The Magical All-Purpose Broth

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That Magical All-Purpose Broth

Last week I shared tips on stocking the fridge with some of my favorite waistline-friendly foods. Today I'm sharing an easy recipe for my secret weapon: a fast, healthy and flavorful meal in just about no time. I call it All-Purpose Broth. The star ingredient? Miso paste.

Before I dive into the greatness that is the All-Purpose Broth, let me start by giving you a very basic miso primer: Miso is fermented soybean paste used in Japanese cuisine and it has a salty, savory, slightly nutty flavor and is full of glutamates, which imparts umami (savory flavor). The lighter the color in miso paste, the milder the flavor. White miso paste is milder than yellow, red or intense brown varieties. I usually buy white or yellow, which are both mellow and delicious — and readily available at most neighborhood supermarkets. (But try other versions, too, for a deeper, more intense flavor, and try out the miso soup at high-end Japanese restaurants to explore artisan miso pastes that you won't find on your average grocery store shelf.) The exact health benefits of miso paste are somewhat debated, but proponents tout its levels of vitamin B12 and antioxidants, as well as its positive impact on the immune system. Others swear by its ability to alleviate common cold symptoms. In any case, I love it as an easy go-to pantry item for lean and tasty meals on the fly, which brings me back to my All-Purpose Broth.

Here's how it works: Basically I load up each individual serving bowl with whatever I have on hand (leftover chicken breast, a spoonful of quinoa, shredded veggies, a piece of grilled fish or maybe I'll cube up some tofu). I make a quick broth and then pour it over the contents of the bowl. And then I eat it, with a smile, patting myself on the back for making a meal that is thrifty, fast, delicious, healthy and versatile.

And now you can too.

A basic miso broth takes about one minute to make: Just stir miso paste into boiling water (about 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup). All-Purpose Broth takes only a minute or two longer to make — 120 seconds well spent. Heat up some water or stock (count 1 to 2 cups per person) in a pan and add a slice or two of fresh ginger, a splash of soy sauce or tamari, and either a smashed garlic clove or a sprinkle of chopped green onion. Once the water comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat and stir in the miso paste plus a squeeze of lime (or a splash of rice vinegar), then pour over whatever you have in the bowl. That's it.

What can you put in your bowl? The options are endless, but here are a few of my favorite goodies to be bathed by steamy All-Purpose Broth:

  • Some rotisserie chicken, chopped kale and a spoonful of rice
  • A piece of grilled fish, a few spoons of cooked quinoa, sliced mushrooms and a drop of chili oil
  • Thawed frozen shrimp, chopped roasted broccoli and garlic chili sauce
  • Tofu cubes, shredded veggies, chopped cilantro, Sriracha and a lime wedge
  • Leftover pork tenderloin, bean sprouts, fresh basil and rice noodles

While All-Purpose Broth should keep your tub of miso paste busy for months to come (and it lasts almost forever in the fridge), don't forget you can also use miso paste in plenty of other ways. Two of my favorites: Make a creamy dressing or veggie dip (blend miso with shredded carrots, grated ginger, rice vinegar, green onion and a bit of honey, and add some water if needed), or use miso paste as a glaze for grilled or broiled fish, chicken or tofu (mix 1 tablespoon each Dijon, miso, white wine and grated ginger with 2 tablespoons each oil and water, then brush on the last minute or two of cooking).

Do you have your own version of All-Purpose Broth? What other ways do you love to use miso?

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