Miso Soup

by Wendy

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I was hoping that by now the weather would have changed for the better and our soup days would be coming to an end.  However, we are in the clutches of a cold, windy, and wet April and some good hot soup helps chase chill from bones.  I made miso soup with tofu last week, and it was gooooood!  I have found that I love the earthy, salty umame taste that miso is.
Miso is a living food.  It is fermented bean curd.  MMMMmmmm….sounds yummy right??!  Stay with me here people, it.is.good.  Miso is loaded with probiotics, good for you bacteria, that can help you heal your digestion and restore balance to the microbiome within your body.

Here are a few thoughts on fermentation from Sandor Ellix Katz who wrote the book, The Art of Fermentation, which is a modern day fermenter’s bible, and how this process can help us heal our bodies.  Fermentation has been found to improve and restore the natural digestion process, (aka, heal a cranky gut), enhance nutrition, and aid in detoxification, just to start at the tip of the iceberg.

Exerpt from:  The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz

“The pre-digestion, nutrient enhancement,and detoxifying actions of fermentation can be of nutritional benefit whether or not foods are cooked after fermentation, as with breads, fermented porridges, or tempeh (to name just a few examples).  But in the case of foods and beverages fermented by lactic acid bacteria and then consumed without further cooking, the live bacterial communities themselves confer functional benefits.  These live cultures, which I would say are the most profound healing aspect of lactic acid ferments, are only viable in foods that have not been subjected to heat exceeding around 115 degrees Fahrenheit or 47 degrees Celsius.  Many packaged mass-produced ferments are pastueurized for shelf stability, thus destroying the live cultures.  To receive the benefits of live cultures, you must obtain these foods unpasturized, or make them yourself.

Living lactic acid bacteria, which have always been present in foods, have increased in their dietary importance because of the multitude of chemicals present in our lives, some of which are valued specifically for their ability to kill a broad spectrum of bacteria, such as antibiotic drugs.  After a round of antibiotics, researchers have found that ‘there are still persistent long term impacts on the human intestinal microbiota that remain for up to 2 years post-treatment.’*  Compound that with the growing levels of antibiotics present in our water supplies, along with chlorine, as well as the ubiquitous antibacterial cleansing products.  Given the War on Bacteria so culturally prominent in our time, the well-being of our microbial ecology requires regular replenishment and diversification now more than ever.”

There is a wealth of information in Mr. Katz’ book, if you are at all interested in the biology and art of fermentation, this book will serve you well.  As we see, it is important to choose quality fermented products, or make them at home in your kitchen.  I generally have several things bubbling away in the homestead kitchen, it has become much more of a mad scientist’s laboratory in the last several years with jars of sourdough, komboucha, ginger ale and beer, and crocks of sauerkraut, pickles, and veggies taking up counter and floor space.  But boy do we eat, and eat well.  I do not see myself making miso anytime in the forseeable future, but who’s to say???!  For now, I sourced my miso paste at the nearest food co-op.  It is made in a traditional manner, organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and unpasteurized.

Here is a little information from the companies website www.great-eastern-sun.com

Traditional Miso

 

“These misos are called Long-Term and are made the traditional centuries-old way. They are aged naturally without temperature control for up to two years in giant four-ton cypress, redwood, or fir vats. We use only the finest certified organic ingredients, producing dark, rich misos that give a wonderful flavor to soups and stews. At the American Miso Company we follow macrobiotic theory, traditionally processing all of our misos using only certified organic whole beans and grains, Blue Ridge mountain well water, hand-made organic koji, and sun-dried sea salt. Thirty years experience in artisanal organic miso-making produces the finest miso in the world.”

After perusing several hundred, no not really, but at least 12 different recipes for miso soup, I deduced that Miso Soup is really a sustainable meal.  What I mean by that is, it is the kind of kitchen sink soup that helps you to use up what you have in the fridge.  It is a primarily simple veggie broth with garlic, onions, and some fresh grated ginger if that suits your fancy.  Traditionally it is made with dashi, which is a type of asian fish broth concentrate in the form of flakes, and also calls for Nori, or some type of seaweed.  Miso soup is as diversified as it gets.  There are vegan recipes that call for tofu and no dashi, there are of course the traditional recipes, there are some recipes that call for white misto paste, and some for red, there are some creative recipes that call for a variety of vegetables and seasonings.   You get the idea here, folks.

I decided to keep it simple and use what I had, and this is what I came up with.  A super yummy cold-chasing simple recipe that can be modified to fit your needs, and make do with what you have.

 

 

Miso Soup

2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped

2 T. ginger root, peeled and freshly grated

1/2c. finely chopped celery

1-1 1/2c. carrots, sliced 1/8″ thick

1c. sliced mushrooms

6c. water

3c. fresh spinach leaves

1c. sprouted extra-firm tofu, cubed into bite size pieces

2 T. Red Miso Paste

Heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat in 4qt. stockpot.  Add onion, garlic, and ginger root to pot and saute until onion is translucent, stirring frequently so garlic doesn’t brown.  Once all root vegetables are softened, add carrots, celery, and sliced mushrooms, continue sauteing over medium heat for aprox. 5 min. till softened.  This will help to develop a stronger flavor profile in your soup since essentially we are creating a veggie broth.

Add 6c. water to sauteed vegetables in the stockpot.  Stir to dissapate veggies and olive oil into the water creating a broth.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.   Cook a few more minutes until veggies are done to your liking, reduce heat back to medium, stir in fresh spinach leaves and cubed tofu.  Stir to combine.

Remove from heat.  With a ladle, remove aprox. 1/2c. broth from stockpot into a soup bowl,  let cool for 2-3 min.  Add Red Miso Paste and incorporate it into the cooled broth with the back of a spoon.  Return miso paste/broth combo back into the stockpot.  Use your ladle to stir it up good.  Soup is now ready to serve.  Ladle into bowls immediately and enjoy immensely.

Remember, this recipe is more of a guideline, Miso Soup is truly a use-what-you-have-on-hand kind of recipe.  I used spinach instead of seaweed, and tofu because I had it.  You can easily use another dark leafy green, I’m thinking Kale would be supurb when it is ready in the garden, I added mushrooms the second time I made Miso Soup, and although they added another dimension of flavor, it was also good without it.  If you are not a ginger fan, leave it out.  You get the idea.  It’s simple, nutritious and comforting, especially on a windy, cold, wet spring day.