Lately I’ve been on quite a streak of cooking homely-looking dishes. Butternut-squash and mango curry, chickpea and artichoke masala, sweet potato and green bean chowder—all lip-smackingly delicious but difficult to photograph in an appetizing way, even with the help of the food styling book I’ve had my nose in for weeks now.
My difficulties lead me to philosophize about the meaning of beauty in food, about the absurd lengths we sometimes go to for the sake of that beauty (the instruments in the toolbox of a food stylist look like a cross between those of a surgeon and those of a carpenter), and what it says about a dish that its flavor is inversely proportional to its visual appeal.
Here’s another inversely proportional relationship: the more you philosophize, the fewer recipes you post on your blog. So, here I am, (over)thinking less and doing more, sharing the recipe for the tastiest of all my homely dishes: mung bean soup with fennel and ginger.
I’m a bit smitten with this soup. It’s hard for me to cook with fresh ginger without ending up with an Asian dish, and I’m thrilled that I pulled it off. I’m equally excited that I overcame my hesitation about mung beans. They look unprepossessing, and since I’d only read about their being used in Indian dals, I had low expectations about their versatility.
I wish I could say that it was humbling to find out how wrong I’d been. But I forgot all about humility when I tasted this soup. It’s wonderfully aromatic: the bracing, spicy bite of the ginger plays so well against the mellow, flowery aroma of the fennel. I ate it for lunch for five days in a row without getting tired of it. And even for someone as crazy about soup as I am, that’s quite a streak.
Mung Bean Soup
First, prepare the vegetables. Peel and finely chop:
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
Wash and finely chop:
- 1 fennel bulb (fronds removed and saved for garnish)
In a large soup pot, heat:
- 3 TBSP. vegetable oil
Add in the chopped fennel, ginger and garlic, along with:
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, slightly crushed with the side of your knife blade
Cook the vegetables over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until fragrant.
- 1 cup mung beans (picked over to remove pebbles and other foreign matter)
- 6 cups water
Bring to a boil and simmer, partly covered, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the mung beans are tender.
Turn off the heat.
- 2 TBSP. white miso
- 2 TBSP. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup hot (not boiling) water
Add to the soup.
Taste the soup and season with more salt and lemon juice to taste.
Serve the soup with a dollop of plain soy yogurt and a few fronds of fennel as garnish.
Nutritional Information: 6 servings. Per serving: 205 calories; 7.2g fat; 227 mg sodium; 26.4 g carbs; 6.6 g fiber; 2.8 g sugar; 9.4 g protein.
Posted on Friday, February 25, 2011