me: Dinner ideas???
p: salmon (if it were up to Patrick, we would have salmon, in one form or another, every night)
me: salmon again, maybe something else?
p: squid? sardines?
me: something besides seafood, how about soup?
p: okay, what type?
me: not sure yet??
me: black bean?
me: okay, I’ll get ingredients, you get the wine.
p: sounds good, see you tonight.
So, miso soup it is. The base of miso soup is a dashi broth made from kombu and bonito flakes.
You might be thinking, what the heck are kombu and bonito flakes??
Kombu is a type of sea vegetable otherwise known as kelp (from the family Laminariaceae). While I don’t like to harp on the benefits of food, I will say that sea vegetables are exceptionally good for you. They provide the broadest range of minerals of any food and contain all the minerals found in the ocean. Kombu has a high concentration of glutamic acid (a building block of MSG (which gives it that umami taste).
Bonito (katsuobushi) is a type of tuna that is steamed and then dried to a wood-like hardness, and then shaved into flakes. Bonito flakes have a bit of a smoky component, which imparts a pleasantly subtle flavor to the dashi broth.
You could make a vegetarian dashi by omitting the bonito flakes (you could aslo add dried shiitake mushrooms to make a mushroom dashi).
Of course, you will need miso. There are differ different types of miso — white (shiro) miso, red (aka) miso, brown miso, a combination of red and white (awase) miso, and koji miso. I used white miso, but you could readily use a combination of white and red miso.
As for add-in ingredients, you make the call…I like a little wakame seaweed and mushrooms (added some enoki and oyster mushrooms). I like the way the enoki mushrooms, when cooked, resemble strands of pasta. If you can’t find enoki mushrooms, substitute with another type of mushroom, or you could add some soba buchwheat noodles to the soup. Need more ideas? Well, you could add soft/siklen tofu, vegetables (such as Japanese [aka hakurei turnips] and their greens), seafood (such as shrimp, clams)…tailor the soup to suit your taste.
Miso Soup with Mushrooms
3 1/2 cups prepared dashi (see below)
~1/4 cup dried wakame seaweed (it expands quite a bit once rehydrated)
a handful of fresh oyster muchrooms, sauteed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 tablespoons miso (white miso or a combination of white and red miso)
1 bunch enoki mushrooms
scallions or chives to garnish, sliced thin
silken/soft tofu, cubed (optional)
shichimi togarashi (Japanese chile pepper flakes) (optional)
Prepare the dashi as described below.
Rehydrate the dried wakame seaweed in cold water for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat a skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. When hot, add the oyster mushrooms, season with salt and pepper. Saute until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.
Pour the dashi into a medium-sized saucepan and heat over medium heat. When hot, add the miso and stir to incorporate. Add a handful of the rehydrated wakame seaweed (more or less to your liking). Add the enoki mushrooms, reserved oyster mushrooms, and tofu if using. Cook a few minutes until the broth is hot.
Ladle into individual bowls. Serve, garnished with scallions or chives, and a dash of shichimi togarashi.
makes 3 1/2 cups
1 6-inch piece of kombu
2 cups loosely packed bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
Steep the kombu in 4 cups of water over medium heat until the water comes to a rapid simmer (don’t let it come to a boil).
Remove the pan from the heat and add a 1/2 cup of cold water. Cool the liquid for a couple of minutes, then add 2 cups dried bonito flakes. Do not stir. When the bonito flakes have settled near the bottom, after about 3 minutes, strain the mixture using a fine-mesh strainer or a sieve lined with a paper towel and discard the flakes. Do not stir the stock, as it will cloud the dashi, which should have a light golden color.
You can make a vegetarian dashi by omitting the bonito flakes (you can also add dried shiitake mushrooms).
Note: dashi will keep 3-4 days in the fridge.