Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Best Miso Soup

Miso soup is just one of those mysterious things that I would never think to try making on my own; it's dark cloudiness, the silky sheets of seaweed floating around, the sometimes-present bits of tofu--it all just seems so shrouded in exotic culinary secrecy. That's why it came as such an utter surprise that the little bowl of soup you see in the picture above is not only the best miso soup I've ever had, it's also one of the easiest soups I've ever made. The bonus? Miso is one of the ultimate super foods, full of live enzymes that are great for digestion--it's basically like yogurt without the dairy. It's also great for the immune system, protects against radiation, it's high in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, and it keeps the body "happy and balanced," to quote Alicia Silverstone's book, The Kind Life. Talk about the complete package. I would eat this stuff every day if I could.

However, think twice before you start gorging on takeout containers from your local Japanese restaurant. The stuff you get at restaurants is often extra salty, made with fish stock, and loaded with MSG. Way better to make it at home and really reap all the benefits, no? For the recipe below, you can either use white miso for a lighter version, or barley miso for a deeper flavor. Barley miso has more health benefits so I went with that one and it was absolutely delicious. Try it out--I promise it's easier than you think. xo

Best Miso Soup
From My Father's Daughter, by Gwyneth Paltrow
6 cups water (filtered is best)
1 cup dried bonito flakes
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 4-inch piece dried wakame seawee
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons miso paste
2 cups watercress leaves, washed (optional)

Heat the water in a small soup pot and when bubbles form around the edges, add the bonito. Turn the heat down and simmer for 2 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the broth sit for 5 minutes. Strain the broth into a clean pot, discarding the bonito. Add the shiitakes and wakame to the broth and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Remove the wakame and the mushrooms. Discard the thick stems from the mushrooms, thinly slice the caps, and slip them back into the soup. Chop the wakame into small pieces, discarding any thick piece of stems, and return to the pot.

In a small bowl, combine the miso paste with a bit of broth and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture back into the post and let the soup simmer for a few minutes, being careful not to let it boil. If you're using it, add the watercress at the last minute just to wilt it, and serve.