Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked vegetables

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Quickly blanched or boiled vegetables are great to tuck into bentos, but they can taste quite bland on their own. This walnut and miso paste, a recipe from my mother, has a sweet-savory, deeply nutty flavor that works well with all kinds of plain blanched, steamed or boiled vegetables. It also tastes very fall-like to me because of the walnuts. Just mix a little bit with the vegetables as I’ve done here with the blanched spinach, or put a half-teaspoon or so on top of the vegetable as shown with the green beans, and mix it together when you eat it. I think it works best made in small batches, enough for a week’s worth of vegetable sides, but you can make it in bigger quantities and freeze it if you prefer.

Recipe: Walnut miso for blanched vegetables

Makes about 1/3 cup, enough for several bento-sized vegetable servings

  • 1/2 cup (about 1 oz / 33 g) shelled walnut kernels
  • 1 Tbsp. miso of your choice (I used a dark brown miso made from black soy beans here, but use whatever you have)
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin
  • 1/2 Tbsp. raw cane sugar - regular white sugar is fine, or use the sweetener of your choice (if you’re on a sugar-free regimen use a sugar substitute)

Dry-roast the walnuts in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the kernels start to brown a bit and smell nice and toasty. Remove from the pan before they get burned. Let cool enough to handle, then wrap them up in a paper towel and rub them together until most of the outer skin is removed. Open up the paper towel and remove the skinned kernels. If there’s a bit of skin left on them there’s no problem, but removing most of the skin makes the nutty taste of the walnuts come through better. You can skip the skin-removing step if you like, but don’t skip the toasting part.

Once the walnuts are toasted and skinned, put them in a mortar and pestle, or better yet a food processor with chopping blade, and crush them up as finely as you prefer. I like it to be quite fine with a few small chunks. Add the mirin, miso and sugar and stir well until combined. (If you can’t find or can’t use mirin, either use the same amount of sake with a pinch more sugar, or just leave it out.)

Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. To use, add as much as you like to blanched, boiled or steamed vegetables.

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Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

This sounds so perfect! I'll have to give it a go! :-)

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

I just made this about a minute ago and did not bother with removing the skins from the walnut pieces - too difficult with kids running around! The is recipe is DELICIOUS. Holy cow it is good! I plan on making a double recipe when I use this one up. Thank you so much.

Yum!

It looks really good, reminiscent of sesame dressing.

Myself, I'm going to use up some leftover peanut sauce with veggies in my next bento!

Come visit at Graasland!

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

Hi! I have a question about miso paste. I just bought my first miso paste and found out its 2 months past the "best before" date. Can I not use it at all? Or is it fine for a long time after?

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

You can still probably use it, though if it's still unopened you may want to take it back to the store and get a replacement. Selling things past the best-before date is not too good. Pure miso doesn't really go bad but if it has additives like dashi stock in it it may turn funny eventually. Keep all opened miso in the fridge.

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

My daughter is allergic to walnuts, I am thinking to try almonds, what do you think? Should I blanch to remove the skins or just not worry about them. I know that walnuts have more oil than almonds should I add a bit to keep the same mouth feel? Thanks in advance for your advice. :O)

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

I might try pecans instead of almonds as a replacement for walnuts...they're closer in texture and flavor I think.

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

I think chestnuts might work nicely too, although they are little pricier. You can get them on sale sometimes now in the Autumn.

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

When I attempted it this afternoon I chopped up the ingredients in our food processor, and it resulted in a thick paste. I'm wondering if I should thin it out with a little water or even more mirin when I want to use it on my bento veggies to coat them... or should this really be considered more of a spread?

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

Once you mix it with your veggies, the moisture on the vegetables should thin the paste out just enough. If not, just add a bit of the vegetable cooking water or even plain water.

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

Tried this and it's delicious! However it's a bit too thick to really spread/mix with anything. Any suggestions as to how to thin it?

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

I usually just use a bit of the vegetable cooking liquid. Or if you use it on blanched greens, the moisture on the greens thins it out enough.

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

Just made this yesterday, and today I tried it with green beans. It is so tasty! I don't have a mortar and pestle or a food processor, so I improvised with a metal ice cream scoop and a bowl :-). It came out pretty chunky, but still good. It is so easy to make! I can't quite tell when the walnuts are done, though.

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

I'm too cheap/lazy to buy walnuts, but if you don't mind the smooth texture and don't miss the texture from the smashed walnuts, a few tablespoons of sesame paste tastes pretty decent over blanched spinach

Re: Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked ...

Thank you for this great recipe! I've had a huge tub of white miso sitting in my fridge for months, but I've been too afraid to try and use it in anything prior to reading this. TT.TT Yes, that is sad, but on a brighter note - this is amazingly delicious for being such a simple and humble paste! I took mine to work with a plate of raw vegetables for lunch and found it especially delicious on crunchy, spicy radishes, which provide a great contrast of flavor and texture. I get really tired of eating the same non-dairy veggie spreads - hummus, tahini, variations thereon, blah, I'm done with it; I even used wasabi paste on my carrots when I had to take bentos to a very very hot excavation site every day out of desperation and need for something safe to eat at ninety degrees - but this packs lip smacking umami with irresistible sweetness and has enough body to give my veggies a more complete feeling. You can even skip the toasting step if you want a raw friendly recipe, but the toasted nuts really do amp up the flavor. :D A thousand thank you's for such deliciousness.

Unusual and delicious

I've just made a double-batch, portioned it into a small cube silicone ice tray and popped it in the freezer. I made mine with brown rice miso.

The flavour is rich, salty, nutty, sweet...very unusual but very delicious. I'm looking forward to popping a cube into my lunchbox for times when I have more veggies than salad.

Thanks for bringing such an array of new flavours to me with these recipes, Maki. I've always loved cooking but this has sparked off a whole new chapter for me.

Lush

I've brought this to work in my bento today and just had to comment and say it's fab. Really great flavour with lightly cooked broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. I will be making this regularly.

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