So dinner tonight was the Miso-Ginger Red Beans and Broccoli, which marked the first time I have cooked with miso. The recipe called for "dark miso," so I figured there was some little package waiting for me in a natural food market that would be labeled as such. How wrong I was played out through three different grocery stores and an adventure with a helpful stockboy.
First of all, for anyone who has never used miso, it is not shelf stable. I probably could have found it at Whole Foods if I had bothered to ask someone who would have known to look in the refrigerator, thus saving the 2nd and 3rd store forages. I don't know why (probably because every recipe I've ever seen using miso instructs you to dissolve it in water) but I figured it was a dry powder or boullion. I looked near the spices, I looked at various sections of international foods, and could not find it. Finally, a helpful (if clueless) young man stocking shelves at a small hippie store near my home asked if I needed help and I explained my plight. He took me to the refrigerator and showed me the vast array of misos (smudgy stuff confined to tubs and jars) then went off to find someone who would know what makes miso "dark." We never did figure that out, but I left with some dark brown sludge in a take-away container and turned it into tonight's dinner.
I became concerned while cooking, because it didn't smell how I expected it to smell. Once I added the miso "gravy" it was extremely pungent and a little closer, but not quite there. To be blunt, I was a little worried dinner was going to be a failure, and wouldn't even tell my husband what I was making (although, I like to surprise him, so I don't normally tell him anyway, actually). We sat down to eat and I was astonished - it was SO good. It was so good that Mister took a second helping and Angst thought he wanted some, too! It wasn't the most attractive thing I have ever made, but the contrast of the bright green broccoli against the tiny, burgundy Aduki beans I used (first time for them, too) was nice. The miso gravy dulled the colors a little, but what can you do?