by Kate Heyhoe
Shopping for miso can be perplexing. Exactly which miso should you buy? It comes in so many varieties. If you're not yet a miso connoisseur and don't plan to cook with it often, then most likely you'll want to start off with a "white miso"— what I consider to be a general, all-purpose miso. But before you start searching for a packet of lily-white colored bean paste (which is what miso is), realize that you'll actually need to look for a yellow-colored substance. White miso is not white at all.
Made from fermented soybeans, salt and usually rice or barley, Japanese miso adds a strong, savory flavoring to foods. All miso's are salty, but the red or brown miso known as akamiso is exceptionally salty. White miso, the yellow-colored stuff known as shiromiso, is somewhat salty but is valued for its sweetness. You can also find miso made from whole-grain barley, soy and various seasonings, such as vegetables, shiso leaves, sansho pepper, ginger and other flavors.
The white miso sauce in this recipe adapts well to all sorts of foods, including baked fish, chicken, and even salads. Adjust the sugar and vinegar amounts to vary the flavors accordingly. You can also use water or chicken broth to thin the mixture instead of sake, but the sake adds its own delightful and subtle flavor to the mix and helps act as a flavor conductor for all the ingredients.
2 tablespoons "white" miso
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sake
3 to 4 Japanese eggplants (about 10 to 12 ounces)
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
2 tablespoons peanut oil (or canola oil)
Heat the broiler.
Mix together the miso, rice vinegar, sugar and sake and set aside.
Trim the eggplants and cut them into chunks, about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in size. (I prefer to roll cut them to expose more flesh.)
Heat the oil in an oven-proof skillet until very hot. Add the eggplant and ginger and stir. Cook until the eggplant browns slightly on the sides and softens slightly but still has some body. Stir in the miso sauce and cook a few minutes, until the eggplant is cooked through. Place the pan under the broiler and cook until the top lightly browns. Serve with a mild dish such as chicken or fish, steamed white rice and a cucumber salad to cut the richness.
To roll cut:
Slice across an eggplant horizontally, then make your next cut diagonally, to expose more flesh. Roll the eggplant 1/2 turn, then cut horizontally again. Repeat the alternating horizontal and diagonal cuts until all the eggplant is sliced.
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