A lot of cooking happens in our office. It’s not unusual to find fresh pumpkin bread or a because-it’s-Monday waffle bar up for grabs. And when we find a new cookbook we love—like the practical veg-centric advice from Cara Mangini in The Vegetable Butcher—we can’t resist giving a recipe a try.
We love Cara for so many reasons. One of the original vegetable butchers at Eataly, she knows her way around produce. She proves that day in and day out at Little Eater, the plant-based eatery she runs inside the North Market, just a few stands down from us. It’s not uncommon to find members of the Jeni’s team in line for scoops of fresh salads and fluffy quiche (or a roasted butternut squash sandwich with walnut butterthat I may, or may not, be addicted to).
She’s also family. Cara’s married to a member of our team—Tom Bauer, our VP of new markets—and Jeni’s sister in law.
Cara, who comes from a long line of traditional butchers, has been working on this book for as long as Jeni has known her. Her goal is vegetable education. Like, what’s the best way to break down an artichoke? And how to master basic cuts, regardless of what odd-shaped produce you’re working with. Her first cookbook, The Vegetable Butcher: How to select, prep, slice, dice, and masterfully cook vegetables from artichokes to zucchini, is on sale April 19 (you can pre-order it now). Until then, we’ve got a preview recipe.
A note from Cara on this dish: If soup can heal, this is the one to do it. Miso, garlic, and ginger make a clean and aromatic broth that instantly tastes and feels like the boost you needed (even when you didn’t realize you needed one). With daikon radish, spinach, oyster mushrooms, and udon or soba noodles, the soup is as delicious as it is healthy. Watermelon radish, sliced avocado, and black sesame seeds get credit for color, texture, and combined aesthetics—equally powerful stuff.
Daikon and Mushroom Miso Soup with Watermelon Radish, Udon Noodles, and Avocado
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 piece (1-inch long) fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons white miso
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce, plus extra as needed
- ½ large daikon radish, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch-thick half-moons (about 8 ounces total)
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus extra as needed
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra as needed
- 3 ounces oyster mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1 cup; see note)
- 4 ounces udon or soba noodles
- 4 cups chopped spinach, tatsoi, or bok choy leaves (optional)
- ½ large watermelon radish, halved and sliced into 1/16-inch-thick half-moons with a mandoline (about 8 ounces total), for serving
- 1 avocado, pitted and sliced, for serving
- Toasted black or white sesame seeds, for serving
Heat the sesame oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft but not brown at all, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Whisk together the miso and 1 cup of water in a 2-cup liquid measure until the miso dissolves. Add it to the pot along with 8 cups of water and the tamari, daikon, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, partially covered, until the daikon begins to soften, 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the mushrooms and the noodles. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook until the noodles are just tender, 5 to 7 minutes (or according to the noodle package instructions). Stir in the spinach, if you are adding it, and let simmer until it just wilts.
4. Season with more tamari, salt, and pepper if needed. Fill individual bowls with the soup and top each with the sliced watermelon radishes, sliced avocado, and sprinkle of teh toasted sesame seeds.
NOTE: Oyster mushrooms are my top pick here, but nameko or enoki mushrooms are also great. Nameko are traditional in miso soup and will thicken it slightly. Trim their hard ends, just at the point where the stems give. Skinny enoki mushrooms provide mild flavor and require trimming at the end of a cluster to separate them. If you use enoki, add them toward the very end and simmer them only for a couple of minutes. Shiitakes are delicious here, too, adding rich flavor.
Butchery Advice: To Thinly Slice or Shave a Radish
Make a straight cut to trim the root end of the radish with a chef’s knife. Use a mandoline to thinly slice a radish into rounds. (Cut very large round radishes in half from root to stem end, press the stem end into the mandolin, and slice to produce half-moons.) Use a hand guard if it’s more comfortable or get a grip on its stem.
Butcher Notes: A radish’s hot and spicy punch is delivered mostly through its skin—so peel them if you can’t take the heat. You can also cook radishes to soften their spice and experience their softer side. In fact, I encourage it!