Certain people have a natural elegance. They look good in anything (and, presumably, nothing). They speak articulately and judiciously, move with grace, and generally make it appear as though living in this world isn’t the vexed, booby-trapped, humbling endeavor the rest of us poor slobs find it to be.

If miso were a person, that’s the kind of person miso would be. Its natural elegance stems from its already being complex and complete on its own: you don’t need to tart miso up to make it good. Indeed, if you have good miso to start with, simply adding some warm water will create a satisfying broth that reveals something more about itself with every sip.

Because of this stand-alone greatness, I showed my respect for miso soup for years by never adding competing flavors (other than the vegetables I cooked in it). It was a culinary “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Then one day I had a glass of pinot gris and said to myself, “You know what would be good with this? A soup made with yellow miso.” So I tried it and it was great.

Next, I added roasted red peppers from a jar and some freshly pressed garlic. I was going for a vaguely Spanish flavor. When I served this to my friends on a cool autumn night, everyone said it was warming and good. So put on some classical guitar or Flamenco CDs and sip this bright red soup while you finish off the rest of the pinot gris.

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Red Pepper Miso Soup
4 big servings or six modest ones

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This recipe calls for a lot of miso, so the finished soup has a strong miso flavor. Its sweetness will balance the tang of the pepper and the acidity of the wine. If you don’t want such a strong miso flavor, you can start by using 3/4 cup and add no more, or put in less and add a teaspoon of honey to the broth for sweetness. You can also skip the miso all together and use a chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, but then you don’t get the health benefits of miso. This also contains a lot of wine, but some of the alcohol will cook off (though from what I’ve read recently, perhaps not as much as previously thought), and once you divide it up by the number of people served it’s not as wild and crazy as it seems.

4 cups water
1 and 1/2 cups roughly chopped roasted red peppers from a jar
3/4 – 1 cup yellow or white miso (look for one that’s referred to as mellow or sweet)
1 clove garlic
2 cups pinot gris

  1. Pour 2 cups of water into a stockpot or saucepan and warm over a medium high flame and add the red peppers.
  2. When the peppers have had a chance to warm through, transfer the peppers and water to a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Return the red pepper broth to the pan. Add the remaining 2 cups of water. Warm until simmering over medium high heat, but do not boil. Pour about 1/2 cup of the broth into a Pyrex measuring cup containing the miso and stir until the miso has been turned into more of a slurry than a solid. Add more liquid if necessary. Now pour the miso slurry into the stockpot. (Taking this step rather than putting the miso straight into the pot means that you don’t have to chase a giant clump of miso around with a spoon to break it up.)
  4. Add 1 clove of garlic that has just been pushed through a garlic press.
  5. Add the wine and cook just long enough so that everything is completely warmed through.