Spring’s Not Here, but the Farmers’ Markets Are! by L

Náplavka Farmers’ Market

Náplavka Farmers’ Market

The sun has been quite a tease around here in Prague. We’ve gotten a few warm days, but then the temperatures suddenly go down and we’re back to winter all over again. The coldest of seasons continues to linger on, but I know spring is coming because the farmers’ markets are back! A favorite of mine is the Náplavka Farmers’ Market, located on the Vltava River in Prague 2. There are a variety of stalls selling food and homemade goods by local artisans and farmers. On a good day, you can find a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately, the day I visited, it wasn’t a good day for fresh produce. However, if you were looking for smoked meats, dairy products, fresh eggs, bread, chicken, fish or pop-up restaurants serving pasta, Balkan food, a cup of Belgian hot chocolate or a plate of fish and chips, then this would have been a good day for you.

The Market Crowd

The Market Crowd

There were cartons of potatoes, carrots, parsips, cabbage and onions which were all signs that winter was still here. Despite the bleak variety of vegetables and lack of fruits, it was still great to enjoy a sunny Saturday stroll at the market.  I indulged in a fresh almond croissant, along with a cup of Belgian hot chocolate to warm me up. In the end, I bought a bag of carrots and decided to make some fresh carrot-ginger-miso salad dressing. It’s not exactly salad weather, it still feels like we need some hearty soups (or cake in my case) to get us through these chilly days. However, summer will be here sooner than we imagine and I need to get ready for those sleeveless tops and shorts!

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Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing

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2 tablespoons peanut, corn or vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons white miso
2 medium carrots, grated
1 inch ginger root, diced into small pieces
1-2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
a few tablespoons of cold water

Put all the ingredients in your beloved blender, except the water.
After running it for a few minutes, slowly add a few tablespoons of water
until you get the right consistency.
I will leave that up to you, as some people prefer a creamier dressing and some a
thinner, liquid like type.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mixed Greens with Fried Tofu Salad

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1 block firm tofu
Cornstarch to coat tofu
1 -2 tsp. salt
Your choice of mixed greens ( I used a bag of baby spinach leaves and some romaine lettuce)
1 tomato, sliced
1 scallion, diced
Neutral oil for frying

Drain and slice tofu into thin blocks.
Cover all sides in cornstarch and salt mixture.
Heat oil in shallow frying pan.
When ready, add the coated pieces of tofu.
It should take about 3-4 minutes for each side,
until it begins to turn golden.
Remove and drain excess oil.

Toss all the vegetables in a bowl.
Cut up the tofu into small square pieces.
Add to the salad.
Serve with carrot-ginger miso dressing.

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Mommy and Me Miso Soup by L

Miso for my Munchkins and Me!

Miso for my Munchkins and Me!

When I was a little girl, my family attended church every Sunday. I never looked forward to going to church, but I sure did get excited about what came afterwards- lunch! Instead of big family dinners at Grandma’s house, we got to dine out. Who needs to be slaving over a stove and washing up a bunch of pots and dishes? It was Sunday. The Lord’s day. We all needed to rest and eat! When I say “WE,” I happen to mean my extended Filipino family of 9. When church was over, my granny, aunties, brothers, parents and I squeezed into our big blue van and headed to a restaurant.

Now that my brothers and I have grown up and moved out of the house, it’s great to see that this tradition still lives on. During our recent visit to NYC, we had plenty of Sunday lunches to catch up on and we made the best of every one of them. However, our whole family could no longer fit into my parents’ van. Over the years, a new generation of kids were born and spouses were added on. Our original party of 9 had expanded to a party of 15!

When the girls’ turned a year old, I was sad to see my babies become toddlers. Yet, one thing that is especially great about toddler hood is how the girls can eat practically anything I eat. So, when we went to dim sum, they feasted on congee, shu mai and shrimp rolls. When we had slices of New York pizza, they devoured the crusts and licked off the tasty tomato sauce! At our family’s favorite Japanese restaurant, they tried to eat sushi with chopsticks, but found that using their hands was a faster way to eat their cucumber rolls. They also delightfully slurped away at bowls of miso soup and I discovered their appreciation for this simple soup of fermented soy paste, sea veggies and tofu.

"I can do it all by myself, Mama!" T

“I can do it all by myself, Mama!” T

In fact, I wish I had thought of it sooner because it is one of the most simplest and tastiest soups to make. Oh, and of course, there are all the health benefits that come with it too!

This is miso soup from scratch, which is very simple to make. Truthfully, anything “instant” frightens me, but we all have to do what we have to do. If you keep reading on, you will find that making homemade miso soup is as simple as making oatmeal from scratch. (Reader- I hope you are making oatmeal from scratch 🙂 ) Miso soup and you might imagine: boiling water, ripping open a packet, pouring contents into a bowl, and with a swirl your soup is ready! Um… you are really missing out on something here. Yes, you still have to boil water, but with just a few simple additions, you can have a customized bowl of miso soup in your own home. Doesn’t everyone want something personalized and authentic these days?

"Seaweed is so much fun to play with, uh, I mean eat!" P

“Seaweed is so much fun to play with, uh, I mean eat!” P

I call this “Mommy and Me Miso Soup” because of the type of miso I used: white miso. This type is less salty than the others. Should I want to make a stronger pot miso for an adult palate, I tend to use a combination of brown and white miso and add a few more tablespoons.

Easiest broth you'll ever make!

Easiest broth you’ll ever make!

It all starts with the broth. You need some Dashi broth to get started and this is REALLY EASY! You just take strips of dried kombu and place it in a pot of cold water. Then leave it overnight. In the morning, your broth is ready to go. This really is a mama/papa friendly recipe! I sneaked in a few more vegetables such as shitake mushrooms and spinach to boost up the nutrients in our soup, but feel free to leave them out. It becomes an even simpler soup if you just stick to the wakame and tofu. Enjoy!

Miso Soup and More (adapted from Essentials of Asian Cuisine by Corinne Trang)

Konbu Dashi Broth:

1 package of about 2 oz. of Kombu.

2 quarts of cold water

With a damp paper towel, wipe the strips of Kombu.

Then place it in a big pot filled with cold water.

Let it sit for 12 hours or like I do,  overnight.

In the morning, the dried sea vegetable will have expanded and your broth is ready!

Remove the kelp (you can use slice it up and use it in a stir-fry with vegetables) and follow the miso recipe.

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Just a few simple ingredients found at my local organic bio shop.

Miso Soup:

8 cups of Konbu Dashi

1/4 cup of Wakame (this needs to be soaked prior to using it in the soup. Soak for 30 minutes, then drain)

1 block of tofu, cut into tiny cubes

3 tablespoons (more if just for mama and papa) white miso paste

2 scallions, sliced thinly,

6 fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced thinly

1/2 cup of spinach leaves

Set aside 1 cup of broth.

Place the rest of the broth in a deep pot.

Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat.

Add the mushrooms, wakame and tofu.

Let it cook for 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the miso paste with the remaining bowl of dashi.

Add spinach and check if the mushrooms are tender.

When ready, stir the miso paste into the soup and let it cook for another 2 minutes.

Do not let the miso paste cook any longer than that or you will lose all of its healthy benefits!

Pour into bowls and garnish with scallions.

Enjoy with your favorite lil’ person!