Miso, tahini and nut paste for broiled or baked root vegetables

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From the archives. This is a terrific vegan condiment of sorts, that can be used as described here on top of vegetables and roasted, or even as an onigiri filling. Originally published in January 2008.

I'm always looking out for interesting vegan sources of protein, and I think this one is really a winner. It's a rich paste that contains miso, walnuts, and tahini - three terrific protein-rich foods. But never mind the nutrition aspect - it tastes terrific! Even the confirmed omnivore in our house loves it. It is a wonderful topping for firm, sweet root vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash, turnips and so on. I've used it as a topping for carrots here. It looks rather meaty in a bento box, and is quite filling too.

I found the original in a cookbook from an author I am currently in love with, Yumiko Kano, called _Saisai Gohan_ (Vegetable Meals), a book that I've mentioned before.

I did alter the recipe a little bit: I found the original version a bit too salty, so I reduced the amount of miso proportionately. I used tahini instead of toasted sesame, to give it a slightly more pasty texture to compensate for the reduced miso.

Choose a fairly low-salt miso for this if you can. I used a genmai miso (brown rice miso) which has a little texture and extra flavors. Gluten sensitive people can make this gluten-free by choosing the appropriate miso.

It keeps for about a week or so in the refrigerator, or longer well wrapped in the freezer. It's a great bento staple to have around.

Miso, tahini and walnut paste

  • 4 Tbs. miso
  • 4 Tbs. tahini or other sesame seed paste (in Japan use nerigoma, 練りごま)
  • 4 to 5 Tbs. of finely chopped walnuts (I find it's about 4 whole kernels per tablespoon. You could also use pecans or almonds.)
  • 2 Tbs. of the white part of a leek, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. of finely chopped fresh ginger

You can do the chopping part the easiest in a food processor, especially if you have a small bowl or 'baby food' attachment. Otherwise, do the chopping by hand.

Combine all the ingredients well. Store well covered in the refrigerator for up to a week, or divide into small portions (about a tablespoon) and freeze.

Baked carrot slices with miso, tahini and walnut paste

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of the miso-nut paste
  • About 10-12 1 cm / 1/2 inch thick carrot slices from the wide part of the carrot (you can save the tapered end parts for another dish)
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 430 °F.

Put the carrot slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes until the carrots are tender.

Spread the miso paste over the carrots. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or so until the tops are browned.

This can be made in advance, and keeps pretty well in the refrigerator for a few days. You can make it in quantity if you like and freeze it too. The best way to defrost them is to nuke them for a few minutes then pop them in a toaster oven for a couple of minutes. Alternatively, you can use precooked or frozen vegetables, put the paste on top, and broil in the toaster oven - though baking the vegetables really brings out their sweetness the best.

You can use winter squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, and other root vegetables instead of the carrots. Potatoes might be ok too but I prefer to use a vegetable with a little sweetness.

For a spicy variation you can use kochujang or spicy Korean bean paste, which is described in detail here.

Use as an onigiri filling

To use as an onigiri filling, toast 1/2 tablespoon of the paste in a dry nonstick frying pan for a few minutes until it starts to smell really nice. Cool and use to fill your onigiri.