Root Vegetable Stew with Miso

It’s been pretty cold up here in Northern California. Mornings are in the high 20s with ice forming overnight on the windshield of our car as well as on our son’s mini ride-around tractor he got for x-mas - “ice mama, ICE!” First Christmas he has understood what was going on so we went a little nuts with the many gifts that "Santa" brought. It was exciting and fun to see him rip them open but now that he has had a taste of the abundance, it has morphed into the whole needy and demanding more-candy-canes-and-presents thing. He keeps asking when “anta” is coming back with more gifts and every person he comes into contact with who is holding some sort of bag or box he assumes what they are holding is, in fact, a present for him. I know. He’s 3 years old.  He want’s everything. Sucks for him cause he ain’t getting nothing. Unless, of course, he FINALLY decides to start going poo poo on the damn potty! 

But I’m not here to talk about presents or poo poo. I'm here to share with you a wonderful, simple, nourishing, sweet stew made with a mixture of any root vegetables you may have on hand or love. When I was a vegetarian, I discovered macrobiotic cooking and fell in love with root vegetables. I mean, how could you not? They are sweet and starchy and tasty and so satisfying. Also warms you up nicely in the depths of a NYC winter or on a chilly autumn day. According to Chinese medicine, root vegetables help “root” or ground us, build stamina, and are very nourishing to the spleen and stomach, which helps aid digestion - making this a lovely soup to eat when your tummy is in need of a break from all those heavy winter holiday meals.

Through the years I have made many variations on this stew and each attempt was always a success.  A stew like this is very forgiving, making it perfect to throw together with any roots you may have hanging around. I have made it with and without miso and have also puréed the whole thing until smooth. Up to you. Any way your preference, yummy.

The other wonderful thing about root vegetables is that they impart a lovely sweetness which makes for a delicious broth so all you do is add filtered water and the roots take care of the rest. Well, also adding a bit of miso paste at the end deepens the flavors with a little salty, savory, umami goodness and voilà - you've got yourself a pot of vegetable divinity.

Oh and these gorgeous pictures were not taken by me on my iPhone. (I ain't claiming to be no photographer people - I just love to cook!) These pictures were taken by my incredibly talented friend Naomi Mcleod

Root Vegetable Stew with Miso
I used a purple sweet potato in this so that is why the stew has a purple hue. Those can be a bit hard to find (but if you do find them I highly recommend trying them!) but nowadays you may see purple carrots popping up at the markets so get a bunch of those instead if you want the lovely color. So pretty.

  • 2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 TB unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 4 large leeks (white part only) or 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TB fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • sea salt
  • 2 pounds (about 8 cups) assorted root vegetables, (such as winter squash, rutabaga, carrots, sweet potato, celery root, parsnips, turnips) peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups filtered water 
  • 2-4 heaping TB of mellow miso paste

In a large pot, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add leeks or onion, garlic, ginger, fennel, 1/2 tsp sea salt, red pepper flakes if using and stir well. Reduce flame a bit and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the leeks or onion soften. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and slowly cook until the mixture is soft and juicy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Check a few times and stir.

Add the root vegetables, thyme and bay leaf and raise heat to high and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Pour in the filtered water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. 

In a small bowl mix the miso paste with some of the hot broth to make a slurry. Mix the miso slurry into the soup pot, stirring to combine. Taste, adding a TB more miso or a dash of sea salt to taste. 

Serve hot with a sprinkle of fresh thyme or parsley leaves on top