whole but if you use regular potatoes and they start to dissolve into the broth, that tastes good too!

Japanese stews are not thick like many of ours. They are more brothy and when served in a bowl over rice, they are similar to a dish, donburi – meat bowl. This stew will have your whole house smelling fragrant and homey. I was taught this recipe years ago from my Samurai, who liked both American and Japanese stews. We’d cook this on a miserable cold rainy day and enjoy for supper. It is also good sopped up with a nice baguette but I like the rice better. Serve with a dry white wine or better yet, some sake. But soft drinks work just as well!!

You can also substitute some bok choy or regular cabbage for the snow peas. Adding a small can of sliced mushrooms (yes….can. That’s what he did and I figured, hey, it’s a Japanese stew and he is Japanese so I am not arguing) along with the snow peas is good too. If you want to throw in a quartered turnip that’s also good.  You can also add more water for more broth.

どうぞめしあがれ douzo meshiagare, y’all! (eat well you all ! – said by the cook before the meal to the diners)
 

Ingredients
2 lbs beef stew meat (brown in a bit of oil before adding to crock pot)
1 cup water
3 tbs. Japanese sake
3 tbs. mirin
3 tbs. sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb baby carrots (whole)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large white onion, diced
10 snow peas halved
quarter sized piece of ginger, grated
cooked sticky rice
garnish with some chopped parsley and/or slivered scallion

Directions:
1 Put all into crock pot and cook on low 10-12 hours or on high 4-6 hours.
2. Add snow peas last two hours of cooking time
2 Stir before serving. Serve over sticky rice.  Use chopsticks to stir or stir carefully to not break apart ingredients.

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