miso soup

zen vegetarian cooking, by soei yoneda, contemplates a cuisine that is so absolute i find it to be abstract. shōjin cooking was developed in zen buddhist temples with a discipline of simplicity and directness for the daily preparation of food. the intention is to balance the colors and tastes of vegetables and sea plants with the three virtues: lightness and softness, cleanliness and freshness, and precision and care. this practice creates a plate or bowl that is the essence of zen.
the steps in soei yoneda's recipe require the cook to take care and time in the three reductions necessary to make the dashi broth-base for miso soup. the directions read like prose and when i follow them i find myself attentive to the intensity of the simmer, or the lack of it, the amount of space i allow for the steam to escape, on achieving the correct volume. this cuisine is a yoga-change-of-pace from the sautéing-tossing-flipping-way i most often cook. and when i serve miso my mantra is, "if you please, eat with a spoon".
there is a respectful awareness of the ingredients in shōjin cooking.
kombu is a flavorful kelp that is simmered in water to make a dashi broth. then, tofu, green onions, and white miso are added to make a traditional miso soup.
ingredients (serves four)
• 5 cups of water
• 3 four-inch squares of kombu, wiped with a damp cloth
• 1/2 of a brick of soft tofu, cut into 1/4" cubes
• 1 bunch of green onions, sliced
• 6 and 1/2 tbl. white miso
directions for the dashi
       place water in large saucepan and add kombu. cover and bring to a boil over high heat. reduce heat to medium-low, place lid ajar, and simmer until water reduces 25 percent– until volume is about 3 1/3 cups. add 1 2/3 cups cold water (enough to bring volume back to original 5 cups).
       simmer for another 20 minutes with lid agar and again add enough cold water to bring liquid back to original volume.
       simmer for another 10 minutes with lid ajar. the stock will be a clear greenish amber. remove kombu. the volume of stock will be 4 1/6 cups– 4 or 5 servings. keeps 3-4 days refrigerated.
to make the miso
       add the tofu cubes and green onion to the dashi and simmer, covered for 5 minutes. dissolve miso paste into a small amount of hot dashi, then pour this dissolved miso into the simmering dashi and remove from heat as soon as it starts to simmer again. do not let the miso soup boil, or it will lose its aroma and flavor.

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