|The book with a few of Nina's suggested pantry staples|
About a year ago, I picked up my first tub of miso. Every time I saw miso in the store or stumbled upon a miso-containing recipe prior to that moment, I assumed that it was best suited for more experienced Asian food cooks. Basically, I let my own intimidation keep me from the entire suite of home cooked dishes that miso could bring. I don’t know what changed on that fateful day that inspired me to overcome my intimidation and pick up a tub, but whatever it was, I’m happy for it. After letting the tub sit in the fridge for a week or two, I got up the nerve to try a recipe. I don’t remember what it was but I do know that dish marked the beginning of my miso period.
I think there is a time in every home cook’s life when she discovers something so fascinating and versatile that it becomes a personal quest to try it on everything. I didn’t even realize that I was in a miso period until our Vermont cheese tour when I was in a car with Tara for 15 hours talking about food. It became clear that every time we had a conversation about an ingredient, my contribution ended with, “I put miso on it.” Root vegetables, greens, noodles, rice, chicken, shrimp, tofu, vegetable stocks, finished soups – you name it, I put miso on it. For many weeks, every day was a new experiment with miso.
Considering my miso mania, imagine my delight when Nina Simonds (a food writing giant who has met both Martha AND Oprah!) offered me a copy of her new Simple Asian Meals Cookbook (Rodale 2012) to review and two copies to give away on the blog! When the book arrived, I was giddy to see what great ideas she had for miso. Although there were only a few direct miso recipes, this book exceeded my expectations because Nina offered incredible technique tips for people new to Asian cooking, including tips for using miso. For example, after a few roasted vegetable missteps in my miso period when the paste didn’t cover the vegetables well, Nina offered the idea of pre-diluting the paste in any number of liquids. In fact, Nina offered this type of basic, beginner advice for many Asian cooking techniques. Most notably was her introductory chapter on the pantry staples you should have on hand if you want to make a habit of Asian cooking. Most of the suggested staples have an impressive shelf life so, with a modest initial outlay of cash you can have a ready Asian ingredient stockpile.
If the book’s cache of handy tips weren’t enough, the book’s title lends a clue to its other primary strength. The recipes REALLY are simple! On a random Wednesday night I decided to take the book for a spin. Full disclosure – I had a lot of her suggested pantry staples for miso soup on hand, but even if you needed to make a quick trip to your local Whole Foods, it would still be relatively easy process. The traditional dashi stock took about 10 minutes after the pot of water boiled. When compared to the long simmer of chicken stock or the inevitable ingredient deliberation of vegetable stock, dashi was incredibly easy. After the stock was ready, the soup took and additional 10 or so minutes. I added many fresh vegetables (shitake mushrooms, swiss chard, and edamame) to the recipe so chopping was the hardest (and unnecessary) part of the process. I also made a coconut rice pudding dessert using leftover rice (incidentally, one of Nina’s most valuable tips is her suggestion about making home-prepared rice easily available – it’s so simple you’ll question why you haven’t been doing this your entire life) which took a bit longer than the soup but not much more than 30 minutes. In total, soup and dessert were on the table within the hour that I started to cook.
Simple is not necessarily a virtue if a recipe doesn’t produce delicious food. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about taste with my chosen recipes. In the miso period, I tried countless miso soup recipes, none of which were ever quite right. With Nina’s recipe and accompanying tips, my soup was PERFECT!! I added a little extra miso (any surprise?) to the pot and a dash of tamari at the end and it was officially better than any miso I’d eaten at a restaurant! The same was true of my rice pudding recipe. I had tried so many variations on the theme in the past, but this one had a flawless flavor and texture.
|There is miso soup amidst the veggie pile, I promise!|
|Coconut rice pudding with mangoes|
So now it’s time for you to venture in to the regularly-occurring world of Asian meals. Put in your hat for one of the two copies we have available. Here’s how:
- Click over to Spices of Life recipe page and leave a comment here on the Boston Food Swap blog with your favorite recipe.
- Sign up for our newsletter and leave a comment on this post letting us know you want to be entered in the giveaway.
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- Tweet about the giveaway, including the hashtag #spicesoflifegiveaway and this link: http://bit.ly/w6BmdR. Example: Win Simple Asian Meals from @spicesoflife & @BOSswappers #spicesoflifegiveaway http://bit.ly/w6BmdR
And a few rules:
- Only those in the United States and Canada are eligible to win (sorry, but we're shipping the kit ourselves and learned this the hard way).
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