Homely Miso Soup

Homely Miso Soup

This weekend, I drove a load of furniture and such to my parents in Asheville. I also went to a concert with my sister, dropped furniture from my parents at her house, and visited my friend Katie. On the drive down and back, I stopped at the New River Gorge to stretch my legs.

This weekend, I drove a load of furniture and such to my parents in Asheville. I also went to a concert with my sister, dropped furniture from my parents at her house, and visited my friend Katie. On the drive down and back, I stopped at the New River Gorge to stretch my legs.

I left Katie’s house just before nine on Monday (pretty good for me getting on the road).

The street was hushed, the air smelling like honeysuckle and damp pine needles. It was cool, but I could feel heat sleeping in the still air. Chapel Hill was in for a scorcher, but I would escape before it set in. 

Headed home. 


Home? A bedroom with the mattress on the floor and clothes in boxes? A city skyline that had already lost its welcoming glow the last time I dove through the Fort Pitt tunnel?

Next week, Asheville will be our base camp, then the whale will be the closest we have to a traditional home. I was already standing next do the door to the van, so where was I going?

I stood in the street for a minute, staring at the door, imagining this vehicle as “home,” a lighthouse in the dark, a place to go back to. Then I realized, when I thought of “heading home,” I wasn’t picturing a place so much as the hug I would get when I got there. Wherever is your Heart, I call home. The line made me grin. A song from Saturday’s concert was a fitting answer, and interesting, since I’d previously taken the chorus less literally and have a (failing) reputation for being independent to a fault.

As I dumped my bags in the passenger footwell, I started to wonder. Will we feel unmoored with no city, no apartment, no regular parking place to call ours? Knowing a place, knowing you have friends nearby to call on, where to get dinner if you don’t feel like cooking, smiling at the same person ringing up your groceries week after week. When real life shit hits the fan, at least you know your way around. 

We’ll carry our tiny house with us like humanoid turtles, but will we ever be exhausted by constantly asking for directions? Ever wish for a familiar view to rest our eyes on? The ability to say we’re headed home from this parking lot? The ability to call someone up and say come on over?

I don’t know. 

I think about running yesterday, in unfamiliar woods that felt like Asheville in midsummer, piney single track with my High School team. You can find glimpses of home in so many things. And if home is a kitchen where you can find everything without asking, we’ll have that, and a hug to go back to at the end of the day. So maybe we’ll be alright, at least most of the time. 

When it’s not enough, when we’re sick of bumming driveways and showers and hauling our clothes to the laundromat, when we wish for conversations that aren’t introductions or life updates? 

That’s kind of the point. 

Good stories aren’t always comfortable. It’s hard to learn new things from the same routine.

So here’s the meal I’ll probably cook when we're feeling adrift. If Deborah Madison had talked to me when she was writing “what we eat when we eat alone” this is the recipe I would have given her. Luckily, James likes it too. It’s simple and unpretty but delicious and warming.  It’s easy to vary with ingredients I usually have. And it’s something my temperamental stomach can usually handle. 

Homely Miso soup

1/2 cup short grain white rice
2 cups water, divided (approximate)
1 inch fresh ginger, OR 1 tsp ground dried
Half a bunch of kale
OR 2 small zucchini
OR 2 servings misc dried seaweed (we like dulse, arame & nori) 

1 package tempeh
2 tsp coconut oil
soy sauce

1 lime
2 tbsp organic white miso or chickpea miso (miso master is my #1)

Rinse rice and add to a small saucepan along with half of the water and the powdered ginger, if using. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil & lower to simmer, uncovered, about fifteen minutes. While the rice is cooking, prep your vegetable. 

With kale, I typically de-stem, tear into large pieces, wash & then add to the blender with a big chunk of ginger and the other cup of water. To make it easy to absorb kale nutrients, I blend on high and then add the green soup to the pot with the rice. You could also just chop the kale finely, and add with the rest of the water and grated ginger.

If you’re using zucchini, (i.e. it’s summer or you don’t have super-power-blender access or you don’t like kale) wash them and then chop or grate and add to the pot with finely grated ginger and a bit less than a cup of water. Maybe start with half.

If I’m out of green vegetables in the fridge, I usually have some dried seaweed in the pantry. You can add about a quarter cup of dried arame as-is, but I typically cut dulse or nori into bite size pieces with kitchen sheers and add to the pot along with water & grated ginger. 

While the rice and veggies continue to cook, chop the tempeh into rough cubes, the thickness of original block. Pan fry in coconut oil until lightly browned on at least two sides, then remove from heat, add a splash of soy sauce and stir. 

When the rice is very soft and your veggies are also softened/ cooked, remove from heat and let sit while you prep the serving bowls/finish cooking tempeh, whatever. Letting the soup sit for at least 5 minutes will allow it to cool so it won’t kill the miso, and the rice will absorb more water and release more starch, giving you a chili-like consistency.

Cut the lime in half and juice, putting half in each bowl. Add a tablespoon of miso to each and mix well. This will make the miso easier to incorporate. 

When the soup is hot but not burning, mix half into each bowl and top with tempeh. 

*I’ll update this with better pictures eventually

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