I've long been a fan of bagna càuda, that magical Italian elixir of anchovies, garlic, and olive oil. I figure that almost any ingredient can be made better by dragging it through the potent sauce. But seeing its name in a Japanese cookbook was, frankly, a bit of a shock. Japanese plus Italian? I had to try it.
The recipe, in Hiroko Shimbo's new cookbook, Hiroko's American Kitchen, melds the traditional bagna cauda elements with her sumiso sauce—a mixture of white miso, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, mirin, vinegar, and sake. These two elemental sauces then unite to form a delightfully potent base for a healthy pile of steamed vegetables. And while steamed vegetables may not be the most exciting item on your culinary radar, they make for an excellent vehicle for the bagna càuda—anything more flavorful would simply overwhelm.
Why I picked this recipe: A twist on bagna càuda? Sign me up.
What worked: Miso, anchovy, and garlic effortlessly meld together for a serious umami-bomb. Delicately poached vegetables are the perfect mild vehicle for sopping up all that sauce.
What didn't: My sauce turned thick a little quicker than directed. Be sure to keep a watchful eye and a spatula handy to prevent scorching.
Suggested tweaks: Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables are in season for the mix listed here. I swapped in asparagus for the Brussels sprouts and used little Hakurei turnips in place of the larger winter variety. As written, the dish is scaled for appetizer portions, but you can increase the amount of vegetables and serve it with rice if you want a main dish.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and Berkeleyside NOSH, and she blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.