I love miso soup: it's comforting and restorative, without being heavy or stodgy. Looking back, I think the first place I was exposed to it was either a tiny (and now sadly defunct) Korean/Japanese restaurant that was one of the few places to get a vegetarian meal in my hometown back in the day, or possibly Paul and Elizabeth's, a venerable old-school veg establishment in Northampton, MA. Either way, I was immediately seduced, and as soon as I got my hands on some it began appearing regularly in my own little kitchen.
Historically, I've used the heartier varieties like barley and brown rice, but in recent years the mellow white miso has grown on me: so much so that I am declaring this latest batch the best I've ever made, and I can't wait to have it again. We ladled it over rice noodles on a frigid January night, and that lovely broth, combined with veggies and tofu, was like some sort of magical, health-giving elixir: the perfect antidote to one of those bleak mid-winter days with too little daylight. So go ahead and make a batch; you'll thank me when you see how much better you feel!
The Best Miso Soup
~ 1/2 tsp. each: toasted sesame oil, hot chili oil
~ 1 tbsp. canola oil
~ 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
~ 2 tsp. fresh, grated ginger
~ 12 oz. extra firm tofu, cut into 1/4" cubes
~ 8 large scallions, thinly sliced
~ 8 tbsp. mellow white miso
~ 8 cups vegetable stock
~ 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
~ In a large pot or wok, heat the oils over medium-high heat and add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the grated ginger and cook another minute or two.
~ Add the cubed tofu, stir gently to combine, and cook another 5 minutes before adding the sliced scallions and cooking another 2-3 minutes.
~ Heat the broth in the microwave, or in a pot on the stove, until almost but not quite boiling.
~ In a separate bowl, combine the miso and about a cup of the hot broth and mix to a smooth paste.
~ Pour the miso mixture into the sauteed vegetables and tofu, then add the remaining broth.
~ Stir to combine and heat through without boiling.
~ Add the spinach and stir until it is just wilted.
~ Ladle into bowls as is, or over steamed rice or noodles; if you like, add a dash of hot sauce to individual servings to taste.
~ (NB - This actually gets better as it stands, so the leftovers are great; just be sure to store the noodles or rice separately from the soup, otherwise it will thicken too much.)