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Homemade Miso Soup

I am rarely sick, but when I am I find myself craving miso soup like nobody’s business. Unfortunately, I have never actually lived near miso soup, and as best I can tell I currently live almost an hour and a half away from my closest miso soup vendor. I have tried packets of instant miso soup with no satisfaction. I recently issued a desperate plea for help which was answered by M.R. Jarrell who pointed me to Alton Brown’s miso soup recipe and the dashi recipe required to keep it 100% from scratch. I made a couple of modifications to turn it into the miso soup I’ve always wanted but never had. All the variations I’ve had were good, but either lacked mushrooms or contained tofu or both.

Here is what I turned out with step-by-step instructions. I was able to find all the ingredients at the Good Food Store in Missoula, MT.

Dashi
Ingredients:
2 (4-inch) square pieces kombu
2 1/2 quarts water
1/2-ounce bonito flakes

Directions:
Put the kombu in a saucepan (at least 4-quart) or stock pot, cover with the water and soak for 30 minutes.

Heat on medium until the water reaches 150 to 160 degrees F and small bubbles appear around the sides of the pan, 9 to 10 minutes.

Remove the kombu from the pan. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, 5 to 6 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and add the bonito flakes. Simmer gently, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with muslin or several layers of cheesecloth.

Miso Soup
Ingredients:
2 quarts dashi
6 tablespoons dark or red miso
2 tablespoons light or white miso
4 scallions, thinly sliced
5-6 mushrooms thinly sliced
toasted nori strips

Directions:
If cool, heat the dashi over medium-high heat. If still hot, let the dashi cool. When the dashi reaches 100 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, ladle 1 cup into a small bowl.

Add the miso, and whisk until smooth. Do a good job here so your final product doesn’t come out lumpy.

Bring the remaining dashi to a bare simmer, approximately 10 minutes. Add the miso mixture and whisk to combine.

Return to a slight simmer, being careful not to boil the mixture. Add the mushrooms and scallions and cook for another minute or until heated through.

Add a few toasted nori strips to the bottom of each soup bowl.

Remove from the heat, ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

I found this miso soup to be much more delicious than any of the instant packets I’ve tried and comparable to any restaurant version. The main differences I found were that this one was slightly less salty than restaurant versions I’ve had, not necessarily a bad thing, and when I had a second bowl I noticed a fair number of lumps. I’m not sure if those would have been solved by more whisking before adding the miso mixture to the soup, or if those happened because the soup had cooled a bit. Overall, I am very happy with the final product, and I will definitely be making it again.

I thought I’d take a few minutes today to highlight a Wicked Good Deal in the 29 April – 12 May Sale Flyer. (For those of us who would like to peruse an electronic copy of the flyer at our leisure, it is conveniently posted in .pdf format on the website of the Good Food Store here.) I’ll try to do this sooner in the sale cycle in the future.

In addition to the items I mentioned in the recipe in my last post, I also scored this wicked good deal this week:

Certified Organic Salad Mix for $3.99/lb
Now that it is getting warmer, I am really hitting my lettuces hard. A plate full of leaves snipped up with scissors and topped with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper makes a great afternoon snack. If I want to make a meal out of it, I’ll add some chopped onion, croutons, cucumber slices, and whatever else I have on hand and sprinkle it with shredded cheese.

Previously I had been getting Earthbound Farm‘s salad mix in a plastic container. It was kind of pricey so I’d only get the small container. On the plus side, I wasn’t wasting any. On the down side, I’d usually run out before my next store run, and I was ending up with a lot of plastic containers. I was able to put most of them to use in my little seedling nursery as miniature greenhouses because the labels peel off quite nicely if you are careful, thereby leaving no residue. However, I am now to the point where I do not have a use for any more of these boxes and I had one empty one.

When I saw this price for the bulk salad mix, I jumped on it. I bought a big bag of salad mix at about half the price of the mix in the containers. Or rather, I bought twice as much for about as much as I usually spend. It is now at home in my refrigerator conveniently contained within that one box I previously had no use for. It is now going to be my salad mix box so I can enjoy the same quality salad mix, save some money and at the same time avoid acquiring yet more unneeded packaging. I saved the bag I brought the mix home in, and it will be going with me to the store next time so I can reuse it for my next batch of salad mix.

One day I brought home a magazine from the Good Food Store which contained an article on what it claimed were “budget-friendly” meals. This publication was very proud of having constructed four healthy meals for four people, each of which could be made for less than $15. This cracked me up as it is not really my (or many of my friends’) idea of inexpensive. Just this one meal a day adds up to $105 a week for four people which is about what I’d guess a penny-pinching family of four I know spends to feed everyone three meals a day for a week.

Then in just the past week, a friend pointed out to me a series on All Things Considered on NPR. They are calling it their “How Low Can You Go” family supper challenge in which cooks come up with a meal for a family of four that’s healthy, easy and delicious… and costs less than $10. This sounds a bit more realistic when it comes to budget-conscious eating. It shaves $35 a week, $140 a month, and a total of $1820 a year off the budget. That’s one or two mortgage payments right there. And the meals sound tasty- Sauteed Skate Meuniere with Potato Gnocchi from Armed Forces Chef of the Year Michael Edwards, Ming Tsai’s (Simply Ming) Chicken-And-Corn Fried Rice With Lemon Spinach, and Moorish-Style Chickpea And Spinach Stew from Jose Andres (Made in Spain). And tasty though it sounds, I have a hard time considering Pat and Gina Neely’s Cheesy Corkscrews With Crunchy Bacon Topping-essentially macaroni and cheese plus bacon- to be healthy fare.

