Hello, Summer. I’m really glad you’re here and all but I have a small request before you leap into lazy beach days and stove-less meals—keep the asparagus around another week or two. Besides, I made this Asparagus Miso Soup for you and let me tell you, you’re going to want another pot before the day’s over.
It’s an easy-going recipe, one you can easily swap vegetables in and out by season or pantry supply, but the thing is, I’m on may way to the market and I thought since I’m making the extra effort and all that we can probably come to some sort of agreement about Asparagus officinalis. You’re probably thinking, That’s great and all, but what’s in it for me?
Listen, here’s my offer.
1. Compost. Look outside at the heaping pile of fluffy black compost we’ve brewed for you two years running now. The stuff is magic, I mean, check out the blueberry bushes. After a brief two years, we’re going to have blueberries this summer.
2. Blood. And lots of it. Remember when I decided to make guacamole the other day…I cut an avocado in half and when I proceeded to remove the pit, the paring knife slipped and glided effortlessly into the palm of my hand leaving a left-slanting dash along with an ample amount of fluid sopping up a paper towel. Yeah, I can’t forget it either.
3. A double batch of miso soup filled with none other than our vegetable in question, snappy sauteed asparagus. Of course, the asparagus can be replaced with green beans as the season progresses, but for now let’s hold onto Spring for another week or two and keep the knife work to a minimum.
Asparagus Miso Soup
Yield 4 servings
1 six-inch piece kombu (to make kombu dashi)
4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive or sesame oil
1 small red onion (about 1 cup), cut into thin slices
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium carrot (about 1/2 cup), peeled and sliced
1 small bundle asparagus (about 2 cups), tough ends removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup green peas or corn (or try 1/2 cup of each; use fresh or frozen vegetables)
1/4 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
7 tablespoons white miso
rice vinegar (a splash or two, to taste)
toasted sesame oil (a splash or two, to taste)
soy sauce (a splash or two, to taste)
optional variations: Replace the asparagus with an equal amount of oyster mushrooms and the red onions with an equal amount of shallots. Proceed according to the recipe and finish each bowl with a poached egg floating on top.
To make kombu dashi (a traditional Japanese vegetable stock): Wipe the kombu with a slightly damp towel and put it into a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat. Let the kombu sit it in the water for a minute then remove it (save the kombu and use it to cook a pot of dried beans); set the pot aside.
To make the soup: Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or so until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, asparagus, carrot, and peas and or corn and cook for another 3 minutes.
Return the pot of kombu dashi to the stove and set over medium heat. Add the cooked vegetables to the pot along with the cubed tofu. Cook until the vegetables are tender to the fork but not soggy. Turn off the heat and set the soup pot aside. Remove 1/4 cup of kombu dashi from the pot and whisk it with the miso in a bowl. Add the miso dashi mixture to the soup and season the soup with a few small splashes of rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and soy sauce to taste. Serve warm.