Umami Wears Combat Boots (featuring Haricot Verts in a Miso Lime Sauce)
No matter where I am in the world, the month of March toys with my sanity. She tempts me with 60 degree days and dangles daffodils in my purview. Hornswoggled by her games, I move flowery cotton dresses out from the back of my winter closet and dance around excitedly.
“Spring is here! Spring is here!” I declare to Amelia, who is always eager to frolic. I watch Grace bask in the window square of sunlight traveling across our living room floor. Soon we will plant our garden. Soon we will go on hikes. Soon I’ll be busy catering parties for people as happy to welcome this seasonal thrill as I am.
But then March turns on me. She becomes cloudy and cold. She laughs at my lightweight coat as I run home to bundle up.
Why do I not remember this? How can I fall into this trap every year? Francis and I were in New York recently where it was 72 degrees and then 15 degrees the following day. They got inches of snow a week after we left and now it’s in the mid-50’s. It’s not quite as dramatic a temperature flux here in Portland, but it stops raining for a day or two, and all you want to do is believe that it’ll stay warm and dry.
Maybe I can beckon the sun with a springtime recipe.
I found this recipe as I flipped through a 2016 Bon Appetit Magazine. Yes, I was spring cleaning. Yes, it was December.
I tried it out that night and boy, was I thrilled I did. It’s surprisingly scrumptious. In fact, it’s wound up on a lot of menus for clients, and they always ask for the recipe. I’ve added some mint and cooked the sauce for a little bit (Bon Appetit doesn’t cook the sauce at all).
The reason it is so astonishingly delicious is because it features white miso, which is a fermented soybean paste that is chock full of umami. Umami (the Japanese word for “pleasant savory taste”) is the 5th of the basic tastes; sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and umami. It represents the taste of amino acid glutamate, which balances other tastes to enhance the overall ambrosia of the food. It is not delicious on its own, as many of the other basic tastes might be, but it assists the other tastes to complete a flavor profile. It is found naturally in mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, and parmesan, to name a few. I like to think of it as the flavor component that feels like a million tiny bells ringing on your tongue. While you can clearly identify salt or sugar, there is a “why am I suddenly so happy?” sensation that occurs when umami is present. This recipe has that. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
And maybe, just maybe, Spring will hear the call.
Haricot Verts With Miso Lime Sauce
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 3 tablespoons white miso
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons canola oil (or another veg oil that has a high smoke point)
- 1½ pounds haricots verts
- 3 tablespoons of water
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped fine
- Flaky sea salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
- Mix garlic, lime juice, miso, honey in a small bowl to combine. Set garlic mixture aside.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add green beans and cook, undisturbed, until beginning to blister, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in garlic mixture, and toss green beans to coat over a medium heat. Stir in the water to help the sauce combine. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
- Add red pepper flakes, sprinkle with fresh mint.