In her roundup of cookbooks to give and get this season, Heidi Swanson says that Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh, offers "deliciously authentic, yet approachable recipes coupled with a detailed look at the washoku pantry."
Green Beans Tossed in Creamy Sesame-Miso Sauce (INGEN NO GOMA MISO AE)
See more picks from food writer Heidi Swanson.
12 ounces young green beans
3 tablespoons Creamy Sesame-Miso Sauce (recipe below)
1 1/2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, freshly dry-roasted (technique below) (optional)
Choose the freshest, most tender green beans you can find, preferably those with fuzz still clinging to them. Snap off the stem end, pulling down along the length of the bean to remove any string that might be there. The Japanese keep the pointed (flowering) end intact, though most Americans tend to trim these away.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, add the beans, and blanch for 1 minute, or until bright green but still crisp. Drain the beans but do not refresh them under cold water. Instead, allow them to cool to room temperature natu- rally or cool them by fanning.
If you will be serving the green beans thinly sliced on the diagonal or cut into 1-inch lengths, now is the time to shape them.Toss the cut green beans in the sesame-miso sauce just before serving and divide into individual portions. Coax each portion into a mound. Garnish each serving with sesame seeds to add textural interest, if desired.
Serves 4 to 6.
Creamy Sesame-Miso Sauce
With Ready-Made Paste:
3 tablespoons white sesame paste
3 tablespoons sweet, light miso, preferably Saikyo miso
Pinch of salt, if needed
3 tablespoons basic sea stock
With Freshly Dry-Roasted Sesame Seeds:
1/4 cup white sesame seeds, freshly dry-roasted (see technique below)
2 tablespoons sweet, light miso, preferably Saikyo miso
Scant 1/4 cup basic sea stock
Pinch of salt, if needed
To make with ready-made sesame paste: In a bowl, mix the sesame paste with the miso. Stir or whisk to blend completely. Taste, and if it seems too sweet, adjust the seasoning with the salt. Blend again until smooth. Thin the mixture with some of the stock, one spoonful at a time. As you add the stock, the
sauce will lighten in color.
To make with freshly dry-roasted sesame seeds in a suribachi: To release the nutty aroma of the seeds, crush them while still warm. When they are fully crushed, very aromatic, and look a bit oily, add the miso and continue to grind to combine thoroughly. Drizzle in the stock a bit at a time, grinding further and scraping down to blend after each addition. When the sauce is the consistency of tomato puree, taste it. If it seems too sweet, adjust the seasoning with the salt.
To make with freshly dry-roasted sesame seeds in a food processor: Place the still-warm seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until the seeds are fully cracked. If necessary, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and then pulse again until all the seeds have been evenly crushed. Add half each of the miso and stock and pulse again. Taste and adjust the sweetness with the salt, if necessary. Scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding the remaining miso and stock. Continue to pulse until smooth.
No matter which method you use to make the sauce, transfer it to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. It will keep for up to 3 weeks, though the aroma and texture are best within the first week.
Makes about 1/2 cup.
Dry-Roasting Seeds and Nuts
Heat a small, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and then add the seeds or nuts. Stir occasionally with a wooden spatula or gently swirl the skillet in a circular motion. In about a minute, white sesame seeds will begin to color, as will pine nuts (black seeds will not darken appreciably). All seeds that still have their hull intact may pop as the warm air trapped between the kernel and hull expands. Dry-roasted seeds and nuts become aromatic as their oils are released; as soon as you begin to smell them, remove the skillet from the heat. The skillet retains heat, so seeds and nuts will continue to toast even after the skillet is taken away from the stove. Continue to stir for another 20 to 30 seconds. If the seeds or nuts look in danger of scorching, transfer them to a dish to cool faster. If you will be crushing the seeds or nuts, do so while they are still warm.
Reprinted with permission from Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh. Copyright 2005, Ten Speed Press, www.tenspeed.com.