During this Japanese cooking project, I’ve been interested in the small dishes that are part of a whole meal. Even the lowly steamed or blanched vegetable can have a rich and satisfying sauce of its own! I’m thinking this blend of toasted walnuts with sweet white miso would compliment the bitterness of some other vegetables not suggested in the recipe: broccoli rabe, Swiss chard, kale, or mustard greens.
This dressing is good on asparagus, broccoli, burdock, green beans, or spinach. This dressing can be made a day ahead and covered in the fridge.
- 7 to 8 ounces of a vegetable, your choice
- 2 1/4 ounces (1/2 cup) walnut meats
- 1 Tablespoon Saikyo miso (sweet white miso)
- 1 Tablespoon mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
- 2 teaspoons shoyu (soy sauce)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons dashi (Japanese stock)
- salt to taste
1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, parboil the vegetable of choice for 1 to 2 minutes—spinach will cook much more quickly than broccoli. Drain, cool and dry. Drying is important: in the picture, you can see how the dressing sank to the bottom of the dish because my broccoli was not thoroughly dry.
2. Heat a medium skillet over low to medium heat, add the walnuts, and toast them until they are heated through. I refine Ms. Shimbo’s recipe by rubbing the skins off the toasted nuts when they have cooled. The skin tastes bitter, especially when it’s black, and can be seen as unpleasant flecks in the sauce. Because you are going to grind the nuts, don’t worry about breaking them as you rub the skin off. Sometimes you can coax a reluctant skin off by re-heating the nuts.
3. Reserve about 1 Tablespoon of the nuts. Put the remainder into a suribachi, or other mortar, or a feed processor. Grind the nuts until they are smooth and oily looking.
4. One at a time, add the miso, mirin, and shoyu, and sugar to the mortar, grinding between each addition. Add the dashi and continue mixing until the mixture has the texture of humus. Add more dashi if needed. Check the seasoning, and add salt if you like.
5. To serve, toss the vegetable with the dressing. Break the reserved walnuts into small pieces and garnish the salad with them.
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