Bored with the same-old-same-old supper? Food writer Chris Perrin is back with a new recipe, and a new ingredient to challenge our cooking comfort zones — not seitan this time, but the mysterious miso… Chris has a cook’s certification from the Kansas City Culinary Institute, is a columnist for BIAO Magazine and at many foodie websites, and is hard at work on a vegan cookbook.
Enjoy!   ~ Jen

chris perrinYellow Miso

A lot of people ask me why I do not eat meat. I think they expect me to launch into a diatribe about how meat is murder and animal rights. No one ever expects me to reply “Because I love to cook.”

I cannot say I am unsympathetic to moderate animal righters, but at the same time there are so many other, equally valid reasons for adopting a veg*n diet: economic, environmental, and health reasons top this list, but I think my favorite still has to be how much I have learned about the art of cooking.

To this end, when I became vegan, one of the first things I did was make a list of new ingredients and started cooking with them. This list included things like tempeh (fermented soy beans), parsnips (which I had never had), celeriac (an Emeril favorite), and Durian (don’t, just don’t.)

Photo: Schellack

So here is my challenge to you: Live the spirit of me (as a vegan) and try something new tonight. You can even cook meat! Although, if you really want to set yourself up for a challenge, try to cook a completely vegan meal. No milk, no cream, no butter, no eggs…just weeds and grass! Well, maybe some fruits or veggies.

The last time I went looking for a new ingredient, I ended up with a container of yellow miso, which looks approximately nothing like I thought it would and smells far worse than I could have imagined. Still, when cooked, it becomes mild, a little salty, a little sweet, but comfortingly earthy.

Try this dish, which uses eggplant and miso together. Serve over basmati rice for a satisfying meal.

Miso Eggplant Bowls

4 Japanese eggplant or one medium-sized eggplant, cut into cubes
1 medium onion, cut into 1 inch squares
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, cut into quarter thick slices
1 tablespoon of Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon of corn starch
6 tablespoons of vegetable broth
2 tablespoons of yellow miso
½ tablespoon of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

If you have time, start by coating the eggplant in salt and letting it rest for an hour. This will pull out the some of the moisture and make it more firm. After an hour, use a paper towel to knock the salt off and pat the eggplant dry. Omit salt from the rest of the recipe.

Into a skillet over high heat, put the olive oil and the onions. Sauté until they start to turn translucent. Add the carrot and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Put the eggplant into a bag with the rice wine and the cornstarch and shake to coat. The rice wine will add a little acid to the dish and help preserve the color of the eggplant’s skin. Add the eggplant to the dish and sauté until soft all the way through, which can take 7-10 minutes.

Add the broth, the miso, and the sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens to your liking.

For more of what is going in Chris’ lunchbox, on his dinner table, and on his party menus, as well as thoughts on food and culture, food in the media, and even the occasional recipe featuring meat, check out Chris’ food blog, Blog Well Done.

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