23 April 2008

Miso soup for the cold

dr was sick a week or two ago. We'd just had a roast chicken a day or two before, so while we agreed that I should make her a healing soup, we thought a big bowl of our usual matzah ball soup* felt a bit repetitive. (Plus, Passover was coming up.) We settled on my totally inauthentic but generally well-loved miso soup, which did the job. The girls loved the noodles & tofu and even the seaweed, but Squiss is anti-mushroom and so slurped around them. I like the way the mushroom broth's earthiness, the salty richness of the miso and the dashi's almost sweet clarity complement each other, but I tend to favor complexity (some say muddledness, and that does tend to be the direction I err) over simplicity. So if you'd prefer rich miso goodness, straight earthiness or a light fishiness, go ahead & omit one or two of the others, adjusting the amounts of liquid accordingly.

To get the kids excited about it, we gave it a rhythmic name (say it aloud):

Tofu miso noodle soup
(for the cold & the soul)
serves 4

0.5 oz. (15 g) dried bonito flakes
2 oz. dried mushrooms**
5 oz. rice stick, soba or udon (optional)
8 oz. tofu
2 sheets nori seaweed (about 0.2 oz., 5 g)
2 scallions
3 tbsp. yellow miso
(other varieties are OK too)

1. Make dashi broth & mushrooms: Bring 8 cups water to a boil, then remove from heat. Carefully scoop out 2 cups into a bowl with the mushrooms. Add the bonito flakes to the remaining 6 cups. Let both stand about 10 minutes.

2. While the dashi rests:
- put a large pot of water over high heat for the noodles (if you're making them)
- dice the tofu and break the nori into 1" by 2" strips (roughly)
- chop the scallions diagonally into little oval rings*** (to be sure the whites come apart rather than staying stuck together in their concentric rings, try cutting the whites in two first, lengthwise)

3. Pass the dashi broth through a strainer or colander to get out the bonito flakes, pressing the solids to extract as much of the flavorful broth as you can. Take the mushrooms out of their soaking liquid & reserve liquid. Slice the mushrooms thinly, cutting out the tough stems.**** Combine the dashi and reserved mushroom broth.

4. Put the combined broth over medium heat. When it's simmering, stir in the miso, making sure it dissolves completely, and take it off the heat.

5. Prepare the noodles according to the package's directions (if you're making them).

6. Combine the drained noodles, the broth, the mushrooms, the tofu and the nori in a big bowl. Garnish with scallions and serve piping hot (especially if it's cold out or you're sick).

* made with chicken broth - recipe from her grandpop's deli, about which more in a future post
** for this recipe, I like mushrooms that look like beefed-up shiitakes; their packaging tends to be in Chinese rather than Japanese
*** Many say to just use the whites, but I prefer to use all of the scallion, being sure to cut off any wilted or dried bits at the top of the greens, and to chop the greens finely since they can be tough. Much more colorful with the greens.

**** You can discard the stems, or if you're an obsessive saver (who are you looking at?) keep them for another time when they can be blended into the base for a thicker mushroom broth/soup.

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