I’m in love with miso!
Have you ever been completely smitten by an ingredient? A certain spice that you must use in every dish, an oil that you swear by, or that vegetable that makes its way into both your savory dishes and desserts?
Sure, you may be thinking that I have quite a few food obsessions, namely sweet potatoes. If you’ve ever felt this way about something (and I’m sure you have), then you’ll understand how I feel about my beloved miso (and sweet potatoes too).
From the time I first tasted miso I was hooked. What is it about that salty, and sometimes sweet, seasoning that delights me so? It’s got to be that much talked about fifth primary taste, umami. Umami is that incredibly savory taste that you experience when eating certain foods like miso, some mushrooms and meats. I’ve never even eaten red meat (or pork), but being a huge fan of umami I can slightly fathom what it must taste like. Thankfully meat is not the only source of this comforting taste; and I get more than my share of it from miso.
The great thing about miso is that it’s amazingly versatile. Use it on a salad and you’ll lick the plate and beg for more. Replace the Parmesan in an Italian pesto with miso and you’ll never trust cheese again. A sandwich with miso tahini spread is a sandwich from heaven. And a warm bowl of miso soup is your welcome to the good life.
Not only is miso one of the tastiest foods on the planet, it’s also one of the healthiest. Most often made from fermented soybeans–though some are made with rice, barley, buckwheat and more– miso is a great source of trace minerals. To make miso, soybeans are mixed with a fungus (koji) and salt, then allowed to ferment. During the fermentation process good bacteria is allowed to flourish. When we consume miso the healthy bacteria in our guts is restored, resulting in greater absorption of nutrients, improved digestion and a strengthened immune system. Miso is also a great source of protein. Just one tablespoon contains 2 grams of a complete protein. Another great benefit is its ability to protect against breast cancer. With this many benefits, uses and varieties how can you not love miso?
I made this soup for lunch yesterday, and had I not been full after one bowl I could have easily devoured the entire pot (I tried, but failed). After 20 minutes of cooking the sweet potato becomes luxuriously tender and falls apart, creating a soup that’s as smooth as a puree; and with the addition of tofu, the soup takes on a satisfying chunky texture. I used two different types of sweet potato, Garnet yam and White Cream, because they have different textures. I recommend making this soup with winter squash in addition to the potatoes; tomorrow I’m trying it again with kabocha squash. I used a chickpea miso, but any white miso will do. White miso has a milder flavor than red miso, and adds balanced depth to soups. If you live in New York City, you can find great bulk miso at Integral Yoga on west 13th street. If you have a hard time finding wakame you can substitute it with any seaweed or leafy green vegetable.
This soup is comfort in a bowl.
1 tbsp mirin (optional)