Ah, September! If ever there was a month I love most, it is September. When I was a kid, September was special to me because it was my birthday month and it meant a new school year, which I really looked forward to. I outgrew the birthday thing at the age of 16 and thankfully the school year didn’t matter so much once I was done with coursework in graduate school. But September remains my favorite month because it represents a sigh of relief. Summer, with her nonstop crush of things to do and the incessant heat that makes me borderline homicidal and the long days that limit a good night’s rest to 6 hours at best – it is finally over, at least here in the mountains. Normally I would be planning for the fall shoot, but there is a puppy to train and some projects I’m working on. I am okay with not trying to cram every possible thing into my schedule and running myself ragged in the process. This might be called “getting older”, but I like to think of it as deliberate sanity.
these two napping in the sun after their morning hike
the colors are starting a tad earlier than usual
We were in Crested Butte over the holiday weekend and everything was going just fine until Yuki got a little territorial and aggressive with Neva one evening. It made me sad because Neva, while completely crazy, is the sweetest dog who doesn’t consider herself the boss of anyone. We suspect Yuki, at 7 months, is testing the boundaries of her “authority” in her adolescence. After keeping a close eye on the two pups for a couple of days, they seem to be back to their normal goofy selves. The following morning, Yuki was cuddling with Neva on their favorite perch by the window. We continue observing their interactions to make sure this doesn’t evolve into a real problem. The dynamics of two dogs is certainly different from the dynamic of one dog!
as if nothing had happened
pretty views on the drive home
sitting for a treat – yuki feels this is the best way to get both treats
A year ago I was finding more matsutake than I had energy to deal with. Matsutake, that prized mushroom of Japan, translates into pine mushroom and fetches top dollar in circles that recognize its value. The brown matsutake is found in Asia. The white matsutake is found in parts of North America – including Colorado. This year, I have yet to see signs of the subterranean gems in the usual places. But even if I did find some, I’m not sure I would be gathering too many as there are bagfuls of them in my freezer from the crazy flush of 2017 (what a season, folks, I mean REALLY). With cooler evenings, I have begun to contemplate making soups and stews of all kinds. But the days remain warm, so I’m partial to soups that are not too heavy. Last September, I tried a lovely and simple matsutake clear soup that allows the pine mushroom’s unique flavor to shine among a handful of ingredients.
bonito flakes, dried kelp, green onions, water, salt, matsutake, tofu, soy sauce, sake, mirin
The kelp and bonito flakes are used to make dashi. If you don’t want to make dashi from scratch, you can find Hondashi brand granules (instant dashi – just add hot water) at most Asian grocery stores or well-stocked Asian sections in supermarkets. If you are making the dashi from scratch, wipe the kelp with a wet paper towel without removing the white residue – it contributes to the umami of the broth. Start soaking the dried kelp in water 3 hours before you’re ready to make the soup.
wipe the dried kelp with a wet paper towel
soak the kelp in water for 3 hours
You can prep the other ingredients a few minutes before you are ready to make the dashi. Because matsutake are so expensive in Japan, most recipes don’t call for very much of the mushroom. Here, I’m using a relatively small one whose veil was intact, and slicing it thin. If you don’t have matsutake, you can use other kinds of mushrooms. I’m also using green onions in my soup instead of the original Japanese parsley (mitsuba).
thinly sliced matsutake
sliced and diced: matsutake, green onions, tofu
When the kelp is done soaking, place the pot over medium-low heat. Bring the water to a boil and add the bonito flakes. Allow this to simmer for 30 seconds before removing the pan from the heat. Set a strainer lined with paper towels over a bowl or a large measuring cup and strain all of the solids out of the broth. I discarded the solids, but if anyone has a use for them, please share! Place the liquid in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Stir the soy sauce, sake, mirin, and salt into the dashi. Add the mushroom, tofu, and green onions to cook for just a couple of minutes before serving.
add the bonito to the kelp water
pour in the seasonings
cook the mushrooms, tofu, and green onions in the soup
If you’re lucky enough to have yuzu zest on hand, you can finish each bowl with a little. I didn’t happen to have any, but the soup was warming and delicious without it. The flavors are earthy and bright, loaded with umami, yet clean and delicate. I find it refreshing and restorative – an autumn soup to prepare us for the winter months ahead. Frozen matsutake are just as good as fresh in this recipe.
matsutake clear soup
of the sea and the forest
2 cups dashi, make your own (see below) or use instant dashi granules per the instructions
seasoning (see below)
1 matsutake mushroom (about 1 oz.), sliced thin
5 oz. silken tofu, diced into small cubes (1/2-inch cubes)
2 green onions, sliced thin
yuzu zest (optional, but I didn’t have any)
2 cups water
2 oz. kombu (dried kelp), wiped with damp cloth (don’t soak or wipe off the white powder)
4 oz. katsu obushi (dried bonito flakes)
1 tbsp sake
2 tsp mirin
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Make the dashi: Soak the kombu for 3 hours in water in a medium saucepan. Heat the water and kombu over medium-low heat until the water boils. Add the bonito and simmer for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. Strain the liquid through a paper towel-lined strainer.
Make the soup: Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and return to a boil. Stir in the sake, mirin, soy sauce, and salt. Add the mushrooms, tofu, and green onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Serve with yuzu zest (optional). Serves 2.
more goodness from the use real butter archives
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