Miso in a Minute

By Casey Seidenberg

I am bored by our dinners. I can only imagine how my children feel. We are unmistakably in a rut. Regrettably, at the moment, I am not motivated to experiment with many new recipes. And when my kids get home from school and sports, they just want to eat something they like.

So I have a new tactic. I am continuing to cook the winner dinners, the ones that I can effortlessly get on the table and that my kids love. I am just adding a magic ingredient that upgrades the flavor and nutrition of these dinners yet requires a mere minute. The magic ingredient: miso.

Including a teaspoon of miso here and there makes me feel as though I have crafted an entirely new dinner, even if I haven’t. That boring burger escapes boredom when miso is introduced. When the artichoke is dipped in miso butter instead of plain butter, everyone is suddenly revived. Salad has a newfound sparkle from the days when it was dressed with basic balsamic vinaigrette. Even a simple pasta primavera tastes fresher when tossed with miso.

Miso is made from soybeans, sometimes paired with rice or barley, and then fermented. Through fermentation, it becomes a paste with a consistency similar to that of peanut butter. It bestows that wonderful combination of salty and sweet that enhances any meal. Miso not only delivers flavor but also adds protein and the antioxidants zinc, copper and manganese. Because it is fermented, it aids in digestion and supports the immune system.

Miso’s downside is its fairly high sodium content, but its strong flavor means most recipes use very small amounts. Folks concerned about sodium should talk to doctor.

If you are new to miso, start with the white variety, as it is the least fermented and therefore imparts the mildest flavor. If you like it, experiment with the yellow or even the most pungent red miso paste. Choose organic mis,o since most soybeans in the United States are genetically modified unless they are organic.

How to Use Miso

●Add to a chicken, beef or pork marinade.

●Include in a meatball mixture.

●Toss into a stir-fry.

● Flavor a soup.

●Spread on a sandwich.

●Combine with butter for a condiment.

●Mix with a little cooking water, then toss with pasta and vegetables.

● Make a salad dressing.

●Saute with sesame oil, scallions, ground turkey and water chestnuts, then toss into a lettuce cup.

● Serve over roasted vegetables.

Miso Roasted Vegetables (4 servings)

2 lb root vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips, butternut squash, sweet potatoes) chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

3 T olive oil

2 T miso

1 T tamari or soy sauce

1 T rice vinegar

2 T maple syrup

Pinch of sea salt

Sprinkle of hot pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix all ingredients except the vegetables.  Toss the chopped vegetables with the miso mixture.  Spread on a baking sheet.  Roast for 30-40 minutes.

First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, March 27, 2014.