The Land of Goshen Community Market officially began its 2016 season at 8 a.m. on Saturday with the ringing of the market bell. I have goals this year; I hope you do, too. I want to shop and eat more locally than ever. I want to make as many new friends as possible and learn more about our connection to the food we eat and the planet we enjoy. Above all, I’m going to be braver in the kitchen, exploring produce and cooking techniques from which I’ve shied in the past. If you have goals, please share. There’s nothing like the support of others to help us all be brave, responsible and kind.
Of course, I spent the morning hugging the people I’d missed all winter—the Bivers of Biver Farms, Laura Blumenstock, of MOB Farms from whom I bought that great big turkey last year, Dara Simmons at SS Backwards Longhorns—gotta get that jerky! While I feel the fresh, healthy food from the market is a huge blessing in our lives, I gotta say that the people—and all those hugs and smiles—are the real treasure. There’s nothing else like it.
And I did make several new friends! Cliff is a grower who usually sells at the farmer’s market up the river in Alton, IL. But he’s at our market for the month of May. Totally non-chemical, he’s an old-world farmer who grows greens for the table that most of us wouldn’t recognize. He’s got jars of dried peppers, equally at home in the kitchen or the medicine cabinet and the loveliest spinach I’ve seen in quite a while.
So what’s on the table this week? Well I said I was going to be brave this year… duck eggs from The family Garden were the star this week in my kitchen. And if I was going to use them, I wanted to really showcase them in a special dish. Ramen bowls are an “in” food right now, and I thought it would be nice to also put the spotlight on local in-season veggies that would really sparkle in such a dish. While some of these vegetables may not show up for a while at your market, you should be able to find them sometime soon. If not, remember the number-one market rule: go with the flow.
I owe a great debt to a couple of my favorite sources of inspiration for this dish. Pinch of Yum is an amazing food blog. Lindsey and her husband Bjork are incredible cooks, delightful to read and so down-to-Earth about cooking. My recipe would not have happened without her recipe to guide it. Sometimes a Pinch of Yum is all you will need to inspire your next creation. Cook’s Illustrated also gave me ideas for this ramen bowl, especially from the spring mix of vegetables and seasoning choices in their Korean Rice Bowl recipe in the recently-arrived May-June issue. And finally, to my market buddies for the veggies and those amazing little ducks at The Family Garden, providing my challenge to be brave. Because duck eggs are quite a bit larger than chicken eggs and richer in fat, they were perfect for this dish, delivering a generous swirl of golden yolk.
I decided to make my dish vegan, except for the eggs–easily left out, if you are following a vegan diet. However, my husband and I discussed the distinct possibility of adding pork, beef or chicken strips to this recipe to replace the tofu… for another time, I suppose. Maybe Father’s Day (always a meat-fest at our house). Check with your local producers for free-range, grass-fed, humanely raised livestock. Fresh, high-quality meat is becoming a common sight at most farmer’s markets. And you won’t get the confusing label runaround that appears on much of the commercial meat products at the grocery store. It’s unlikely Tyson Foods will never invite you over to see their “free-range” facility, ya know.
- 1 small yellow onion or shallot, rough chopped (Could also be a spring onion or scallion, if those are available to you.)
- One-half cup red miso (I suggest you always buy organic here to be sure you have avoided GMO soybeans. Pinch of Yum used a combination of yellow and red miso, which sounds quite interesting. They caution against all yellow because it will be too sweet—good tip!)
- One tablespoon hot sauce (Pinch of Yum recommends sambal oelek, a fiery chili paste of Indonesian and Malaysian origin. Since I’m trying to be local, I used my on-hand Harissa, made from frozen peppers and last-of-the-year garlic. Worked fine!)
- Three to four cloves of garlic (Since there is a lot of garlic in Harissa, I kept this fairly conservative. If you are using some other sauce, perhaps four to five cloves, if you are a garlic lover?)
- Two to three heaping tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- One tablespoon mirin (Japanese rice wine)
- One tablespoon low-sodium Tamari (My brand of choice is always San J. Such a wonderful ingredient.)
- Two tablespoons olive oil
- One tablespoon toasted pure sesame oil
- Eight to 10 ounces extra-firm tofu, cubed (If you like meat, you could replace the tofu with a half-pound of beef, pork or chicken strips, I think. Just stir-fry as directed for the tofu, drain and add back into the bowl at the appropriate time.)
