Homemade Miso Soup

Posting from: Philipsburg, MT
Listening to: Carole King, I Feel the Earth Move

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.

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

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
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

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.


Posting from: Philipsburg, MT

There has been a dearth of posts, lo, these last few months, such that I deserve to be on my Blogs in Hibernation list. I have been traveling a lot, working a lot, and generally trying to spend less time “living in my head” and just “living.” It has been very enjoyable. I have been taking a lot of pictures and a little bit of video, though, and I’ve been trying to edit it all together into something presentable. Two of those efforts are ready to go, and this is the first.

This is a slideshow from a winter bonfire I attended in January near Helena:

Winter Bonfire in Montana

Photos were taken by me and E. who was nice enough to take a turn handling the camera. If you’re able to view it full screen, I think it’s really worth it. Click the button in the lower right corner with the four arrows to go to full screen. This was meant to be viewed to a particular tune I picked out for it, but I’m not willing to risk thousands of dollars in fines for the privilege of sharing music I’ve already paid for once. If I see you in person, though, and you would like to see it as it was meant to be seen, just let me know.

A friend of ours has been having all manner of trees on her property, which have died due to bark beetle infestation, cut down and stacked as firewood. This bonfire was one of many she has had to burn the limbs and pine needles left behind. Quite a beautiful sight in photos; even more amazing in person.

Posting from: Philipsburg, MT
Listening to: Matt Nathanson, Car Crash

MHP to conduct safety spot checks in Deer Lodge County

The Montana Highway Patrol has announced that it will be conducting “safety spot checks” in Deer Lodge County on Wednesday, August 26, 2009.

The MHP released a statement which read, in part, that, “…Safety Spot Checks are conducted as service to motorists traveling on the highways of the State of Montana. The Safety Spot Check will be ensuring motorists have a valid driver’s license, current vehicle registration and current vehicle insurance coverage. The Safety Spot Check may be conducted day or night, but the exact location will not be pre-announced.”

If you have any questions or would like more information about the spot checks, you can contact the MHP at 494-3233.

I am confused as to:
(1) how impeding travelers without suspicion of wrongdoing is a “service” to motorists, and
(2) what having three government-mandated pieces of paper have to do with safe driving.

On the other hand, I wonder how much revenue this will bring in…

Posting from: Madison, WI
Listening to: Matt Nathanson, Fall to Pieces

Several days ago, I set out on my summer road trip for the year. Originally, I was going to visit my friend E. at some point in Seattle. Then separately, I was invited out to Chicago by my sister M. to go to a Matt Nathanson concert at Lincoln Park Zoo. Due to various scheduling quirks, the two trips sort of merged into one nice long road trip. I am right now sitting in a brilliant coffee shop in Madison, WI called Barriques Coffee Trader about halfway through the trip. I have put up a lot of my pictures on Flickr, but haven’t written any of it up so I thought I’d take this opportunity to start writing it up while my laptop recharges for the next leg to Minneapolis.

This year I started out in Helena, MT and drove down through Townsend, MT on US-287- a pretty summer drive. My first stop was at the Wheat Montana deli in Three Forks just off I-90. Wheat Montana is a locally-owned, family farm (third generation) which has a little chain of delis found in the major Montana towns as sort of an off-shoot operation. I don’t know if this is current or not, but Wheat Montana has held (and may still hold) the Guinness Book of World Records world record for for cutting, milling, mixing and baking a loaf of bread in 8 minutes and 13 seconds. I got a tasty and reasonably-priced tuna salad sandwich for the road. At this central location you can also buy baked goods and large quantities of grains either whole or milled.

I fueled up the car as well, and from there I made my way east on I-90 to the first of my two tourist stops for the day- the Crazy Mountains Museum in Big Timber, MT.
Crazy Mountain Museum

This is more or less a historical museum for Sweetgrass County, MT. I think it was probably more interesting chatting with the staff than just wandering around the museum. Here are a few things I found interesting there.

An old-fashioned medical exhibit:
Good Old-Fashioned Medicine

This one reminded me of my sister M. in Chicago:
Hal, the Quaker Doctor

An old dental chair:
Dental Chair

This vehicle spent some time working in Yellowstone Park:
Yellowstone Park Stage Coach

This was just a cool car which wound up in Montana I thought my man might like to see:
Ford Model T Southern Tread

I wandered around the gift shop a bit and chatted with two ladies working there. I found out that one of the ladies had recipes in the local cookbook I had in my stack (along with postcards) and she was ticked off because part of her recipe got cut off in a botched editing job before it was printed. The cookbook was produced by a local ladies’ organization and it turned out she was headed off to a club meeting just as I was about to leave.

