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Dashi (Basic Sea Stock)

Adapted from Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen (Ten Speed Press 2005).

If you think of miso as a condiment, it will set you free. Use it in place of salt in meatloaf, meatballs, tomato sauce and more.

This simple recipe for a dashi, or homemade stock, requires kombu (seaweed) and bonito flakes (dried, shaved fish), both readily available at Asian food markets and other stores across the country.

Makes about 1 quart

15 to 20 square inches kombu

4 1/4 cups cold water, preferably filtered or spring

1/2 cup loosely packed bonito flakes

Place the kombu in a pot with the water. To draw out maximum flavor and nutrients, let soak for 10 to 15 minutes before turning the heat on to medium.

Remove the pot from the heat as soon as small bubbles begin to break on the surface and at the edge of the pot. Add the bonito flakes, scattering them across the surface of the water. After several minutes, the flakes will begin to sink. The larger the flakes, the longer they'll take to sink. Within 3 to 4 minutes of adding the fish flakes,

pour the stock through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth or a doubled-over paper towel.

If you're not using the dashi right away, it will keep in the fridge for a few days. (Andoh says it doesn't freeze well.) Let it cool before covering it tightly and putting it away.

Signs of spoilage include a sweet smell (rather than a smoky one), a film forming on the surface or around the edges of the container, or stickiness when pouring.

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