This month’s Recipe Redux theme is something pretty interesting, it’s all about fermented foods!

Have you grown up eating something that you didn’t know was good for you? Sure there are healthy dishes like baked potatoes with steamed broccoli & cheese, roasted chicken and veggies, or a nice chef’s salad. One of my favorite Japanese foods was a simple soup made with miso paste and garnished with green onion and tofu. Japanese restaurants always serve this with your meal, but homemade versions of miso soup can have dried shrimp, pieces of chicken or beef, a raw egg stirred into the steaming broth (like Chinese egg flower soup) or it can be made into a hearty meal with pearl barley, carrots, and konbu (see my recipe here). It’s also eaten for breakfast! Better than a bowl of cereal, miso soup is gluten-free, vegan, contains probiotics to keep your gut healthy, is low in fat and calories, and even contains protein, vitamins and minerals. (The ingredients of Shirakiku brand shiro miso contains water, soybeans, rice, salt, and alcohol.)

Turkey and Vegetable Seaweed Soup uses chicken broth and white miso.

After doing some reading, I now know a little more about the benefits behind this savory soy-based paste. Probiotics are the gut-friendly bacteria that help maintain the integrity of the stomach lining, break down food, and boost our immune systems. These little critters are found in fermented foods like miso, kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage), tsukemono (Japanese pickles), sauerkraut, dill pickles, and yogurt. Though bacteria might seem indestructible when you’re trying to get rid of it, they can be destroyed with antibiotics, a poor diet, or stress, and this leads to an increase in the unfriendly bacteria that causes gas, bloating, cramps, and…well, you probably know what I’m talking about! But as long as we have a good amount of probiotics in our gut, it will be easier to stay healthy and function like the happy humans we were born to be.

Another way to ensure a good supply of gut-friendly bacteria is to eat yogurt. Check the label to be sure it contains live active cultures.

Here is an easy recipe for chicken that is marinated overnight and cooked in just minutes. For an easy clean-up, use a foil lined pan or do what I do and improvise!

Easy Miso Chicken (serves 2)

1/2 cup shiro (white) miso paste
1/2 cup sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 teaspoon white or brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
sesame oil
several pieces green onion (about 1/4 cup chopped)

Directions:

Combine miso, sake, sugar, and pepper flakes in a bowl, mix with a wire whisk until combined. Reserve half of marinade and store in tightly sealed container in refrigerator. Add chicken, coat well. Cover with plastic wrap or store in a plastic container with lid, refrigerate overnight.

Pan-fry Method: Heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade, letting excess drip off. Fry chicken pieces for 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Top with reserved marinade and let simmer for a minute or two before serving. Garnish with chopped green onion.

No pan? Use heavy-duty foil or double-up regular foil, fold the edges up to form a shallow dish and pinch the edges. Place on a pizza pan or cookie sheet when baking. Use foil to store leftover chicken or toss when done.

Oven Method: Drizzle sesame oil in a shallow baking dish lined with foil, add chicken and marinade, making sure chicken is in one layer. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 7 minutes or until top is starting to brown. Remove and set oven to broil. Top with reserved marinade, return to oven and broil for 3-5 minutes or until top begins to scorch (but don’t let the whole thing scorch!) Garnish with chopped green onion.

Serve on a bed of fresh spinach with steamed brown rice and kimchee or tsukemono.

Easy miso chicken

Here are more recipes using miso:

Panko Crusted Chicken Strips
Miso-Lemon Dressing
Miso Quinoa Salad (use Miso-Lemon Dressing above)
Turkey and Vegetable Seaweed Soup (shown above and featured in May’s Recipe Redux)
For more information on the health benefits of miso, check out this great article at The World’s Healthiest Foods : http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=114.

Want to know more on probiotics and Asian fermented foods?

Kimchi and probiotics: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/grace-suh-coscia-lac-diplom/fermented-foods_b_1220756.html
A mouth-watering guide to Japanese pickleshttp://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2349.html
7 Benefits of probiotics: http://www.3fatchicks.com/7-benefits-of-probiotics/
Facts on my yogurt of choicehttp://chobani.com/products/faq/



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