During an ingredient lecture at the Natural Gourmet Institute, chef instructor, Olivia Roszkowski commented:
“You may have bought a tub of miso for a recipe and then wondered how you
will ever use it up. But, once you learn some tips for how to use it, you’ll
wonder how you ever cooked without it.” – Chef Olivia
She is so right.
What is Miso?
Miso is a fermented paste, traditionally made from soybeans (although chickpea versions are now readily available), sea salt, a grain (generally rice or barley.) and koji. Koji, Japan’s national microorganism, is the fermenting catalyst, made from steamed rice inoculated with the mold spores of aspergillus oryzae. The bean mixture ferments for anywhere from 3 months to up to 3 years for the most expensive varieties. The result is a detoxifying, digestive-enhancing food, rich in enzymes and all the essential amino acids. This paste can transform your health as well as your cooking. Here are some tips for bringing miso’s magic into your kitchen.
- How to select and store miso?
Head to the refrigerator section of your grocery store. Here you will find live, naturally fermented miso. Avoid any pasteurized or chemically ‘fermented’ products. I like Miso Master, which has an excellent line of organic and gluten-free products. I also like South River’s chickpea miso, although it is chunky, not smooth, so not ideal for some recipes. Kept refrigerated in an air-tight container, it will last for a year or more.
- If you are new to miso, you may want to start with the less assertive, light-colored or even a sweet miso.
- Match the color of the paste to the dish and the season. The lighter-colored pastes pair well with lighter, warmer weather dishes, while darker pastes pairs well with heavier, cold-weather dishes.
- Combine different types of paste to add complexity to a dish.
- Before adding to a soup, remove a portion of the soup stock and whisk in the miso. Then, add the mixture back to the soup.
- Add paste at the end of cooking a dish, allowing it to simmer for only a few minutes. Longer cooking and boiling will kill the healthy microorganisms. Thou shall not boil miso!
- Following is a guide to using different varieties from ‘The Vegetarian Flavor Bible’
MISO TYPE / USE
White: Salad dressings, soups
Light, sweet, or yellow: Light broths, sauces and soups
Medium: Most applications
Dark/brown: Heavy stews, braised dishes
Black: Hearty soups
Wood, Rebecca, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, New York: Penguin Books, 2010.
Page, Karen, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014.
Have a miso tip to share? Please leave a comment below!