Chances are you've heard of miso soup, and if you were like me, you hadn't really thought too deeply about what the heck it really is.
When I became a nutritionist I kept coming across it in many of the texts that I loved- learning of it's health benefits.
Japanese in it's roots, it is traditionally made by fermenting soybeans with salt and fungus (specifically aspergillus oryzae). These days you can find miso made with rice, chick peas, and barley in place of the soybeans, which can alter the flavour slightly. The good stuff will use organic ingredients and come in paste form in a tub. I really like the brand called Amano Miso and you can buy it at most health food shops. (if you live in the West Kootenays you can find it at Ferraro's and Kootenay Co-op)
Fermentation of food makes it more digestible by increasing the enzyme content as well as the presence of probiotics (good bacteria necessary for improved gut health). Miso has a high enzyme and probiotic content and it's high in B-vitamins and protein.
When I purchased my first tub of miso I must admit I was a bit lost, but with some experimentation I've found some great uses for it. One being GRAVY!!!
No turkey dinner or roast dinner would be complete without gravy, and I grew up with a mom who always made her own gravy using the juices and fat drippings from the cooked meat. (I was really lucky....) She would make the gravy by pouring the drippings into a heated pan and then adding flour to thicken. And while this version was always delicious, it wasn't conducive to my gluten intolerance, so one Thanksgiving I decided to try replacing the flour with miso- and it worked!
The recipe has since evolved so that I don't always have to cook meat to have gravy, because let's face it, gravy goes good on anything and I don't eat meat at every meal.
Here's what I do and it's SO easy (and remember I'm not really a recipe person, so if the amounts seem off, just play!):
- in a small saucepan combine 2 cups of broth, 1/4 cup of almond butter or tahini, two heaping tablespoons of miso, and some black pepper
- on LOW to MEDIUM heat, begin to warm the saucepan and whisk the ingredients together until it's smooth and warm
- DO NOT bring to a boil, heat it to juuuuuuust under a boil. If you boil it by accident (and you probably will), no biggie, just take it off the element and let it stop bubbling, turn the heat down and put it back on. (boiling miso will ruin the enzymes and probiotics that are SO good for you.
You can also add things like roasted onions and garlic and just use a hand blender to smooth it out- this will add HUGE flavour!
See my pictures below to see what the process looks like.
There you have it. It's a great gravy, but it can also be an awesome sauce for dishes like roasted yams, mashed potatoes, grilled zuchini, and rice bowls. When it cools, it makes a great creamy dressing for salads or even a raw veggie dip.
Don't be scared- miso is super versatile ingredient and adds so much flavour to your dishes. Experimenting is the key!