Miso soup recipe

I think the reason I started cooking at such a young age is because I love to eat good food.  My mother was and is a terrific cook, but she didn’t have time or the interest to really experiment in the kitchen, especially outside the Italian food comfort zone that she was in.  So when I was in the mood for something that my mom didn’t know how to make, I would grab a stack of her cookbooks and a couple years worth of Gourmet Magazine and flip through until I found what I was looking for.  I could get lost for hours reading recipes and then coming up with my plan.  How much easier we have it now with the internet, although I can still get lost for hours on cooking websites!

One of the simple pleasures in life for me is finding out that something I love to eat in a restaurant is incredibly simple to make at home.  We don’t eat out very much, but the kids love their annual birthday dinner at Benihana and I look forward to sushi out with my girlfriends every now and then.  When I am at a Japanese restaurant, I love starting my meal with a comforting bowl of miso soup.  You may remember from my post on Creamy Miso-Ginger Dressing how beneficial unpasteurized miso is to the digestive system as well as being a wonderful detoxifier.  Of course, I love the salty savoriness of it, too!  Many years ago I decided to figure out how to make miso soup with the preconception that it would be difficult.  For goodness sake, it’s about as easy as boiling water.  In fact, when I taught this miso soup recipe in a class a few years ago, more than one person remarked that it was easier than cooking pasta (and better for you, too!)

I typically make miso soup the way you would find it in a Japanese restaurant in the US, except for the canned fried onion crisps.  What’s up with that?  Do they add those to miso soup in Japan?  Somehow I’m doubting it.  Regardless, I always add wakame, which is an amazingly nutritious sea vegetable that you need to try if you haven’t.  It’s so high in minerals and incredibly alkalizing — go get some!  I love the wakame flakes by Eden since they rehydrate in minutes and there’s no chopping involved.  If I have tofu in the fridge, I’ll add that and perhaps some thinly sliced green onion.  The day I photographed this soup, Mr. Picky asked for soba noodles, so I tossed a few into his bowl.  Steamy Kitchen has a version with shiitake mushrooms and sliced boy choy that looks great.  Like me, she enjoys soup for breakfast!

Some of the ingredients may seem exotic or hard to find, but I assure you no good natural food store worth their sea salt doesn’t carry unpasteurized miso and a good selection of sea vegetables.  In fact, I found everything at my local Whole Foods.  The only ingredient that may throw some of you, especially my vegetarian and vegan friends is the bonito flakes, which are made from a type of mackerel that has been steamed, dried and shaved into flakes.  It adds a really cool smoky, hearty undertone to the soup.  But if it’s not your thing, I would add a drop of shoyu or simmer the stock with some dried shiitakes to make up for omitting the bonito.  No matter how you prepare it, this just might be the easiest and most healthful bowl of soup you never thought you could make.

Miso Soup
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 4 ¼ cups of water
  • 1 (6-inch) piece kombu (dried kelp)
  • 1 cup dried bonito flakes (optional, but delicious)
  • ½ cup rehydrated wakame (soak according to package directions and chop, if necessary)
  • 6 ounces firm non-GMO tofu, drained and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 4 Tablespoons organic and unpasteurized miso (I use white. But check labels if you need the miso to be gluten-free.)
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced scallion greens
  • Shoyu or tamari to taste, if desired
Instructions
  1. Make the dashi (broth): In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water and kombu to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and add the bonito flakes. Cover the pan and allow to steep for 5 minutes.
  2. Strain stock through a fine mesh sieve or a cheesecloth-lined colander into a large bowl or another saucepan. If you are not using the stock immediately, allow to cool uncovered and then refrigerate it, covered for up to a week.
  3. Transfer all but ½ cup of stock back to the original saucepan and add tofu and wakame, if using, and heat until hot.
  4. Whisk miso into the reserved ½ cup of stock until smooth. If you think you will consume all of the soup now, stir all of the miso mixture to the heated stock and serve immediately. Otherwise, add a spoonful of the miso mixture to each individual bowl and ladle hot stock on top. You can add noodles to each individual bowl, if you like.
Notes
Miso is a live food. In order to preserve its beneficial enzymes, do not boil it.

