Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Ingredients: Miso, Kabocha, and Shitake

Making bento has really inspired me to try new foods, especially Japanese ones! While at the Korean market a few weeks ago, I picked up a big tub of white miso, a smallish kabocha squash, and a package of fresh shitake mushrooms. I had been reading about miso on Just Hungry and although I have had miso soup at Japanese restaurants, I have never tried cooking with it. For my first miso attempt, I modified this recipe and simmered some cubes of kabocha in a miso, ginger, garlic, soy, and brown sugar broth. After just 15 minutes, the squash was delightfully tender and almost creamy. The broth was addictive and I couldn't stop drinking it straight from the pot!

Next, I used the miso to flavor a stir-fry of pork and shitake mushrooms. While the miso by itself had an overwhelmingly salty flavor (and this is the mild kind!), the saltiness was toned down nicely when blended with the rest of the ingredients. I combined the miso pork stir-fry with the kabocha in a variety of ways:

kabocha, curry tuna onigiri, miso pork/shitake, grape tomatoes, seckel pear (so cute and tiny!)

miso pork/shitake, kabocha, furikake mixed onigiri on a bed of edamame

pork/shitake and kabocha with soba in miso broth

Finally, I made a dish to showcase the fresh shitakes - mushroom risotto with shitake, button mushrooms, lots of shallots, and fresh thyme. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough arborio rice so I added some short-grain Japanese rice and some of the kernels didn't seem to cook enough so some bits were extra chewy! Whoops...

Top: bratwurst, tomato/mozzarella skewers
Bottom: mushroom risotto
Side: raspberry cookies and freeze-dried mango

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