Starting Clean

Early January, the ground coated in a thin veneer of glistening white snow, it’s the calm after the storm. Lights and tinsel come down, discarded gift wrappings are cleared away, and the world returns to a weary, more subdued version of normalcy. Back to work, back to school, back to what ever it was we were ignoring or pretending didn’t have a deadline- It’s an abrupt, harsh transition, alright. Tempted as I am to turn tail and hibernate for the rest of winter, the show must go on, and the gears must continue to grind forward somehow.

Beginning in my own gentle way into 2011, there were no grand parties or late night revelries, and yet a soothing, cleansing sort of recipe for renewal still feels appropriate. Yes, there are still cakes and sweets galore to come (oh, if only you knew my plans…) but for now, a break from complicated fare is more than welcome. Borrowing from the Japanese tradition of nanakusagayu, a simple dish consisting of little more than rice and greens promises wealth, luck, and a healthy, clean start to the new year.

A porridge requiring seven different, distinct greens, this is a dish I shied away from for many years, lacking the creativity to replace the typical Japanese herbs with ones more easily obtainable in the US. Perhaps I cheated a bit, filing leeks, celery, and parsley under the category of full-fledged greens, but they certainly are green-colored, and oh so much more tasty than many other bitter grasses. My version also differs significantly in consistency; rather than a gooey, mushy rice porridge that’s cooked to a slow death, I throw in cooked rice almost at the last minute, keeping the grains whole and distinct, and creating more of a soup in the end. Warming, soothing, quick and brothy, it’s a perfect option for anyone feeling under the weather, too.

Though the greens do wilt down considerably, this recipe still makes a whole lot of food, so you may want to keep the rice one the side for future leftovers, instead of letting it sit and soften in the leftover soup.

Nanakusa-Shiru

1 Medium Leek, Thoroughly Cleaned and Sliced into Half-Moons
2 Stalks Celery, with Leaves, Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 Square Kombu
5 -6 Cups Water
3 – 4 Tablespoons Aka (Red) Miso
4 Cups Cooked Brown Rice
1/2 Pound Fresh Kale, Stemmed and Chopped or Torn
1/2 Pound Fresh Baby Spinach
1/2 Pound Fresh Romaine, Chopped
4 – 5 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
1/2 Cup Parsley, Roughly Chopped

Toasted Sesame Seeds
Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)

Set a large stock pot on the stove over moderate heat, and add in the leek, celery, garlic, kombu, and water. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes, until the garlic has mellowed and the veggies softened. Carefully remove the kombu, and slice it into bite-sized pieces before returning it to the pot.

In a small dish, place the miso paste, and add in a splash of water from the stock pot. Mix well so that the miso is completely dissolved and no lumps remain. Pour the miso liquid back into the pot, and stir to incorporate. Add in the cooked rice, along with all of the remaining greens and herbs. You may need to add the greens in batches, stirring each one in gently until wilted enough to make more room in the soup pot. Cook for just 2 more minutes, and turn off the heat.

Ladle out portions into bowls, including a good amount of broth for each one, and top each serving with a light sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds and red pepper flakes as desired.

Serves 8 – 12

Printable Recipe

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37 thoughts on “Starting Clean

  1. oh the bowls are so beautiful! ♥♥♥ I like ♥
    The photo is beautiful as always.
    Recipe very tasty!
    Hannah, I wish you a very good year, that all your dreams come true and I hope that 2011 will be full of surprise to your readers, may be a second book?

  2. wow! this looks just perfect for starting the new year. it went straight into my online cookbook at (Cookmarked.com). Thanks Hannah!

  3. Wonderful, Hannah! This is just what I am craving. I have never tried red miso, but I have officially added it to my shopping list for this afternoon.

  4. This sounds perfect for those of us who are hoping that 2011 will be a healthier year. I love your substitutions as well as the bowls. If they are from Crate & Barrel I think I have the same ones.

  5. Oh Hannah, what a gorgeous soup this is. Love it. I’ve been eating Heidi (101 Cookbooks) New Year Noodle Soup for the past two days. While we’re in the Southern hemisphere and it’s summer, we’re having a bizarre cold and wet spell and I find myself craving soup. If it continues I’ll be making yours next, if not I’ll file it away for our winter-proper.

  6. This looks absolutely scrumptious! And the photo is scrumptious, as well, I might add. Am going to my favorite natural foods store, tomorrow. I hope they have the Kombu. If they don’t would there be something else similar that I could substitute?

  7. Hmm you are quite foreboding with your warnings of delicacies to come. But for now I’ll relish in the simplicity and cleanliness of this dish. Just what I need at the moment.

  8. I must say, I do love me some mushy porridge-like congee, but I’d be willing to give your distinct-grains-with-so-many-lovely-greens recipe a go. That’s how much I trust you. :P Happy New Year, fellow Hannah!

  9. I really enjoyed reading this post. You’re very good to have had cleared all your Christmas things away and whizzed up these cleansing meals. I think this would be perfect for me at the moment; it is healthy, nourishing and restorive. I am indeed under the weather with a cold :( so those 7 greens would help me out.

    I look forward to seeing the planned future sweets you mentioned.

  10. This is certainly my type of meal. It looks so filling and hearty, yet light at the same time. i’ll definitely have to give this I try.. I just can’t get enough my my grains and greens.

  11. That looks really tasty. It makes me want to make it!

    Also, I made your Black Gingerbread bars for coworkers (some of whom are vegan) and they were a big hit! Vegans and non-vegans alike loved the flavor, and one of the girls who IS vegan was so excited by being able to eat holiday foods that she didn’t make herself! Thanks for the recipe!

  12. Hanna, that is a gorgeous soup–I’d love to try it–and stunning photography! Just looking at it makes me think of gentle detox and nurturing. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Happy New Year. :>)

  13. After over-indulging for the past month in pies, cakes, roasts and rolls, this looks like just the ticket to rejuvenate the palate. So restorative and soothing. Yum.

  14. This is lovely. Thanks for posting the recipe. I think it would be great with no rice at all, too, for a lighter meal. But it was terrific as is.

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