Thursday, November 8, 2007

Post Birthday Miso Soup

So yesterday was my birthday and I turned 30 again! It was a very low-keyed day with “my boys” – we let our son play hooky from his day care so he could hang out with us... lounging around, eating pizza, watching DVDs and, eventually (after Jr’s bed time), jamming to loud music while swilling vodka tonics.

Well the latter lead to the signature leftovers of general malaise and tummy yuckiness typical of a late night of over-indulging. I probably could’ve muscled through with a breakfast of some fried protein and carbs and a strong cup of coffee… which leads me to my downfall. We’re uncharacteristically out of coffee, and without coffee I can’t do anything.

So fuzzily I shuffled into the kitchen craving soup – nourishing, hot, soul-satisfying soup – and this recipe is the end result. This soup came together in the time it took to boil water. How’s that for quick and easy? The ingredients were just whatever was hanging out in the fridge, which just goes to show you that ANY vegetables, meat, eggs, noodles, rice… ANYTHING will work in a miso soup.

"What’s miso?”you ask. My short answer is it’s an essential ingredient for making idiot-proof and flavorful soups. The official answer is that miso is a paste typically made from fermented soy beans, though other grains are sometimes used, commonly found in Japanese cuisine, though I think I’ve had miso in Korean soups as well. Miso comes in several varieties which vary in color from dark brown to red to white, with corresponding flavor intensity. In general the lighter the miso, the milder the flavor. The nuances of miso are subtle, generally earthy and slightly aromatic, but one common thread is that it lends saltiness and for that reason is used as a seasoning agent. You can find miso in the refrigerated section or in the produce section of most well stocked supermarkets. I keep some in the fridge because it has a long shelf life and just a couple of spoonfuls can quick-start a soup in the time it takes to boil water. No muss, no fuss. It’s the perfect shortcut. Think of it as bouillon with Asian flare…

As for miso’s health benefits, Nutritionist Sue Gilbert had this to say about miso: “Japanese scientists have found that miso may prevent stomach cancer. Men and women who ate a bowl of miso soup a day cut their risk of stomach cancer by two-thirds. Soy bean protein -- whether in the form of tofu, miso or soy milk -- seems to have an anti-breast cancer effect as well. Miso has reduced the occurrence and growth of breast tumors in animals.”

Ok back to my Post Birthday Miso Soup. In less than 10 minutes I went from slicing a carrot to slurping from a big hot steamy bowl of home made goodness. The key to this quick soup is to cut your vegetables either very thinly or very small so that they flash cook in the hot water.With some foresight I might’ve boiled off some noodles to go in there, but, well… like I said, my birthday was yesterday. I did manage to squeeze in some fresh lime and topped it off with cilantro and those two flavors, plus a generous splash of hot sauce really did the trick. This stuff was good, and pretty, and even nutritious! Not bad for a chick with a hangover, eh?

Post Birthday Miso Soup

½ medium carrot thinly sliced
½ medium zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced
½ cup cabbage, thinly sliced or pre-shredded
3 cups boiling water
1 heaping teaspoon of red miso paste
2 scallions, green tops only, sliced
2 splashes of soy sauce
½ lime, juice only
couple-few dashes of hot sauce

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add carrots, zucchini, cabbage and miso. Let boil for a couple of minutes just until cabbage starts to wilt and get tender. Turn off the heat and add soy sauce and scallions. Spoon into two bowls and top with a squeeze of lime juice, fresh cilantro and hot sauce to taste.

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