When someone says “miso,” many of us immediately think of miso soup. We might envision a steaming cup of miso soup served to us as an appetizer at our favorite sushi restaurant.
But as our Asian Foods Manager Mitsuko Blanda told me recently: “Miso is about so much more than soup.” Indeed, this nutty, salty paste can add flavorful umami and a pleasing texture to so many of your busy weeknight meals. “It’s very, very basic to Japanese food culture and it’s now starting to be acknowledged and appreciated beyond the Japanese culture as well,” Mitsuko said.
Now is the perfect time to get to know miso, too, because all three varieties of the Organic Westbrae Miso Pastes — white, red and brown — are just $5.99. Look for them in the Asian Foods section at our Central Markets in Shoreline, Poulsbo and Mill Creek; and in our Produce sections at our Town & Country Market locations on Bainbridge Island and in Lakemont, and at Ballard Market.
What is miso exactly? It’s actually a very simple combination of cooked soybeans, salt and a fermenting agent called koji. Koji is usually cultivated with rice, soybeans or barley. The exact combination of ingredients and length of fermentation is what determines the flavor and color of miso paste. You’ll usually find miso paste on a refrigerated shelf in varying shades of white, yellow or red. Armed with that bit of knowledge, it’s really easy to spot the exact level of flavor you’re looking for – the darker the color, the richer the flavor.
How do you use miso paste? I defer to Mitsuko again: “You can almost think of it as, ‘What do I do with butter?’ Miso is THAT flexible. There’s no wrong way to use it! And as you use it more, you might develop your own preferences. But until then, it’s OK to use any type of miso in just about any dish.”
Since miso paste doesn’t need to be cooked, just pop the top and you’re ready to rock!
Add a dollop of a mild white miso paste to your favorite sautéed veggies just before serving for one heck of flavorful finish. Try crafting your own simple-but-savory marinade with our deliciously tender Cod with Sesame-Miso Glaze recipe. And if you’re ready to bring the miso appetizer experience home, let our Miso Soup with Mushrooms recipe get you headed in the right flavor direction.
It’s Cold Outside so Let’s Get Baking
I’m a Montana boy so it’s nice to see a little snowfall here in Puget Sound. But all that white fluff means Arctic temps and a cold house, too. Let’s warm it up by putting that oven to work baking something tasty!
Right now, thrifty shoppers can get a 5-lb. bag of all purpose or whole wheat flour from Shepherd’s Grain for just $2.99 each. We’ve been big fans of these Portland, Ore,. producers for years and love to give them a shout out whenever we can.
Co-founders Fred Fleming and Karl Kupers sustain a family tradition by promoting no-till, direct-seed farming to keep their growers’ land renewable. They know better soil means better grain. And better grain means better flour. We put together a little profile about this special Northwest producer.
Our very own cheese whiz, Shauna Howell, offers up a cheese worth discovering.
Crescenza-Stracchino from La Bottega di BelGioioso: If you’re the kind who loves to pull Oreos apart and scoop out the cream between the wafers, you’ll love this gooey, delicious Italian table cheese. It’s like getting all the good stuff from a Brie without a rind to work around.
From the Lombardy region, this fresh, young cow’s milk cheese is made with rich morning milk in Wisconsin. It’s a true little gem of a discovery in the cheese case and is honestly one of my favorites. It’s creamy and mild with a slight, salty tang. Spread it on a warm baguette, stir into pasta, dollop onto pizza, or spread on a crostini and top with pomegranate arils and a drizzle of chocolate. Or enjoy it the way I do — with a spoon and my favorite beverage!
Here’s a secret: Keep a package around for a week to 10 days past the “best eaten by” date and you’re in for a real treat. That’s when Crescenza-Stracchino shows its sassy side.
Chris Allen is a copywriter and assistant marketer with Town & Country Markets. He’s a former contributing editor, radio anchor and producer, and an Air Force veteran. He’s also mastered the art of chopping red onions with one hand while sipping a dry Tempranillo in the other.