I decided to take this challenge using only basic pantry staples and things I bought at the Good Food Store. I really do think it is true that regular people on average incomes can shop at the Good Food Store cost effectively. You do have to plan, though, and not just buy whatever looks interesting or tasty at any given moment. The strategy I used this week was looking through their sale flyer for things I could craft into a meal. I found refried beans, tortillas, salsa, avocado and yogurt on sale. From these and a few other items, I made a meal of Vegetarian Tacos and Spicy Zucchini Slaw.

Spicy Zucchini Slaw
1 T olive oil
1/2 red onion
2 small zucchini
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. medium cheddar cheese
4 T salsa

1. Peel a red onion, cut it in half, and cut half of it into strips (julienne).
Julienne Half a Red Onion

2. Wash two small zucchini, cut off the ends, and grate the zucchini with the skins still on.
Grate Zucchini

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over low heat. When it warms up, add the onion strips and sautee on low stirring occasionally until it gets nicely brown (not burned). This is the sugar in the onion carmelizing and it gives it a nice flavor. It will take a while, and you can start assembling the tacos while this is going on, but do not forget to stir or turn the heat up too high and burn the onions.
Saute Onion Strips Over Low Heat to Carmelize

4. Add the zucchini to the pan and stir it in. Do not do this until the onion is nicely browned because the zucchini is going to give off water which will hinder the browning.
Stir in Zucchini

5. Spread the mixture out in the pan to help cook the zucchini. Drain off liquid if necessary to keep it sauteeing instead of steaming. Ideally, it will brown a little bit, but it’s fine if it doesn’t. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spread Slaw Out So Zucchini Can Brown

6. Shred the cheddar cheese. (If you are also making the tacos, shred an additional 3 ounces now and reserve it for the tacos.)

7. Serve 1/4 of the slaw on each plate and top each serving with 1/2 ounce of shredded cheddar cheese and a tablespoon of salsa.

Makes 4 servings.

Vegetarian Tacos
1 avocado
3 oz. medium cheddar cheese
1/2 red onion
1 can Amy’s Vegetarian Organic Refried Beans Mild with Green Chiles
6 Bueno Organic Whole Wheat Tortillas
Emerald Valley Kitchen Organic Medium Salsa
6 ounce container of Brown Cow plain yogurt

1. Cut avocado in half lengthwise. I remove the pit by whacking a knife into it and twisting, but you can also use a spoon to be a little safer. Slice each half lengthwise while the flesh is still in the skin and then scoop the slices out of each half with a large spoon.
Scoop Slices Out of Skin

2. Shred 3 oz. of cheddar cheese if you haven’t already done so when you shredded cheese for the slaw.

3. Dice half a red onion.
Diced Red Onion

4. Heat each tortilla in the microwave for 20 seconds between 2 paper towels.
Heat Tortilla in Microwave

5. Spread 1/6 can of refried beans on each tortilla.
Add Refried Beans

6. Add 1/2 ounce shredded cheddar cheese to each taco on top of beans.
Add Cheese

7. Add some diced onion on top of the cheese.

Add Diced Red Onion

8. Heat in microwave until beans are hot and cheese melts.

9. Top with avocado slices, a couple of tablespoons each of salsa and plain yogurt.

Add Salsa and Plain Yogurt

10. Fold in half and serve with spicy zucchini slaw.
Vegetarian Taco with Spicy Zuchinni Slaw

Makes 6 tacos.

One taco plus a side of slaw was plenty for me and I’m a big eater, but if a couple of your diners are truly famished you have those two extra tacos to make sure nobody goes away hungry.

For the whole meal, I spent approximately:
$1.29 1 large avocado
$1.59 Amy’s Vegetarian Organic Refried Beans Mild with Green Chiles
$1.89 Bueno Organic Whole Wheat Tortillas
$1.75 Earth Valley Kitchen Organic Medium Salsa
$0.69 Brown Cow plain yogurt
$1.24 medium cheddar cheese (5 ounces)
$0.55 red onion
$0.98 2 small zucchini
$9.98

I actually spent a total of $11.62 on the ingredients I purchased, but I knocked down the prices of the cheese, onion and salsa to account for the substantial excess of those items beyond what I needed for the recipe. With some blue corn tortilla chips, this can easily turn into nachos. Also, I had salt, pepper and oil in my pantry at home and assume most other people do as well so I didn’t add the cost of those in. I would guess that those wouldn’t bump the total price more than a quarter above $10.

My unscientific guesstimates for nutritional content based on labels and values I found on the internet for unlabeled items are that each serving of the slaw contains roughly 80 calories, 5 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and 4 grams of dietary fiber and that each taco contains roughly 350 calories, 15 grams of protein, 16 grams of fat and 9 grams of dietary fiber. It could probably be a little lower in fat- no cheese on the slaw would save a bit there and also drop the price a little- but it was quite tasty!

Good Food Blogging

This is a blog about the Good Food Store in Missoula, MT.

I do not speak for or in any way represent the Good Food Store. I am just a happy customer and fan who wishes to rave about the object of my obsession.

The Good Food Store is a non-profit corporation which offers locally-produced, organic and bulk foods and natural products to its customers. In my opinion, it is comparable in variety to Whole Foods but more comparable in affordability to Trader Joe’s. We don’t have either of those in Montana, but we do have this fabulous independent grocer which is as good and in many ways even better than either!

You can shell out a fair bit of cash if you so desire for high dollar items such as fancy wine, gourmet cheese, and decadent pastries. But you can also fulfill your daily needs affordably by taking advantage of twice monthly sales, hitting the bulk bins, or simply taking advantage of the very reasonable everyday prices on many staples. I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that the Good Food Store really is for everyone.