Miso-Sesame Salad Dressing

I suppose it only makes sense to follow a cookie recipe with a salad recipe. Or rather a salad dressing recipe. You guys have already seen a couple of recipes on this blog from America’s Test Kitchen’s “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.” It has quickly become one of my absolute favorite cookbooks as well as my chief partner in meal planning.

Each week, we get a box of local produce delivered by our CSA. (All winter long! Pinch me!) After sorting through the offerings, I usually flip to the index of this cookbook and decide what meals I want to make for the week. I almost always receive some sort of heirloom lettuce, which gets to be tiresome week after week. So I’ve been working my way through various salad dressing recipes. This miso-sesame dressing has emerged as a favorite so far. It’s savory and salty and garlicky and gingery, and I had to hold myself back from eating it by the spoonful because that’s embarrassing, right?

Given the flavor profile, this dressing goes well with Asian-inspired salad ingredients. I tossed it with a mixture of butter lettuce and tatsoi, carrots, edamame, green onions, and some homemade sesame-crusted croutons. And then I ate it pretty much every day for a week. So good.

Miso-sesame salad dressing

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Miso-Sesame Dressing

  • 6 Tbs. water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 7 tsp. red miso paste*
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbs. neutral-tasting oil (I used sunflower seed oil)
  • 1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil

Place water, vinegar, miso, soy sauce, honey, ginger, and garlic in a blender and blend until the mixture is well combined, about 15 seconds. Add oils and blend until the oils are incorporated and the dressing is smooth, about 15 seconds.

Makes about 1 cup.

Dressing can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Source: Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.”

* I couldn’t find miso paste at my regular grocery store, so I ordered it online. There are several different types of miso paste so make sure you get the red one; it has a much deeper flavor. Don’t worry if it comes in a large container; the stuff lasts forever in the fridge. Plus, you can always make miso brown rice cakes!

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Miso Brown Rice Cakes

When it comes to cooking, I always want to try something new. I rarely make the same thing for dinner twice within a six-month span. I keep a spreadsheet of recipes I’ve tried and loved because I make things so infrequently that I actually forget about them. There are so many amazing recipes out there that I can’t fathom making the same thing over and over again. Not when there are new recipes to try!

I will admit this character flaw trait can be quite annoying. You love something that I cooked for you? Too bad, you probably won’t see it again for half a year. But some recipes are good enough to shake up my system. The minute I took a bite of one of these miso brown rice cakes (which I admit sound totally boring) I immediately wanted to make them for dinner the next night. And the next night. I even ate one cold straight out of the fridge the following day because I couldn’t wait any longer to taste them again.

This recipe has gone into heavy rotation for me, meaning I made it twice within four weeks. The cakes are really savory thanks to mushrooms and miso paste, and a spoonful of spicy mayo kicks up the flavor even more. With a side of sautéed green beans or a salad, you have yourself a hearty vegetarian meal that you’ll want to eat again and again. Trust me.

Miso brown rice cakes

Miso Brown Rice Cakes

  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 Tbs. olive or sunflower seed oil, divided
  • 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 3 3/4 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • salt
  • 3 Tbs. red miso paste*
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • pepper

Gently remove the stems of the shiitake mushrooms by holding the cap in one hand and pulling the stem with the other, near where the stem meets the cap. Discard the stems and roughly chop the shiitakes.

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in a cup of the water or stock and scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining water, rice, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer, covered, for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. The rice is done when it’s tender and all the water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together miso paste, green onions, sesame oil, egg and egg yolk, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

Spread the cooked rice onto a rimmed baking sheet and let cool for 15 minutes. Transfer the cooled rice to a food processor (working in batches if your food processor is small) and chop for about 10 seconds, or until the rice is coarsely chopped and the mixture is sticky. Transfer the rice to the large bowl with the miso mixture and stir until everything is well combined. Shape the mixture into eight patties, about 3-4 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick.

Place the patties onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until firm.

Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Transfer four of the chilled rice cakes to the skillet and cook until browned, flipping once, for 2-4 minutes on each side. Be careful when you flip the cakes, as they can be a bit delicate, so don’t try to flip them until you know the bottom side is nicely browned. Transfer the cakes to a plate and cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining 1 Tbs. oil and four more cakes. Serve hot, with a dollop of spicy mayo (see below) on top.

Source: Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.”

* I couldn’t find miso paste at my regular grocery store, so I ordered it online. There are several different types of miso paste so make sure you get the red one; it has a much deeper flavor. Don’t worry if it comes in a large container; the stuff lasts forever in the fridge.

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Spicy Mayo

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 Tbs. lime juice

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl and serve.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.”

Beef and Noodle Stir-fry

One of my favorite classic fables is that of the Town Mouse and Country Mouse. I grew up a bit of a country mouse, and I love the stillness and open skies of the countryside. There’s nothing quite like waking up before the rest of the world, slapping on a pair of tennis shoes, and going for a solitary walk through the morning mists.

But there are certain drawbacks to living in the country. Like getting stuck behind tractors as you drive to school, or not being able to order chinese food delivered to your front door. And now I definitely consider myself to be more of a city mouse. I love the energy and diversity that comes with city living. I enjoy walking everywhere, knowing there are thousands of experiences right at my fingertips.

I love being able to order chinese food for delivery.

Of course, when I find a good stir-fry recipe that’s easy to whip up at home, the town mouse/country mouse divide seems to fade away. At least when it comes to takeout. :)

Beef and noodle stir-fry

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Beef and Noodle Stir-fry

  • 3 Tbs. sesame oil, divided
  • 5 Tbs. soy sauce, divided
  • splash of hot sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 8-10 oz. beef sirloin
  • 8 oz. fresh pasta (or 6 oz. dry)
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbs. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 3 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 oz. fresh spinach
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh chives or 1 Tbs. chopped green onion
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 Tbs. sesame oil, 4 Tbs. soy sauce, a splash of hot sauce, and the crushed garlic. Slice the steak and add it to the bowl, tossing until well-coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Return to pan and toss with 1 Tbs. sesame oil and 1 Tbs. soy sauce.

Stir together cornstarch and 2 tsp. water in a small bowl until dissolved. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add beef and sauté for about three minutes, or until it starts to brown. Remove the beef from the frying pan and set aside. In the same pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until golden, about four minutes. Add the spinach and sauté until it just starts to wilt, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture, cooked beef, and noodles. Sauté everything together until hot and well-coated with sauce, about three minutes.

Garnish with chives and sesame seeds, and serve hot.

Serves 4.

Source: Slightly adapted from Clementine Cuisine.

Nutrition facts (per serving): 355 calories, 20.2 g fat, 20.6 g carbs, 2.0 g fiber, 24.0 g protein.

Lighter Crab Rangoon

I love Chinese food. Especially the midwestern Chinese buffets that also feature soft serve ice cream and Texas toast. (I’m looking at you, Hunan Spring.) But as much as I love Chinese takeout, I recognize that it’s not the healthiest of cuisines. So except for the occasional splurge, most of the Asian food we eat is homemade, letting me control the ingredients and amount of oil used.

I recently found this recipe online and just had to give it a try. It’s good. It’s really good. So good that I’ll probably be making it again for various social events this weekend. Baking the crab rangoon results in perfectly crispy shells, and the oil is not missed one bit. Try ’em! You won’t be disappointed!

(P.S. In case you need more motivation: each crab rangoon is only one Weight Watchers point. Seriously.)

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Asian Noodle Salad

Now that another semester of grad school (for me) and law school (for the BF) have started, I’ve been thinking a lot about portable food. Simple, healthy, and delicious meals we can pack in our lunches. (Or suppers, for those of us with night classes…)

Salads came to mind right away. And then I started daydreaming about the amazing salads at an adorable little cafe in my hometown. Head chef Jennifer makes the most delicious sesame noodle salad that includes whole grains, protein, and good fats. I have no idea what her recipe is, but this one tastes just as delicious. Enjoy!

P.S. I’ve been growing those green onions in a glass of water in my kitchen. They used to be only an inch tall, but look at them now! Maybe I don’t have a “black thumb” after all!

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