It’s finally showing signs of spring. The weather is a pleasant cool temperature, and the trees are turning a spring green color. The farms are beginning to ramp up their operations, but the first full harvest will not be ready till early June. However, the cool temperatures mean that a hot soup is perfect for an appetizer or a light lunch.
Living in a large city means that I am lucky have access many ingredients from around the world. Although I try to cook with mostly local ingredients, I like to experiment with flavors from many different cuisines. Using ingredients that have been preserved through drying, pickling, or other room temperature stable methods lets me choose tastes that are from far away climates. Miso soup is a simple classic Japanese dish, and a favorite of mine. The stock is made out of entirely dried ingredients. Dried shiitake mushrooms add an extra hearty flavor to the broth, and seaweed imparts a nice amount of ocean salt. The stock takes a while to make but is not very complicated. It mostly consists of soaking flavors. Kombu (dried kelp), dried shiitake mushrooms, and miso paste are the main seasonings and can be found at any Asian market or large supermarket. Seaweed is also one of those ‘superfoods’ with incredible amounts of vitamins. Because these ingredients are dried, they last just about forever as well and can be stored for long periods of time in airtight containers. The salty and warm soup contrasts nicely with the smooth, melt in your mouth silken tofu. Delicious and healthy, this appetizer is perfect for a cool day.
Mushroom Miso Soup
Makes 4 servings
- 1 oz or 7 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
- 4×5” square kombu (dried kelp)
- 1/4 tsp soy sauce
- 1/4 cup miso paste
- 12 oz silken tofu
- 2 scallions
Heat 6 cups of water to boiling in a large pot or electric kettle. Add the dried mushrooms to a soup pot. Cover the dried mushrooms with boiling water. Let the mushrooms soak for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and gently squeeze the excess liquid back into the pot. Discard the re-hydrated mushrooms or save for another use. With a damp cloth gently wipe any dirt off the kombu, but do not wipe off any white sediment. Snip alternating 1 inch cuts into the kombu. Add the kombu to the mushroom stock and let it soak for 20 minutes. Add the soy sauce to the stock and set the pot over very low heat. Very slowly bring up the stock to near boiling, about 25 minutes. Before the stock boils remove kombu and turn off the heat. Boiling the kombu will cause it to become bitter. Triple line a sieve with a cheesecloth or a single paper towel and set it over a large bowl. Pour the mushroom dashi stock through the sieve to remove all sediments. The recipe should make about 4 cups of dashi. If less than 4 cups is made, add water to equal 4 cups.
Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes. Thinly slice the scallions crosswise. Rinse out the pot and transfer the stock back to the pot. Bring the stock up to boiling over medium heat. Add the miso to a small bowl. When the stock is boiling add 1 cup of stock to the miso and mix to dissolve completely. Turn the heat to low, transfer the dissolved miso to the stock, and mix. Bring the soup up to just below a boil and add the tofu. Gently stir to prevent the tofu from breaking up. Heat for 3 minutes or until the tofu is heated through. Add the scallions and stir again. Divide into bowls and serve immediately.
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