Potato and bean soup (patate e fagioli)

Who invented the idea of “Meatless Monday?”  The U.S. Food Administration did during World War I and urged families to conserve key staples to aid the war effort, but the idea was revived in 2003 by an ad exec-turned health advocate for dietary and environmental reasons.   Ironically, the Food Administration also tried to promote “Wheatless Wednesday” during WWI, which I would love to see make a comeback.  But I have a feeling you won’t see the US government advocating abstaining from any big political donors major food industries anymore.  However if you ask my sisters and me who invented “Meatless Monday,” we would tell you with conviction that it was our mother.   Vegetarian dinners on Mondays were a part of my life growing up.  I loved them since I was a vegetarian from about the age of 10 to 18.  But believe me, my mother was not trying to cater to me at all.  Her thought was that we tended to indulge over the weekend with heavy meals, usually centered on lots of pasta, meat and cheese and that we needed a break.  My sisters, who were most definitely NOT vegetarians called it “Low Budget Night,” since Monday’s dinners tended to be less expensive and less fancy.

Beans or lentils were almost always the star of the show on Mondays and they usually found their way into a soup.  This potato and white bean soup is just a take on a traditional pasta and bean soup or “pasta e fagioli,” as you might see it on a menu.  I love that potatoes, a whole food, take the place of pasta, which is a (processed) food I eat very occasionally.  The recipe requires so few ingredients, many of which you probably have in your pantry.  And if you make your beans from scratch, this soup will cost you practically nothing.  The potatoes and beans both add a rich creaminess to the soup, as well as work together to form a complete protein.  Even though beans are typically bland, this soup has a nice, almost smoky flavor and feels very satisfying despite the lack of fat.  A typical Monday dinner would be a nice big bowl of this soup with a side of sauteed greens or a salad and some crusty bread.  Sometimes my parents would also add a wedge of good cheese (that my father smuggled in his suitcase from Italy) to the table and that was that.

My husband grew up with neither Meatless Mondays nor Meatless Any Days, so getting him to buy into a dinner of potato and bean soup took some time.  Now he loves it and especially how it makes him feel afterwards (“not gross”).   Lest anyone feel cheated, I happily serve both a salad and some roasted vegetables on the side.  All my kids, Mr. Picky included, love this soup.  It’s white!  What kids don’t like white food?  Of course,  I can’t help but stir in some escarole in at the end.  You know me and my greens.  They’re going to save your life, so I’ll find anyway to include them that I can.  If your local market doesn’t carry escarole, feel free to add some spinach, arugula or chard.  I always plan to have extra soup for thermoses in the next day’s lunch boxes, which works out perfectly for “Trash-free Tuesday” at our school!

Have you made any new year’s resolutions?  I’ve been contemplating a few, but what tends to work better for me are measurable resolutions, such as “cook dinner five nights a week” or “do yoga every Sunday.”  I’ve never had luck with “eat better” or “exercise more.”  Most people tend to come up with resolutions about diet and health, but they’re usually about short term weight loss or feeling better after 6 weeks of holiday overindulgence.  I think “Meatless Mondays” is an easy one to try and it doesn’t mean you’re becoming a vegetarian or a vegan, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  It just means a commitment to eating more plant-based foods and acknowledging the heavy environmental footprint of raising animals in this country.  Just a thought.

Talk to me here — am I the only one who grew up with Meatless Mondays?  Does your family currently partake?  I need some inspiration for my new year’s resolutions — feed me!  Or just make this soup.  Here’s to a happy and healthy 2012!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Potato and Bean Soup (Patate e Fagioli)
Author: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini, about 2 ½ cups*
  • 1 2-3 inch piece of kombu (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 8 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (or other boiling potato), cubed
  • 1 6-inch sprig of fresh rosemary (optional, I like it just as much without)
  • 3-4 teaspoons sea salt (depending on saltiness of the stock)
  • 1 head escarole, leaves coarsely chopped
  • Grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired
Instructions
  1. Wash beans well and pick over for stones and debris. Soak beans with kombu in plenty of fresh cold water overnight or at least 6 hours. This can be done in a covered container or in a pot (I use the same pot for soaking as for cooking the soup) on a countertop. Refrigerate if your kitchen is warm.
  2. Just before you begin cooking, drain the beans into a colander. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot, and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add the beans and stock to the pot and raise the heat to high. You can add the kombu to the pot, if you like for additional alkalinity. Bring soup to a boil, cover, then lower to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour.
  4. Add the potato, sea salt and (optional) rosemary. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Test the beans for tenderness. If they’re not done, continue to simmer until they’re tender. Once beans are tender, you can puree the soup to your desired consistency or leave chunky. Remove the kombu and sprig of rosemary before pureeing.
  5. Stir in the escarole and cook until wilted. Serve with grated cheese, if desired.
Notes
If you want to use canned beans, you will need 4 15-ounce cans, or about 6 cups. I like Eden Organic. Follow the directions below:

Saute onions and garlic.
Add potatoes, stock, salt and (optional) rosemary. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender.
Add beans to pot and cook until heated through. Puree to desired consistency (or don’t). Stir in escarole.

