Can I just say that right now I am mad about miso? It has such a distictive flavor that is kind of hard to describe. A website I came across stated that "the flavor has been called rich, robust, full-bodied, earthy, tangy, beany, nutty, buttery, mushroom-y, meat-like, Parmesan-like and, of course, salty!"
It all started a couple months ago when I was putting together the menu for a little Japanese themed cocktail party that Mark and I were hosting. I wanted to do food that used typical Japanese ingredients, but I wanted to avoid the expected sushi and sashimi. (I wasn't about to learn how to make sushi and I certainly wasn't just going to go out an BUY a platter and serve it) After much research, I settled several dishes that had Japanese flavors, such as a pureed tofu and edamame dip, an ahi tuna tartare which I served with wonton crisps and rice balls filled with miso glazed salmon. To get some of the more exotic ingredients I went to a speciality Japanese market in west LA where I picked up a small packet of red miso. As I got ready to glaze my salmon I realized that the recipe stated that I needed WHITE miso, not red. Unsure as to how interchangable the misos are, I headed off to Bristol Farms where thankfully they had a tub of white miso. The salmon turned out delicious, however, the rice balls filled with the salmon, not so much. A little dry and a little too much rice.
In the end I was left with a tub of white miso and a packet of red, that I had no idea what to do with. More salmon? There HAD to be something else. CUT TO: The kitchenette of my office one day at lunchtime. A co-worker known for his culinary taste just so happened to be warming a tupperware container of what appeared to be a very generic cream of broccoli soup. I remarked that the soup smelled good and he offered me a spoonful. It was fantastic. Velvety but with an unexpected Asian kick. "Is there cream in this?" I asked him. He said no and then explained that it's a very simple recipe that he came up with that used a miso broth, rather than chicken or veggie. Later that day he instant messaged me the recipe. It's really easy and interesting.
2 or 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 smallish carrots, diced small (the shape does not matter, as the soup will be pureed, but the smaller the dice, the faster the carrot will cook)
a whole bunch of broccoli, florets removed from the stems, the stems peeled with a vegetable peeler and diced.
salt and freshly groung pepper
4 tablespoons white miso dissolved in 1 cup of water
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon (or so) freshly grated nutmeg.
Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the onions and carrots and cook until the onions are transluscent and the carrots are beginning to get soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the diced broccoli stems and cook for about 5 more minutes, until the stems are getting soft.
Next add the broccoli forets, the dissolved miso paste and the bay leaves. Add enough water to cover the florets. Bring the water to a boil; lower heat and then simmer for about 35 minutes. (At this point, I'd like to note that I am simply following my co-worker's recipe, who, as I mentioned, happens to be a very good cook - he used to own a restaurant. HOWEVER, as I was doing research on miso, everything I read stated that miso should be added at the last minute and not boiled, as it affects the flavor in a negative way. I did not think that the soup tasted bad, but I though I just might mention this)
35 or so minutes later the carrots, broccoli stems, and the florets should be very tender. Remove the bay leaves. Using a slotted spoon, remove the solids from the liquids and place in a blender to puree. You may have to add a laddle full of the broth if the mixture seems too thick. This most likely will have to be done in 2 or 3 batches. OR you could probably use an immersion blender if you so happened to have one. HOWEVER. By removing the solids from the broth and pureeing them, you can more easily control how thick you want the soup. If it seems a little thick, you can just add a little more of the broth.
Return the pureed soup to the pot, season with a little more salt and pepper. Add the nutmeg. Spoon yourself up a bowl and enjoy.
The resulting soup has a nice complex flavor. It's hearty and tastes rich and yet, since there is no milk or cream, is actually very healthy for you. Don't you love that? It would be a lovely first course, or could easily be a meal to itself. I like it with 6 dashes of Tabasco sauce, just to give it a little zing.