Miso adds a beautiful layer of flavor to so many dishes

  • This veggie soup is made with miso, adding a umami kick to the soup's silky texture.

      This veggie soup is made with miso, adding a umami kick to the soup's silky texture. M. Eileen Brown | Staff Photographer

Posted5/4/2022 6:00 AM

Please don't judge me, but I own a miso muddler.

Yes, I've become the gadget girl when it comes to kitchen thingamajigs. It was the only way to survive the relentless drudgery of having to cook all day, every day during the pandemic. Many Fed Ex deliveries later, I am now the proud owner of any number of culinary "tools" -- from an avocado slicer to a spiralizer to herb scissors.


For instance, some were clearly mistakes -- the impossible-to-clean pancake pen, but others have been game-changers. If you don't own a fish spatula, get one now. You can use it for everything!

My most recent purchase was a miso muddler, which, I have to say, is more useful than you might imagine. (Think peanut butter or anything paste-like, as well as miso.) You can easily scoop, measure and whisk all in one swoop.

More to the point, miso is actually a great secret ingredient that adds a wonderful layer of flavor to any number of dishes. If you haven't used it before, miso is a fermented soybean paste, which comes in three "colors," including red, yellow and white. The darker the color, the more intense the flavor.

White miso, which has been fermented the least, has a more mellow, nutty flavor and is a wonderful addition to any number of dishes. I often make a paste of equal parts white miso, maple syrup, rice vinegar, vegetable oil and sriracha to coat my salmon before baking it in the oven. Delish!

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It is also a great way to take a simple soup to a whole different level. This vegetable soup recipe, for instance, includes white miso and store-bought pesto. The miso adds a rich umami taste, while the pesto gives it a nice herby flavor and slightly velvety texture.

Play with both amounts by starting slow and seeing how you like the flavors. Despite the saltiness of the miso, you still may need to add salt, but remember, both the pesto and the Parmesan are going to be salty as well.

Once you start playing with these, you'll begin to see the possibilities miso has to offer. Who knows? You might even feel the need to buy yourself a miso muddler. Or not.

• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's vice president of sales and marketing and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com/.


Green Veggie Soup With Miso

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 leeks, white and pale green parts, cut into ¼-inch-thick rings, separated and washed

2 carrots, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons pesto (more to taste)

2 zucchini, cut into ¼-inch half-moons

1 cup short pasta (like ditalini or small penne)

2 cups baby spinach

1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen peas

1-3 tablespoons white miso (more to taste)

Grated Parmesan, for serving

In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the leeks and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pesto and cook for about 20 seconds. Add the zucchini and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Salt the water, add the pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta. Stir the pasta, spinach, beans and peas into the soup. Simmer until the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk the miso with ¼ cup of warm water; stir into the soup. Season the soup with salt and pepper as needed. Serve and top with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan.

Serves 4

Adapted from Rachael Ray In Season

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