Once I got outside, I realized I had missed this little piece of Scandahoovian culture along with a few other outbuildings, but I decided to press on in the interest of time. I wanted to get to Rapid City, SD in time to see a cheesy dinosaur park there.

The Stabbur

The Stabbur

Be Divine

Posting from: Philipsburg, MT
Listening to: Tom Petty, Damaged By Love

I have been a bit busy lately being that it is finally warm in Montana and I have some projects and work I can now make progress on. However, I did recently find time to take a mini-photo walk on Higgins Avenue in Missoula just south of the bridge for some no-flash night photography experimentation. That is really a gorgeous street after dark. I only got to stroll about a block of it, but I finished with ice cream so I’m calling it a success.

Shakespeare and Co. Booksellers isn’t technically on Higgins but it’s visible from there if you are driving south. I tried to get a second neon sign they had in the store into the picture but none of those turned out decently.
Shakespeare and Co. Booksellers

Bathing Beauties Beads is on the corner. I liked the glowing heads in the window.
Bathing Beauties Beads

Bathing Beauties Beads

Bathing Beauties Beads

Here’s where I am fuzzy on the order of the shops. I think the Selvedge Studio is next. I need to get in there when they are open, look around, and sign up for a class.
Selvedge Studio

Somewhere along the line is the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center. Not the greatest looking building at night due to lack of lighting. Yes, I’m sure that’s all very green, organic, chlorine-free, and fair-tradey of them but it makes it easy to pass by at night. Yet the glowing green peace sign reminds me of the nuclear plant on The Simpsons.
Jeanette Rankin Peace Center

Jeanette Rankin Peace Center

If I’m not mistaken, that is next door to the Crystal Theatre which was very hard to get shots of while standing on a thin median strip in the middle of the street. I discovered that there is a restaurant called The Silk Road in the first floor of the theater.
Crystal Theatre

Crystal Theatre

And now for my two favorite things to photograph that night. First is Betty’s Divine which I’ve never been in because I don’t imagine they have a lot of clothes for big girls and which I do imagine is somewhat pricey. (I could be wrong on those; I’ve never actually checked.) However, I adore their window and their motto. (Note to whoever is in charge of the light on the sign: it could maybe be pointed a little more outward for better coverage.)
Betty's Divine

Betty's Divine

Betty's Divine

And finally, one of the reasons I don’t think I probably fit into Betty’s Divine clothes is Big Dipper Ice Cream. This is the home of the world’s finest ice cream in the most brilliant flavors. I have a quart of their Maple Bacon ice cream in my freezer right now. I’m trying to save it until the end of August, but it is in constant peril.
Big Dipper Ice Cream

Big Dipper Ice Cream

Big Dipper Ice Cream

Posting from: Missoula, MT

I am in love with the Good Food Store in Missoula. Hugely. It has both upscale, ritzy wines, cheeses, pastries, etc. and basic staples at affordable prices. And those basic staples are natural, organic, healthy items. In several cases, I have found its products actually meet or beat regular chain store prices for similar items. Also, it is a non-profit store which contributes a lot of money to the community, hosts events of interest to its customers, and…

…well, there’s too much to post here so I decided to start a blog about it called Good Food. There you can read my sycophantic fangirl raving about the store, my recipes, product reviews and sales highlights, my suggestions for stuff the Good Food Store should do, and all other things I have to say about the Good Food Store.

Posting from: Philispburg, MT
Listening to: Gael Mead, Into the Mystic

Missoula, I love you. You know I do. But we need to talk.

That intersection where Brooks turns into Higgins? You know the one. When you’re turning left from Brooks onto Higgins at Hellgate High School, you have that faded dashed line guiding the left turners directly into a lane of oncoming traffic. Haha! You are so funny! NOT!

And when you’re unsuspectingly driving out of the parking lot of Big Dipper Ice Cream onto the unmarked one way street? Also not funny.

But most importantly, what is with your chiles rellenos? I have been to Fiesta en Jalisco and El Cazador. Both of these restaurants serve and “omelete style” chiles rellenos. What is up with that? Where do you hide the real batter-dipped, deep-fried chiles rellenos? It’s okay. You can tell me. I’m from Arizona.