Leaves & Roots Lemongrass Soup

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In my first post of MoFo 2011, I talked about tatsoi, a new-to-me green. It was delicious and photogenic:

A large bowl of tatsoi, shot from above.

Green leaves.

I enjoyed half my bundle of tatsoi in a simple dish of sauteed greens with marinated tofu, but I wanted to do something different with the remaining half. Many of the comments you all left on that post included your thoughts on how to use this pretty green, but Andrea‘s comment was especially appealing:

What a gorgeous bunch of greens! I like tatsoi in stir-fries and in soup, especially Asian-inspired soups.

Soup – I can’t believe I didn’t think of that! I don’t know about you, but I feel immensely healthy and happy when I eat a giant bowl of soup filled with leafy greens and other veggies. Because you boil the greens right in the broth, you know that any nutrients that seep out during cooking remain in the broth itself, providing you with a slurpable bowl of goodness.

With dreams of soup in my head, I went back to the co-op in search of inspiration. I returned with a big bag of groceries, including the following rustic-looking bounty:

A wooden cutting board with a burdock root, a piece of ginger, and a stalk of lemongrass.

Roots and leaves.

I was so pleased to find burdock root – I’ve eaten it once before in a soup, and I loved its earthy flavor and unique texture. I also picked up ginger root and lemongrass. All these yummy ingredients met the last of my tatsoi for a swim in my big ol’ Le Creuset stock pot, and out came this pretty, colorful soup:

A big bowl of soup sitting on a wooden board. In the bowl you can see carrots, burdock roots, cooked greens, and cubed tofu. To the right of the bowl is a pho spoon. In front of the bowl are sliced green onions and a few slices of lime.

Green soup.

Leaves & Roots Lemongrass Soup
Serves four (or three, if you’re a piggy-pig-pig like me!)

1 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 T agave nectar
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t garlic powder
1.5 C extra firm tofu, chopped into cubes

1 T olive oil
1 burdock root (about 7” long), well peeled and thinly sliced (yields about 1/2 cup)
2 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 large carrot, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 T freshly minced ginger
1 piece star anise
6 C vegetable broth
1 stalk lemongrass (bottom cut in half and then quartered; sliced into 1-inch pieces and gently bruised with side of knife)
3 C tightly packed chopped tatsoi (or other green)
1 bundle mung bean vermicelli noodles
1/2 lime (optional)
Toasted sesame oil (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk the first four ingredients until they’re well incorporated. Add the tofu cubes and give them a little shake so all their sides are covered in the marinade. Set aside.

Add olive oil to a large stock pot and heat on medium-high. When oil is hot, add the burdock root. Saute 5 – 7 minutes or until the burdock root begins to soften; depending on how thinly you’ve sliced the burdock, it might take more or less time. Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, and spices and saute for 30 more seconds. Add the broth and turn up the heat. When the broth is boiling, add lemongrass and boil for 5 more minutes or until the lemongrass is somewhat tender. Add greens, noodles, tofu, and remaining tofu marinade and reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for seven to ten minutes. If using bean threads, remember that you might need to use kitchen shears to cut them once they soften – they often come in a big intertwined ball.

When the greens are soft and the noodles are ready, drizzle the soup with the juice of 1/2 a lime and a few drops of toasted sesame oil. Ladle into bowls and top with diced scallions and fresh basil leaves, if desired. Enjoy!

I really liked this soup – it had a unique blend of flavors, ones I don’t usually cook with. I did find the lemongrass a little tough, so you might need to cook it for longer (or even saute it with the burdock root). It still hit the spot, though, filling my tummy and making me feel super healthy and satiated.

Have you cooked with burdock root? Do you have any secrets for making lemongrass more palatable?

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