Before testing this recipe, Japanese miso was something of a mystery to me. I’d had soul-satisfying miso soup at restaurants and knew it is good for you, but I had never purchased the condiment and tried to cook with it.
My search for miso (MEE-soh) — a paste made from fermented soybeans injected with mold and salt then aged until it has the creaminess of peanut butter — started in the ethnic foods aisle. I was mistakenly looking for a tube and coming up with miso soup packets instead. Confused, I asked a store clerk at the health food store if it stocked plain miso. He promptly sent me to the refrigerator case to look for a container the size of a tub of sour cream.
Despite my initial unfamiliarity, The Star’sMiso-Glazed Pan Seared Fish and Vegetables
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is a delicious way to try miso and start integrating it into your diet. A blend of miso, mirin and dark sesame oil creates a glaze that coats your choice of cod, sole or haddock. Serve atop a medley of asparagus, carrots and shiitake mushrooms; it’s a light, colorful and nutritious dish.
Miso is high in sodium but rich in protein (2 grams per tablespoon) and B12, which helps metabolize fats and carbohydrates. Luckily, miso does not taste exceptionally salty, and some studies indicate the body may not process miso in the same way it does other high-sodium foods, but be sure to read the label and consume in moderation.
Since most soybeans in the United States are genetically modified, many health advocates prefer brands that have been organically certified. I used miso Master Organic, a reduced sodium miso that has about 35 percent less sodium.
The reported health benefits of miso are numerous: miso is fermented, so it is a probiotic that aids in digestion, and it is high in isoflavones, food compounds that are thought to be linked to lower rates of breast cancer, heart disease and menopausal symptoms.
Miso comes in various colors and flavors: Yellow is an all-purpose blend, reddish brown and darker blends have a more pungent smell and richer flavor best for heavier dishes, and white is the most delicate.
For the fish, use fresh fillets or frozen, thawed and drained fillets.
Mirin is a sweet rice wine and is found bottled in the Asian food section of most grocery stores. If mirin is not available you can substitute rice wine, or dry white wine. As these wines are not sweet, you may want to add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sugar to the sauce.
Purchase miso at Asian markets or in the Asian section of larger grocery stores as well as natural foods stores. Miso is also good in salad dressings, dips and spreads.
Use a clean spoon to dip out the miso you need, then cover and refrigerate the remaining miso, where it will keep for several months.Miso-Glazed Pan Seared Fish and Vegetables Makes 4 servings 1 tablespoon mirin 1 tablespoon miso 1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil 1 pound cod, sole or haddock fillets, cut into serving size pieces 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided 1 cup sliced shiitake or button mushrooms 2 medium carrots, cut into thin sticks about 1 1/2 by 1/4 inches 8 ounces thin asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
Stir together mirin, miso and sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. Set aside.
Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add carrots and asparagus and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms and carrots and asparagus are crisp tender. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds. Spoon vegetables into a deep platter, cover and keep warm.
Heat remaining oil in the skillet. Add fish and cook 2 minutes. Turn fish over. Drizzle the miso-mirin sauce evenly over the fish and brush lightly to coat it evenly. Cook 2 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Place fish on top of vegetables.Per serving, using cod fillets: 341 calories (16 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 49 milligrams cholesterol, 50 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 85 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber.