THOUGH THRICE-COOKED bacon and fried pork jowl are the rule at his Mission Chinese Food restaurants, at home, chef Danny Bowien's hankerings are decidedly more monastic. "I tend to eat and crave very clean, restorative foods with minimal fats," he said.
This soothing vegetable soup, the third Slow Food Fast contribution from Mr. Bowien, is very much in that mode. It draws its deep umami flavor not from animal products but from fermented ones, like miso and Shaoxing rice wine. Bright pickled ginger, toasted pecans, chopped chestnuts and sesame seeds top off each bowl.
Whether at his restaurants or at home, Mr. Bowien doesn't hesitate to draw on numerous culinary traditions to make a dish singularly delicious. "Authentic doesn't always mean good," he said. This recipe starts off the Italian way, with a soffritto of mushrooms, parsley and onions sautéed in olive oil. From that aromatic base you can take various directions. "Most any winter vegetable can be used," Mr. Bowien said, "but I really like the depth of flavor that comes along with things other than potatoes and carrots." The turnips, squash and pumpkin recommended here bring complexity and subtle sweetness to the soup.
A paste of red and white miso combined with ground pecans, added at the end of cooking, instantly transforms and enriches the broth. "It is a traditional Japanese thing," the chef said. "White miso is really sweet, and red is really salty. Pecans give it an earthy flavor, so you don't really miss the meat."—Kitty Greenwald
Pecan-Miso Vegetable Soup
Total Time: 35 Minutes Serves:6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 cup chopped parsley
12 shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
4 medium turnips, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
6 cups water
5 cups watercress
1½ tablespoon red miso
¾ tablespoon white miso
1½ teaspoons Shaoxing wine or sake
¾ teaspoon mirin
¼ cup pecans, finely ground, plus 1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
9 boiled chestnuts, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons pickled ginger
What To Do
1. In a stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Once hot, add onions, parsley and mushrooms. Gently sauté until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.
2. Stir in cubed vegetables and add 6 cups water or enough to cover vegetables by 1 inch. Season with salt, cover, increase heat to high and boil 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer until vegetables are tender, 15 minutes. Uncover, add watercress and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute more.
3. Meanwhile, place red and white misos in a small bowl. Mix in wine, mirin and ground pecans until well-combined. Mixture should resemble loose peanut butter.
4. Stir 1 cup broth from soup pot into bowl containing miso mixture. Pour broth-miso mixture into soup pot and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste.
5. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with sesame seeds, chopped pecans, chestnuts and ginger.
A version of this article appeared February 2, 2013, on page D6 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Pecan-Miso Vegetable Soup.