So far, 2017 is a soup kind of year. It’s been a wet and chilly winter, the kind of Northern California winter I remember from my childhood, before the super-drought set in. We’ve had a couple nasty colds pass through our home, and they’ve seemed even more vicious than usual for this time of year.
And of course, every time I read the news or check social media, there’s something new to break my heart. I’ve been struggling to keep my head above the water of despair and depression, and it feels like every new headline is pushing me back under. I’m doing what I can to fight back, with my body and my wallet, but it never feels like enough.
So I’ve been gravitating to soup. Easy, comforting, nourishing soup. I may not know much in life right now, but I know how to make a pot of something warm and delicious. And this particular soup is a good one: miso soup with fresh clams and greens, ladled over rice. It’s light and savory, briny from the clams, and substantial enough to make you feel like you’re doing something good for yourself.
Looking at the recipe, I think I’ve made this sound more complicated than it actually is. Basically, you steam open some clams in plenty of water–maybe with a bit of kombu for added flavor–and then use the cooking liquid to wilt greens and dissolve miso. Make your rice fresh, or use leftovers if you’ve got them. Combine everything in a bowl, and there’s your meal. This is a nice, relatively inexpensive way to treat yourself to seafood, with the comfort and quiet of a big bowl of broth.
Clam Miso Soup Over Rice (serves 4 as an appetizer or light lunch)
Note: Buy the clams the same day you want to cook them. As an extra prep step, you can soak the clams in cold, heavily salted water for a couple of hours before cooking–this supposedly makes them disgorge any sand they might have inside.
1 lb manila or littleneck clams
3 1/2 cups water
4-inch by 6-inch piece of dried dashi kombu (optional)
2 cups spinach, kale, or other leafy greens, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced, divided
3-4 tbsp white or yellow miso, to taste
Salt to taste
2 cups cooked sushi rice or other short-grain rice*
*You can cook the rice any way you like. I don’t have a rice cooker, so I followed these stovetop instructions.
Rinse the clams under cold running water, and scrub with a damp cloth or a stiff brush to remove any lingering grit or dirt. If any clams are slightly open, give them a gentle tap or squeeze; if they don’t close within a few seconds, throw them out. Also throw out any clams with cracked or broken shells.
Place the clams, kombu (if using), and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the broth is simmering, remove and discard the kombu. Continue simmering the broth until the clams open. As soon as each clam opens, remove it from the pan with tongs or a slotted spoon and transfer it to a separate bowl. If any clams don’t open, remove and discard them.
Once all the clams are open and removed, use a skimmer or slotted spoon to skim any foam off the top of the broth. If there’s grit at the bottom, you can strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a paper towel or some cheesecloth, then return it to the pan.
Bring the broth back to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the greens and adjust the heat to keep the broth at a simmer. Simmer until the greens are wilted and just tender–about 1-2 minutes for softer greens like spinach, or 6-8 minutes for sturdier greens like kale. Add the white part of the scallions and simmer for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat.
Place 3 tbsp miso in a small bowl, and ladle over a few tablespoons of the hot broth. Whisk until the miso is thoroughly dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Stir the miso mixture back into the hot soup. Taste and add salt or more miso to taste, whisking the extra miso with a bit of broth as before.
Remove the clam meat from the shells and discard the shells. Divide the rice evenly among 4 bowls, and then add the clams on top of the rice. Ladle over the miso broth, and top with the green scallion tops. Serve immediately.