miso

I’ve been reading this remarkable book first published in 1975, The Book of Tofu by Shurtleff and Aoyagi. At least one of the writers was heavily influenced by the American Buddhist movement and spent time at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center near Big Sur, California. There he/they became enchanted with all things Japanese, especially the food. Eventually, the writers find themselves travelling throughout Japan, learning about traditional food preparation and becoming more and more engrossed in soy.

crumbly tekka miso over brown rice with fried tempeh

Aside from The Book of Tofu, apparently they published books of Miso and of Tempeh. These folks really believed in the power of tofu to change the world. In fact, they’re positively convinced that tofu will solve Third World hunger and in the developed U.S., will reduce obesity and early mortality while making the planet greener (because we’ll produce fewer cattle). Shurtleff and Aoyagi were visionaries, but I have to agree with Samuel Fromartz in Organic, Inc. People just aren’t willing to embrace tofu wholesale if it isn’t part of their culture. It’s too bad, really, as some of these soy recipes look very exciting.

I was inspired, at least, by The Book of Tofu and tried to re-create the recipe for crumbly tekka miso. It looked easy to make and has interesting ingredients. It’s a kind of brown sauce primarily made of miso with some vegetables and nuts. I’m not sure that I made it correctly and I did improvise by combining it with the sweetened tekka miso recipe that follows the crumbly. I didn’t have some things, like sesame oil, so I used alternatives.

Mine didn’t get crumbly, but I added water because I thought the miso needed to be thinned. And I’m thrilled to report that I finally used fresh lotus root! I’ve always wanted to try but have been shy about it.

The dish looked various shades of brown which seemed groovily authentic for this Seventies inspired meal. I fried the tempeh because The Book of Tofu says that that’s the best way. And they were right: it was absolutely delicious. The brown rice seemed to match.

In retrospect, I think that I overdosed the miso. It was too salty. Next time, I’d put in only one or two tablespoons. Otherwise, the sauce was nutty and earthy with a creamy texture broken up with the subtle crunch of the burdock root. Really, pretty good.

some key ingredients: burdock root, lotus root, carrots, ginger, miso and peanuts

crumbly tekka miso

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 burdock root, peeled, cut into two inch sticks, then soaked in water for fifteen minutes
3 small carrots, peeled and minced in food processor
1 lotus root bulb, peeled and minced in food processor
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup red miso diluted with some water
¼ cup peanuts
1 tbsp. dry white wine
2 tbsp. tahini

Heat large skillet. Add oil and burdock. Sauté for one minute then add minced carrot and lotus root. Sauté for a few more minutes. Add miso, ginger, peanuts and white wine. Simmer, stirring often, for fifteen to twenty minutes or until consistency that you prefer is reached. Mix in tahini. Let cool.

Serve over rice or as a dip for fried tempeh or raw vegetables.

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Steven and I both got hit with bad colds last weekend. We felt like crap with body aches, coughing, difficulty breathing… you get the picture. Ugh! While suffering miserably, by chance, I picked up the latest edition of Vegetarian Times. They’ve a recipe for a soup that sounded exactly like what we needed to get better. It’s earthy with sweet and sour flavors. The magazine claims it’s also supposed to nurture your digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems. I totally believe it because some of the ingredients in the soup are the same things my mom used to give me when I was a kid to help recover from illness. The spiciness of the soup certainly helped clear my respiratory tract right away!

spicy Thai soup for the soul

I’ve made South East Asian inspired soups before, though usually with fish sauce. So this vegetarian/vegan soup is sort of intriguing. I’ve adapted the recipe to my taste and to the ingredients that I had handy at home.

Spicy Thai Vegetable Soup for the Soul

Paste for broth:

some key ingredients for spicy Thai soup for the soul

16 dried Mexican chiles de arbol
10 peeled garlic cloves
½ tsp kosher salt
1½ stalk lemon grass, light green part only, outer extra tough layer discarded, minced
4 minced shallots
2½ tbsp dark Miso paste

For the soup:

8 cups water or vegetable broth
4 tbsp light soy sauce
4 cups roughly chopped Napa cabbage
4 cups roughly chopped arugula
½ cup fresh mint leaves
½ cup cilantro
¾ cup firm tofu, cubed
¾ cup white mushrooms, quartered

Soak chiles in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and chop them up fine. Grind chiles, garlic, shallots and lemon grass in a food processor. Add miso and run processor to incorporate into a thick aromatic paste. At this point your respiratory system will be already starting to clear while your kitchen will be invaded with amazing garlicky and peppery aromas.

Put water or vegetable broth in a large pan and bring to a boil. Add chile/miso paste. Stir to dissolve. Add soy sauce, mushrooms and Napa Cabbage. Cook for about four minutes. Add tofu cubes and cook for two more minutes. Remove from heat. Add arugula, mint and cilantro. Adjust flavor with more soy sauce if necessary. Serve with a side dish of rice.

just because he's cute

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edamame miso party dip

by Stevie on June 30, 2009

edamame miso party dip with baked pita chips

edamame miso party dip with baked pita chips

I got the idea for this dip from some show that Alton Brown was in on the Food Network. Maybe it was “Good Eats?” I saw the program six or eight months ago so don’t quite remember. It’s really a variation on American basil pesto or how one might make hummus. The main difference is using edamame and miso instead of basil, nuts and cheese or in the case of hummus, chickpeas. My recipe is a bit different from Mr. Brown’s, though I’m sure that his is excellent, too.

This week, my sister was visiting from San Diego. She is very health conscious, avoiding fried foods and a lot of dairy. This recipe is dairy-free. The miso gives the dip a fermented richness of flavor that is similar to cheese. Her visit was the perfect opportunity to try it out. I already had all of the ingredients at home. It’s fast to make and it turns out that it’s delicious! The color of the dip is a stunning bright green. I served this with baked pita chips with sea salt from Trader Joe’s and a 2008 Costières de Nîmes blanc, Château L’Ermitage. This wine was almost as good as the 2007 that we tasted earlier this year and went well with the dip.

Edamame can easily be found these days in the frozen section of most supermarkets. Mine came from Trader Joe’s. I’ve seen miso paste around more and more often lately, too. The one that I used was a red miso from a local Japanese supermarket.

Edamame Miso Party Dip

2 cups shelled frozen edamame, cooked per package directions
2 tsp. miso paste
¼ to ½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roasted in dry skillet and peeled
1 inch thick slice onion, roasted in dry skillet
1 jalapeno pepper, roasted in dry skillet, seeds stem and ribs removed
juice of one lemon
½ tsp. salt
black pepper to taste

To roast garlic, onion slice and jalapeno, heat skillet on high; add vegetables without oil. Allow to cook about five minutes or so until begin to char, turning periodically. Remove from heat. Peel garlic. Remove and discard pepper seeds and ribs.

Add all ingredients to food processor. Process until forms a smooth paste. If too thick add more olive oil. Serve with chips or raw vegetables as a party appetizer.

red miso paste

red miso paste

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