Friday, September 14, 2012

Miso Soup for Two

This is my favorite breakfast in the fall and winter. Even the smell of it is calming and gentle. Miso paste is a Japanese fermented paste usually made out of soy beans or barley, but it could be made from other grains or beans. It is high in protein and minerals and has the good bacteria for your intestinal flora (as long as you don't purchase a brand that is pasteurized and/or contains MSG or preservatives - read the label!). Another lovely thing about miso soup is that it takes under 10 minutes to make it.

Miso soup is also the perfect medium for sea vegetables. If you are into groovy health foods you probably already know all about sea vegetables. If not, I encourage you to try these nutritional powerhouses. Sea vegetables are extremely high in calcium and also have high levels of iodine, protein and tons of other minerals. They have also been shown to fight against tumors, alkalize our blood, remove radio active particles from the body, lower blood pressure, and much more. Most of us are all familiar with nori from sushi rolls, but there are many other wonderful sea vegetables to try. My two favorites are wakame, which is used in this soup, and kombu which I often use when I cook beans (it's said to enhance their flavor and reduce gassiness). Hijiki is another good one that is often used in fritters, but it has a stronger flavor so if you aren't sure if you will like this "seaweed" stuff, start with a milder flavored one like wakame.

Rehydrating wakame.
Most sea vegetables come dried and usually need to be rehydrated in warm water and then sliced or torn before using - for instance wakame looks like tiny little beads, but after you soak it they unfurl into larger fronds. Very cool. If you can't find sea vegetables in your town they are quite affordable online and can easily be found through Amazon or through various Macrobiotic sites such as Gold Mine.

Most Miso comes in paste form (don't get powdered, please) in a plastic tub. Typically you will find mild white miso and stronger red miso at regular grocery stores (usually by the tofu). Give either one a try, or both. If you happen to live near an Asian specialty grocery store (lucky you!) you will find many different types to choose from - barley miso is said to be the best for health. Miso has a sort of meaty, salty yet mello flavor that is very pleasent. It can also be used in dips and spreads.

You never want to boil miso paste because that kills all of the good living enzymes that are in there, so be sure to keep an eye on your soup and keep it at a low simmer.

4 c. filtered water
1 tsp. shoyu or tamari 
3 tsp. miso paste, any kind (just make sure it's naturally fermented)
About 8 little dried pieces of wakame, rehydrated and sliced
(Other optional ingredients: thinly sliced onion (white or green), 4 Tbsp. cubed silken tofu, grated daikon radish, umeboshi plum paste or 1/2 a diced umeboshi plum)

1) Place the water and shoyu or tamari in a soup pan over medium high heat.

2) As the water is coming up to a simmer soak the wakame in warm water and slice it into bitesized pieces once it opens up into flat leaves. Also place 3 tsp. of miso paste in a bowl and set aside.

3) Once the water starts to show little bubbles at the bottom of the pan, ladle some of the hot water from the soup over the miso paste and use a spoon to help dissolve the paste in the water.

4) Add the wakame, the dissolved miso paste, and any other optional ingredients to the pan and turn the heat to a level so that it will be at a very low simmer. Let it cook for about 4 miutes and then serve.

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