Miso Meals

Miso is one of those superfoods that’s so good for you yet rarely eaten by most of us in this country. Which is a real shame, since in addition to being so nutritious it’s also super tasty!

Miso is a fermented soybean paste, made by taking a yeast mold and letting it sit with soybeans and other ingredients for various amounts of time (days to years, depending on the type of miso being made). It’s then ground into paste (similar to a nut butter texture) and ready for consumption.

Miso is packed with goodness: it’s got vitamin B12 for energy, zinc for immune support, and the minerals copper and manganese for blood and joint support. It’s also been shown to help prevent breast cancer. Not bad for a salty paste.

You can find miso in the refrigerated section of most health food stores, and in addition to being relatively inexpensive, it also lasts forever (about a year in the frige). There are different types of misos sold and in general, the darker the colors, the more pungent the flavor (good for heavier, richer foods). The lighter the color, the milder the flavor (good for soups, dressings).

A word of caution: miso is incredibly salty and a little goes a long way.

You can make a quick, easy, and healthy dinner by combining miso and hot water and adding in chopped veggies such as shiitakes, carrots, and scallions with some tofu cubes for a simple miso soup. One of my favorite miso recipes is Alexanda Jamieson’s Miso Stew – a year-round staple of mine containing another one of my favorite superfoods, seaweed. You can also make marinades with it for fish.

Tonight I’m going to attempt a personal first: miso dressing. I’ve had it a bunch of times at Japanese restaurants and it’s amazingly delicious. I plan to whip up a batch by combining a little olive oil, rice vinegar, a drop or two of sesame oil, rice vinegar, and perhaps a touch of honey with a tablespoon or two of white miso. I’ll be serving it on top of a simple green salad, accompanied by broiled wild salmon fillets with fresh rosemary and baked sweet potatoes. A good, hearty meal on this blustery winter day. I’ll let you all know how it comes out!

3/3/09 UPDATE: I made the miso dressing last night and it was delish! Here is my basic, thrown-together recipe. I made it using the ingredients I had on hand, but I am curious to see how it would have been different with rice vinegar (I used a lemon instead):

Andrea’s Miso Dressing

2 tablespoons white miso

1/2 cup olive oil

1 egg yolk

2 peeled, fresh garlic cloves

juice of one lemon

couple small dashes of toasted sesame oil (to taste)

small squirt of agave nectar (to taste – and I find it barely needs the sweetness, so err on the side of caution. honey would also work well.)

Place all ingredients in food processor blend until smooth. I served this drizzled over a simple spinach and mixed baby greens salad with some cherry tomatoes. Note: The dressing is quite thick and you can thin it a bit to your own taste by adding in a little water and blending in the processor.

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