- One-quarter cup peanut oil
- Two tablespoons sherry
- One-half cup spring onions (Scallions would also do.), both green and white parts
- Two large carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced
- Two cups chopped mushrooms (I used my local oysters, but shitake would be wonderful.)
- One cup sugar snap peas or shell peas
- Two cups chopped kale
- Two cups vegetable stock, homemade or commercial (If you are not vegetarian, you could go with chicken stock or even beef stock to compliment a meat choice.)
- One cup unsweetened coconut milk
- Six to eight ounces noodles (Ramen is traditional, but I went with soba noodles that are made from buckwheat flour for added nutrition.)
- Four eggs (which do not have to be from a duck, necessarily)
- Two to three tablespoons of dulse sea vegetable flakes (You can buy dulse in several ways, but the dehydrated flakes are very easy to cook with—I sprinkle them on all kinds of things. They are loaded with essential iodine.)
- Put all ingredients for the sauce in your food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.
- Tofu will work best if you drain it and press it. I slice the tofu block lengthwise, place the layers between paper towels and weight it with my cast iron skillet for about 15 minutes. Then cut it into cubes.
- Heat the peanut oil in a large chef’s skillet or Dutch oven. I like to add about a half-teaspoon of whole cumin seeds at this point and let them toast in the oil as it heats up. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the tofu cubes and brown. Tofu will stick easily, so mind the pot, moving it around every minute or so until a crust forms on all sides. Throw in a little of your miso paste near the end of this step, if you like, for added flavor.
- Remove from the pan and set aside in a paper towel-lined dish.
- You will probably have little bits of tofu in your pot at this point—I did. So I used two tablespoons of a nice sherry to deglaze it before adding my vegetables and a bit more peanut oil. Sherry is the ultimate marriage partner with mushrooms, anyway.
- Once the pot has deglazed, add your onions, carrots and mushrooms. Salt lightly. Once these vegetables begin to soften, add your peas (Sugar snap peas will take longer to cook than shelled peas.). Finally, add the kale as the vegetables finish up, allowing it to wilt and soften.
- Add the vegetable stock and the coconut milk, stir and bring to a steady simmer. To this pot you will now add the miso sauce—I’d say at least a half cup or so, depending on how spicy you want your dish to be—more is better than less for us. You don’t want bland ramen. Since miso is a fragile and somewhat temperamental food, you have to be careful not to overcook it. Pinch of Yum had a great suggestion: place the thick miso sauce in a very fine mesh strainer and lower it into the pot of simmering stock. Swirl it around or use a spoon to very slowly and gently dissolve the miso sauce into the stock. Discard any solids that remain in the strainer. Now cook on the lowest possible heat until ready to serve.
- Cook your noodles of choice according to package directions in a pot of boiling water large enough to later accommodate the eggs (see just below). Drain your noodles and set aside. For soba noodles, it’s important to rinse them in cold water so that they do not get overly sticky.
- For the eggs, bring a full pot of salted water to a rapid boil and carefully lower in four eggs—they must be completely submerged (I used my steamer basket with a handle for this task.). Bring back to a good boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for seven minutes (Pinch of Yum nailed this timing—perfect eggs.). When done, run the eggs under cold water to arrest the cooking and set aside as you begin to build everything back together.
- Add your tofu and your noodles back into the barely simmering pot of vegetables and stock to heat them through. With great delicacy, peel your eggs—the yolks will be runny. Fill four bowls with the ramen and slice one egg at a time in half above each bowl, allowing the glorious yolk to spill out. Sprinkle with dulse flakes and serve.
Don't let the long list of ingredients or the multiple steps intimidate you. It does take some prep time and some planning to get your four steaming bowls to the table, but it's a wonderful dish. Now is the perfect opportunity to ask for a little help in the kitchen during prep and cook time.
My challenge with eggs didn’t end with ducks. I had some chicken egg yolks left over from an angel food cake, so I decided to try something way outside my comfort zone–cured egg yolks, from a recipe I found in Sauce Magazine. I very gently buried three yolks in a mixture of one cup of fine sea salt and one cup of organic white sugar. I put them in the frig for four days. They became solid and brilliant yellow. Just as Sauce promised, I was able to grate them. And so I did, and served them as a topping over roasted asparagus and mushrooms, poached salmon and diced avocado. Wow what rich flavor!
Speaking of bravery, the Mills who own The Family Garden in New Douglas weathered a tornado on their return from the market Saturday. I’m happy to say they are all OK and suffered very little damage to their farm. We wish them well with positive thoughts and grateful prayers.