Monday, November 28, 2011

Asparagus with Miso and Almonds, AKA "Not your Mother's Green Bean Casserole"

The following is NOT just a recipe - it's an ADVENTURE!

For Thanksgiving dinner at Brian's sister Terry's house, I was given my annual assignments - Stuffing and Green Bean Casserole. (Both of these have been covered in prior Gourmet Gibbs Blog posts.) This year I wanted to do something novelle with the Green Beans, and Brian found a recipe in "Bon Appetite" that sounded fun - "Green Beans with Miso and Almonds." It kept the standard Green Bean ingredient, but gave it an Asian flare, and I thought - why not try it!

One of the ingredients called for is Miso Paste. I had not heard of this, but the recipe suggested it could be found in natural food stores, Japanese markets, and some better supermarkets. I actually found some at Rock 'n Roll Ralphs in Hollywood, but found a better selection at Whole Foods.

I saved most of my shopping for Thanksgiving morning in Oceanside. I found all the ingredients I needed for Stuffing and for the new Bean dish - all except ONE - GREEN BEANS. Here's a reenactment of my experience at the produce department. I walk up each aisle, and can find no Green Beans. I look in the fresh packaged section for ready to nuke bags of Green Beans, and there are NONE. So I approach the produce lady:

Me: "Where are the fresh Green Beans?" Produce Lady: "We are all out."

Me: "All OUT?" Produce Lady: "Yes, there's a shortage of Green Beans here."

Me: "Would Albertson's have any?" Produce Lady: "I doubt it but you can use the phone up front to call them."

I used my iPhone and called the Albertons - they were completely out, too. So I went back to the produce lady:

Me: "Do you have any of the packaged fresh Green Beans?" Produce Lady: "No. The beans we got in didn't look that great, but they went fast, so I opened the packaged fresh beans and put those out, and those went fast as well."

Me: "Hmph." Produce Lady: "Are you just going to make the standard Green Bean Casserole? You could use frozen."

Me: "Actually, this is the year that I was NOT going to do the Green Bean Casserole."

I explained my recipe, and my hesitation to use frozen Green Beans (they just seem to have both a texture and a flavor that screams: FROZEN!)

Produce Lady: "Sounds interesting. Have you considered Asparagus?" Me: "What a brilliant idea! I love you! Happy Thanksgiving!"

And that's how the traditional Green Bean Casserole became "Not Your Mother's Green Bean Casserole" and is, in fact, not a casserole at all, and doesn't include Green Beans at all! It did earn raves from the dinner crowd, so here's what you need:

2 1/2 lbs. fresh Asparagus
1/4 cup white Miso paste (fermented soybean paste)
3 Tbsp. thinly sliced Scallions, dark green part only, divided (I used a tad more!)

2 Tbsp. unseasoned Rice Vinegar

2 Tbsp. Japanese prepared Hot Mustard (NOT Wasabi), or alternatively
1 Tbsp. English Mustard Powder mixed with 1 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1 Tbsp. Sugar

1/4 cup sliced Almonds, toasted

Wash the Asparagus and either snap or snip the woody ends off (many people claim that if you gently bend the Asparagus spear, it will snap off naturally at the point of yummy Aspargus spear vs. woody tip - but I find this usually results in half the spear being discarded, and I'm just not that picky, so I use a knife and trim off the bottom 3/4 to 1 inch - more on particularly thick spears). You may elect to shave off some of the bottom leaves from the spears.

Wash and steam the Asparagus. I used a handy microwave veggie cooker that Max offered. I cooked the Asparagus in 3 batches - 1 1/2 minutes on high, rolled the Asparagus around, and then another 1 1/2 minutes. If you don't have a microwave veggie cooker, just wrap your Asparagus in plastic wrap with a few sprinkles of water, and zap for probably 2 minutes. You want the Asparagus to be tender, but NOT MUSHY! After you take the Asparagus out of the microwave, run it under cold water, or better yet, drop it into an ice bath - to stop the continued cooking that will occur if you don't. Dry the Asparagus spears on a cloth towel.

Slice the spears in approximate even pieces - either 3 or 4 cuts, depending on the size you want your Asparagus pieces to be. Put the pieces in your serving dish.

In a separate bowl, prepare the Miso paste-based dressing:

Whisk Miso, 2 Tbsp. Scallions, vinegar, mustard, oil and sugar. I also added a Tbsp. of Black Sesame Seeds, for "pop!

Pour the dressing over the Aspargus, then toss to coat.

Garnish with Toasted Almonds and the remaining Scallions. I served the dish at room temperature, and the Turkey Feast Host was thrilled that I didn't have any need for space in the oven, which was already over-filled with other delicious sides that DID need reheating.