Miso. Carrot. Sesame.

I can’t really explain what sort of diet Chris and I have been on lately. I suppose it isn’t a diet, rather it’s just a newer way of eating that we’ve had to implement.

The basic premise is that we try to eat as light and as healthy as possible during the week, because the weekend is always a caloric disaster. Pretty simple, right?

I’ve said this a zillion times – the food here in San Francisco is undeniably better than any food in any city I’ve ever lived (or visited for that matter). Maybe that’s a bold statement, but living here for almost a year and a half has given me a little time to audition the city’s food, and it’s true. We take full advantage of it, too. If we aren’t going out with local friends, we’re showing visitors our favorite spots instead.

For example, this past weekend my sis-in-law and her husband were visiting, and we went to Flour+Water (tasting menu!), got ice cream, and had some of the city’s best Ramen, bubble tea, and a slice of a porchetta sandwich – all in two days’ time. Oh, and Nopalito, but that goes without saying when visitors are here.

So, to help both our waistlines and our wallets, we’ve made it a point to try to stay in during the week, and to make really smart choices when we do so. That generally means a lot of vegetarian eating, including a lot of healthy grains, egg dishes, and kale – typically in salad form. Now, some of you may not like kale. I guess that’s understandable, but hopefully there is some sort of green aside from iceberg lettuce that you do like. I’ve become a huge fan of the following mix: kale, shaved brussels sprouts (which I used to despise, but now, they have a sweet spot in my heart), and spinach.

The greens alone create the most perfect trifecta. Sure, I switch them around some here and there, but generally, those are included in the mix. A few sprinkles of shaved coconut, a sprinkle of sunflower or pumpkin seeds, a handful of dried fruit and a couple of chopped apples? You almost have the best kale/whatever green salad you want that you could ask for.

But one thing’s missing. One thing of utmost importance. One thing to bring it all together, to make a salad seem like so much more than a salad. And that’s this dressing. I promise you, it is so totally worth a search for the miso paste (or a click here for a bulk version). Salty and tangy, it pairs nicely with toasty sesame oil, and the slight sweetness added by agave nectar (or even honey) makes a perfectly balanced dressing. I’m sure it would be great on things other than salad, but for me, it begs to be tossed into the mixture I described above.

The fact that I’m writing about salad dressing for an entire blog post should be proof enough that this is an amazing dressing, but if you need one more urging, I’ll say it again. This here, friends, is an a-ma-zing dressing.

Miso, Carrot, & Sesame Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit, makes 1 1/2 cups

toss this dressing over a mixture of greens (we prefer kale, any kind) and add whatever you like. We make a habit of eating the following combo: kale, shredded coconut, raisins, fresh chopped apples, and a handful of nuts/seeds. If you use kale or any other sturdy green, give the dressing time to settle into the salad. You can even make it the night before for a lunch salad, and with kale at least, there’s not wilty action.

p.s. – I usually double this recipe and the dressing will last for a week or two, as long as your ingredients are fresh.

time commitment: 10 minutes

printable version

ingredients
1/2 c white miso
5 T canola oil
1/4 c finely grated peeled carrot
2 T finely grated peeled ginger
2 T unseasoned rice vinegar
1 T roasted white sesame seeds, optional
2 t toasted sesame oil
2 t honey or agave nectar

instructions
Place all ingredients plus 1/4 cup water in a resealable container. Cover and shake vigorously until well combined. Add more water to thin out, if desired.

Miso Hungry

Do you ever have those moments when you realize that you’ve done something really, really dumb? You know, like when you go to wash your face in the shower and realize you just poured conditioner into your hands. And to make it worse, you haven’t shampooed yet, so you can’t just go on and condition, so as not to waste.

Or when you walk up to the counter to pay for your coffee and realize you left your wallet in the car. Or worse – at home? They don’t really let you wash dishes to earn your coffee/food like people say they do. But sometimes they are nice and they let you slide, or pay them next time.

