Being at the tail end of my second nasty cold in the past month, I've been craving nothing much but soup. Steaming pots of long simmered chicken broth are wonderful, but when cold viruses have sapped every last drop of energy from your body, such a broth can seem like a mirage. In contrast, a restorative miso soup, prepared with a quick kombu broth, is well within reach.
As described in Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen, Japanese broths made with kombu, or dried kelp, takes just as long to prepare as to bring water to a boil. I've shared both her dashi (made with bonito flakes) and a vegetarian version made with shiitake mushroom. These broths can be the backdrop of a flavorful soup when you layer in greens and mix in miso paste (avoid cooking, to preserve the full benefits of the fermenting microbes). A few bowls of this soup (with any number of variations in vegetables and protein) can do wonders for restoring one's spirits and health.
Dashi (basic sea stock)12 square inches kombu
2 cups cold water
1/4 cup loosely packed dried shaved bonito flakes (katsuo-bushi)
Place the kombu in a pot of cold water and heat over medium heat. When small bubbles begin to break the surface, remove from the heat. Sprinkle over the bonito flakes. Allow the flakes to settle, and then remove the kombu and strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. You can scale up this recipe for more stock,which can be stored for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, but the flavors will not last if frozen.
Kombu Jiru (basic vegetarian stock)12 square inches kombu
1 dried shiitake mushroom
2 cups cold water
Place the kombu and mushroom in a pot of cold water and heat over medium heat. When small bubbles begin to break the surface, remove from the heat. Allow to sit 3-4 minutes, remove the kombu and mushroom, and then strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve the mushroom cap for cooking. You can scale up this recipe for more stock,which can be stored for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, but the flavors will not last if frozen.
Simple Miso Soup for a Cold
makes 1 large bowl2 cups broth
1 rehydrated shitake mushroom cap, sliced
1 slice baked tofu, rinsed and diced
1 handful tender greens like baby spinach
1 Tbsp miso
Heat the strained broth to a simmer. Add the sliced mushroom cap and tofu to the simmering broth. Place the greens in a large soup bowl. In a small bowl, mix the miso and a ladle full of the broth. Pour the rest of the simmering broth into the soup bowl and mix in the thinned miso. Eat right away.