 

Late summer minestrone

late summer minestrone|pamela salzman

Oh, I am not very good at goodbyes.  And saying farewell to summer is just inevitable now, isn’t it?  My minestrone soup is one of those recipes that bridges summer and fall.  Zucchini and tomatoes are still plentiful in the farmer’s markets, but the weather is showing signs of cooling down.  We’ve had a few chilly and foggy beach days in the last week and that was my signal to make this favorite soup of ours.  The word minestrone means “big soup” in Italian.  To me it means, “use what you’ve got, ” especially lots of veggies.  No matter what, it’s always hearty enough to be called a meal, but light enough for the season.  My mom used to make it with elbow macaroni or the smallest of pastas, but I adore farro and find that it adds a heartiness that the pasta doesn’t.  Plus, it has more to offer in the way of fiber and protein.  Combined with white beans, this is a well-balanced meal that almost always makes its way into thermoses in tomorrow’s lunch box.  Have I mentioned lately that making school lunches is not my favorite morning pastime?  I know, I’m such a whiiiiiner.  But Daughter #1 is trying to be an overachiever this year and start school at 7:00 am.  Do you know what this means?  I need to be making lunch around 6:00 am OR I could just reheat minestrone five minutes before we need to leave the house.  Sounds like a plan!

As the seasons change, so does this soup.  I have used jarred tomatoes instead of fresh, and frozen shelled peas and cabbage for the zucchini.  Don’t be put off by the piece of rind from a wedge of Parmesan cheese.  It’s a little secret ingredient found in so many Italian kitchens.  One you see how delicious it makes this soup, you’ll never throw it out again!   My mom would make this soup or pasta e fagioli whenever we would come to the end of a piece of Parmesan.  In my house, my kids and husband love this soup so much that we buy buy the cheese just for the rind!  Mr. Picky even likes this soup.   His favorite thing to do is add a leftover meatball, chopped up into his bowl and he’ll have seconds, thank you very much.

late summer minestrone|pamela salzman

This week I will be harvesting almost all the basil and parsley in the garden and making a mountain of pesto to freeze in small quantities for the upcoming months.  At least I can make summer last a little longer in my own way.

late summer minestrone|pamela salzman

5.0 from 4 reviews
Late Summer Minestrone
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil + more for drizzling
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped or 1 14.5 ounce can, diced with juice
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • ¾ cup farro
  • Piece of rind from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (if you have it)
  • 4 small zucchini, medium dice, about 4 cups
  • 1 ½ cups cooked white beans (e.g. cannellini, Great Northern), rinsed if canned
  • Handful of greens, coarsely chopped
  • Chopped basil leaves or pesto for garnish (optional)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Do not allow the vegetables to brown.
  2. Add the tomatoes with the juice, parsley and ½ teaspoon sea salt. Cook for 5 minutes more, until the tomatoes are fragrant.
  3. Add the stock and 2 teaspoons of sea salt and bring to a boil. Add the farro and the parmesan rind and bring to a boil again. Lower the heat so that the soup simmers. Cook about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the zucchini and cook another 10 to 15 minutes, until the farro is tender but still has a little “toothiness.”
  5. Add the cooked beans and heat through. Add more stock, if desired.
  6. Add the chopped greens and stir until wilted. Adjust seasonings and serve with chopped basil leaves and freshly grated parmesan cheese and/or drizzled olive oil on top or a spoonful of pesto.

Mushroom-barley soup with kale recipe

shiitake mushroom-barley soup with kale

I was craving a hearty, meal-in-a-bowl soup for dinner last night.  Something I could pull together before the kids returned home from school and that I could pack in their thermoses for lunch the next day.  Mushroom-barley soup came to mind in an instant.  I taught this soup in a class back in October and I still haven’t tired of it.  It is filling, tasty and oh-so-good for you.

The recipe is an adaptation of my mother’s beef and barley soup, which was great, but these days we’re limiting our beef consumption and upping the veggies.  To make up for the meat, I use lots of shiitake mushrooms and finish off the soup with a bit of shoyu, a naturally fermented soy sauce which is way  better for you than chemically treated, flash-processed soy sauce.  Of course you can use any mix of mushrooms you like, but I am crazy about shiitakes, not only because they have a lower water content and deeper flavor than button mushrooms, but also because they are tops in immune-boosting compounds.  There’s no better time than flu season to boost your immunity!

