I have always been a tiny bit obsessed with vegetables. Tiny as in, quite obsessed. So when I constantly hear about making sure your meals are filled with non-starchy vegetables (a minimum of 50% of your plate), it justifies my obsession. Why so obsessed? No doubt it is twofold. First, I have always loved vegetables, even as a youngster. All these years later, vegetable dishes are still my favorites. Getting creative when preparing vegetables keeps them interesting and appetizing, for any meal, any time. A somewhat secret ingredient I have recently discovered is miso. Miso manages to turn even the simplest of veggie dishes into a delectable treat.

Why miso? Nutritionally speaking, miso is rich in essential minerals and a good source of various B vitamins, vitamins E, K and folic acid. As a fermented food, miso provides the gut with beneficial bacteria. When our guts are healthy and happy, we are healthy and happy. True fact, our gut health is linked to our overall mental and physical wellbeing. Quite the win-win situation.

But what exactly is miso? Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans. The soybeans are mixed with salt and koji, a mold that’s also used to make sake (no wonder why it is so tasty ;). The blend might also include barley, rice, rye or other grains. The mixture ferments anywhere from a couple months to years, developing its intense, savory flavor. The color, aroma, and taste of miso varies based on where it’s made, the proportion of soybeans to koji, and the fermentation time and conditions. There are actually over a 1,000 different types of miso, so how do you know which to choose?

Sweet miso (or white miso) is lighter in color and milder in flavor. This makes it more versatile as an ingredient to add to dressings, marinades, soups and sauces. Dark miso (often labeled as red or brown miso) is created with a longer fermentation time, higher salt content, and proportionally more soybeans to koji. This makes dark miso a saltier and more intense ingredient, with quite a noticeable pungency!

One tablespoon of miso paste is approximately 40 calories, a gram of fat, 5 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of protein, and 746 grams of sodium. Yes, high in sodium if you were to indulge in an entire tablespoon by yourself, but most dishes contain about a tablespoon for the entire dish, which breaks down to much less per serving. Needless to say, you do not need to add more salt to a dish when working with miso.

Since you only need a small amount per use, the good news is that miso can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator indefinitely. It may get darker or denser over time, but it will not change its flavor.

White miso is best for vegetable dishes. Experiment and have fun with how much miso seems best for you. Nervous? Start small — maybe a teaspoon, but don’t hold back either. It is a delectable zinger you will be happy to have added to your ingredient toolbox. Yes, it is time to move beyond miso soup.

Keep in mind, any veggie dish can be made into a main meal with the addition of protein and whole grain…with the 50/25/25 balance!

Before and After — with some sunshine

MISO MEDITERRANEAN VEGETABLE ROAST

Roasted vegetables are so easy to throw together on a rimmed baking sheet. However, I love this creation as it is just as appealing to the eye, as the stomach. You could use a round or rectangular casserole dish. This is a great dish to make ahead for company, or just to eat all week with your family or save for yourself :).

INGREDIENTS
1 medium eggplant
2 large heirloom tomatoes
1 medium red onion
1 large zucchini
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon white miso paste
2 Tablespoons each: chopped fresh dill, fresh parsley, fresh basil
freshly ground pepper to taste

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice eggplant, tomatoes, onion and zucchini into thin circles. Place all in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar and miso. Pour mixture over veggies and toss well. Start layering all the vegetables in casserole dish — suggested order: eggplant, zucchini, red onion, tomato. Repeat in a circle or rows until all veggies are in dish. Sprinkle with half of herbs.

Place dish in oven and roast for 50–60 minutes, until onion is lightly browned and fork easily goes into veggies. Sprinkle remaining herbs and freshly ground pepper. Serve either hot or at room temperature.

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

MISO GINGER BRUSSEL SPROUTS

In my opinion, you can never get enough roasted Brussel sprouts. They are readily available almost year-round, yet their peak season is from early Fall through Winter. Besides their complex flavor and unique crunch, they are a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium and fiber. The miso adds a wonderful tang to this delectable dish.

INGREDIENTS
1 pound whole Brussel sprouts, cut into thirds (yup, a cross between shredded and halved, creating the perfect spoonful)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon miso paste
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (TJ’s brand — a favorite)
1/2 teaspoon honey

PREPARATION
Place large iron skillet over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and use a fork to spread evenly throughout skillet. Whisk together miso paste through honey in a large bowl. Add the prepared Brussel sprouts and stir until well covered. Pour Brussel sprout mixture into skillet and cook for about 7–8 minutes, or until Brussel sprouts are slightly browned on edges. Makes 4–5 side dish servings. (Or, 2 main dish servings with a protein on top!) Serve with fresh lemon slices, if desired.

MISO KALE SALAD

Kale salad is always a nutrient-dense choice with the amount of vitamins A, K and C packed in there, as well as a nice change up from other salad greens. The need to massage these tougher greens first can surely be a turn off, but if you go with a warm kale salad — just microwave the greens for 2 minutes — no massaging needed, no nutrients lost. The miso dressing adds an awesome flavor to this superfood.

INGREDIENTS
1 large bunch of fresh kale, washed and stems removed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons miso paste
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic, or 1 clove
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
3–4 Tablespoons vegetable broth, low sodium
freshly ground pepper to taste

PREPARATION
Chop prepared kale into bite size pieces and place in large microwaveable bowl. Microwave for two minutes and stir well. Set aside.

Pour balsamic vinegar through broth into blender. Blend until well mixed. Pour about half of dressing over kale, mix well and sprinkle with fresh black pepper to taste. That is it — or you could add any desired nuts, cheese or protein. Makes two servings with dressing left over for your next one.

MISO FAIRYTALE EGGPLANTS

These fit right into the palm of your hand. Just slice in half lengthwise and grill or sauté with a touch of olive oil. Serve with a sprinkle of extra dressing from the kale salad :).

Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them. ~ Author Unknown

For comments, thoughts, requests or anything else you feel the need to share, please do: amysmargulies@gmail.com

A nutrition expert and middle child, I am writing to promote health and wellbeing, recipes and tips in a relatable, slightly rebellious fashion.

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