Another Zen Temple Favorite

I got to my in-box one morning to discover an email from my pal Paul in Florida with a link to a Google book called “The Book of Miso.” The book had been written in the 1970s, published originally as one of those old timey paper editions, one would have to assume. It was filled with the line drawings popular with cookbooks of that era.

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 8.10.03 AM

“You probably already have it but it is new to me,” Paul said. People often mistakenly assume that I have every piece of information on cooking ever published. I do not.

The first part of the book, “What is Miso?” stretched for some 45 pages and included a treatise on soybeans and the world hunger crisis, as well as a large section on “The Miracle of Fermentation.” (I agree.) At page 47 we finally got into the “Getting Started” portion of the second part of the book and the one that most interested me, Cooking with Miso.

Guy lost in wonder at the miracle of fermentation

Guy lost in wonder at the miracle of fermentation

After another dozen pages on “Oriental Cooking Tools” and preliminary preparation techniques, the recipes began. The first one I noticed was “Miso walnuts,” which was under the heading of Toppings. The book suggested it was a favorite of “Zen temple restaurants.” It was a simple affair — toast some walnuts in a little oil, add miso paste, saké, water and honey, and cook down.

I went into the kitchen, got out some walnuts, and got to work. In about 3 minutes, I had made the miso walnuts, which, between the red miso paste I had in the fridge and the honey, came out a beautiful shiny ochre. They tasted as good as they looked — sweet, briny, toasty, slightly bitter. And though I’m sure they would make a delicious topping, I found them wonderfully adequate as a snack on their own, the perfect starter with a cup of saké to a Japanese dinner.

Miso walnuts with saké reflecting the winter sky

Miso walnuts with saké reflecting the winter sky

Further perusing led to other promising recipes like pumpkin miso soup, apple and onion curry with deep fried tofu and miso (!), mushroom casserole with miso, even desserts — and such surprisingly contemporary-sounding dishes as grilled cheese with miso garlic bread and lemon-mustard miso dressing (suddenly Nobu didn’t seem so groundbreaking anymore.)

The third and last part of the book was dedicated to the Preparation of Miso, and gave detailed instructions on how to make miso at home that included charts, sketches of the tools you would need, and mathematical formulas. I steered clear of that section.

Miso regions, just in case you were curious

Miso regions, just in case you were curious

Here, then, is my version of the “Book of Miso” miso walnuts. I use less miso for a subtler taste — after all, it’s not the 1970s anymore.

And if you’d like to check out the book yourself, here’s the link.


*    *    *

Miso walnuts
serves 4 as a snack/appetizer

1 cup walnuts
1 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. saké or mirin
1 tbsp. miso paste
1 tbsp. honey

Place the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts and toast for a minute or two, shaking pan frequently.

Add remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring or tossing, for another couple minutes, until liquid has good away and walnuts are appearing glazed and somewhat dry.

Remove from heat and serve.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dragnfli
    Feb 14, 2014 @ 03:42:43

    I shall ad this to my ” that sounds yummy, must try one day” list. You know the one, where there are too many recipes and too little time… It really does sound good though.


  2. linnetmoss
    Feb 14, 2014 @ 13:59:41

    I have this book too;) Yummy.


  3. pal-O
    Feb 15, 2014 @ 21:07:17

    Experimenting with the baked cauliflower & miso tonight and taking me chances in unknown waters, I’m going in . . . wish me luck! pal-O


  4. Michelle
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 01:20:20

    Funny! But, really, that sounds like one of the better cookbooks to come out of the Seventies. Those nuts sound delicious. I am going to have to try them.


  5. Jessamine in PDX
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 02:37:24

    Those look like a tasty little bar snack! The apple and onion curry also sounds intriguing.


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