This soup is a breeze to put together and easily adaptable to different intolerances.  For the gluten-free folks, I substitute Lundberg’s wild rice blend for the barley and wheat-free tamari for the shoyu.  It’s obviously a different soup, but just as tasty.  Vegetarians and vegans can use vegetable stock or water in place of the chicken or turkey stock.  If you are making your own vegetable stock, add a bunch of mushrooms to it to give the soup more depth.

shiitake mushroom-barley soup with kale

This soup is a hit every time, even with Mr. Picky who last night did what he does best — pick out the stuff he doesn’t want.  This time it was only the mushrooms.  We’re making progress!

shiitake mushroom-barley soup with kale

5.0 from 1 reviews
Mushroom-Barley Soup with Kale
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ¾ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps wiped clean with a damp paper towel and slice thinly
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup barley (or wild rice blend) -- I use Bob's Red Mill Barley. It says "Pearled," but it's really only semi-pearled.
  • 8 cups (2 quarts) chicken, turkey or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups stemmed, chopped kale
  • 3 Tablespoons shoyu or wheat-free tamari
Instructions
  1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery to pot and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  2. Place mushrooms in the pot and saute until softened, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add thyme and barley. Stir to coat. Add stock and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes until the barley is tender (if you're using the wild rice blend, you will need to simmer it for 50 minutes.)
  4. Add the kale and shoyu and cook until the kale is wilted, but still bright green, about 8 minutes. Pull out the thyme stems and taste for salt and pepper.

Lentil and brown rice soup recipe + Instant Pot version

lentil and brown rice soup | pamela salzman
Everyone needs a lentil soup recipe in the repertoire.  This is a classic and a nourishing one at that.  I grew up on lentil soup and my mom was into creating “complete proteins” when we had a vegetarian meal.  The thought back then was that if you were eating a meatless meal, then you would need to combine certain foods to create the same complete protein profile as animal protein.   Now we know that it is not necessary to eat those complementary foods in the same dish to gain the benefits of consuming all the essential amino acids, but I still adore the combination of lentils and brown rice in my soup.

brown rice and lentil soup | pamela salzman

I prefer to use French lentils, which hold their shape much better than the flat brown ones, but really you can use what you’ve got.  I vary this soup often, sometimes adding a few chopped up green beans or a teaspoon of ground cumin for an earthy twist.  I always throw in a few handfuls of dark green leafies at the end, spinach and kale being my favorites.  And tomatoes only get to join the party if they’re in season since I almost never buy canned tomatoes (ugh, aluminum.)  Try garnishing with freshly grated pecorino-romano, it adds a great zest to the soup.

lentil and brown rice soup | pamela salzman

For you lunchbox-packers out there, lentil soup is fabulous the next day in a thermos.  And the kiddos get a lunch that will provide stable blood sugar levels, great protein for the brain, and long-lasting energy.

brown rice and lentil soup | pamela salzman

5.0 from 1 reviews
lentil and brown rice soup + Instant Pot version*
Author: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 14.5-ounce can, drained ( I used ½ box Pomi)
  • 8 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, turkey stock, or water
  • 2 cups French lentils, picked over and rinsed (you can use whatever lentils you can find, such as black or Puy, but note that cook times may vary)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 big handfuls spinach, kale or chard (ribs removed), coarsely chopped in large pieces
  • ½ cup brown rice, cooked according to package directions or add with lentils and increase liquid by an additional 1 cup
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook, stirring until tender. Stir in tomatoes and cook for a minute. Add stock, lentils, uncooked brown rice (if you’re adding it here), thyme and 2 teaspoons salt.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.
  3. Pull out the thyme sprigs and discard. Add greens and stir until wilted.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you didn’t add raw brown rice to the pot with your lentils, add the cooked brown rice to the pot now or put a little in each bowl and ladle the soup on top.
Notes
*To make in the Instant Pot:
Press the "saute" button and wait a couple minutes for the insert to heat up. Add the oil, carrots, celery, onions and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for a minute.
Add stock, lentils (I tested with French green and black), raw brown rice, thyme and salt. Press the "Keep Warm/Cancel" button to turn the machine off. Secure the lid on top of the insert and lock closed. Make sure the vent is closed. Press manual and make sure it's on High Pressure. I cooked it for 12 minutes and thought that was perfect. The Instant Pot will take a few minutes to come up to pressure, so it will say ON for a few minutes. Once the machine is done cooking, you can manually release the pressure or opt for natural release. Check the manual for an explanation of both.