"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Miso Soup

It's a blustery, raw June (?!) day...the perfect setting for a post about soup!

Miso Soup, to be precise. This is one of the recipes in the soup chapter that seems tremendously appealing because it has only five ingredients. And this might lead you to think that it's easy to make, but actually, you'd be wrong!

Oh come on, I hear you cry. What's so difficult about miso soup?

Well, two things. One is that you are not going to find wakame, white miso, bonito flakes, and konbu in your supermarket, unless you live in Porter Square. So it requires a special trip to The Store That (Hopefully) Sells Those Things.

The other is the ingredient dashi (recipe follows). Embedded recipes can add a lot of time to your kitchen flow! OK, this one only adds 10 minutes. But I DO find myself avoiding recipes with embedded recipes, just fyi (Gourmet editorial staff).

So we'll start with the dashi. which calls for konbu (that's a type of seaweed), and dried bonito flakes (that's a type of fish). An ounce of konbu. Hmm, how much is that?

More than I thought!

Add that to six cups of water, bring to a boil and then take the konbu out, which the recipe helpfully notes you can reserve for another use, if desired. What, I don't know. I'm sure Martha Stewart would have many, many suggestions about this. Placemats? Picture frames? If you had enough of it, perhaps you could fashion a shift out of konbu. Project Runway, I would like to see this.

Then you add a cup of tightly packed bonito flakes...

...and sprinkle them on the konbu water and let them sit for three minutes.

Then you filter the bonito flakes out. The recipe says you can use cheesecloth or a coffee filter--I say, how about a fine mesh sieve? Worked just great for me. And, you can reserve the bonito flakes for another use too!

A word about bonito flakes--you might be wondering what they taste like. If you go for the salty/meaty spectrum of foods, you'll be hard pressed not to just sort of snack on these like potato chips, though they're maddeningly non-substantial. It's sort of a salty-fishy flavor with a little bit of a metallic aftertaste. Mmmmm. What you're supposed to do w/ soggy, post-dashi bonito flakes, I don't know either! I think the people who originally came up with these recipes must have been alive during the Depression. I suppose your cat might like them, or maybe you can wad them up and throw them at people you don't like.

Well, now you have dashi. On with the show!

Take your second type of seaweed, wakame, and soak it in warm water. My wakame was kind of long so I cut it up.

Then combine 1/4 cup of white miso with a little dashi. I have to confess here that I didn't use white miso, because I had some perfectly nice red miso hanging out in my fridge. What's the difference? Red miso has a heartier flavor, if I may be so bold as to use that term with miso.

Heat the remaining dashi in a pot, and then add soft, cubed tofu. Here's my tofu, it its pre-cubed state:

If you're used to firm or extra-firm tofu, the texture of soft tofu might be slightly disconcerting. But one of the reasons I love soft tofu is that you can use it in sweet things (smoothies, pies, etc) and people will never, ever know. If you are the sort of person who giggles at the thought of pulling one over on people, you should explore soft tofu.

Here's my soup with tofu and wakame...

Basically, you're just warming up the tofu and wakame. No need to cook them.

Here's the soup, finished off with the miso and sliced scallion greens:

If I were being snarky, I'd say that miso soup turns out to be less than the sum of its parts, but I'll rephrase that and say miso has a subtle flavor that is very soothing and actually would be perfect for breakfast, which is how they eat it in Japan. I ate mine for dinner, and it seemed very authentic, since it tasted like every other miso soup I've had in my life. Gosh, I am being snarky today--it must be the raw weather. I shall atone by making myself some miso soup for breakfast.

Oh, and please notice that I'm also atoning for photo FAIL these last couple of posts by an abundance of photos here! See, I can document a whole recipe from start to finish. Bet you didn't think I could.


Georgia said...

Aha, I should make miso with my seaweed!

Jessica said...

The Japanese actually eat miso soup with about every meal. I ate tons and tons of miso soup while I was there--and I love it. It does make a particularly terrific breakfast item, though. I bought an awesome miso soup bowl while I was in Tokyo--I should knock the MS out of TJOC too...

Matt said...

If your dashi was disappointing, there must be something wrong. The bonito, I'd guess: The label "aged and dried" is woefully inaccurate. To me, those shavings look old and oxidized compared to fresh ones. Also, that's far more konbu than I saw used in Japan.