Guest post and photos by Kim in Pasadena, California.
I have to give credit to a broken vase.
I know it’s odd, but without that broken vase and the need to replace it, I would not have been in line at the store, new vase in hand. And I would not have met a woman behind me, who introduced herself as Diane and asked what I was going to do with the vase. I told her my story about replacing the vase, and she shared her story about looking for warm weather clothes for a trip to Washington DC.
We traded information, and began speaking by phone and e-mailing often, sometimes about life stuff, but most often about food.
During a routine medical exam and testing, Diane learned that she had breast cancer. After surgery and the dreadful hospital food, Diane asked if I could create a soup that was made with broccoli, spinach, asparagus and ginger –- all ingredients that would help rebuild her body and spirit.
The items didn’t seem to make a defining flavor profile and needed something to give them a unifying theme. One of the things that I do know about ginger is that it plays well with sesame oil. This would give the soup an Asian feel and was just the pantry item that I needed to make this work.
Sesame oil is one of the oldest condiments. Its first use by the Chinese, more than 5,000 years ago, was as oil for lamps. Not only did they use the oil to create a light source; they also used the soot to make their superior stick ink for calligraphy.
It was much later (in the 5th Century AD) that people discovered the sweet, nutty taste of the oil and use it for food. Sesame oil in Asian cooking is used much like olive oil in Italian cooking. The oil is resistant to oxidation, meaning that it is not prone to rancidity because of sesamol, a natural preservative within the oil.
I keep several different types on hand but my favorite is the black sesame oil. I like the way it retains the nutty flavor in long cooking methods.
More facts about sesame oil, and ingredient photos, on The Perfect Pantry:
Sesame oil (Recipe: squash and chicken soup)
Salmon and green vegetable soup
Below is the recipe for the soup I created for Diane's recovery. Remember, the best birthday present you can give yourself is a mammogram. The second best? A cup of this nutrient-rich soup. Be careful not to overheat the sesame oil; it has a high smoke point, but will lose flavor if it gets too hot. Serves 4.
2 Tbsp black sesame oil (or regular sesame oil)
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1 Tbsp fresh ginger
1 Tbsp garlic
6 cups chicken stock
3 long peppercorns or regular black peppercorns
Kosher salt to taste
1/2 lb broccoli 1/2 lb fresh spinach leaves
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed
1 Tbsp butter
1 sprig of savory
1 12-oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 lemon verbena leaves (or the juice of 1/2 lemon)
4 oz cooked salmon
Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a stock pot, being careful not to overheat the oil.
Sauté onions, ginger and garlic in the oil until translucent. Add the chicken stock, long peppercorns and a bit of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a sauté pan heat the second tablespoon of the sesame oil, add the spinach and sauté for a minute or two until wilted.
In a sauce pan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add the butter, a pinch of salt and blanch the asparagus for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and blanch the broccoli.
Add to the chicken broth the cooked spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and the savory, beans and lemon verbena (or lemon juice). Cook for 20 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, warm the cooked salmon in a microwave or small pot. To serve, place 1/4 of the salmon in each bowl, and ladle the soup around it.
Other recipes that use sesame oil:
Sesame and cilantro vermicelli salad, from Simply Recipes
Easy asparagus with soy sauce and sesame, from Viet World Kitchen
Soy-sesame soba noodles with vegetables and egg, from Not Eating Out in New York
Baked tofu with soy and sesame, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Cold sesame noodle salad with ginger and chili, from Baking and Books
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