Friday, May 22, 2009

Soup, and its variations

I have a new favorite soup! And it's easy to make! And it's healthy!

(Whew. Used up my quota of exclamation points.*)

I've always loved miso soup. Even my picky girl critter will eat it. But I always think of it as a prelude to a meal, not as the centerpiece. But this past weekend Sarah changed my mind about that. Both of our Brians had taken their respective 6-year-old critters and headed up north to a state park cabin, leaving Sarah and I each with the luxury of only catering to the needs of one critter and furthermore, eating the kind of food we really love (and which our Brians will eat, but not celebrate).

Sarah made the soup I'm raving about and I brought a salad. I had just been to the farmers market that morning and picked up a gorgeous huge endive, eggs from the Amish farmers and more asparagus. These came together with a handful of walnuts and some spinach thinnings from my garden:
We tossed the greens with vinaigrette and walnuts, then poached the asparagus and eggs. Served with a glass of wine, a hunk of paesano bread and a really stinky Camembert that I got at the Friday Zingerman's warehouse sale this would have been fine for dinner.

But then Sarah brought out the soup! (Ooops. Over-quota on exclamation points.**)

Allow me to present the original:
Miso Mushroom Soup
Barley miso, dashi, spinach, mixed mushrooms, firm tofu, chicken broth

It was a chilly, windy evening and this soup, with the rich, robust flavor from the barley miso, was perfect. It was tangy, it was fresh, it was umami and I loved it.

Last night, I decided I wanted MORE and so, going with what I had in the house, I made a variation on the original:
White miso, dashi, pea shoots, shitake mushrooms, medium tofu, scallions, chicken and vegetable broth, lemon zest (accompanied by a big bowl of goma ae to the left)

It resulted in a slightly more delicate variation, well suited to the sunny day on which it was served. The pea shoots and tiny bit of lemon zest gave the soup a bright, light flavor.

Don't make me pick my favorite because I loved them both. Clearly the recipe is very versatile and adapts to what you have on hand, it is easy to make vegetarian (though I have to say the chicken broth does give this a more substantial flavor), and also potentially useful for using up spare produce. And best of all it takes maybe 10 minutes to make! This soup is going to be in regular rotation at our house, particularly on those frantic nights when there doesn't seem to be any time to cook.

Mushroom Miso Soup

The Sarah Version
(adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything)

4 cups chicken broth
dashi (instant kind) about 1t or to taste
2 T Barley Miso
4-6 oz mixed mushrooms, sliced
about 1/2 lb spinach
1/2 cake firm tofu, cubed

The Kate Variation
(adapted from Sarah's adaptation from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything)

1 can chicken broth
1 can vegetable broth
2 C water
2 T white miso
2 t instant dashi
4 oz shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
about 2 oz fresh pea shoots which is a couple of good handfuls ($1.50 worth from the Garden Works folks at the farmers market is plenty for this soup)
1/2 cake medium or soft tofu, cubed
1 scallion, sliced in thin circles
a little bit of lemon zest (don't over do it or it will overpower the other flavors)

Saute your mushrooms in a little canola oil or butter till they are just tender. Then dump in your broth, dashi, water (if making variation 2) and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, scoop out about a 1/2 C of broth and stir it into the miso to thin it. Then dump it back in the pot with the tofu and heat until the tofu is warmed through. Toss in the spinach or pea shoots and optional scallion and lemon zest. Warm gently for a minute until the green stuff is wilted.

*Over-use of exclamation points leads to cheerleaderitis syndrome. More than three in a post is a danger sign for developing the disease.
**picture me with my pom poms...

1 comment:

Jen said...

This looks wonderful, and speaking of the mushrooms you mentioned, have you seen the mushroom growers at the market? Their mushrooms are astounding. Truly.