We don't cook straight from scratch every night. In fact, there are many good products from the grocery store that can serve as the base for an easy, quick, and healthful meal. Take the soups at Trader Joe's, for instance. Here we start with one of them, sweeten it up with some miso paste, add some soba noodles, and then top off the whole thing with just a handful of protein: spicy, crispy fried pork sausage with ginger, hot pepper, and garlic. And the whole thing only takes 30 minutes. (Or less.)
This is an easy one-dish meal; the noodles cook while the soup simmers and you fry the pork. Layer it all up into a big bowl, and you have sweet and gingery squash soup (TJ's butternut soup has a touch of ginger) with yummy noodles and crispy, spicy pork. The contrast of sweet and spicy is very important here -- make sure you add at least a touch of hot pepper to the pork.
And of course this is very accomodating to vegetarians and vegans. Just leave out the pork and substitute spicy baked tofu or another crunchy topping.
Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger, Soba, and Fried Pork Crumbles
Heat the soup to boiling, then turn down the heat. Whisk a ladle of the soup into a small bowl with the miso paste. Whisk until smooth then stir back into the soup. Keep the soup at a low simmer; don't let it boil again. Taste and season, if you wish, with a dash of soy sauce.
While the soup is coming to a simmer, boil water for the soba noodles. I used green mugwort soba, but plain soba or udon or even rice noodles would also be good. Cook the noodles for the time specified on the package. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
While the soup and noodles are cooking, put a heavy skillet over medium heat. Oil lightly with vegetable or canola oil. While waiting for the skillet to heat, grate the ginger and mince the garlic. Also, take two sausages out of their casings. (Reserve the other three sausages for breakfast or another meal.) When the oil is hot, add the grated ginger and garlic. When they are soft and fragrant, turn the heat to high. Crumble the sausage into the pan, add a shake of red pepper flakes, and cook over high heat for about 10 minutes, or until the sausage is golden-brown and crispy. Stir frequently, breaking up the pork crumbles into small bits.
Mince a handful of cilantro while the pork is cooking.
To serve, put about a cup of noodles into each bowl. Pour soup over top, and finish with a spoonful of the pork crumbles. Add a sprinkle of cilantro and eat immediately.