Monday, January 20, 2014

I Told You: Sunflower-Miso Soup with Brown Rice and Sweet Potatoes

Remember when I told you I was probably going to make all four of those soups that I'd seen on the internet the previous week? Well, one down, three to go.

Speaking of X down, Y to go: we have seen some huge improvements in my son's allergies. Only a token few food items are still out:

tree nuts
sesame seeds
cured meats (it's probably a nitrate or other preservative that he's allergic to; we don't really know the culprit, and for that reason it is the trickiest to avoid and has been the food he has most often reacted to in his allergic little life)

On the home front, unless and until Beckett develops an allergy to sunflower seeds, substitutions are a breeze at this point. Like the substitution I made to figure out this soup: sunflower butter as a replacement for tahini.


This is a replacement I make often, and I think it's a good one because I actually prefer sunflower seed butter to tahini. (I do not prefer it to peanut butter, however, although Trader Joe's highly seasoned (read: super sugary, super salty) version is pretty great. I used Once Again's unsalted, unsweetened kind in this soup.) I also substituted sweet potato and carrot for the squash and turnip, because I don't have any squash and I don't care for turnips. Why was I even drawn to this soup, given how many changes I made? Answer: MISO. I love miso, and I love a simple soup flavored generously with miso and something nutty. Add my favorite veggie (sweet potatoes), my favorite flavoring (lemon), and my favorite herb (fresh cilantro), and, well, hello soup, so nice to meet you.


Sunflower-Miso Soup with Brown Rice and Sweet Potatoes
Yields: 4 big servings

1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces
1 large carrot (or 2 smaller), scrubbed and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
4 cups water
3-4 tablespoons white miso (see note below)
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (see note below)
Zest of 1 lemon (then slice the lemon into wedges and serve alongside soup)
~2-3 cups of cooked brown rice, quinoa, or other chewy grain (e.g. farro, wheat berries)
Half a bunch of cilantro, minced

Add the chopped sweet potato and carrot to a large pot, cover with the water, and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Place miso, sunflower butter, and lemon zest in a large (2 cup at least) measuring cup. Ladle into the measuring cup about 1 cup of the hot cooking water and whisk water, miso, zest, and sunflower butter until smooth. Add mixture back into the pot. At this point, taste, and adjust the broth to your liking, it might need a bit more miso (for saltiness)...or more sunflower butter (see note at bottom). Stir in most of the minced cilantro, reserving a little for garnish.

To serve, place a generous scoop of rice in each bowl along with some of the sweet potato and carrot. Ladle broth over the vegetables and garnish with remaining cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges.


1. The original recipe called for avocado to serve. I think that would be wonderful. Next time!

2. I enjoyed the soup with exactly 1/4 cup each of sunflower seed butter and miso. It was subtle, not usually my thing, but felt really perfect for a late lunch on a cold, windy day. My husband ate it that night for dinner and wanted more of both. (Though, his way of saying that was: "I wanted more of whatever made it salty and nutty.") So have a little extra on hand and season to taste. Some freshly ground pepper, or even red pepper flakes or a splash of Sriracha might be a nice finish too.

3. If [you're Heidi Swanson and do everything right in life], and you have leftovers and need to reheat the soup, you'll want to do so gently, over low heat, to preserve the qualities of the miso. If you're me, you just reheat it in the microwave for a couple minutes and enjoy it promptly. The rice will be a little plumper, the soup will be a little thicker, the flavors will be a little better.

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