I love beets. Their sweet, earthy essence seems to scare some people away, but not me. I do find it frustrating that the only way that beets are served in restaurants these days is in a salad with feta, chevre, or bleu. The sweetness of the beets is a perfect foil for salty, umami-rich cheese. But why not try another salty, umami-rich food, by adding a little miso? Beet salad will never be the same.
Beet Salads Need an Update
The roasted beet salad appeared on the restaurant scene in the 90’s, like a new kid in town. Italian restaurants started it, then it just infiltrated the zeitgeist. Like sushi and Sriracha sauce, the beet salad is now a fixture on the American dining landscape. But it hardly changes. It’s time to move it forward, and give the goat cheese a rest. It’s time for Miso.
Miso is Magic
In this golden age of fermentation, miso is the perfect way to get the boost of meatiness and saltiness that cheese delivers. Miso is made from protein rich soybeans, and often other beans and grains. The process of fermentation breaks loose amino acids from those proteins, so that your umami-sensing tastebuds can feel them. Suddenly, you’ve got a mouthfeel that is meatier and more satisfying than beets alone. If you leave the miso uncooked, as you will in this dressing, it even packs probiotic bacteria in every savory bite.
Miso-fusion for Flavor
The miso is Japanese, but I see no reason not to keep the cucumbers and basil that go so well with beets in the Italian versions. If you’ve got Thai Basil, that will be even more riotously flavorful, adding an anise-like kick to the final dish. Pickled Ginger is a familiar old friend, and deserves to be seen in more dishes than just sushi.
The great thing about such intensely flavored ingredients it that you hardly need to do anything. Beets, miso, pickled ginger, basil, all powerhouses that will carry the dish, with no need to do anything fancy. It’s almost too easy. If that were possible!
Run and Buy Some Beets
Because it’s summer, and it’s time to let the produce speak for itself, with just a little help from the magic of miso.
Some other beet recipes:
Beets, Cukes and Pickled Ginger in Miso Dressing
- 1 pound beets
- 1/2 large cucumber sliced
- 1/4 cup pickled ginger
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red miso
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Bee Free Honee or agave
- 1/2 cup fresh Thai or Italian basil slivered
- Quarter the beets and steam until tender. Drain and run cold water over the beets as you trim the tops and slip off the skins. Place the cooled beets on a cutting board and slice, then move to a large bowl. Add the cucumber slices and pickled ginger.
- In a cup, combine the olive oil, miso, cider vinegar, bee free honee or agave and stir.
- Serve topped with basil.