These last two months can be counted among the busiest periods in my life to date. With final rounds of book edits, family visits, new clients, continuous cooking classes and non-stop private cooking, it’s been a hectic and exciting time.
My daily routine is starting to feel a bit more like normal and I’m glad to get back to posting here! (Thank you for being such patient readers!) Although you’ve not seen as much from me on my own blog, I’ve been having fun writing posts for the Food Network’s Healthy Eats blog. You can find monthly recipes for smoothies, sweet treats, breakfasts and salads. I also post some healthy eating tips. Hope you can check it out! Below is a peak of some recient recipes you’ll find there.
Since this winter has been extremely cold in New York, many people have been fighting off colds and the flu. This simple miso soup is what I turn to when I’m feeling under the weather and have no time to make dashi (the broth used in traditional miso soups and this one). Although making a dashi has all the added benefits of seaweeds and shitakes, this virtually instant, shortcut version still hits the spot. It manages to clear your head and sooth a sore throat immediately. The best thing about it is that all you need are a few basic ingredients—scallions, fresh ginger, unpasteurized miso and boiling water.
It is very important that the miso you purchase is naturally fermented (traditionally made) and unpasteurized. Traditionally made miso is created by fermenting grains and beans with koji, a culture used in making sake, for 1 to 3 years. This results in a richly flavored paste that can be used in soups, marinades, dressings and sauces. The natural fermentation process breaks the proteins and carbohydrates down into easily assimilated amino acids and provides abundant probiotics to support healthy digestion. Miso has alkalizing properties that help balance acidic conditions in the body that can result from too much stress, sugar and animal products. Creating an alkaline environment helps strengthen the immune system and fight disease.
Since unpasteurized misos contain live active enzymes and probiotics they need to be refrigerated. Look for them in the refrigerator section of health food stores. If they’re stored on a shelf then they’ve been pasteurized and don’t contain all the beneficial bacteria that give miso its special healing properties. Don’t be afraid to stock up on a variety of flavors, as miso will keep in the fridge indefinitely.
Clockwise from top: aduki bean, sweet white, hearty rown rice and Chickpea.
My favorite brand of miso is South River Miso Co. Their misos are made by hand using traditional methods and organic ingredients. They make classic misos like sweet white miso and barley, and they also have many different flavors that can turn the simplest of miso soups into a culinary delight. Look out for their aduki, dandelion leek, golden millet and their newest addition garlic red pepper (which I’m yet to try!). I find their miso is less strong than other types I’ve used, so I often use more. Their misos also contain the hulls from the grains and beans giving them more texture and an aerated quality.
It’s also great that South River Miso is packaged in glass jars, since fermented products tend to leech plastic chemicals into food. Given this, it’s a good idea to transfer any miso you do buy in plastic to a glass container.
Photos by Stephen Johnson
Virtually instant miso soup
Keep in mind that the longer aged, darker misos have a stronger flavor than white and light colored miso, so start with less and add more to taste. I also find I need a heaping tablespoon of most of the South River Miso flavors.
When I’m fighting off a cold I sometimes add a pinch of cayenne pepper and some crushed garlic to this mixture.
1 scant tablespoon unpasteurized miso, any flavor
1 cup boiling water
2 to 3 teaspoons finely grated ginger
Large pinch sliced scallions
Place miso in a mug, add boiling water and stir to dissolve. Squeeze grated ginger over cup to extract juice. Stir in scallions and drink hot. Add more boiling water or miso to taste.