Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Me-so Happy

Miso is that strong, musty, salty paste that is used throughout Japanese cooking. And of course, there would be no smoothing soup without it.

This ubiquitous paste is made from fermenting soybeans with either rice, red beans, barley all which offer their own distinctive flavor profile. The easiest version to work with is Shiro Miso (otherwise called: White or Mellow). It is the mildest with the lowest salt content of the various miso pastes available to us. It takes me from soup to marinades to vinaigrettes. The shiro miso is a mix of soybeans and rice, and will last up to 6 to 9 months in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Miso is like yogurt chock-full of friendly bacteria that are so good for our digestive and immune systems. Though it should be noted that high exposure to heat kills the bacteria so certain dishes won’t delivery any health benefits but its flavor won’t fail you. Perhaps a bowl of miso soup will become the new chicken soup – it is a lot easier to make.

Miso Soup – yields 6 servings

1-1/2 chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/4-cup plus 2 tablespoons shiro miso paste
8 ounces silken tofu – cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 scallions – very thinly sliced

In a 3 quart sauce pan pour in 1-1/2 cup of chicken stock to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook the stock for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the miso paste to thoroughly dissolve.

Place some tofu and scallions in each bowl, and pur over the miso soup. Serve immediately.

Salmon marinated in Miso - yields 6 servings

2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup white wine or sake
1/3 cup dark miso paste
6 four ounce salmon fillets

In a mortar and pestle grind the garlic, sesame seeds, red chili flakes, black peppercorns and cumin seeds to a paste. Mix in the honey, white wine, and miso thoroughly combine. Spread the miso mixture over the salmon fillets to coat well. Place the salmon in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove all but a thin coating of the miso mixture from the salmon fillets, and place the fish on a parchment lined baking tray. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes and serve immediately.

Miso Vinaigrette - yields approx. 1-1/4 cup

1/2 cup white miso
2 tablespoons tahini paste
1 garlic clove - crushed to a paste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water (plus additional if the dressing is too thick)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame oil

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together until smooth and well combined.

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