Sesame-Miso Green Beans/Sandomame goma-miso ae

It is getting to be that wonderful time of year when all kinds of fresh vegetables are making their way to produce stands and coming out of back yard gardens.  Juicy red tomatoes, full of acid, are my most favorite.  After that, they are all rated No. 2.  I grew up eating vegetables.  It was none of this coaxing and threatening.  There was one simple rule – eat what was offered or make do with bread and milk.  Because I was started on veggies as a toddler, I had no problem with that rule.  A backyard garden added to the appeal of veggies. The garden was not only a source of fresh food for us, it provided us home-canned and frozen veggies to take us through to next garden season. Summer meals often consisted of nothing but vegetables and of course, a big ol’ glass of sweet tea.

As a child, the vegetable garden was often a magical place to play. Warm, soft earth caressed bare feet, tiny frogs hiding under leaves, lady bugs, butterflies, birds pulling worms from the soil or grubs eaten off plants – except time spent with a book, this was one of my favorite places to be and thing to do. I helped weed and pick the vegetables. I was taught respect for the plants, the earth, the food, and the value of hard work and a job well done. A ripe tomato, or cucumber, or a few green beans pulled right from the plant made an excellent snack.

Veggies picked that morning were on the table for lunch and supper that same day.  Garden to table is still the best way.  That isn’t always possible but consuming veggies picked within a few days is next best.  Always choose the freshest you can find of what is in season.  Seasonal fruits and veggies save money and when at their peak, has a flavor that beats frozen/canned/weeks old veggies hands down.  Pulling down the shucks of ears of corn, with dew still on the shucks is a sensual delight.  The silky feel of the husk, the green smell of the husk as it exposes the lush yellow, white, bi-color kernels, the pop of the kernels when you bite into them or slide a paring knife down the ear separating kernels from cob…I can go on and on about corn.  And don’t get me started on tomatoes, okra, squashes, green beans, butter beans, cucumbers…

But I digress.  We started off with a recipe about green beans.  There are many different varieties: blue lake, tender green, Kentucky Wonder, Tenderette, and many more.  Then types: bush, climbing, half runner, flat, pole beans, , Italian, French, and…Hannibal Lecter’s F-f-fava beans .  Different textures, flavors – green beans are not your plain old green side dish.  Barely cooked and bright green and crisp, cooked with bacon or ham or fatback until melt in the mouth and flavored with the meat, pickled (!), cooked in the manner of different cuisines using tomatoes, garlic, sesame, onions, peppers, soy – they bring international flavor to your plain old everyday meal.

I enjoy green beans many different ways.  One of my favorites is quick cooked and then tossed with a creamy sesame and miso sauce.  A plate of these on their own is a quick dinner for me.  Some on the side of teriyaki chicken and rice makes a fancy meal that is not your same old meat, starch, vegetable supper.  Mixing these with freshly made and cooked udon is another of my happy place dishes.

You can find the ingredients in Asian food stores or sometimes, in specialty sections of a grocery store.  If you can’t find the sesame paste, tahini can be substituted and in a pinch, smooth peanut butter, but the taste will be very different. This recipe is fairly common. The version I use comes from the Hakone area.

Sandomame Goma-miso Ae
1 1/2 tablespoons white sesame paste (shiro neri goma)
1 1/2 tablespoons shiro (sweet, white) miso
dash of low sodium soy sauce
good squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Salt, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons daishi or water, or water from cooking green beans
16 ounces green beans, whole or cut into 2 inch pieces or sliced in diagonals
1 1/2 tablespoons white sesame seeds (optional)

In a bowl, mix the sesame paste with the miso, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Stir with wooden spoon or non-reactive whisk to blend completely. Taste, and if it seems too sweet, adjust the seasoning with salt. Blend by hand again until smooth. Thin the mixture with stock or water, one spoonful at a time. Set aside.  Clean the green beans, snapping off the ends. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add the beans and cook for 3 minutes or until bright green. Drain the beans then let cool at room temperature.

Toss the green beans in the sesame-miso sauce just before serving and garnish with sesame seeds. I always like to add a light sprinkle of thinly sliced green onion. Serves 4 (maybe).

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Simple Saturday – Sunomono and Miso Baked Chicken

300px-Sunomono[1]

I buy white miso paste in a tube so I can always have it on hand and keep in the fridge after opening.  This is a yummy dish and tasty any time of year.  In the summer, to avoid oven heat, I will prepare in a well seasoned, oiled cast iron skillet.  I start on medium heat and after about 3 minutes, turn heat to low.  Because of the mirin and sugar content, be aware of food burning easily.  You know your stove so cook accordingly and keep an eye out.  This is also good room temperature.  I slice the chicken and add over mixed greens, julienned carrots and celery, green onion,with a zipper ginger vinaigrette.  This Japanese home cooking at its best.  Something you may not find in a restaurant, but certainly in someone’s home.  You can grill of course, but again, beware of the burn factor.

Sunomono is kept in my fridge all summer for a cool snack or quick cool addition to a meal of anything!  The little Persian cukes, Japanese cukes, or the English cukes work well. If not available, use regular pickling cukes or use standard ones, as thin as possible, with the seeds taken out.  You can also use celery, snow peas, edamame, spinach, or mix a couple of veggies together.  I like with cucumbers best!  Photo courtesy of Wiki Images.

douzo meshiagare, y’all

Sunomono – Cucumber Salad
4 Japanese cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4  – 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame seeds
small sprinkle of chopped cilantro and green onion

Slice cucumbers as thin as you can or use a mandolin or similar slicer. Put in large non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with salt, mixing with your hands. Let sit for about 5 minutes then, using your hands again, squeeze water out of cucumbers (I use my handy dandy Japanese pickle maker for this – you can also view my post on Quickles). Rinse well and squeeze out water.  Discard water. To the rice vinegar,  add soy sauce and  sugar, mixing well. Pour over cucumbers and mix. Let sit in fridge to blend flavors about 30 minutes. Add sesame seeds, cilantro, and green onion. Great small side dish any time of the year.

Miso Baked Chicken/Fish

1/4 cup white Miso paste
3 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp Sake
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
4 chicken thighs (or nice chunk of salmon or other firm fish)

Mix Miso, Mirin, Sake, and sugar (almost kind of sounds like a recipe rap, hey?) in a non-reactive bowl. Marinade chicken thighs (or fish) in marinade for 30 minutes to one hour. You can put the marinade and meat in a plastic bag to marinate as well.
Preheat oven to 425F. take chicken/fish from bag and place on a plate and use a paper towel to wipe excess marinade liquid well from chicken/fish. Place chicken/fish on oiled aluminum foil spread over a sheet pan. Bake for 15 (8 minutes or so for fish). Turn chicken over and bake 10-15 minutes until cooked through.  I like to use chicken wings or chicken breast fillet and garnish with sliced scallion and sesame seeds.  Serve with steamed sticky rice and sunomono.

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