Light, Yet Comforting: Chinese White Cabbage and Corn Soup

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Local corn is still in season, so now’s a good time to make this light, yet comforting soup. While it probably won’t cause flavor explosions on your tongue, I do think you’ll find it calming and satisfying. Sometimes I suggest using water or a purchased stock in your soups. Not here.  This brothy, Chinese-style soup demands a carefully made stock. And besides, when you have fresh corn, it would be a shame to toss away the cobs–they lend a lot of flavor. Rough cut the veggies and simmer them in water with a little pinch of salt. To make this soup more substantial, add a few ounces of diced tofu, ready-cooked crab or shrimp or whatever Asian noodles you like best.  Assemble the stock first, then prep the soup veggies while the stock is simmering.

TO MAKE THE STOCK:

12 cups water

3 sweet corn cobs, corn kernels cut off

Napa cabbage, the core chopped and a few of the outer leaves.

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 small carrot, chopped

2 stalks celery chopped

4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms

5-6 cloves garlic, peeled (optional)

2-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced

3-inch piece of kombu or wakame sea vegetable (optional)

1 cup bean sprouts

pinch of salt

a few drops dark, toasted sesame oil (optional)

Start with cold water and add remaining ingredients.  Bring just to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer about 50 minutes. Strain.  Yields about 6 cups of vegetarian stock.

TO MAKE THE SOUP:

1 medium carrot, trimmed and julienned

1 small onion, peeled, cut in half and then into 1/8-inch strips

2 stocks celery, diced

kernels from 3 cobs of corn

3-4 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

shiitake mushrooms (remove from the stock, cut off the stems, then cut the caps in 1/8-inch strips–these add an interesting textural contrast)

1/2 medium Napa (“Chinese”) cabbage cut into 1 1/2-inch by 1/8-inch strips (about 4 cups)

1 cup (3-4 ounces) bean sprouts, rinsed

dark or toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup white miso (or to taste)

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 green onions, trimmed and cut into very thin strips on the diagonal

1. Heat a thick-bottomed soup pot, add a teaspoon of dark sesame oil. Sauté the onions, carrots, celery, corn kernels, garlic and mushrooms, stirring almost constantly for five minutes.

2. Add the soup stock, just bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a simmer and simmer 15 minutes or until the vegetables are all very tender.  Add the Napa cabbage, and simmer 3-4 minutes more.

3. Turn off the heat, stir in the bean sprouts. Stir in the miso. Check seasoning.  Bring up the seasoning, if necessary, by adding a little more miso, some cracks of freshly-ground black pepper, a few drops of sesame oil, a little squeeze of lemon juice (whatever it takes!). Garnish with the green onion. 4-6 servings.

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Gently simmer the stock for about 50 minutes.

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