Who can live on cookies alone? In between batches of crackles and ginger snaps I made a big pot of Miso Soup. My daughter requested it and we all agreed it’s the perfect post-Thanksgiving food. One bowl has the power to redeem you and your guilty conscience from all those extra helpings of pecan pie.
Miso soup was one of the first things I cooked for myself when I was in college. It’s a staple in Japan, and you’ve probably had it in Japanese restaurants. The soup is basically a thin miso infused broth, and when you get it in restaurants it usually has very little in it, maybe a slice or two of scallion floating around. But it can also made heartier with tofu, mushrooms, seaweed, green onions, and potatoes, among other things.
Miso is a Japanese fermented paste, usually made from rice, barley and or soybeans. Most stores stock it, look for it in the Asian or international section of your market. I found mine, a locally made organic miso, in the refrigerated section. Miso is a biologically active, living food, like yogurt. Cooking destroys some of its beneficial bacteria and can change the flavor. When you make Miso soup the paste is added at the end, once the pot is taken off the heat.
This is basically a healthy and nourishing instant soup. It’s perfect for when you have a cold or flu, and so much quicker and easier to make than chicken soup. In Japan it’s believed to have powerful health giving properties, (including fighting the Big C.)
Making miso soup gives you the perfect excuse to experiment with some of the exotic, loose mushroom varieties you always pass by when you’re doing your grocery shopping. Their delicate flavor will take center stage in such a simple dish, and you don’t need to buy many, so the cost won’t be prohibitive. I bought baby button Shitake and a variety called Beech Mushrooms, which was new to me. The tiny little brown or white mushrooms come clustered on one large stem or stalk.
- 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons Miso paste
- 1/3 of a 14 oz block of firm tofu, cut in small cubes
- 2 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced or left whole if very small
- 4 or 5 scallions, sliced thin (use all of the white and a little of the green)
- Heat the stock and water to a simmer and add the mushrooms and tofu. Simmer for a few minutes to cook the mushrooms. When you're ready to serve, add the scallions and take off the heat. In a small bowl, whisk the miso with 1/4 cup of the hot broth to form a paste. Stir it back into the broth, and serve.
We like it with lots of steaming hot edamame (soy) beans showered in sea salt.