4 cups dashi

3 tbsp miso paste

Basic Miso

Heat 4 cups of dashi in a pot. Add whatever ingredients you want, and then add the miso at the end, just before serving. Since the miso paste is refrigerated and quite thick, it takes a while to dissolve in the dashi. Therefore, you must thin the miso in a large soup ladle full of dashi (while it is still partially immersed in the pot), whisking with chopsticks to a smooth consistency first. If you don’t follow this step, it is likely that clumps of miso will remain undissolved when serving. A really handy item is a miso koji; a small sieve with a wooden pestle that is made just for this purpose. It works wonderfully and makes quick work of this task, and is a great time saver if you serve miso soup regularly. Miso should not be boiled, because it is said it loses its flavor.

Tofu and Wakame
Cut ½ block of tofu, either kinu-goshi (soft) or momen-goshi (firm), depending on your preference, into cubes the size of dice. Soak ½ cup wakame in lukewarm water for 10 minutes. Rinse the reconstituted wakame, roughly chop it and add it, along with the tofu, to 4 cups of hot dashi. Add 3 tablespoons of white, red, or a combination of the two. Garnish with chopped green onions or chopped mitsuba. Serves 4.

Carrots and Daikon
Cut 1 carrot and a 3 inch piece of daikon into 2 inch long matchsticks. Add to 4 cups of dashi and simmer for 3 minutes, or until tender but not soft. Add 3 tablespoons of white miso. Serves 4

Potatoes and Onion
Peel and cut 1 potato into half round slices ½ thick. Cut 1 small onion in half, then slice lengthwise into slivers ¼ thick. Add to dashi and simmer for 5 minutes, or until tender. Add 3 tablespoons of white miso. Serves 4

Nasu (eggplant)
If using a western eggplant, either a half or quarter of an eggplant will be plenty. Peel the skin and cut into quarters, and then into ¼ slices. If using Japanese eggplant, cut one large or 2 small into diagonal slices ¼ thick. Add to dash and simmer for 5 minutes, or until tender. Add 2 tablespoons of red miso and 1 tablespoon of white miso. Serves 4

If you like gumbo, you’ll like this. The slimy texture of cooked okra makes an interesting (if slightly unorthodox) miso soup. Chop ½ lb of fresh okra into ½ inch slices, or use one cup of frozen okra. Boil for 4 minutes, or until tender. Add 3 tablespoons white or country miso and half a block of cubed kinugoshi (soft) tofu (optional). Garnish with chopped green onion. Serves 4

Shimeji mushrooms usually come attached to a round and dense “root” base that is pithy, and should be cut and discarded. The mushrooms then separate easily by hand. Saute in 1 tablespoon of butter (my unique twist) and a touch of salt and pepper. Add 4 cups of chicken stock, water or dashi (depending on your preference) and 2 tablespoons of red miso and one tablespoon of white miso. This is an intensely flavored soup and the butter adds a nice touch. Serves 4

Remove the base of the enoki mushrooms and chop into 2 inch lengths. Add to 4 cups of hot dashi. The mushrooms do not need to be simmered, so immediately add 3 tablespoons white miso. Garnish with chopped mitsuba, or if using green onion, add just a few slivers so as not to overwhelm the delicate flavor of the enoki mushrooms. Serves 4

Add 1 cup of asari clams (shells and all) to 4 cups of water. Boil for 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoon red and 1 tablespoon white miso. This does not need garnish. The clams make their own stock. This takes a little effort to eat, as the tiny clam meat is eaten while holding the tiny shells with chopsticks. Serves 4