It’s that time of year again — no, I’m not talking about the Christmas shopping frenzy. I’m talking about the sore throats, aches and sniffles that tend to show up just as the holiday season kicks into gear. With flu season in mind, I decided that a nourishing, warming pot of miso soup was a good idea for lunch today.
Rich in vitamins and minerals, miso is a fermented, usually salty paste that is used as a seasoning in traditional Japanese cooking. In fact, the Onozaki family, who trace their ancestry 500 years back to the Samurai, are among the most respected makers of miso today. Miso can be made from a variety of ingredients, including rice, soybeans or barley. I usually use barley miso in my soups. Miso soup often contains a highly nutritious sea vegetable such as kombu or wakame. There are many recipes for miso soup, and I’ve combined some of my favorites to come up with my own recipe.
First, a word about one of my ingredients: maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa). Also known as hen-of-the-woods, maitake is valued as a medicinal, immune-boosting food in many Asian countries. You can buy dried maitake — as well as dried wakame and pickled ginger — from health food stores including the Kushi Store online. Just soak the maitake mushroooms in water before you cook with them.
Miso Maitake Soup
5 cups water
1/3 cup dried maitake mushrooms
1 3-inch strip dried wakame
1 carrot, sliced
1 tablespoon pickled ginger, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons barley miso
3 green onions, thinly sliced
In a medium pot, soak the mushrooms in the 5 cups of water for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the strip of wakame in a small bowl of water for about 5 minutes. Remove the wakame from the water and cut it into approximately 1/2-inch pieces.
After the mushrooms finish soaking, add the carrots to the pot. Gently simmer the mushrooms and carrots in the soaking water for 15 minutes. Add the wakame, garlic and ginger and simmer for another 2 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat. In a small bowl, combine the miso with a small amount of broth from the soup. Keeping the soup off the heat, stir the miso mixture back into the soup. The miso will give the soup a cloudy appearance as its beneficial cultures activate. Serve in bowls, sprinkling the green onions over the soup in each bowl.
The ginger and garlic add a warming layer of flavor to this slightly salty miso soup. My sweet husband — my initially skeptical meat-and-potatoes guy — finished his bowl and was surprised how much he liked the soup!
I can’t guarantee that a bowl of miso soup will keep every cold and flu germ away, but a delicious soup loaded with vitamins and minerals may just give you a fighting chance this winter. I’ll bet you come up with your own recipe.
Be well and be blessed!