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Udon in Sesame-Miso Broth

Serves 4-5For a satisfying winter meal, serve this hearty and flavorful entrée piping hot, accompanied by a side dish of greens. In warmer weather, try omitting the sautéed vegetables, substitute 3 tablespoons white miso for the red miso, and top the noodles and broth with a colorful assortment of lightly steamed or simmered vegetables.

1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 slices fresh ginger root
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
2/3 cup sliced carrots
4 cups stock or water
1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted
2 level tablespoons Hatcho miso
2 level tablespoons red (rice) miso
1 tablespoon mirin
1 pound uncooked udon
slivered green onions for garnish

Heat oil in medium-sized pot. Sauté ginger until golden brown, then discard. Sauté onion until translucent. Add celery and carrots, and sauté briefly. Add stock or water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender. While vegetables are cooking, thoroughly grind toasted seeds in a suribachi or mortar. Add the misos, mirin, and 1/2 cup of broth. Purée with seeds, then add to soup.

Cook udon in 4-5 quarts of rapidly boiling water until just al dente (firm). Drain, rinse briefly in a cold water bath, and drain again. Divide noodles in 4 or 5 bowls. Ladle hot miso broth over top of noodles to almost cover. Garnish with green onions and serve.

Miso Rice Pilaf

Serves 6
Fluffy, flavorful, and highly nutritious, Miso Rice Pilaf is an excellent way to introduce brown rice to those who are unfamiliar with natural foods. The basic method (below) is for pressure cooking this dish. For pot-boiling the pilaf, see variation.

2-3 dried shiitake
4 cups water
4-inch piece kombu
3 cups uncooked brown rice
4 level tablespoons Hatcho, red (rice), or barley miso
1/3 cup minced onion
1/3 cup minced celery
1 bay leaf
2/3 cup minced fresh parsley

In a pressure cooker, soak shiitake in water for 20-30 minutes. Next, add kombu and bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. As soon as water begins to simmer, remove kombu and reserve for another use. Mince shiitake and return to stock. While kombu is coming to a simmer, wash the rice and drain well. Roast the rice in an unoiled skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden and fragrant. Dissolve miso in some of the broth, then return it to the pot along with onion, celery, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and slowly add roasted rice. Allow to boil 1 minute then cover, bring to pressure, and cook 45 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow pressure to return to normal before uncovering. Add parsley, toss well, and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with a sprig of parsley.

o Try adding sautéed onion or shallots and some chopped walnuts to the cooked rice. Then use this delicious variation in stuffed peppers or squash.

o If pot-boiling, use a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid for best results. Use 6 cups water and add an extra tablespoon of miso. Boil over low heat 40 minutes, then reduce to very low and cook 20 minutes more. Do not remove cover while cooking.

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