The seasons are changing slowly from winter into a sluggish spring. I do not get sick often but every once in a while something grabs me. Who knows, maybe the change in seasons made me vulnerable and I woke with aches and pains and felt tight all over. A tightening in my chest yielded itself into a cough and underpinnings of a late winter cold.
Last fall I began vinyasa yoga classes as part of a health and wellness caring of self and have worked to go three times a week. Keeping up with my fellow yogis is no easy task and yoga is not for the faint of heart. Yoga is hard yet the benefits are great if you stick with it long enough to feel better breathing, sleeping, flexibility and ability to focus. Being about 75% kept me out of class most of the week much to my chagrin. When I woke up this morning, a sunny but chilly Saturday I decided I felt well enough to head over to my yoga class at Inner Power Yoga. The instructors have all the wisdom of the universe in their gentle and persistent teachings, encouraging us to breathe through the nose both in and out. I wondered if I would make it through the class today and alas did, so I think I will live to yoga another day. So to fnd the perfect fuel for post yoga class I turned to my all time Asian favorite: miso soup, homemade.
The one thing that heals and fuels my body when I am under the weather is making my own miso soup. I am not talking about those packages which would be easy but rather just going into your pantry for an assortment of health giving staples and homemade miso soup will always be the norm no matter how under you feel.
Dried shitake & seaweeds go in the pot first with 2 cups of water. Bring slowly to a simmer over medium heat. You can add dried ginger too if you have that lying around. I usually have fresh but dried is available at Penzeys so you are never out.
I want to share it with you but before I just give a recipe (and you do not really need a recipe) let me say how making the conscious choice to eat healthy most of the time means you make that committment somewhere along the line and then bring that commitment to fruition by creating your pantry first. Purge the processed pantry items in the freezer, fridge and pantry is more liberating than you know and it may be done in stages. That is for another post however so here we go.
A few ingredients make homemade miso a breeze and something that means little effort. I came home and put it all together in about 20 minutes and had all ingredients on hand. Twenty minutes from taking ingredients out of the pantry and fridge, setting up mise en place (cutting stuff up) and then warming it on the stove. I had leeks and carrot so thinly sliced a few bits of each and added to the simmering pot of health-giving, immunity producing brew.
Remove the inner green part of garlic this time of year because it tends to be bitter. Slice thinly and add to the pot. I learned this little tip from Dorie Greenspan in her book Around My French Table.
Dry staples include items like edible seaweeds like wakame, dulse, and kombu (take out when done) and dried shitakes. You can't always have fresh shitake on hand but reaching into your pantry for a container of dried shitake mushrooms, you will have all kinds of quick and dirty nutrition right at your fingertips. Most health food stores and asian markets will have these items. If you live in outlying areas and do not have these kinds of shops closeby, consider mail order sources. I found some nice links to the ingredients mentioned in this post. Check them out for some additional education.
Fresh ginger is peeled first, then thinly sliced and then thinly slice the slices. This cut is called julienne. I learned about julienne cuts in my knife skills class from my online cooking school Rouxbe.
From the fridge you might have tofu and miso paste. Be discriminating about the miso paste you buy because some miso has MSG which you want to avoid. I buy mine from the health sections. It comes in different types from brown, red, yellow and white miso pastes and keeps a long time in the fridge. There are many other uses for miso besides soup.
One important piece to remember about miso is that it is a living fermented culture and as such should never be added to boiling liquid or you will kill the active and health-giving enzymes in the miso. The enzymes in the miso and what make it a true health food capable of boosting immune systems with regular consumption. You can figure on 1-2 teaspoons of miso per 8 oz of water. Measure it out into a separate bowl, add some of the liquid from the soup and stir till combined. Remove the soup from the heat THEN stir in the miso. You can also portion the soup into each bowl and add the miso separately. Miso is one of the few plant sources of B-12 nutrition!
Let's make soup:
Take 2 cups water and put in a small saucepan.
Add a pinch of wakame seaweed, a 2" piece of kombu and some dried shitake mushrooms. (I added a piece of dulse which I also had in my pantry bag of dried seaweed goodies.
Thinly slice some onion or green onions, or some leek, carrot, cabbage or whatever other green vegetables you may have in the bottom drawer of the fridge. You could add some thinly sliced broccoli. Set the pot over medium heat and slowly bring to a simmer. Add vegetables as you prep them. Add a clove of sliced garlic and some fresh ginger (about 1/2 inch) julienned.
One key to making a tasty soup is being able to thinly slice the vegetables so they will be easy to eat.
Most seaweeds will expand astronomically like this piece of kombu. I rolled it up and sliced it into ribbons and added it to the soup. It has a slightly gelatinous character when cut. Kombu is a great source of B-12. Kombu is a bit thick and leathery.
Tofu is a nice addition to miso soup and adds some welcome protein. If you have any leftover small pieces of cooked meat, chicken, fish or shellfish, a small amount may be added. You will not need but a tiny bit of any of these additions. When choosing tofu, look for firm or extra firm tofu that is preferable organic and non-GMO for the best upgrades.
Once your broth and vegetables have simmered for about ten minutes you can prepare your miso as your last addition. Get your bowl and spoon out. Take the soup off the heat and add the miso that you have tempered. Serve and feel good.
Think minimalist when you make miso soup. Small amounts are good. Think immunity and comfort to heal your body and make it feel good.
It has been nearly a year away from this blog and I have missed writing. I have nearly a year's worth of new experiences to share with readers and hope they inspire you to cook and try new foods.
In my journey to make miso soup my own inspiration came from some of these popular sources:
Dr. Andrew Weil's miso soup; great nutritional info here too
Heal. Be well. Care for self.
Cook for those you love...every day.