Mushroom soba noodle soup

One good friend just started a full time job after freelancing for years. Another friend has twins who are old enough now to eat real food so they’ve been trying to have family dinners most nights. Still another friend’s husband had a change at work and is no longer home in time to make dinner, which has always been his gig. In short, three friends in quick succession have asked for fast dinner ideas.

I’m going to try and keep them in mind in the coming weeks. Faster, quicker, easier. The fact of the matter is that I often cook that way and, due to some work-life circumstances this spring I’ll be cooking like that more anyway. At our house getting dinner on the table in a hurry often manifests in the form of pasta. Pasta with a lot of vegetables in it. I’m working on expanding that mindset (it’s difficult, though, since such pasta dishes are always a hit with all three of us).

This mushroom soba noodle soup is sort of a departure, right? Sure, it’s pasta and vegetables, but they’re in a soup! Hey, I’m trying here.

It may not be revolutionary, but it is delicious. Fresh, light, and perfect for this time of year when heavy winter foods don’t sound so great anymore but when you still need something to warm you up come dinner time.

Mushroom soba noodle soup

This noodle-y soup-y creation was inspired by a recipe for a mushroom hot pot in Japanese Hot Pots by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat. It’s a great resource – especially if, like me, you like to make (and eat) big bowls of delicious.

4 cups broth (I used a mix of chicken and pork broth; one or the other or dashi would have been good, too)

1 cup sake

1/2 cup mirin

1/3 cup soy sauce

3 cups shredded Napa cabbage

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms

1/2 pound oyster moshrooms

1/2 pound wild arugula (regular arugula or spinach would also work just fine, although with less bite)

1 pound tofu (firm, soft, silken – whatever you like) cut into three or four big pieces

1/2 pound soba noodles

some type of chile powder for garnish (we used ground ancho chile because it was in the cupboard)

Heat the broth in a medium pot. Add sake, mirin, and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning – adding more mirin for sweetness or more soy for salt, if you like.

Add cabbage, cover, and cook until cabbage is wilted, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and trim mushrooms and cut into bite-size pieces if they are large.

Add mushrooms to the pot, cover, and cook until mushrooms and cabbage are tender, about 8 minutes. Add arugula, cover, and cook until the arugula leaves are wilted, about 3 minutes. Put large pieces of tofu on top of everything else, cover, and simmer until tofu is heated through, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook soba noodles in the boiling salted water until tender to the bite. Drain and divide between three or four large bowls.

Top noodles with the vegetables, one piece of tofu each, and broth. Garnish with chile powder, if you like. A few thinly sliced green onions would be tasty, too.