Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Improv Miso Soup

I experienced a wonderful moment of inspiration that needed to be shared.

Weeknight dinners at my house are very casual and usually consist of two meals. To put it nicely, we don't favor the same foods so I make two different plates. This sounds impressive until I tell you that one is homemade and the other is either packaged or extremely simple. Most of the time I cook NH's meal and scrounge for mine, although to be fair sometimes it's the other way around. Last night was one of those nights. We took a trip to Costco the previous weekend- my first!- and NH bought a frozen bag of ravioli he had loved as a kid. At his request he ate this ravioli last night; a simple boiling and drizzle of olive oil and his meal was complete.

For me? I have a habit of surfing the net for recipes in the evenings and this often changes whatever plan I have for myself. At about 5:30pm I was struck with a sudden desire for some miso soup. And not the packaged kind- I wanted it fresh and homemade. I immediately jumped up to put a pot on the stove.

I made some miso soup last week with baby bok choy and shiitakes, so I had the base ingredients: miso paste, bonito flakes, and kombu to make the dashi broth. I looked up a refresher for the proportions and headed into the kitchen.

Dashi broth is the base for miso and other Asian soups. I followed the process for creating the base and improvised after that. I had garlic and ginger, but opted for some chopped shallots instead. I substituted orzo pasta for soba or udon, and added some carrots and corn near the end of cooking. I added about 2 Tablespoons of red miso; I decided this was probably a little too much and will use less next time (I have made the adjustment in the recipe below). I usually like to add a little soy sauce to my bowl so I put a Tablespoon in the pot off the heat. Conclusion? It was a deeply satisfying meal and cooking experience.

Nothing like a little improv to go with dinner.

Improv Miso Soup

1 large Shallot, chopped
3 cups water
2 pieces kombu
a handful bonito flakes
scant 1/4 cup orzo pasta
a handful of shredded carrots
1 Tablespoon red miso
3/4 cup frozen corn
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (optional)
2 green onions- green parts, chopped

Saute shallots in a bit of oil in a saucier pan. Add water, kombu, and bonito flakes. Bring to a simmer, do not boil; cook for 30 minutes. Remove the kombu and add the orzo pasta. Cook for 5 minutes and add the carrots and corn. Cook for another 2 minutes and add the red miso. Allow the miso to dissolve in the soup and remove from the heat. Stir in soy sauce if desired and green onions. Serve immediately.

There is nothing like being struck by inspiration and having it turn out well. I hope I've inspired you to put down your cookbook and give it a go in the kitchen on your own.

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