Monday, October 19, 2015

Miso Paste

I started receiving the Charlotte Observer in March, and since that time I have become acquainted with the writing of its two stellar food journalists, Helen Schwab and Kathleen Purvis. While Ms. Schwab reviews restaurants and reports on food events, Ms. Purvis writes about local food and recipes.  Having been a subscriber to the NY Times for most of my adult life, and a major fan of its Food (formerly Dining Out) section, I had low expectations of the Observer's food journalism. This was because 1) I lived in "the South" now, 2) we had only been to five "very good" restaurants in our city of a million people and 3) after three years, I had still not found some decent sushi.

Then, one Wednesday in the spring, while skimming the Charlotte Food section, I came upon Ms. Purvis' "Top Five Flavor Shortcuts".  What could be on the "Top Five List" of a southern food journalist?  What does she know? And then I saw it, among Old Bay and Sea Salt (yeah yeah), MISO PASTE. My smugness over owning wasabi powder crumbled. I had never used this magic ingredient. I had never even seen it in the store! This is the South! 

Ms. Purvis wrote, "A tub of it keeps forever in the refrigerator, and it provides that elusive “umami” saltiness that gives things a deeper, richer flavor. Toss a dab with roasted asparagus, add it with butter to a baked sweet potato, whisk a little into scrambled eggs."

Where to begin? I could remain ignorant no longer.  First, I had to buy it.  After three grocery store trips, I found it at the Health Home Market 300 yards from my house.  Since I feared going rogue, I scoured my cookbooks for recipes and found only two in my handy Keepers by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion, who are both from New York. I knew they would not leave me astray.  

The first recipe was "Asian Pork Sliders with Magic Miso-Mayo." The Mayo was made by combining 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon white miso paste, and lime juice.  It definitely added that "elusive umami" that Ms. Purvis described.  I have since made it again to make sandwiches for leftover pork tenderloin.

The second recipe was for "Miso-Glazed Salmon."  This involved marinating the salmon in 1/2 cup white miso paste, 2 tablespoons white wine, and 3 tablespoons sugar before baking/broiling.  The results were a rich, moist salmon that was able to hold its own.

Is miso paste worth buying? Yes. Especially if it "keeps forever." Now, I still have to use up the half tub still in my fridge. I am going to try and convince my husband to add it to his eggs on Saturday. Will keep you updated!

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