Sunday, March 6, 2011
In honor of 'March Madness', I present today's soup, 'Miso Madness'.
Truthfully, I usually make the soup on Saturday
so I can take it to Bulls Head Meeting on Sunday, but I was out having adventures yesterday, so I had to make a soup that was quick and easy enough to make this morning. I'm NOT a morning person, so the emphasis is on the easy. My adventures? A trip with friends to Albany NY where we took in a museum, ate at CCK my favorite Chinese joint in upstate, shopped at the fabulous Asian Supermarket where I turn into a total kid going nuts with all the novel smells, sights, and tastes, and then played drums at the Albany Dances for Universal Peace. Some of last night's purchases at the Asian Supermarket also inspired this soup.
One of the great things about miso soup is that is incredibly simple to make and yet has wonderful soothing complex flavor and is healthy too. I'm putting loads of stuff into this batch, but with the exception of miso, water, tofu and something green, everything else is optional. This is a great soup to play around with - pretty much anything light tasting will go well in miso soup. Some of the ingredients I put in this batch are shown in the picture below: scallions, Chinese mustard greens, bamboo shoots, red miso, bean thread noodles (shown in the package and soaking in hot water), dried shitake mushrooms, tofu, and carrots.
As you can see, the first thing I did was heat some water and soak 3 packages of bean thread noodles so they will become pliable. These noodles, are great for soup because they don't get mushy if they sit in liquid for a while. They are also called cellophane noodles because they turn clear which is just plain fun. I also like them for the Ministry of Soup because they are made from mung beans instead of wheat and so people who avoid gluten can eat them.
I chopped up some a large onion, some garlic, and fresh ginger and heated a couple of Tbs of vegetable oil in the bottom and my pot. I put in the garlic and onions first and when the onions were just starting to turn translucent, I added the ginger and stirred around well. I sliced 6 carrots, fairly thin and at an angle (looks cool and cooks faster) and threw them in too.
When the onions were cooked, I added 4 quarts of water and a generous handful of sliced dried shitake mushrooms. I let it heat through to finish cooking the carrots and soften the mushrooms while I went to work cutting up other stuff: a pound of extra-firm tofu was cut into small cubes; a head of Chinese mustard greens was sliced fairly coarsely; the bamboo shoots were already julienned so all I had to do was open the can and drain them. The most fun was cutting up the bean thread noodles. Technically, you don't have to cut them up but it will make it much easier for me to dish up helping for Friends to take home if I don't have to deal with loooooong noodles, so I drained them from their soaking water and them cut the whole mess into a checkerboard pattern. Why was this fun? They make the coolest sound when you cut them - kind of a squeaky, squishy, squick sound. You have to try it for yourself.
When the carrots were cooked (I tested them by biting one), I added the rest of the ingredients in this order: bean thread noodles, the bamboo shoots, miso, Chinese mustard greens. It's important to notice that I put the miso in at the end. It's a fermented soy product that is rich in beneficial (probiotic) micro-organisms. They can stand to be hot, but you don't want to cook them much or you'll kill the probiotics. It will still taste good but won't be quite as healthy. Miso has a consistency like peanut butter, so after I added about 4 Tbs, I stirred it well to melt and dissolve it into the broth. I also put the mustard greens in late because I wanted to just wilt the green leafy part but leave a bit of crunch in the midrib.
I turned off the heat but still wasn't done. I seasoned the soup with a splash of soy sauce and sesame oil. Threw in a handful of dried wakame seaweed, which hydrated immediately, and finally topped it off with the sliced scallions. Now, it's done. Just in time to get to meeting....