miso soup

where we shop

There’s a lovely little place, about a 20-minute walk from our house, where I want to visit every day. Sure, I love the craggy rock beaches on Vashon, the deep green forests, the tall beach cliffs overlooking a vast expanse of Puget Sound. I love our home, our little island. (It’s not so little, really. We live on an island the same length as Manhattan and two miles wider. There are fewer than 10,000 of us here, however.)

But honestly, one of my favorite places in the whole darned island is the old white wooden building with the long front porch. It smells of just-roasted coffee. Your nose picks it up as you drive by. In October, kid-carved pumpkins line the railings. In the summer, an unmanned cart is stuffed with bouquets of dahlias. You put cash into the slot and take your favorite. Most days, there’s a little ice cream business selling fresh pistachio and salted caramel in the old fenced-in porch in back.

Step in. There’s an old coffee roaster in the front, with tall tables and well-worn stools. They’re almost always filled with people, sipping lattes and herbal tea, talking. In the front window is a table, covered in newspapers. Around it sit a group of old men, talking the day away, arguing about politics. They meet the same time every morning and sit there for hours. (I really think they should have a checker board and a spittoon.) Just off that table is a special metal table that spins slowly. It’s where the roasters taste tiny cups of just-brewed coffee to make sure the organic blend from Guatemala tastes as dark and fruity as it says on the label.

The floors are worn wood. The steps leading up to the natural foods store sag a bit in the middle. There are hand-woven purses, Tibetan prayer flags, and crafts with peace symbols emblazoned on them. The chairs in the meeting roof toward the back probably haven’t been replaced in 20 years.

In a corner of the front room is the espresso machine, imported directly from Sicily, which makes the best damn latte I’ve ever sipped. In the entire world. In the refrigerators are fresh salads made with kale and organic basmati rice, red peppers, purple cauliflower, and a creamy lemon vinaigrette. When Danny and Lucy went for a lunch date there the other day, that’s what Lucy picked for lunch.

Along the shelves are raw vegan sesame bars. Gluten-free cookies, gluten-free vegan cookies, gluten-free vegan raw cookies. Blue corn tortilla chips. Carob chips. Dairy-free cheese. Our favorite ginger beer. Roasted tofu sticks. Indian red lentil wraps. Cashew milk shakes. Seaweed snacks galore.

In the back room is the haven of local produce — tiny delicata squash, bouquets of rainbow chard, small heirloom apples — and everything a natural foods lover could want. Raw milk. Coconut sugar. Avocado oil. Organic bison meat. Gluten-free pasta from Italy. Hemp hearts. Red rice from Bhutan. Steel cut oats. Local free-range eggs. Raw cacao beans. Organic macadamia nuts. Wild Alaskan salmon. Any kind of gluten-free flour my heart desires.

And along the walls are apothecary shelves filled with fish oil, vitamins, restorative elixirs, and any kind of supplement your nutritionist might prescribe.

I love Minglement with all my heart. It is the heart of this island for me.

For years, Danny and I felt obligated to use ingredients available at any grocery store when we created recipes for this site. We bought the standard butter instead of the organic cultured pastured butter that costs a couple of bucks more. We knew that most people don’t have access to the wacky set of ingredients we do at Minglement (and throughout the Seattle area, really), and so we refrained from creating recipes with raw buckwheat groats and sweet potato flour from Peru or tiny pasture-raised chickens that rarely weigh above three pounds and taste intensely more chicken-y than the bloated ones from the grocery store.

Now, however, I have to tell you, we’re done with that. The foods at Minglement? This is how we eat. This is the food we’re cooking and sharing here these days.

(As Danny likes to say, if you don’t have a Minglement near you, and we use an ingredient exotic to you, there is a little thing called the internet.)

It was at Minglement that I first encountered kombu, a dried seaweed with plenty of flavor. I bought some, not knowing what to do with it. But I love to do that. I go home and dabble on the internet, finding other people’s recipes and ideas. I quickly found through experience that a small strip of kombu nestled in a mess of beans as they cook makes the beans more flavorful and digestible.

Still, I’d never made dashi until I was given Jaden Hair’s great new cookbook, Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites: 100 Recipes That Are Fast, Fresh, and Simple Enough for Tonight’s Supper. Jaden is a whiz at making recipes simple. This new book of hers is a delight, filled with Asian recipes like miso cod, eggs with oyster sauce, and Vietnamese summer rolls with grilled tofu. She has distilled all she knows about Asian food into a cookbook created to get people cooking. She uses ingredients available at most grocery stores, with a few from Asian specialty stores thrown in. Everything feels fresh. And most of it is gluten-free. How could we not love it?

Jaden’s recipe for dashi made me finally grab a bag of bonito flakes, another formerly unfamiliar food I had been meaning to try. Most miso soups in restaurants contain gluten, either because of the brand of miso used or the soy sauce added. I had missed this light yet hearty soup. I’ve been sipping some for breakfast for weeks. Jaden taught us how to make it.

Thanks to Jaden, we’ll be going to Minglement even more often now. And for that, I’m especially grateful.

Dashi, reprinted with permission from Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites: 100 Recipes That Are Fast, Fresh, and Simple Enough for Tonight’s Supper, by Jaden Hair, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

The basis of many Japanese dishes is the dashi, which is made from dried seaweed (kombu) and dried bonito fish flakes.

5 cups water
6 (8-inch) piece of kombu
2 large handfuls dried bonito flakes (about 3 cups)

Gently wipe the kombu with a damp towel to clean (do not rinse). In a large stockpot, add the water and the kombu, bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and stir in the bonito flakes. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain the stock. Discard the bonito but keep the kombu. (You can reuse several times.)

Makes 5 cups.

Miso soup with tofu and kale, adapted from Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites: 100 Recipes That Are Fast, Fresh, and Simple Enough for Tonight’s Supper

5 cups prepared dashi
4 tablespoons miso paste (we use South River Organic )
8 ounces firm tofu
1//2 bunch lacinato kale, leaves cut into thin chiffonade
1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

Set a small pot on medium heat. Pour in the dashi. When the dashi comes to a constant simmer, whisk in the miso paste. Add the tofu and kale and simmer until they are heated through, about 1 minute. Pour the soup into 4 bowls and top with the sliced scallions.

Feeds 4.