Just-Add-Water Miso, Pumpkin, and Soba Ramen & “Modern Lunch” Book Review

Let’s talk about lunch, shall we?

I work in a commissary kitchen 3 to 4 days a week, mostly from 10am to 4pm, to prepare my products for farmers markets. I have my breakfast at home, drop off my kids at school, and head to the kitchen. My husband’s major complain about how I work is that I never pay attention to lunch. When in my working mode, I am very reluctant to take a break, have a snack, not to mention to finish a whole meal. Despite the fact that I hate being hungry, I’m always hungry…

Then the very lovely Allison Day’s cookbook Modern Lunch: +100 Recipes for Assembling the New Midday meal came to my life…

As a cookbook author myself, I am very attuned to a cookbook infused with the writer’s personality. And I adore how Modern Lunch reflects Allison’s style so inside and out – beautiful and vibrant pictures, refreshing and inspirational recipes, and so many lovely stories behind.

I first started reading this cookbook during my weekend breakfast, and right away I already wanted the lunch time to come, sit down again and have an ENJOYABLE LUNCH! Like what Allison says in her introduction, “A modern lunch is special, simple, (mostly) make-ahead, healthy, share-worthy, community building, money saving, colourful, and delicious.” Filled with practical tips and simple but delicious recipes, Modern Lunch has completely changed my mindset over how much I’ve been only focusing on breakfasts and dinners, and kind of ignoring the midday meals. Whether you are working from home, in the office, or on the road, Allison has tons of very smart and mouth-watering lunch options. They are innovative with diverse ingredients and flavours that fit everyone’s dietary preferences.

I was especially inspired by Allison’s Just-Add-Water Miso, Sweet Potato, and Soba Ramen recipe. That little effort of adding sweet potato to a ramen broth takes the whole bowl of noodle to a new level. Instead of sweet potato, I used Japanese pumpkin puree that I always have in my freezer (we make pumpkin bread almost at least once a week). The natural sweetness and creaminess of pumpkin yielded the perfect thicker broth that I didn’t know I would crave for. A little char from the roasted wild mushrooms, green scallions, orange jammy eggs, red chili sauce, and the vibrant pumpkin miso broth make my ramen lunch too pretty to eat, but also very delicious not to!

Well, huge thanks to Allison, I think I have to say bye to my old no-lunch/ sad-lunch days! From now on, lunch might have become the meal that I most look forward to.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Modern Lunch: +100 Recipes for Assembling the New Midday Meal as compensation for this review. All opinions are my own. 

Ingredients (serves 4):
Ramen Broth Concentrate
1/4 Japanese pumpkin (kabocha), peeled and chunked
1 cup water, plus more for steaming pumpkin
2 tablespoons organic vegetable or chicken bouillon powder
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Vegetables, Eggs, and Soba Noodles
4 portobello mushrooms, diced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon gluten-free tamari
4 large eggs
2 bundles (6 1/2 oz) soba noodles (buckwheat noodles)
2 cups steamed greens (broccoli, broccoli rabe, kale, or spinach)
black sesame seeds (optional)
red chili sauce (optional)
4 cups (1 cup per serving) just-boiled water from the kettle, for serving

For the broth concentrate, steam the pumpkin until tender, about 10 minutes. Add to a blender or food processor along with 1 cup water, bouillon powder, miso paste, rice vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, and Sriracha to taste, and then blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a jar and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
For the vegetables, eggs, and soba noodles, preheat the oven to 425F and bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Toss the mushrooms with the sesame oil and tamari. Place the mushrooms on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, until shrunken and deep brown. Set aside.
Carefully place the eggs in boiling water and cook for 6 minutes. Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Once the 6 minutes are up, use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs from the pot and place them in the bowl of cold water to help loosen the shell, keeping the boiling water on the stove for the noodles. Gently peel the eggs, being careful not to bread the white or the yolk will run out (they’re not as sturdy as hard-boiled eggs), and set aside. Then, cook the noodles in the reserved boiling water according to package directions, until tender. Drain the noodles, rinse with cold water, drain again, and set aside.
To assemble, for each serving, add 1/2 cup of broth concentrate to a large jar or airtight container or build at home in a bowl. Top the broth with a portion each of noodles, mushrooms, steamed greens or spinach, a peeled whole egg, and sesame seeds and chili to taste. Seal and store refrigerated.
When you’re ready for lunch, for each serving, pour 1 cup (enough to cover) of boiling water over top, seal, and let stand for 3 minutes to reheat fully. Open the lid, give the soup a gentle stir, slice the egg in half with your spoon, and then eat.

Recipe adapted from Modern Lunch: +100 Recipes for Assembling the New Midday Meal by Allison Day. Copyright © 2019 Allison Day. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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