I don’t have a gym membership anymore, but when I did, there were plenty of times when I’d get showered and ready for work at the gym, only to find that I’d neglected to pack a bra. Let’s just say that sweaty sports bras have no place in the professional world, or at least they shouldn’t have…

Hopefully you’ve all been there a time or two as well. Or at least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Food-wise, I’ve done plenty of silly things in the kitchen. Last night even, I was making pizza, and I must have spread the dough too thinly because when the pizza came outta the oven, it definitely didn’t come off the pan. We were left picking chunks, some charred and some gooey, off the pan instead of sitting down to perfectly cooked pieces of pie.

I’ve already told you about the time I forgot to take the tie off of the soba noodles, and ended up with goops of noodles. And yeah, there are plenty of others, I’m sure.

The worst though, is when you finally use an ingredient, one that you’ve heard about, read about, and for whatever reason, never bought yourself, and you LOVE it. At least for me, I think of all those months and years I could have used said ingredient, enjoyed said ingredient, shoved said ingredient into my face. Avocadoes are one such ingredient, and I’ve tried to make up for lost time.

Miso is another. Oh, baby. Be still, my heart.

Since my discovering miso, oh, 1 month ago, there has been miso-glazed chicken, miso-curry vegetables, and now this – a rice salad with miso vinaigrette. Vinaigrette! Miso, where have you been all my life?! It is extra-salty, but nutty in a way, too. Decadent, but pretty healthy since it’s really just fermented soybeans, usually. Umami for sure comes to mind. And just plain freakin’ awesome.

Don’t be like me – don’t read about this great-sounding miso-laden recipe and turn the other cheek. You’ll regret it 5 years later when you finally do come around. Live for now, and get thee to the Asian aisle of your grocery store and get this.

Wild Rice Salad w/ Miso Dressing
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen; serves 4

printable version

time commitment: 1 hour (for cooking rice, which can be done in advance. if so, time commitment drops to 20 minutes or less.)

this is a great, versatile recipe that can be served warm or cold. I’m so into miso dressing lately that I made this again since I had all of the ingredients on hand except the carrots, which is used in the original recipe instead of butternut squash. Feel free to use either one – if you do choose the carrots (1-2 cups, sliced), you can skip the sauté part and throw the carrots in with the edamame after the tofu is sautéed, just to heat them up a little and take away some of the hard crunch of the fresh carrot. Also, I threw in the arugula to “bulk up” the salad a little and make this dish stretch to four servings instead of 3.

ingredients
salad
1/2 c wild rice
14 oz. block extra firm tofu
2 t coconut oil
1 small butternut squash, cut into 1″ pieces
2 t soy sauce
fresh ground pepper
3/4 c cooked, shelled, edamame
1 large handful of baby arugula
3 T toasted sesame seeds
chopped cilantro, for garnish

dressing
2 T white (shiro) miso
2 T agave nectar
1 T sesame oil
2 1/2 T rice vinegar
1 shallot, minced
Juice of half an Orange

instructions
Rinse the wild rice. Bring two cups water to a boil. Add the rice, turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 35-40 minutes), adding a bit more water if necessary to finish cooking. You will see a tuft of white pop from the center of the rice.

Meanwhile, drain the tofu of excess water. I like to wrap it in a dish towel and sit something really heavy on top of it for about 10 minutes. Cut it into a 1” dice. Heat the coconut oil over medium high heat – a cast iron skillet would work great, but any skillet will do. Add the butternut squash and sauté for about 7 minutes, then add the tofu and saute for about five minutes. Sprinkle the soy sauce and a few grinds of fresh pepper over the top and saute another few minutes until the edges are browned, adding the edamame at this point as well. Turn off heat and set aside, letting cool as much as possible.

To make the dressing, whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Then, in a large bowl, combine the rice, tofu, squash, and edamame. Toss everything with the dressing. Add the arugula, sesame seeds, and cilantro and give it another toss. Serve room temperature or chilled.